Howling into Autumn: Midnight Hunt Spoilers

And here we are again. Another spoiler season. One that will barely be over before the next one begins, because for some reason, Wizards is doing a dual set this fall. Innistrad is such a popular setting that I imagine they’ll do well, but it feels like Wizards is pushing our wallets to the breaking point. Something has to give eventually.

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt spoilers have only just begun, but it looks like the power trend set by Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is continuing. There’s nothing obviously broken, though the overall themes feed into things that are very powerful in Modern. Subsequently, there haven’t been any jump-out Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath-level omnipresent threats or even an Arclight Phoenix to define a new deck. Instead (and I have to stress that this is only true so far), there’s one card that is extremely powerful thanks to Modern’s context and a few others that might be playable in the right deck. Which is far from destabilizing, as I feared.

Consideration is Better Than Options

The best Modern card revealed from Midnight Hunt is also one of the most innocuous. I’ve already mentioned it, but Consider will be a very potent card in Modern. Opt has seen a lot of play since it was introduced and Consider is better because surveil 1 is more powerful than scry 1. Moving a card from library to graveyard is stronger than from the top to the bottom because a card in the graveyard is worth more than a card in a library. How much more is entirely contextual, but Murktide Regent and Dragon’s Rage Channeler clearly demonstrate the principle. The only time I can think of where that isn’t the case is casting Consider looking for land and seeing your only win condition, or looking for a non-land and seeing a singleton shock. Scrying it away early is much better than binning it. However, in all other cases, surveiling is better. Thus I think Opt is no longer a Modern playable card.

What Does It Mean?

Once Consider is in Modern, expect to see more attempts to revive Arclight Phoenix. Previous attempts were unable to overcome the lack of a turn 1 way to get cards into the graveyard. Thought Scour is quite efficient and was important to the old Phoenix decks but can’t do the job alone. The only other option, Haggle, didn’t work out because rummaging rather than looting was crippling. Getting an opening Phoenix into the graveyard was excellent, but the rummage was quite bad drawing towards Phoenix. Consider does the latter job better than the existing options at 1 mana

Outside of Phoenix, most if not all the decks that currently run Opt will switch to Consider. However, it’s also very likely that a lot of decks that would never run Opt will at least… erm, think about trying Consider. Telling Time never really made waves, but Expressive Iteration is a multiformat all-star because it draws up to two cards. The same will be true of Consider for many decks. Dredge and Reanimator would never stretch into blue for Opt. But they both might for Consider, though Reanimator is far more likely.

It’s also worth remembering that Storm exists, runs Opt, and utilizes the graveyard. Setting up Past in Flames is a fairly strong use for Consider. It reminds me of using Magma Jet to set the bottom of the library for Arc Slogger back in Mirrodin Block Constructed. That almost certainly doesn’t much impact Storm’s playability, but it does make me wonder if Consider will be less a cantrip and more an enabler.

A Return to Form?

More importantly, Consider‘s existence signals that a brief era is coming to an end. The banning of Faithless Looting led to a huge downswing in graveyard decks after years of graveyard dominance. While Consider and other IMH graveyard cards (that I currently know about) may not bring back the Looting era, it is a signal that Wizards is in a necromantic mood again. As such, I’d prepare for something like a return to the old ways. I don’t think it will be as dedicated as before, but there will definitely be an upswing so start packing hate again.

Rewarding Faith

So as I was saying, Wizards is printing more graveyard enablers in IMH, and consequently there will be an upswing in graveyard decks soon. And they won’t be in the expected colors, so stop relying on Sanctifier en-Vec. Specifically, it’s a new Faithless Looting. Which is multicolor, an instant, and has lifegain tacked on so it can be white. Meaning that it’s actually not very much like Looting at all beyond sharing some text. But it does explain why Careful Study wasn’t in MH2, disappointing plenty of Phoenix hopefuls. And showing again why Looting won’t be unbanned.

Just like Consider, the new Faithful Mending doesn’t simply replace Faithless Looting. Being two mana is a huge burden, even with the lifegain, and especially so when it’s two differently colored mana. Additionally, its colors are wrong. Looting was primarily playing in non-blue decks that don’t normally get card velocity. A two mana UW velocity card is competing with far more than Looting did, which will limit playability.

However, there are enough upsides that I think it likely Mending will see some play. Just like Consider, Mending is likely to surface in decks that wouldn’t necessarily play Looting. Colors aside, Hollow One, Mardu Pyromancer, and related decks didn’t just switch to Cathartic Reunion after the ban because two mana is a deal breaker. Mending’s home will have to be in a slower deck. And not a control-oriented Jeskai Phoenix deck, which would defeat the point of Arclight Phoenix in the first place. Rather, this looks like a card for Esper Reanimator, a deck that currently doesn’t exist but might with Mending. It’s also important to note that Mending is an instant. I don’t know how that affects it’s playability, but I’m sure it does. After all, consider Opt vs. Serum Visions.

How Rewarding?

Of course, I have no idea how that would work out. I’ve seen mono-black and WB Reanimator decks over the past few months, and they’re not good. Their central strategy is very powerful, it’s just hard to make it happen quickly. And even when that does happen, it’s not necessarily lights out. A turn 3 Archon of Cruelty can be devastating, or it just gets Path to Exiled and Reanimator has nothing left. Those decks are also heavy with air, so that one reanimation may be their chance to win. Mending offers the deck a way to burn through the air and set up for another attempt. However, it doesn’t make the deck faster. The lifegain makes being slow less problematic against aggro decks, but I don’t know if that’s enough.

Which is the overall problem with Mending. I think that Wizards specifically meant for this card to be unusable by the current crop of Dredge decks and to keep any of the old Looting decks from coming back. Between Mending and Consider, it’s obvious that Wizards is okay with graveyard decks again and is willing to make them playable. But they don’t want a return to the old era. They want new and apparently slower decks. There are a number of reanimation spells already spoiled in IMH, and while they’re nothing on Persist‘s level, it does point to Wizards wanting to make that deck exist but not Dredgevine or Hollow One. And I don’t know if that will be successful in Modern.

Making it Rite

And now for something completely different. Glimpse of Nature has been banned since Modern was invented because in 2008, LSV won the Extended Pro Tour with a Glimpse-powered Elves combo deck, and that deck became a house in Legacy. Modern lacks several key cards from both decks (namely Wirewood Symbiote and Birchlore Rangers), but is still too close for comfort. I’ve seen attempts to match the old deck with Beck // Call but it hasn’t worked out. Again, one mana makes a huge difference. However, IMH brings an option that might finally make it.

Like Beck, Rite of Harmony costs two mana and triggers on creatures entering the battlefield rather than on cast. That would seem to disqualify it out of hand, but there are considerable upsides. The first is that Rite is an instant. I have no idea how that would help Elves or any other creature combo deck, but it might be something to build around with flash and Collected Company. It also has flashback, but that costs enough that it’s a late-game desperation move. Rite also triggers off enchantments, only lightly broadening the scope of which decks can play it. Enchantress already draws all the cards, it doesn’t need a temporary boost. So, again, what’s the big deal? Simple. Rite is white rather than blue.

That’s a fairly small thing, but it significantly changes how Rite is played. There are very few UG creature combo decks in Modern. There are a number of WG combo decks, though. Heliod Company has been big this year, but the older Counters Company deck with Vizier of Remedies and Devoted Druid could use Rite since it makes tons of mana easily but often runs out of gas. Similarly, there have been WG Elves in the past which can use Rite as either a value play or combo piece. And I’m not the only one thinking that.

Which May Still be Wrong

Genuinely, I don’t know why the existing WG combo lists would bother with Rite. None of them are Storm-type combos, so churning through their deck is unnecessary. They’re correct-card combos and accordingly run tutors. Rite doesn’t really fit into their gameplans. And I’m also not certain that Storm- or Elves-style combo is viable in Modern, and if it is, that it’s better than existing Company decks.

This leaves Rite as a possible value play in a more traditional creature deck. Spending a card to turn a creature into a cantrip isn’t very good, but getting several cantripping creatures definitely is. Aether Vial would help to maximize a Rite turn and GW Hatebears-type decks could really use the help. However, Hatebears is about creatures which cost 2 or more and you’re not getting many draws a turn in that deck. It points more to some Humans-style aggro deck. Which doesn’t currently exist, and would need some serious punch to be better than Humans. Thinking laterally, tokens also trigger Rite and there are plenty of good token makers in Modern. The trick is that token decks themselves aren’t very good. But maybe Rite’s card advantage can fix that. It’s certainly worth testing.

Keeping Watch

Speaking of Humans, there are a number of Humans cards with potential in IMH. Which makes sense. This is the plane that spawned Champion of the Parish, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Thalia’s Lieutenant, after all. The catch is that, so far, most have catches to their playability. The biggest problem is that almost all are three mana or more. They’re very good three mana cards, but cost is a huge factor in playability.

The most playable cheap Human so far is Sungold Sentinel. A 2-mana 3/2 is solid, and hating graveyard is about to get very relevant. The problem is that Sanctifier en-Vec does that on a larger scale, and red is so widely played that Sentinel’s hate is just pathetic. In a less red- or black-heavy meta Sentinel could definitely beat Sanctifier but that’s not the case right now. The coven ability is quite good and I know from experience that it will be easy to make live. The problem is that I doubt it will ever save Sentinel from removal. Smart players will just kill the other creatures first. Or sweep the board. It would be very good at breaking board stalls, but those are very rare. In other words, it’s a good card for a different metagame.

Chaplain of Alms is another one that might be playable in the right metagame and the right deck. A 1/1 with first strike and ward 1 isn’t much, but disturb makes me want to get down with that sickness. Getting a dead creature back transformed is decent value, and protecting every creature with ward 1 is pretty good. It’s very fragile and costly, but in a very grindy meta it might work out.

On Guard

The most playable human for Humans right now is Gavony Dawnguard. It compares favorably to the once-playable Militia Bugler. Stats-wise, +1/+0 and ward 1 is much more useful than vigilance, and in Humans, 1WW is no harder to achieve than 2W. Sounds good. The catch is that the card advantage is both better and worse than Bugler. Dawnguard looks at the creature’s mana value rather than its power, so it can actually pick Mantis Rider, which is a huge plus over Bugler. The catch is that Dawnguard doesn’t trigger on entry. Instead, the trigger is tied to the Day/Night werewolf mechanic and only triggers when night becomes day or day becomes night. Which means that Dawnguard can trigger multiple times, but unless it was already night when she entered, it will be down the line.

And that’s the big problem. Dawnguard can get far more cards than Bugler or Imperial Recruiter can, but can’t do it by herself. She needs some setup. If your opponent has already triggered tracking Day/Night and wants it to be night, then Dawnguard is not only potentially disruptive, but better than Bugler. But if Dawnguard is the only card seeing play that cares about the time, Recruiter is much better. Thus Dawnguard is playable stats wise but maybe or maybe not actually usable for in the card advantage slot. Vialing her in main phase and then casting nothing seems the best way to get immediate value, but that’s not good enough.

With Some Help

However, it’s not too far from possible. There are a number of new Day/Nightbound werewolves that would get the ball rolling for Dawnguard. Tovolar, Dire Overlord is the most playable creature so far, but it is quite early. And there are a few non-creatures that reference day and night, so there may be enough cards to get the ball rolling for Dawnguard. In an actual werewolf deck she’d be quite strong, but such a deck is likely a bad Domain Zoo and more for Standard than Modern.

Moonrise

Midnight Hunt looks to be fairly low-power, but quite interesting. It will certainly be a set that has to be heavily tested since so many cards are very contextual power-wise. I’m hopeful there’s enough support to make Dawnguard viable, but not optimistic.

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