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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Oct 19 2021 12:05pm
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MIDNIGHT HUNT: THE COMMANDER DECKS

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 As it's now customary following the demise of the Planeswalker Decks (at least for the time being), Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is accompanied by Commander preconstructed decks, this time in the number of two. The new cards contained within are flavorfully linked to the premier set, but they're designed to be legal only in Commander, Vintage and Legacy. The decks' two themes are +1/+1 counters in green-white, using the coven mechanic (or a variation thereof), and Zombies in blue-black, exploiting the decayed mechanic in particular. The two commanders, of course, reflect these approaches, which also causes Human and Zombie to be the only two tribal concentrations of appreciable size among these cards.

 

 The reprinted creatures are largely Innistrad-based too, including famous characters, dead or alive, like Gisa and Geralf, Sticher Geralf, Mikaeus, the Lunarch, Odric, Master Tactician, and Sigarda, Heron's Grace. Notably, though, Werewolves and transforming cards in general are absent from the decks, due to the logistical issues of printing double-faced cards in a product that wouldn't have the justification of needing many of them.

 In a baffling move, eight of the new cards aren't found in the two precon decks, but instead appear only in Set Boosters and Collector Boosters for the main expansion, despite the fact that those packs are otherwise composed by cards that are legal from Standard onward. Among these eight cards released "on the side", there's one creature, the immortal witch Lynde, and the even more baffling homage to the departed Avacyn, which is just a terribly designed, ridiculously failed callback to Akroma's Memorial.

 

 Among the reprints, Angel of Glory's Rise comes with new art.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 149
  • New cards: 38
  • New creatures: 20
  • Reprinted cards: 111
  • Reprinted creatures: 51
  • New Legendary creatures: 7
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 0
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 16
  • Tribes with more than one addition: Human (+10), Zombie (+6), Horror (+3), Cleric (+2), Noble (+2), Rogue (+2), Warrior (+2)

Angel: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 198, online: 197

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Here's another Angel from Sigarda's personal host, apart from Karmic Guide at home, aka Sigardian Savior. This Sigarda's Vanguard uses a refined version of coven that just cares about having differently powered creatures, not necessarily three of them at once. In fact, the Vanguard alone can flash-ambush an opposing attacker by declaring herself the receptacle of her own double-striking gift. And then she'll keep doing the very same at each subsequent attack, so she's basically a flying 3/3 double striker for five mana, which is not super-exciting, but it's good enough. The goodness might become greatness once we have something else to additionally target with her ability. Granted, giving double strike to a 1/1 or a 2/2 during our combat phase is not going to matter a whole lot, but we could be easily having juicer stuff around, which is why this probably works better in an over-the-top environment like Commander. Angel strike with Lyra and original recipe Sigarda (who's turned into a 6/6 by Lyra)? Yes, please.


Cleric: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 490, online: 463

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The same "coven-but-not-really" mechanic from Sigarda's Vanguard is shared by her Human devotee Sigardian Zealot (the cult of Sigarda is going strong on Innistrad these days; not being turned into an Eldrazi monstrosity paid off!). This time the reward for creatures of different power is, essentially, +3/+3 and vigilance during our attacks; more if we increase the Zealot's power. And since, unlike proper coven, "Sigardian coven" doesn't care how many creatures with different power we elect as recipients for the effect, the Zealot alone is already able to swing as a vigilant 6/6, which might be worth the five-mana investment. But the boosts he grants also makes an accompanying 1/1 and 2/2 into relevant attackers, which was not entirely the case with the double-strike-giving Angel.

 As for the legendary Cleric, also a Sigarda's true believer, his ability namechecks the Human type specifically – which is also true of Sigarda, Champion of Light, anyway. Kyler, Sigardian Emissary is a sort of Thalia's Lieutenant on steroids. But also kind of worse, because removing him causes our team to loses the entire bonus, whereas the counters from the Lieutenant would remain. Kyler could theoretically runs away with the game if left unanswered, but he's otherwise a terrible five-drop 2/2 with no immediate impact whatsoever. And let's be honest here, if we're in a multiplayer game, even one that's not exceedingly competitive, they will answer him. And it takes very little effort to do it.


Horror: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 220

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Let's see, "Sacrifice another Zombie...", "Other Zombies have...", "one or more Zombies..." Yup, these three cards use the Horror subtype merely as a flavor to signify "very disturbing Zombies". We'll reckon with them when discussing their more relevant tribe, but Zombie duplication? Flying Zombie team? Zombie Grave Pact? It looks like the walking dead are having fun in their Commander deck.


Human: +10

   

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 New Tribal Total: 2690, online: 2502

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Knight, Noble, Ranger, Rogue, Soldier, Warlock, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: The "Coven Counters" deck (man, that name is really uninspired) contains a strong Human theme, so the tribe is not only over-represented as usual, also has a few new "Humans matter" cards, most notably Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Heronblade Elite, both using the Champion of the Parish counter-growing mechanic. And that's all I have to say about them in the Human section, despite the fact that they don't really care being included in different builds other than Human tribal.


Knight: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 335, online: 322

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: So this is a six-drop vanilla 4/4, which is tragically below the curve, but it gives us recursion in the form of its power's worth of other creatures. It even exiles itself in the process, so it's not even a good combo piece to sacrifice and reanimate for value. I'm thorougly unimpressed.


Noble: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 47, online: 46

 Related Tribes: Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: So, there are Nobles on Innistrad that aren't Vampires! Well, sort of. Leinore, Autumn Sovereign is just some girl the witches of the Dawnhart Coven (who are trying to stop the eternal darkness) chose to be a sort of May Queen for their festival. How this should result in her actually having the Noble type is highly debatable. At any rate, she's the designated commander of the deck that's all about +1/+1 counters and the coven mechanic, so she's about the very same things – essentially a more expensive Luminarch Aspirant who also draws a card via coven. Drawing cards is always welcome, and the Aspirant ability, paired with her native zero power, facilitates coven quite a bit. So she's good at what she's supposed to do, but outside of that, only good if we wish to replicate that very same strategy – though, to be fair, is not some extravagant gameplan, more like something a Selesnya Good Stuff deck would want to incorporate to begin with. So long live the May Queen, or whatever she is. May she retain the Noble type forever.

 And then the other Noble is, well, dead. Tomb Tyrant wears a crown, so he looks like some ancient king. Aside from that, he's yet another Zombie tribal card (from the Zombie deck, of course). In fact, he's an old-fashioned Zombie lord that justifies his four-mana cost with an activated ability that trade one creature on the battlefield with a random Zombie in the graveyard. I imagine the sacrificed creature is supposed to be a decayed token, which gets upgraded to a real boy this way. The process is kind of expensive, though, highly unpredictable, and requires an already crowded graveyard. Plus, the Tyrant himself makes for a meager, curve-obsolete board presence.


Ranger: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 32

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ranger was not in Midnight Hunt, but it's a job description that fits Innistrad well, with all his dark forests to explore and move people safely through. More than the current, superior example of Mascot Exhibition, this guy takes a page from the book of Dragon's Maze's Trostani's Summoner, with its 1/1, 2/2, 3/3 and 4/4 team. Only, all the tokens have deathtouch, and that includes tokens that weren't created by its ETB trigger. It's okay, plenty defensive, but not exactly an awe-inspiring seven-mana play. Plus, I wish they came up with a third different creature type (Bear?) instead of repeating Beast twice. It hurts my inner Melvin.


Rogue: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 331, online: 314

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth is a really praiseworthy design. She's a detective, so she goes to investigate murders, hence her first ability. But the clues she finds send her down a rabbit hole of cults and conspiracies, so she has to stay on her toes and keep watch, and that's where surveil enters the picture. As a card, maybe she would work better as a less expensive smaller body, but her abilities can lead to a ton of card advantage over time, and her clue-cracking is made the finest in the land by the preceding surveil action.

 The other Rogue is a ghostbuster or, in-universe, a geistcatcher. There's a tension in Prowling Geistcatcher's abilities, though. On one hand, the natural decomposition of the decayed Zombies ensures her growth; on the other hand, she also wants us to sacrifice nontoken creatures that can actually stay in the exile zone and are set to come back after she takes a leave from the battlefield and the ecto-containment unit is deactivated. The most efficient use of the Geistcatcher is to drop her before making a big decayed attack, so she'll become immediately enormous. The most Commander-friendly use is to follow her up with the mass sacrifice of a whole lot of creatures with valuable ETB triggers. Either way, she's cool.


Shapeshifter: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 111, online: 108

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Here's another creature type that wasn't present in the main set. In fact, the shapeshifting tropes have been rarely a part of the Innistrad setting. Shadow Kin is a quirky take on classic Clone. You get to flash it down because you need the upkeep trigger to even establish what is allowed to copy – which also means it can easily whiff, especially in one-on-one games. But at the same time, it allows for the unusual fail case of being a 2/2 flash, which is probably what is illustrated on the art, because it appears to be mimicking some random peasant girl who was just doing laundry in the river (not a great place to pick your victims, Shadow Kin). Let's hope we'll be luckier when we try it out. The fun part, though, is that it can change form at every upkeep, if the current one wasn't satisfying enough – or just to be more chaotic. Who says blue has to be rational?


Soldier: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 723, online: 663

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Coven's payoffs in the main set were good enough, but didn't go as far as giving indestructible to the whole team. This Soldier might just be the most effective of the coven cards, although being vigilant is kind of wasted, since the ability doesn't trigger defensively.


Treefolk: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 82, online: 80

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The first scalable creature that didn't equal the number of its counters with the X in its cost was Verazol, the Split Current from Zendikar Rising. It's a useful reworking of this classic mechanical setup, allowing to cast the creature for X=0, while still having synergy with "counters matter" effects as well as a 0/0 body printed on the card (which may interact with tutoring, for instance). In the case of this legendary Treefolk, casting it for just two green mana still gives us a couple of free "saves" for its +1/+1 counters companions. And, of course, any Luminarch Aspirant ability (starting from its very commander's, Leinore, Autumn Sovereign) will be keen to replenish Kurbis, Harvest Celebrant's reserve. The effect as a whole is not a must-have, but it complements well an overall counters-based strategy, which is what this geist-possessed witch's assistant is doing in the green-white deck that contains it. Treefolk don't usually traffic in +1/+1 counters, though (Scurry Oak is a notable exception), so its value within a tribal build is not very high.


Turtle: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 24, online: 22

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Turtles have never been a feature of Innistrad sets (we met only one during our previous five visits to the plane: Silburlind Snapper). This didn't stop the ghoulcaller Jadar to turn one of them into a massive transport for his stockpile of corpses to reanimate. Gorex, the Tombshell plays like a delve creature that can only use creatures as casting fuel, but also one that you never want to cast without any discount, otherwise it'll only be a grotesquely overcosted 4/4 deathtoucher. If we do exile some creatures while we cast the big guy, aside from a pretty good deal on its body, we also get rewarded with some slow-burning, randomized recursion to hand. The rate is one regrown creature per attack; worst case scenario, at least one upon Gorex's non-exiling demise. To be fair, as a card advantage engine Gorex is definitely clunky and convoluted; but it's a reasonable inclusion in self-mill strategies, and if its Turtle subtype is largely irrelevant, its Zombie subtype isn't. And the only precedent for this mix was the similarly flavored Wandering Tombshell from Dragons of Tarkir; Gorex is clearly and improved version of this bizarrrely macabre concept of a giant snapper walking around with a graveyard on its back.


Wall: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 137, online: 116

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Speaking of creature types that are not in the main set (and almost never in an Innistrad set: the only other Wall to appear there was the reprint of Angelic Wall in Avacyn Restored), and also of weirdly convoluted ways to achieve card advantage: isn't this Wall of Mourning just an overcomplicated take on Wall of Omens? Of course it's potentially more rewarding in multiplayer, but the card draw remains conditional. Oh well, at least it's a good blocker whose zero power actively helps enabling the coven state it needs.


Warlock: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 52

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Lynde is quite the peculiar character. She's a witch who never ages and was cursed with all the curses, which she gleefully passes to other people (apparently, she gave some to The Unluckiest, the in-joke planeswalker who appears in the Curse cycle from Commander 2017). Lynde is also not part of the Midnight Hunt Commander Decks. In a questionable marketing decision, you can only find her in Set Boosters and Collector Boosters, along with seven other cards, including the missing Curse (the red one) from the cycle that is contained within the regular decks. This allowed the designer to make her a three-color card, which is foreign to Midnight Hunt itself and very unusual for the Innistrad setting as a whole, since it's always been a strictly two-color factions environment. In fact, the only other card with three colors that was ever part of an Innistrad expansion is Tamiyo, Field Researcher in Eldritch Moon – and one can even argue that it was because the Soratami planeswalker is not an Innistrad native.

 So the Grixis-aligned Lynde is an outlier in more ways than one. She seems designed as a commander of a deck built around Curses. The play pattern would be to cast a Curse, then sacrifice it durign the opponent's second main (the opponent whose turn is right before ours, in multiplayer), which will cause the Curse to return onto the battlefield attached to us in that opponent's end step, in time for the switcheroo to retrigger in our upkeep. This will have the net result of drawing us two cards, while leaving the Curse in place. It's a fun, if a little byzantine engine. As for Lynde herself, her body size is not particularly noteworthy, though at least she's not boltable. Deathtouch is kind of strange on a creature we don't really want to trade with. Then again, is there anything about Lynde that's not strange? So it's definitely on brand.


Warrior: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 825, online: 806

 Related Tribes: Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Heronblade Elite (yet another reference to Sigarda) is the other Champion of the Parish in Leinore's deck, along with Kyler, Sigardian Emissary. Instead of an anthem, the ability provides increasing amounts of mana of any single color. Notably, this is the second time a Warrior taps for a large amount of mana after Kaldheim's Canopy Tactician. It's not like the Druids should feel endangered, but it's good news for the tribe.

 The other Warrior, Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver, is mainly a Zombie who does Zombie-related stuff, so let's just skip right ahead to talk about him alongside the rest of his people below.


Zombie: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 502, online: 495

 Related Tribes: Horror, Noble, Turtle, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Just like Human is the main tribe of the green-white coven deck, Zombies are at the core of the blue-back precon, "Undead Unleashed" (both decks have alliterative names, for some reason). Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver is the designated commander, a ghoul who's desperately smitten with Gisa, as one should, but thorougly unrequited by the wild necromancer, as one would expect. Aside from his painful love life, Wilhelt is a strong lord who substitutes any Zombie that goes to the graveyard with a decayed 2/2 replacement. Even more importantly, he's allowed to turn one Zombie per turn into a fresh card, which is another great way to exploit the decayed tokens.

 Here's some other things we can do with those fragile corpses that can't block and only attack once. First, we can sacrifice one of them to Tomb Tyrant, to kind of achieve the opposite exchange from Wilhelt and get back a "real" Zombie, if randomly. The outcome's unpredictability cannot be circumvented, as the Tyrant's ability doesn't work if there aren't at least three eligible Zombies in the graveyard. Also, it can only be activated during our turn, but we can still sac a doomed Zombie at instant speed during combat, or perhaps before the decayed trigger kicks in. Plus, it's an old-fashioned anthem lord that makes all our dumb 2/2s into more threatening 3/3s.

 Hordewing Skaab is another strong way to improve the effectiveness of our shambling horde. As its name implies, with this winged monstrosity on the battlefield, our Zombie army will take flight, which is going to be extremely punishing once the battlefield gets populated by one-shot tokens. If that wasn't enough, we also get to loot once for each opponent that our Zombies connected with during the turn. Still belonging to the monoblue, "Frankenstein's monster" take on the undead, Cleaver Skaab can duplicate Zombies. The logistics of the concept are unclear (I would say chopping a Zombie in half would just destroy it, rather than result in two identical copies of the original), but this sounds like an extremely powerful ability, though it's somewhat balanced by a clunky, expensive activation that will only pay off in the late game. More straightforward is the ability of Ravenous Rotbelly: sac up to three of those decayed idiots, or any other expendable Zombie like Shambling Ghast, to force the opponent to do the same, probably losing much more value in the process. Not a bad five-mana play, and it even leaves a 4/5 body behind.

 Speaking of Zombies, and of the always darkly glamorous Gisa, we cannot end this review without mentioning the latest card depicting the ghoulcaller having a real good time. Ghouls' Night Out is a marvelous pun that pays homage to The Misfits song of the same name, with great artwork by debuting Indonesian artist Fajareka Setiawan.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS