Underperformers and Overperformers of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Limited

Duel for Dominance Art by Ryan Pancoast
Duel for Dominance Art by Ryan Pancoast

It feels like Christmas morning, doesn’t it? After two long years, Throne of Eldraine has been vanquished and it’s finally time to dive into the sweet new standard and limited formats before us! Hopefully everyone is as excited as I am and is enjoying the Midnight Hunt limited format so far. What I’ve noticed is that Midnight Hunt is unsurprisingly aggressive because of Decay, Werewolves, and Vampires, but fortunately there’s still ample support for midrange and control decks. The colors also all seem relatively balanced to me, which is near impossible to do and is something that I commend the play design team of the set on accomplishing.

I’ve been drafting like a lunatic since the release on Thursday, and after about ten drafts I can say that I’m way more confident with my card evaluations. With my new knowledge of the format, I want to discuss cards that I rated incorrectly during my limited review. In addition to that, I want to address some of the card opinions I’m hearing from other players as well as discuss why certain cards should not be going as late as I seem them going. I figured that it would be helpful to talk over what’s been performing well for me and what hasn’t in order to help you take advantage of other player’s misevaluations during the draft.

Underpeformers

Heirloom Mirror

3/5 to .5/5

Heirloom Mirror is probably one of the hardest limited cards that I’ve ever had to evaluate. I’ve played with and against a ton and I’m sad to say that it’s been terrible. I honestly can’t remember the last time where I was this excited to play with a card in draft only for it to end up being this awful.

It just takes too long and takes too many resources to get this going. If you top deck it in the late game it doesn’t do anything of value for at least three turns. When you’re behind you simply don’t have the luxury of wasting the mana and life needed to get this going. Even once this does flip, it comes into play tapped which means there’s a fourth turn where this isn’t able to interact with the board in any way.

In addition to that, it’s also very weak to every bounce spell in the format even when it does eventually flip. Also, have you ever gotten your Heirloom Mirror blown up by a Cathar Commando after you’ve already put some counters on it? Yeah well it’s an awful feeling and you might as well throw in the towel if it does happen. The creatures are way too good in modern limited to be spending your early turns durdling around and killing yourself just to get paid off with an Air Elemental.

Slaughter Specialist

Slaughter Specialist

1.5/5 to 0/5

After killing or tucking Slaughter Specialist every single time one of my opponents has played it, I’ve come to the surprising conclusion that you shouldn’t give your opponent free resources in the strategy card game Magic: The Gathering.

I would consider this unplayable in even the most aggressive decks and I wouldn’t attempt to ever board it in. It’s a disaster if this gets answered, so do yourself a favor and don’t put yourself in that situation. Just leave Slaughter Specialist on the bench.

Grafted Identity

Grafted Identity

5/5 to 4/5

Grafted Identity is still fantastic, but I wouldn’t consider it the game-winning-bomb that I initially thought it was. Fading Hope, Cathar Commando, Outland Liberator, Geistwave, and the load of sacrifice outlets in the format can make it difficult to have this stick. In addition to that, there aren’t a ton of great hits in the Midnight Hunt format. Most creatures tend to be smaller and warrant their mana cost because of their ETB or from having Disturb.

Sometimes you do live the dream and steal a Dreadhound or some bomb, but for the most part I find myself taking middling threats like a 4/4 Beast or a Galedrifter. Of course you should still take this over pretty much anything, but I wouldn’t jump colors to play it like I initially thought you should.

Necrosynthesis

Necrosynthesis

3/5 to .5/5

I tried this out once and thought that two mediocre abilities would add up to a somewhat decent aura. I was wrong and for the most part would consider Necrosynthesis unplayable.

There’s enough bounce and exile in the format to where it’s not even a guarantee that you’ll get a card off of this once your creature is answered. The Slaughter Specialist ability is also far too weak to warrant the risk you’re taking by casting this.

Unnatural Growth

Unnatural Growth

4.5/5 to 3.5/5

Don’t get me wrong, this card is game winning when it sticks. The caveat however is that there will be a lot of games where this is left rotting in your hand. I’m sick of first picking this, ending up green, and then being unable to play it. Keep in mind that I wouldn’t play this without at least nine green sources, but you’d need a minimum of 10 to somewhat guarantee this by turn 8-9.

Here’s a prime example of the issue with Unnatural Growth that I’ve had come up over and over again during my time drafting the set. Being a light green deck cuts you off from playing it, which feels incredibly bad considering how powerful the card is. Just keep in mind that there’s very few decks that can reliably cast Unnatural Growth and that it’s far from an auto include.

Ominous Roost

Ominous Roost

3.5/5 to 1/5

This has been the biggest disappointment for me in the format so far. I really wanted Birding Vengeance to be good, but unfortunately I must report that the card stinks. Decks that tend to be interested in accumulating value like this are often slow out of the gate, which means that card advantage payoffs like this need to impact the board and act as a catch up mechanism.

Burning Vengeance was so good because it managed the board while also being a win condition. Ominous Roost only fulfills the latter since the fliers it creates cannot block and keep you alive so that you can keep triggering it.

Vengeful Strangler

3/5 to 1.5/5

Not being able to block is such a killer here. The frontside of Vengeful Strangler is so narrow that it’s only good in the situations where you’re the aggressor and your opponent lacks a good blocker. Strangling Grasp is way too unreliable of a removal spell for my liking.

The issue with Strangling Grasp is that it only triggers on your upkeep. That leads to the awkward and common play pattern of Vengeful Strangler dying when it attacks, enchanting onto their best creature, and then for the controller of that creature to attack for free damage on the following turn.

After getting a free attack they can then sacrifice it to the Strangling Grasp when it triggers. Why would you try to block or trade with the opponent’s best threat when it’s enchanted with something that should eventually kill it? It just leads to the card as a whole being awkward and useless when you’re at all behind.

Overperformers

Skaab Wrangler

Skaab Wrangler

2.5/5 to 3.5/5

I figured that Siege Zombie and Skaab Wrangler would end up being decent playables, but I’ve been blown away by Skaab Wrangler in particular. Midnight Hunt is filled with solid Decayed token producers, especially if you’re Dimir. That means that nearly every card in your deck is creating 1-3 creatures, which makes it all too common for boards to be gummed up with Decayed tokens that can’t attack profitably.

Skaab Wrangler answers both of the issues with these tokens by using them to handle the opponents threats and then setting the board up to the point where you can alpha attack and overrun the opponent once you get a big enough board. I’ve beaten Tolvar’s Huntmaster twice solely off the back of Skaab Wrangler and a couple Falcon Abomination so be sure to not sleep on this card like I was for my first couple of drafts.

Lunar Frenzy

Lunar Frenzy

3/5 to 3.5/5

This is the best combat trick that I’ve seen in a long time. Red is also incredibly aggressive in pretty much every color pair except occasionally Izzet spells. That means that pretty much every red deck should be taking Lunar Frenzy highly. What makes it so good is that it wins pretty much every combat early on and then becomes Fireball in the late game.

Whenever my opponent swings out with all their mana open, I usually don’t bother playing around Lunar Frenzy because it makes combat that insurmountable. It gives me major Embercleave vibes, which is one of the highest praises that you can pay a combat trick in my opinion.

Gavony Dawnsguard

Gavony Dawnguard

3/5 to 4/5

My review of Gavony Dawnsguard was way off and I feel like a dummy because of it. I initially gave it a 3/5 because I thought it cost four mana (because it almost certainly should), but since this only costs three and can singlehandedly win the game on it’s own, it deserves at least a 4/5 rating.

White is almost always a low curve aggressive deck, so it’s easy to hit off this and double spell so that you can flip this back and forth. It being a must answer threat with Ward means that most of the time your opponent is able to answer this, they’ll still be left having to pay a bunch of mana.

Duel for Dominance

Duel for Dominance

3.5/5 to 3.5/5

Coven has been very impressive for me. Gruul, Selesnya, and Golgari tend to have very little trouble triggering it, so I would appropriately increase your opinion of cards with Coven. Duel for Dominance is the perfect example of a card that is insanely good when it’s consistently triggered. I was already decently high on this, but I would say that now I’m positive that this is the overall best green common.

Diregraf Horde

Diregraf Horde

2/5 to 3/5

I was too low on Diregraf Horde initially and was mistaken in lumping it in with the other mediocre five drops of the format. There are so many great ways to utilize the three bodies Diregraf Horde makes and in conjunction with all the great blue tempo cards like Skaab Wrangler and Revenge of the Drowned, you should be able to get some great attacks in with all the power that’s created by Diregraf Horde. I’ve seen people like LSV and the guys on limited resources saying similar things and agreeing with me that this has been seriously overperforming.

Duelcraft Trainer

Duelcraft Trainer

3/5 to 3.5/5

Coven is easier to accomplish than I thought, and giving your attacking flier Double strike every turn is very difficult to beat. This is the premier top end for every white aggressive deck, and while I initially liked the card, my opinion of it has improved so dramatically that I would almost always take this over Gavony Silversmith.

Every Card With Disturb

I was under the impression that nearly every Disturb card would be playable because most of them offer a clean two-for-one as well as playing nicely with self mill and any other graveyard synergies. However, I have come to the realization that every Disturb card is excellent and should rarely, if ever, get cut. Even a card as unassuming as Lunarch Veteran provides way more value than it seems at first glance. Don’t sleep on these!

Hopefully this article gave you a heads up on what cards to be taking early and which you should be avoiding like the plague.

As always, thanks for reading and enjoy drafting Midnight Hunt!

Chris Kvartek

While Chris Kvartek technically kicked off his career in 2012, he burst onto the scene in 2019 like few before him. With an early season Top Finish at Mythic Championship II and narrow miss for his second at Mythic Championship IV, Kvartek earned invitations to two more Mythic Championships through online qualifiers. He secured his second Top Finish of the season at Mythic Championship VII, and now this rising star must prove he can stay among the elite of professional Magic.

2 Responses

  1. Will says:

    Necrosynthesis is a very powerful card…sure it’s not a “drafting” card…but it’s great in a zombie deck. It synergies with Jadar, Bloodline Pretender, Champion of the Perished, and any card that keeps pumping out decayed zombies. Unnatural Growth is for Werewolve/Green Aggro….don’t know why everyone has a hard time with this card. A 5 drop that can be brought out early by mana producing cards. I’ve had 2 of these out at once before. Vengeful Strangler is meant to be killed and a good combo card….

  2. j4ro says:

    There is something wrong with Duel for Dominance score.