It's once again time for another sweet Pauper set review for the excellent Innistrad: Midnight Hunt! The set comes out this week on Magic Online, the premiere place for Pauper play these days, and we've got a whole ton of cards to sink our teeth into. So, give a great big howl and a bark at the moon and let's dive on in to the plethora of cards this brand new set has to offer!
This card is a low enough cost with some overall positive abilities that I could see it showing up in a deck like Mono-White Heroic. Generally speaking, I think the current suite of spells is probably better and more efficient on the whole than something like this, but the life point swing it can cause is massive. As such, I could see it finding a home in sideboards and the like to help from time to time.
Pacifism effects rarely get more efficient than this. It's an ability that does it all, and even though the creature can still block, it can't do any damage to your creatures. You can still kill it and you can even exile it if you feel like it, provided you have coven active. I'm not sure where this fits, if anywhere, but it's a very good ability for a very low rate, and I'd expect it to see play.
There's really a lot going on here that while these stats would normally be pretty underwhelming in the world of Pauper, I think it's actually quite good. Flash makes this either a surprise blocker or a creature you can throw down on your opponent's end step when you've determined that the coast is clear to get some easy attacks yourself. What's more, it can also blow up artifacts and enchantments too - of which there are many in the format. There aren't many homes for this kind of card, with the largely unplayed White Weenies being the only thing I can immediately think of, but there's a lot happening on this card that makes me think it'll find a home somewhere.
Flare of Faith
There really isn't a Humans deck in Pauper, so largely this effect isn't anything special. If there ever is a deck that has a large volume of humans with White in its color base, this feels like a pretty easy card to slip in.
A counter and vigilance is fine enough for the rate, but it's the ability to re-cast it for a single White mana that really makes this a fine option. Can see this finding its way into Heroic due to the ability to cast it and recast it in quick succession while also boasting a fairly relevant keyword as well. There've also been Travel Preparations decks that have popped up in the past and others relying on +1/+1 counters and this would easily find a home in those.
Lunarch Veteran // Luminous Phantom
This is mostly notable for being another Soul Warden type of effect more than anything. I don't think we were necessarily needing more, but more couldn't hurt. The backside is largely irrelevant, but isn't bad to have as a way to get another creature down should this die after you play it.
Search Party Captain
Attack with a bunch of creatures, get a one-mana 2/2 that cantrips? Where do I sign up?! This is a fantastic rate in most situations and you'll rarely be casting it for the full four mana. I'd expect this to find a pretty easy home somewhere because the value is real on this one.
The "disturb" part of this card is largely flavor text, but should there ever be a meta featuring a number of spirits and enchantments, this will be some solid removal. I wouldn't expect that any time in the near future, but hey, you never know after all.
This is better than Opt for the most part, as you'd much rather have the card hit your graveyard to fuel abilities like delve than have it on the bottom of your library. It's hard to say how good this will be, if only because we're a format of cards like Thought Scour and Mental Note, as well as Faithless Looting and several other strong cantrips. I'd expect this card to make it more in other formats, like Modern and Pioneer with decks such as Phoenix lurking about. In Pauper, though, I think the current cantrip suite is largely just better, so we won't see this too often, but it's bound to make an appearance now and again.
Wind Drakes never really make the cut in Pauper, but this comes with an extra body - even if only temporary. Is that enough? Probably not, but the kinds of tokens we're getting stapled to cards here is some rock solid value that's worth mentioning for how different it is from the usual fare.
Flip the Switch
This basically says the same thing as Falcon Abomination. Three-mana Mana Leak for four instead of three isn't really gonna make it the majority of the time, but getting a zombie whether the spell is countered or not is a pretty solid bargain.
Another fine - if unexciting - variation on the typical bounce spell. I like this one because it gives you flexibility and even encourages you to pick up your own cards sometimes instead. I don't expect to see it make appearances or anything too much, but I like what's going on here enough I could see it sometimes in the right kind of deck.
Locked in the Cemetery
These kinds of abilities have been getting cheaper and cheaper as the years have gone on, and this is some pretty affordable removal for Blue. I doubt it'll make a big splash given the need to get five cards in your opponents' bin to tap the creature, but there's bound to be matchups where this is relevant enough that you'll want it.
Sift through the top of your deck, set it how you want, and you get to fill your library with the unnecessary junk to find ways to make better use of it. It even has Flashback so you can do it again. The big problem I see with this, however, has got to be the lack of an actual cantrip on it. Enough is going on here that I think it's got potential, but I doubt it'll end up making it in the world of Pauper.
Secrets of the Key
This is the world's slowest Think Twice can actually be used to your advantage somewhat favorably. Making clue tokens isn't the worst when you're a deck that really likes artifacts, be it Affinity or a Metalcraft build. I don't think this is quite what those decks want in a world of cards like Prophetic Prism and Thoughtcast, but there's still potential nevertheless.
Okay, now this is an excellent combat trick. This makes an opposing creature smaller, gives you a temporary attacker, and even cantrips. There's a whole ton of good happening here for a very low cost, and I definitely think we'll see this one now and again.
A three-mana instant speed Sign in Blood isn't too bad of a thing at all. While Read the Bones, Night's Whisper, and even Sign in Blood itself are generally just going to be better, if you really need the instant speed play, then this card's gonna be what you're looking for. Teachings decks will especially like this, I'm sure.
Crawl from the Cellar
It hasn't shown itself in some time, but Zombies likes to creep up into the meta now and again. This gets back creatures for you and pumps the ones already on your board, which is great. Zombies often runs Ghoulcaller's Chant, so it might be set in the Raise Dead variant department, but I still think there's room for this. After all, you can still net two creatures in the long run, and the pump is big since Zombies' creatures often get stonewalled by opposing creatures after a while, which makes it difficult to close out games with the deck.
This card is great, and is certainly some fantastic removal. That said, at three mana, Rend Flesh is usually just going to be better, as hitting non-spirits is just better than hitting creatures without flying. Even then, the format's removal is already pretty off the charts, meaning this card never had a chance from the start - awesome as it is.
Now I know what you're thinking: Don't we already have Spark Harvest? Why play this? I even thought that at first, but then I thought a moment more and realized the exile part can be pretty relevant. Granted, it doesn't come up too often, as there aren't many return effects in Pauper, but there are certainly creatures you want to get off the board forever in the format, and in those situations I'd want to have this.
Ecstatic Awakener // Awoken Demon
Sacrifice decks will no doubt adore this card. A 1/1 for one mana on the front isn't too great, but sacrificing another creature, cantripping, and morphing this into a 4/4 later on seems fantastic. It's a good creature and a solid rate. In the worst case, it can even be sacrificial fodder itself, which is always welcome in a deck looking for more things to sacrifice away.
We have Faerie Macabre, Relic of Progenitus, Crypt Incursion, and many more, yet every now and then I still see people going for cards like Coffin Purge. It isn't often, but often enough that I feel it's worth mentioning this as another fresh budgetary graveyard removal spell for Pauper. This one comes with the added bonus of a couple tokens, which is pretty great. The uses here will be niche (like with Sacrifice lists, for example), but it'll definitely show up in the format now and again.
Generally speaking, I think Siege Zombie is rather unexciting, but feel like it's worth mentioning due to how Zombies plays as a deck. As I mentioned a bit above, Zombies tends to go in hard out of the gate and then loses steam fairly quickly by getting stonewalled enough that it becomes difficult to get more damage through. Gempalm Polluter, Shepherd of Rot, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel all do a lot in this regard, but it's not always as simple as it appears, and getting the last points of damage through however possible is a neat avenue. Utilizing three creatures still feels like way too big of an ask, though, and so I doubt it'll end up making it.
What's this? An actual Archaeomancer in Red?! Sign me up! Not much that really needs to be said with this one, as these kinds of abilities already show up quite often in Blue. The only thing that's worth mentioning is that most Flicker decks don't really run Red in the mix, so I'm curious to see how this shakes out there, if it does at all.
This is a card that seems bad right now because it is. The day and night mechanic being very limited right now hinders this card's capabilities greatly, but if the mechanic turns into a proper deck at some point, this could easily provide a ton of damage.
A middle-of-the-road attacker that can get extra unblockable damage through seems fine if unexciting. I do still think this is too low of a rate to make it in Pauper, but it's also very aggressive, so I'm not counting it down and out yet.
This card feels way too expensive to be good, but if you go to cast it after damaging an opponent, it can come down almost for free, and that's not too bad. This isn't something that clearly has a home, but rather it has possibilities, even if they wind up not being all that great.
Another set, another mediocre Kiln Fiend impression. This card's not that great, as we have better options as is and Izzet Blitz still isn't seeing very much play at all. An easy pass from me.
This falls firmly in the camp of cards that simply don't have a home now but very easily become a powerhouse if the right set of cards come along. Night and day is a new mechanic that's just a new version of something we already had in Innistrad sets prior, so there's no doubt we'll see it again in the future. We just need a greater density of playable cards with the mechanic to make it worth playing, but it's very easy to turn this into a conditional Lightning Bolt 5-8 with the right setup.
Raze the Effigy
Smelt is an extremely boring and largely unplayable card, but staple a combat trick to it and suddenly it seems a lot better. I could see this showing up in something like Red Deck Wins or RDW-style Goblins where you can best make use of either side depending on the situation, although it'll still be largely relegated to the sideboard.
Typically, combat tricks just aren't all that great in Pauper, but there's some interesting flexibility with the keywords this gives that I think it has a shot. It's an outside shot, and unlikely to make the cut, but it has the look of a possibly playable card.
Tavern Ruffian // Tavern Smasher
The daybound stats are relatively unexciting for a 2/5, but if you can get this to flip, you'll end up with a four-mana 6/5. That's a tremendous beater and can really close out a game if you can keep it there.
BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY
...and he's not really all that spectacular, but having a way to flash in a solid blocker and/or attacker isn't terrible either. I doubt this will be playable, but still felt it deserved a brief mention (and this excellent meme as well).
Hey wait, I've seen this one before! It's a classic! Except this one pales in comparison to Throne of Eldraine's Rosethorn Halberd. This has a lower re-equip cost, but if you're gonna be playing anything, go for the one with the cheaper initial cost.
Duel for Dominance, Might of the Old Ways, Harvesttide Sentry
Let's talk about each of these cards together. There's exactly one deck that might want these cards and that's Stompy. Virtually any other Green deck in Pauper either doesn't have the differences in power needed to make coven work, or simply doesn't want the abilities. Stompy might seem like 2-drop central, but a lot of times it's not hard to have multiple different powers on the field. Hunger of the Howlpack and Rancor really help here, and it's not uncommon to see a 1/1 with Quirion Ranger or Skarrgan Pit-Skulk and Nest Invader provides a creature with 0 power.
So, let's talk about the actual cards. Duel for Dominance is a solid effect for its cost, but just isn't necessarily what Stompy wants. This is largely due to the fact that Savage Swipe and Epic Confrontation just do it better. Both only offer temporary buffs, but you're not always going to get the multiple powers, making it a harder sell as opposed to the guaranteed power-ups. Might of the Old Ways is similar in that it's hard to justify over the other better pump spells, but the ability to have an extra cantrip on top makes it a very good rate.
Harvesttide Sentry has the most potential for my money. A two-mana 3/1 isn't that exciting, but with an active coven effect (being a 3/1 pulls a ton of weight here), this comes in swinging for a ton of damage. Most Pauper decks don't have a ton of creatures with more than two power, so this can get in very easily and makes for a solid card to take out against decks that it can't deal with. Even then, a well-timed pump spell can be just good enough that you can still take those large creatures down. I'd expect to see this one depending on what the meta looks like at any given time.
Howl of the Hunt
This card does a ton if you can drop it and is a fantastic rate for what it does. The thing holding it back in Pauper, though, is the fact that it simply doesn't have a strong amount of playable wolves and/or werewolves to make it worth playing. It's another card that I think may have its time in the sun - or moonlight in this case, I suppose - if the right set of cards come about to make it worth running.
Path to the Festival
Rampant Growth hasn't been playable in a long time, and this costs even more, but getting an additional scry most of the time and being able to flash it back the following turn if you hit a land seems solid enough. I doubt this will see a ton of play if any just because of the rate, but I wouldn't entirely write it off either should the right build come about.
A cheap artifact that can turn into a huge beater seems dull but also very powerful. This is a low rate, even if you need to pay it repeatedly to keep going in. Even just one hit is a ton and I'd expect to see this show up sooner or later somewhere in the format.
And that's a wrap, folks! There's lots of cool new cards at play here and I'm excited to see what pops up and turns out to be playable as a result, especially now that the format has been opened up some more with recent bannings. Crimson Vow isn't too far around the corner, so I'll be back soon with yet another review in just a few short weeks. With the format freshly open, what cards are you most looking forward to?
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