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Magic Arena: Midnight Hunt Breathes Fresh Death Into Magic: The Gathering

Nick Shively Posted:
Editorials Not So MMO 0

Midnight Hunt (MID) the newest expansion for TCG Magic: The Gathering, will officially releases on September 24, 2021. However, pre-release for the physical card game and the digital release for Magic Online and Magic: The Gathering Arena started late last week. This has given me the opportunity to test the new set in limited formats, both digitally and in-person, and get a glimpse of what the Standard format looks like after rotation.

It’s only been 2 months since the release of the last set, Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR), but to me it felt like an eternity despite being one of the shorter periods between set releases in the game’s history. I personally found AFR to be one of the most lackluster sets since Dragon’s Maze in terms of Standard and non-rotating format impact, limited environment, and financial value. There was simply nothing redeeming about the set besides the D&D lore crossover, which was also hit and miss depending on who you talked to.

Reshaping Standard and Beyond

I’m happy to report that MID is shaping up to be a completely different experience across the board. One of the most important aspects of Midnight Hunt’s release is that all sets before Zendikar Rising (Throne of Eldraine, Theros: Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Core 2021) have all rotated out of standard.

Normally, standard rotation can be somewhat bittersweet. Most current decks will need to have some cards replaced and others won’t be viable at all. Players will have to shell out a decent amount of money to stay competitive and it’s usually sad to see fan-favorite cards go away.

However, Throne of Eldraine was such a powerful set that it’s been dominant in the Meta since Fall 2019 even after multiple cards were outright banned from multiple formats. Since Eldraine’s release, set power levels have steadily declined, which didn’t do much to deter its format domination, but this has helped even the playing field after its rotation.

Now we have a new Standard format that is using a lot of cards from Midnight Hunt and it feels fresher than ever. Lots of new decks have surfaced with both old and new strategies alike. Simic is still trying its hand at ramp with Wrenn and Seven, mono-green has some nasty new tools including Primal Adversary and Briarbridge Tracker, and werewolves are a thing again being led by Tovolar, Dire Overlord and Arlinn, the Pack's Hope. There have even been a handful of decks testing out the powerful new reprint Delver of Secrets, which could possibly be a game changer for the Pioneer format.

Standard and Pioneer aren’t the only formats to benefit from Midnight Hunt. Two premium Commander decks were also released with the set. Coven Counters focuses on building up humans with +1/+1 counters being led by Leinore, Autumn Sovereign. The second, Undead Unleashed is a zombie-centric deck led by Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver. Each deck also adds a handful of new Curse cards, which could see play in other Commander decks. Finally, werewolves also have a proper leader with the aforementioned Tovolar. 

Limited – Card Flipping Fun

While Midnight Hunt might not have too many cards strong enough to warp the eternal and non-rotating formats, the set’s three new mechanics bring a ton of value to draft and sealed play. The first new mechanic is ‘Disturb.’ It allows you to cast the backside of a creature card from the graveyard for a specified cost. Each of these creatures typically start as Humans with their backside being a Spirit that gets exiled instead of going to the graveyard. While most of these cards aren’t huge bombs, being able to get two cards for one can be a lot of value. For example, Chaplain of Alms is a decent 1-drop but can come back as a 2/1 flier that gives Ward 1 to all of your creatures.

The second new mechanic is the Day & Night cycle, which is also represented by double-faced cards (DFC). To start off the cycle, a player needs to play a card that either has Daybound or starts the cycle as part of its enter-the-battlefield effect. Certain cards can cause it to turn from Day to Night, or a player can cast 0 spells during their turn to cause this change. Many creatures can get much stronger during the night, such as Tovolar’s Huntmaster which becomes a 7/7 for 6cmc that creates two 2/2 wolves and can activate an ability to fight other creatures.

The final new mechanic isn’t as overtly strong, but it can create a good amount of value over time or in the right situation. There is a new type of zombie with the ‘decayed’ ability. This means the zombie cannot block and dies at the end of combat if it attacked. Obviously, these seem like very weak creatures but they’re basically given out for free. Falcon Abomination is a Wind Drake with a free 2/2 decayed zombie. These zombies can be used to chip away at your opponent or sacrificed as part of an additional casting cost.

Financial Value

While the new Standard and Limited formats are great. Midnight Hunt initial appears to be on the weaker side in terms of card value.  We’re still seeing pre-order prices at the moment so it’s difficult to judge how far things will drop after this weekend, but it looks like MID will be held up by a few chase mythics, such as Wrenn, Arlinn, Teferi, and The Meathook Massacre.

There are a couple of valuable rares, such as Tovolar and Augur of Autumn, but I expected all but the best to drop below $3 once the set officially releases. Additionally, the land cycle is just okay with a new type of dual slow lands (Hunt Lands) that come into play untapped as long as you control two or more other lands. These are fine in Standard and pretty good in EDH, but they don’t have land types and can’t be fetched, which is a big drawback. However, there is quite a bit of interest surrounding the new showcase basic lands that are selling for as much as $3 in their foil forms.

Is Midnight Hunt going to be the next powerhouse that was Throne of Eldraine? Absolutely not, but it does help round thing out by adding enough power that was lacking in the previous few sets. Furthermore, Innistrad is always full of flavor, and it’ll be interesting to see where the werewolf-vampire-human power struggle ends after the next set, Crimson Vow.

Featured image via Wizards of the Coast/Yigit Koroglu


Nick Shively