Blinks And Frogs: Exploring Hallowed Respite And Croaking Counterpart In Standard

Two strong blinking cards in the same set have Ari Lax on the lookout. How can Croaking Counterpart and Hallowed Respite make their mark on Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard?

Croaking Counterpart, illustrated by Yeong-Hao Han

Momentary Blink

Momentary Blink is a bit of a special card in Magic history. It’s rare a card hits on the intersection of actually powerful and broadly loved the way Momentary Blink has. People like blinking stuff. They play creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers because they like getting the value there, and they like getting that value again. But one Flicker isn’t enough by itself, and as we have seen with Yorion, Sky Nomad, there’s a limit where it’s way too much and boring. Momentary Blink kinda slides right in the middle there and makes a pretty perfect card.

Hallowed Respite Croaking Counterpart

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt tries to reclaim most of that design spark with Hallowed Respite, a card easily shortcutted to Momentary Blink with some nice extra quirks. But wait, there’s more. Croaking Counterpart may as well be Hallowed Respite. Once you think about the fact you have to target the initial creature and not the Frog token on a flashback, the two cards look more similar. A 1/1 Frog is a bit more than a +1/+1 counter, warranting the increased cost, but you still get those all important triggers.

What kind of nonsense can we get up to with these two powerful triggered ability enablers?

Avalanche Riders Mystic Snake

Let’s start with the bad news: they don’t quite make them like they used to. And by “them,” I mean both the creatures and these flashback spells. See, a lot of the old Momentary Blink equity was tied up in a couple of miserable play patterns. Momentary Blink existed in a block with Avalanche Riders; Riftwing Cloudskate; Venser, Shaper Savant; and Mystic Snake. Usually the card was used to bounce or destroy all your opponent’s lands, or to counter or bounce all their spells over and over until you won. We don’t get a lot of Stone Rain and Boomerang on bodies these days, and both Hallowed Respite and Croaking Counterpart are sorceries, which prevents any Mystic Snake shenanigans.

Shaile, Dean of Radiance

Moving to a very minor adjustment, there’s also a weird non-legendary clause on Hallowed Respite. I assume this is to prevent anyone from flipping the table when their Strixhaven Dean gets downgraded to the cheaper front side, but who knows. Or maybe untapping Iymrith, Desert Doom post-combat was too much. It makes me sad I can’t hyper-turbo venture with Nadaar, Selfless Paladin, but whatever, it is what it is.

Enduring Angel Devoted Grafkeeper Kessig Naturalist

There’s also some generally weird stuff happening with transformable cards and these two sorceries. First off, you may notice a weird clause relating to if Enduring Angel doesn’t transform. That’s because token copies of double-faced cards don’t have a back side to transform to, and without that clause a Frog Angel would just fail to transform over and over to make you unkillable. Bad times for everyone. The Frog token copies whatever side of the card is face up when it targets, but don’t make a Frog Human Werewolf side of a card and expect the full Werewolf bonus at night.

Hallowed Respite interacts a little better, but there’s some nuance with the two ways Innistrad: Midnight Hunt implements transform. The new day-night mechanic means a flickered Werewolf returns on whatever side it left on, so you won’t reset it with a Hallowed Respite unless you flash it back for the natural two-spell night-to-day transition. The other new transform mechanic of disturb does work a little better, letting you exile the disturbed Spirit side and return the card refreshed as the initial Human or Hippogriff side.

Clone Glasspool Mimic

Which brings us to the much more important point, and one that is honestly easy to miss on first read. Neither Croaking Counterpart or Hallowed Respite has a “you control” clause on targeting. That means Hallowed Respite can clear tokens, making it a potent answer to Wrenn and Seven. That means your opponent’s Koma, Cosmos Serpent has some amphibian competition. You won’t play Hallowed Respite or Croaking Counterpart with the primary goal of targetting your opponent’s stuff, but you won’t pass up the added value.

So…I still haven’t answered what we are doing with these cards. Boot up a card search engine and let’s dive into Standard creatures.

Master of Winds Briarbridge Tracker Gladewalker Ritualist

The state of Mulldrifters in Innstrad: Midnight Hunt Standard is pretty sad. You’re pretty limited in converting your ability re-up into a single card unless you’re going down the road of “basically not a real card” with Set Booster exclusive Gladewalker Ritualist and getting paid off on the second Frog token. The best I can give you is a Catalog with Master of Winds. A bit of me wants to hype up Runeforged Champion for the weirdo synergy version of this, but I can’t imagine Hallowed Respite plus Auras is a winning combination.

Skyclave Apparition Dragon Turtle

Skyclave Apparition is the clear best thing to be repeating in the format. It’s weirdly so much better than any red or black Shriekmaw in the format. There isn’t a great Man-o’-War in the format either, but on the Croaking Counterpart side I’m pretty into Dragon Turtle. Just Counterpart though, as having Dragon Turtle re-lock itself on a Hallowed Respite is a pretty poor exchange. There’s also Mind Flayer, but I struggle to believe doubling down on that card isn’t a win more. I’m not going to pass up Counterparting it; it just doesn’t push me to actually do that.

Frostpyre Arcanist Burning-Rune Demon

There are a couple of cute ways to chain off. I’m especially into Burning-Rune Demon plus flashback spells forking your opponent when that flashback spell is Hallowed Respite or Croaking Counterpart to search with Demon yet again. A different flashback spell in Dryad’s Revival also lets Demon find an assured tutor target plus additional value, which is a massive upgrade from the usual “find a Regrowth” plan. The cost of including one of each of those cards in your deck for that setup is so small that I almost expect it to become a typical setup for the format.

Listen, I get that this deck firmly falls under “trying some stuff,” and I get that it looks like a Koma, Cosmos Serpent control deck trying to not play Koma, but Burning-Rune Demon sure does not die to Burning Hands. I’m also just starting off high on Gretchen Titchwillow in instant-based control decks like this, and would advise everyone else to give the card a chance.

Elderfang Disciple Acquisitions Expert

You could also lace some of this Burning-Rune Demon stuff into a normal “good cards” Esper Blink strategy. The best two-drops to Hallowed Respite are the black discard creatures, much like some of the early Yorion-based Esper Blink shells. Between those and Elite Spellbinder it’s really easy to just shred your opponent’s entire hand.

Okay, you get the joke. You could double up with Counterpart and Respite in a Bant list, but the green stuff is unexciting on the axis of raw value.

Now let’s get a bit weird with it.

Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager Oran-Rief Ooze

Two forgotten Zendikar Rising rares seem like great matches from Croaking Counterpart. One way to abuse the base 1/1 Frog aspect of Croaking Counterpart is +1/+1 counters, and these deliver. Copying Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager gets you a +1/+1 counter on the original Grakmaw and a 3/3 token, or technically a new 5/5 Frog Grakmaw you can’t Counterpart again and a 3/3. Either way, that’s a totally respectable buyout for your copy spell.

The real payoff is stacking Oran-Rief Oozes. That’s just an insurmountable amount of power and toughness generated each turn for free. You previously lost out on Luminarch Aspirant by cutting white, which was a big hit, but Ranger Class is basically the same card, right?

I think you can go a little deeper on the Dragonsguard Elite setup, but it’s pretty tough to get that card and Ranger Class running in the same deck and I know which one of them I think is more reliable.

Primal Adversary

I guess it’s time to briefly address that the Adversary cycle in the context of Hallowed Respite and Croaking Counterpart. You do get to retrigger your Adversary if a blink or copy occurs, but dumping extra mana in once you retrigger your thing isn’t really how a blink gets value. It’s especially obvious with Primal Adversary, where the second copy actually underperforms the first since the resource used to “multikicker” it is also used on the creature-lands the first time. I’m just playing a bunch of them here because the card is good, not really for specific synergies.

Squad Commander Malakir Blood-Priest

Onto the last fun option to explore: party. Squad Commander and Malakir Blood-Priest are insane things to Hallowed Respite, and with a new set and rotation, it’s time to check the status of party types in the format.

Base Camp Jaspera Sentinel

Just taking another moment to remind everyone of the fun we could be having if Base Camp wasn’t a tapped land. Getting stuck in three colors feels like it limits you on some creature type, in this case overloading you with good Clerics and leaving you light on Wizards and Rogues once you resolve Squad Captain for Warrior. Maybe the right way to build this is base Abzan with a Linvala splash, but there’s some work to be done for sure.

Skemfar Shadowsage Elvish Warmaster

There’s also a similar Sultai Elf shell you can build. It lost surprisingly little with the rotation, and both Elvish Warmaster and Skemfar Shadowsage are great cards to copy with Croaking Counterpart.

Right now I’m not super-optimistic about these tribal experiments, but I want to keep up the exercise because each set could make something wild happen. All it takes is one good card with good types to put it all together.

Hallowed Respite Croaking Counterpart

The same can be said in general for Hallowed Respite and Croaking Counterpart. Each set added to Standard will provide more chances for them to improve enters-the-battlefield triggers. I’m honestly shocked to see two enablers of this type and quality in the same set, and I’m looking forward to a couple of years of them getting a chance to do their thing in Standard.