Twenty Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard Decks That You Should Try

Bryan Gottlieb offers twenty Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard brews for you to sample. Is the next great MTG deck among them?

Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak

To say I’ve been waiting for Standard rotation would be a dramatic understatement. Magic has not been right since the appearance of Throne of Eldraine on the scene. An egregious power outlier in subtle and obvious ways, it will only be missed by me for its outstanding flavor. Seriously, the set’s Standard run made me question if I even liked Magic anymore. Do you know how far off the rails things have to get before I’m pondering that question?

Forget that nonsense though. We’re here now, and I have had an absolute blast building decks for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard. So many of the limitations of the last format are now gone, and everything feels possible. So much so, that I’ve got twenty lists for you that I can recommend with… varying degrees of faith. Even if something rates a little lower on my “Expected Viability” scale, you can rest assured that I find all of these ideas intriguing, and they could all have their place in the right format.

Let’s get to it.

1. Izzet Dragons❄

  • Core Idea: Take the best deck that remains virtually untouched by rotation and add some major upgrades.
  • Expected Viability: 10/10

No need to bury the lede; this or something close to it is contending with Gruul Aggro for the best deck in Standard coming out of the gates. This list is capable of everything the Izzet Dragons list from last format could do and then some, and that was a viable deck in a super-powered Standard. We’ve actually caught some upgrades here, since Moonveil Regent finally allows us to play fewer copies of Galazeth Prismari.

The other big shift is away from the Adventure creatures and towards Smoldering Egg. I was lower on this card until I started pairing it with Alrund’s Epiphany and realized it’s almost trivial to kill your opponent after you’ve completed that setup. A solid clock, card advantage, big spell potential, disruption… this deck really does it all.

2. Simic Lier

Lier, Disciple of the Drowned does not impress me as a fair card, but let me break it in half and I’m into it. The joke here is that if you get to six mana with a You See a Guard Approach in your graveyard, Lier becomes spot removal-proof. If you get there with some Divide By Zeros in your graveyard, Lier becomes everything-proof. That’s right, Divide By Zero gets around Lier’s safety valve of “spells can’t be countered.”

Unfortunately, we’re not doing much to catch back up against the aggro decks. Maybe you just have to play sweepers, but that feels bad with our key creatures. It’s an interesting idea, with some real vulnerabilities to the format’s best decks.

3. Cleric Pod

  • Core Idea: I’ve never quite gotten over the loss of Birthing Pod.
  • Expected Viability: 6/10

If the format is determined to play fair, can we just grind them into dust? This deck can play itself out of most scenarios that involve combat. The problem comes when opponents seek to go over the top of our grindy but fair midrange plan. Alrund’s Epiphany and even the biggest Gruul turns will present real problems. The format probably has to be about something else before this actually succeeds.

4. Mono-Black Zombies❄

  • Core Idea: Braiiinnnnnssss…
  • Expected Viability: 7.5/10

Look, we’ve got to play some less-than-stellar Zombies to get up to a critical mass, but the good parts of our deck are nice. Tainted Adversary makes huge battlefields out of nowhere in conjunction with our Shambling Ghast and Deadly Dispute Treasures, and those huge battlefields pair with Lolth, Spider Queen; Champion of the Perished; and Siege Zombie. We do the beatdown thing well, but we also have real options for controlling Gruul’s aggression while simultaneously rebuilding with Blood on the Snow. This deck feels close, and a stronger one-drop in a future set could definitely push it up a tier.

5. Izzet Delver

  • Core Idea: Delver of Secrets and cheap tempo spells—a tale as old as Innistrad.
  • Expected Viability: 7/10

Building a good Delver of Secrets deck is much harder than the internet would have you believe, and the lists that I’ve seen out there have not been good. Without Brainstorm, you’ve got to commit to an almost absurd spell count, and here we’re looking at 31 hits for our Delvers. Add in library manipulation from Consider and Fading Hope, and you can actually start playing Delver in good faith.

As far as secondary threats go, we’ve got Demilich and Moonveil Regent, a fantastic tag team if I’ve ever seen one once you’re committed to keeping your mana curve as low as possible and making sure you end games. I do think this deck still has some holes against things like Gruul Aggro (get used to that) but sideboarding into a full stack of Burning Hands might be enough to catch us up.

6. Gruul Lithoforming

  • Core Idea: Revisiting a combo shell that seemed capable of doing truly absurd things.
  • Expected Viability: 5/10

All right look, this didn’t work before. It probably won’t work now. But all of these cards are still legal, and Wrenn and Seven is a natural fit in this deck. Let’s just say I tried this one so you didn’t have to.

7. Mono-White Storm❄

  • Core Idea: The cheap flashback of Homestead Courage might finally give the only storm spell in Standard a chance to shine.
  • Expected Viability: 6/10

I’ll never pretend like Mono-White Aggro is my favorite archetype, but if it starts looking more like a combo deck, you might be able to get my attention. Napkin math tells me that optimal Turn 4s with this deck are capable of dealing 4,359,293 damage (editors, double-check that) (CEDitor’s Note: Checks out Bryan!), and I believe that the addition of super-enabler Homestead Courage means that you can go off far more often than you used to. Even if you aren’t having full combo turns, this deck can still get plenty wide and find damage that way.

Still we’re vulnerable to sweepers, and it’s not clear how much more reliably we are finding out most explosive draws than something like Gruul. I hope this is a little better than I’m expecting, because it has the potential to keep the format honest.

8. Bant Ramp

In my quest to optimize Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset, I think I just learned that Storm the Festival is not a very good card. Five cards isn’t that deep in your library, and even here in a deck specifically engineered to cast Storm the Festival as reliably as possible, I wasn’t pulling that far ahead on the battlefield. I’ve got to go back to the drawing board here, and maybe it requires playing more DFCs like Kazandu Mammoth and Umara Wizard.

9. Golgari Midrange❄

Better Call Sol (leave it in Cedric, someone will get it) (CEDitor’s Note: Fine…), because we’ve got an honest to God rock sighting. Good ol’ rock. Nothing beats rock.

Blood on the Snow seems like it deserves better than it’s had during its run in Standard, and maybe this is the moment it’s been waiting for. The Esika’s Chariot / Wrenn and Seven / Briarbridge Tracker is the purest midrange three, four, five curve we’ve seen in a very long time. We can speed things up a bit though with the collaboration between Shambling Ghast and Deadly Dispute, and that’s when this deck will really shine.

Maybe I’m just buying in because I want to believe, but this looks solid to me.

10. Selesnya Graveyard

Playing out of the graveyard in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is a mixed bag. We’ve got some tremendous payoffs, but for the most part it feels like the engine cards are somewhat lacking. To compensate for that, we’re trying to add a real go-wide beatdown plan to accompany our Willow Geists and Deathbonnet Sprouts. It’s all a ruse though, as the real knockout punch here is Paladin Class plus Cave of the Frost Dragon.

I’m not sure if the disturb creatures are enough to play through sweepers like Burn Down the House, but this deck gets a lot for its mana investments.

11. Mono-Red Aggro❄

  • Core Idea: None of my decks seem ready to beat Mono-Red Aggro. Time to build Mono-Red Aggro.
  • Expected Viability: 8.5/10

Moonveil Regent still reads like one of the most powerful cards in the set, but as I’ve spent more and more time deckbuilding, I’m disappointed by how few homes it has, since it’s often outclassed by Esika’s Chariot. No such problem in Mono-Red, and the assortment of creatures here seems solid enough to carry the day when backed up by robust card advantage engines. We’re giving up some of the absurd explosiveness of Gruul in exchange for a little more consistency and removal. I think I’m okay with that.

12. Gruul Aggro

  • Core Idea: A powerful late-game along with unbeatable aggro draws, this is the other deck to beat.
  • Expected Viability: 9.5/10

My build of Gruul probably goes larger than a lot of other folks, but I’m not interested in just making a beatdown deck. This deck when it shines should be able to go over top of most of the format while still presenting unbeatable Turn 4s.

I expect more and more focus to go towards Gruul, and that’s why I’ve tried to diversify threats a bit with things like Briarbridge Tracker and the super-powerful Light Up the Night. Alongside Wrenn and Seven and Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope, I would expect battlefield stalls to be a thing of the past for this deck.

13. Esper Tokens

This deck has the look of a powerful midrange shell, but I think it’s hard to play midrange without either Blood on the Snow, Burn Down the House, or Doomskar right now. Esper Tokens will need its spells to line up perfectly in order to keep pace, and while this deck will be powerful when it gets to do its thing, I think it’ll just get run over too often.

14. Jeskai Dragons

  • Core Idea: Can Dragons benefit from a bit of noncombat reach and permanent-based card advantage?
  • Expected Viability: 7/10

I’m not sure there’s a lot of reason to mess with the perfection of Izzet Dragons❄, but again, I expect that deck to quickly become a focal point of the format. If that happens, it could be beneficial to expand to the permanent-based card advantage of Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset and use that to power out some massive Light Up the Nights alongside all of your Dragon-provided mana. I’m stashing this one in my back pocket.

15. Golgari Graveyard

  • Core Idea: Ghoulcaller’s Harvest has unreal output potential. What does its ceiling look like?
  • Expected Viability: 7.5/10

All right, I know these are all supposed to be my decks, but this list is a result of Gerry riffing off one of my lists and he honestly solved a lot of the problems my first pass had, so I see no reason to stick you with my inferior list. Basically, make a lot of creatures, don’t die because you have Prosperous Innkeeper, and then keep making creatures until you have enough to kill your opponent. Easy game.

This deck is extremely exploitable by a combination of graveyard hate and sweepers, but people have to have that combination, and I’m not sure how many decks do right now. May as well beat them up until they do.

16. Rakdos Sacrifice

  • Core Idea: An already solid deck picks up noncombat reach and some more sacrifice fodder.
  • Expected Viability: 9.5/10

I already loved this archetype pre-rotation, but it was always missing something. I had no idea that something was Light Up the Night. Get a Lolth, Spider Queen onto the battlefield; play some defense; and you’ll be burning your opponent out from twenty before you know it. I didn’t realize how much I missed the consistency of playing a Village Rites deck until I got to do it again.

17. Naya Humans

  • Core Idea: Maybe Katilda, Dawnhart Prime lets Humans do the combo thing even better than Elves?
  • Expected Viability: 6.5/10

More sweeper vulnerability, but we’re making up for it this time with some card advantage coming from the graveyard and an honest-to-God combo kill. I like that this deck can reach critical mass battlefields while still challenging Gruul’s aggression with its Brutal Cathars. Still, it feels like too much of your stuff has to live for this deck to really hum.

18. Temur Turns❄

  • Core Idea: What if I took all the turns… again?
  • Expected Viability: 8.5/10

I built this deck as more of a joke than anything else. Then I played it. As of writing, I haven’t lost yet. I don’t think it’s quite that good, but there are some things it is doing very right. Accelerating to Burn Down the House is incredible right now, and you go miles over the top of any other midrange decks.

Normally a setup like this would get punished by anyone playing countermagic, but meet my friend Malevolent Hermit. Get used to this card, because every time a player is trying to do degenerate things, Malevolent Hermit will be there making sure they do so undaunted. This card creates a subgame that your opponent simply can’t win at. In some ways, it’s even better at enabling nonsense than Teferi, Time Raveler was. You’re either facing the front or the back, and neither is going to let Alrund’s Epiphany get countered.

Honestly, I feel legitimately bad about this one. This might end up being the fun police of the format.

19. Bant Control

  • Core Idea: Trying to capture the feeling of Time Spiral-era control decks one more time.
  • Expected Viability: 4/10

Back in the day, we used to shuffle our best answers back into our deck with Gaea’s Blessing. Since threats were all awful, eventually this improved deck would answer everything our opponent could do and we’d deck them the long way. Theoretically, the combination of Memory Deluge and Turn the Earth makes this viable again.

However, threats have gotten much better, and I’m not sure answering actual everything is realistic anymore. Still, if you’re a glutton for punishment, this is the purest version of control you can play.

20. Jeskai Flashback

  • Core Idea: Faithful Mending is an unreal tool for combo/control decks in every format, so let’s find Standard’s version.
  • Expected Viability: 7.5/10

Remember what I said about Malevolent Hermit enabling ridiculous things? Here’s Exhibit B. Gain life to survive until Turn 5 with Faithful Mending and Thrilling Discovery, cast Burn Down the House, and then follow up with a massive threat thanks to Seize the Storm. Sure, your opponent might have the answer, but just do it again from your graveyard, or if you have to, wait to have Kazuul’s Fury in hand. If the format is going to stay vulnerable to Burn Down the House, combo-control like this makes a lot of sense.

I hope this column has opened up your eyes to what’s possible in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard. The most important cards seem to be Goldspan Dragon, Alrund’s Epiphany, sweepers, and, shockingly, Malevolent Hermit. Still though, there’s plenty of room outside that space for aggressive enough or disruptive enough decks, and as time goes on, you should be able to target some of those cards while staying soft to others as metagame percentages ebb and flow.

Standard is off to an awesome start, and I hope it can seize on the excitement and deliver a return to form in the post-Throne of Eldraine era.