Updating Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard’s Best Decks With Innistrad: Crimson Vow

Is Week 1 of Innistrad: Crimson Vow Standard the right time to reinvent the wheel? Brad Nelson thinks otherwise. Get his updates to the defending Tier 1 decks ahead of this weekend’s events.

Ulvenwald Oddity, illustrated by Brent Hollowell

Today’s topic is pretty simple.

Yesterday Innistrad: Crimson Vow released on Magic Arena, and I got a chance to play with said cards. Since it was only a day though, I didn’t get as far into the format as I wanted to. In all actuality, I just spent the entire day updating the previous format’s best decks, and I have to say they still slap. Today I’m going to talk through the updates I’ve made to them, and what I’m most likely going to play in tomorrow’s Red Bull Untapped International Stop IV.

1. Mono-White Aggro❄: The Best Default Deck

Last season Mono-White Aggro❄ was fine. It held its own against Izzet Epiphany and Mono-Green Aggro❄, which was not something many other decks could say. That said, it still wasn’t all that impressive of a strategy, consistently underperforming when high-level players played against high-level players. I don’t think anyone’s ever going to go back and revise history, but if they did, I’d imagine their findings would be that the deck was greatly overhyped. 

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Now before I go setting an unintended tone, I do have to say Innistrad: Crimson Vow has really done the strategy some significant favors. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, for example, is a huge upgrade for the strategy and one that should push the deck into the limelight, as it’s great against both Esika’s Chariot and Alrund’s Epiphany. It’s such a huge upgrade to the deck that I actually think people are building their initial Mono-White Aggro❄ decks incorrectly. 

Yesterday Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa wrote a very good article detailing why he also thinks this deck got some major upgrades. I was really digging the article, but think he may have fumbled it on the five-yard line with his final decklist. I’m just not a fan of the more “stocky” lists that run cards like Sungold Sentinel, tons of removal, and Intrepid Adversary because I just don’t think that’s the game this deck wants to play.

Thalia is here to slow an opponent down and I don’t want her to be the only bump in the road. Pairing her with Reidane, God of the Worthy and Paladin Class just makes sense to me, as my goal is to slow the opponent down just enough to make sure I can get the twenty damage across. I also think Paladin Class is great in the “go-wide” builds, and now with Hopeful Initiate the deck finally has decent one-drops to go with the Anthem and Clarion Spirit

I believe in the broad-strokes gameplan, but not in the individual numbers just yet. Mono-White Aggro❄ is also a fallback for me, as there are many other cards and strategies I want to explore before I spend all my time tuning the deck I ultimately want to register into tournaments with. 

Valorous Stance

Before we move on, it’s vital to bring up Valorous Stance and how it will most likely change the way other decks interact with Mono-White Aggro❄. This is pretty much the perfect removal spell for this deck, as it also doubles as a protection spell. This means you don’t get as punished when drawing extra copies. It also doesn’t leave a Clue around like Fateful Absence does. This does a couple of things. 

Smoldering Egg

Smoldering Egg got a whole lot worse in the matchup it was best in. Now Mono-White Aggro❄ can easily remove Smoldering Egg and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned with the same removal  spell without giving an opponent an advantageous Clue. This is big, and most likely will change the way Izzet Epiphany decks approach the matchup. It, at least, is changing mine. 

2. Izzet Epiphany: Hullbreaker Horror’s Home… For Now. 

Hullbreaker Horror is clearly going to be one of the defining cards from Innistrad: Crimson Vow. It’s massive, can’t be countered, and does a really good job at catching up lost tempo. Hell, it might be good enough to be the centerpiece of a deck; it’s just too early for me to know exactly what that deck would look like. 

Hullbreaker Horror

Hullbreaker Horror really reminds me a lot of Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. You see, the Vehicle was one of the best cards in Standard at its time, but when new sets came out, it sort of took a backseat to new hotness. Also, the formats were more volatile in the beginning, making it much more difficult to figure out exactly where it belonged as it didn’t create inherent synergy to most decks. As the format stabilized and decks all began to get more midrange, Skysovereign always seemed to sneak into most of them.

Now obviously these two cards aren’t similar in design, but I’m still trusting my gut that Hullbreaker Horror will become much better once things cool down a bit. Right now, there are a million different decks being played as people try all the new strategies. Soon a lot of that fat’s going to get cut from the competitive queues, leading to a more defined metagame. That not only will help control decks as they figure out which interaction is best, but also slow the format down as a whole, making a card like Hullbreaker Horror shine brighter. 

That doesn’t mean we need to just ignore the card until that happens. It’s just that I don’t have anything definitive to say about the card except for the fact that I have cast it and it’s very powerful. Besides that, the best I can do is talk about what sort of cards I want and don’t want to pair it with.

Sedgemoor Witch

I don’t think these two cards mingle well. Sedgemoor Witch is a fairly aggressive card that likes to work alongside spells like Duress and Consider. Hullbreaker Horror costs seven mana, which means it needs a lot of resources and time to eventually get onto the battlefield. Sedgemoor Witch wants to focus the game in the mid-game and leverage some card advantage spells after the dust has settled. That’s not the sort of game you want to be playing while Hullbreaker Horror is sitting in your hand. 

I could totally be wrong on this, but that’s the logic on why I didn’t bite the bullet on working on Dimir or Grixis Control. Instead, I just threw it in Izzet Epiphany and started racking up the wins. 

Yeah, I get it. Some of you came here for some cool new fun decklists to try out. I too did that for a while yesterday, but I took a lot of losses. I tried Humans, Vampires, and whatever else the other streamers were playing at the time. The decks were fine, but I didn’t feel like dying on those hills. Instead, I told myself I’d pick up Izzet Epiphany until I lost a match, and that didn’t happen, so here we are. 

Odds are I’ll be playing something similar to this in the Red Bull Untapped tournament. I’ve been very impressed with Flame-Blessed Bolt thus far as a ton of people are trying small-ball creatures right now. Besides that, it’s still just the same deck it was before, but we’ll talk about some of the subtle changes to it. 

Alrund's Epiphany Alrund's Epiphany Alrund's Epiphany Hullbreaker Horror

The more I play with this archetype, the less I like having all four copies of Alrund’s Epiphany in the 75. Sometimes they really clog your hands in Game 1, and you often sideboard out a copy or two in most matchups anyway. I really think a single Hullbreaker Horror slots nicely into the maindeck, giving the deck a unique angle of attack without the fear of flooding on the effect. It also works just as well with Treasure tokens on pivotal turns, so it’s still synergizing with the general gameplan of the deck. 

Goldspan Dragon

Goldspan Dragon is amazing out of the sideboard, but don’t play too many copies. Two might even be one too many, but I’m going to stick with it for now. Sideboard games in the mirrors or against other control decks can get very weird, and sometimes you struggle to deploy your extra-turns gameplan. That’s why Izzet Epiphany has forever played cards like Malevolent Hermit and Smoldering Egg in the sideboard. 

Well, those cards aren’t that great anymore. Honestly, they weren’t ever that amazing in the blue mirrors to begin with, but it took us a while to make sure we’re prepared for them. Now that Thalia is a huge concern for this deck, Spikefield Hazard will once again be maxed out, and Valorous Stance will also be ready to pick off Smoldering Egg. I think it’s just best to ignore these cards entirely as the removal for them is already out there.

Goldspan Dragon, on the other hand, is awesome in blue-based mirrors as it’s one of those cards you can try to set up, or just slam on an early turn. The Treasures gained can help with future turns by either casting Hullbreaker Horror early or setting up Galvanic Iteration turns. 

Jacob Hauken, Inspector

I have no clue if Jacob Hauken, Inspector is any good or if this is a good home for it. I’m still just trying it out, but I do really love how it can help sculpt hands against other blue decks. It’s also an interesting creature in that you will always be able to cast a spell if you invest six mana into its ability. They might still interact with the card you cast off its backside, but you don’t have to worry about getting absolutely nothing out of a six-mana investment, which is nice. 

3. Mono-Green Aggro❄: Still Most Likely the Best Deck

I heard a ton of hype surrounding Ascendant Packleader, and that it finally gave Mono-Green Aggro❄ a decent one-drop. It’s fine. Like, it’s nice to do something on Turn 1, but it’s not as if its abilities were all that relevant most of the time. Still, I felt a significant difference in how games played out when I had it on Turn 1, so it’s more than likely a great addition to this deck.

Ascendant Packleader Ulvenwald Oddity

Ulvenwald Oddity, however, gets me all hot and bothered. This thing is great and I expect it to do damage in Standard. I just don’t think it wants to do those things in Mono-Green Aggro❄’s maindeck. I’ve seen a ton of people playing it there and it doesn’t make sense to me. I’d much rather sideboard it against decks like Izzet Epiphany or Dimir Control, as I don’t see the upside of having it against other creature decks. 

Long story short, Mono-Green Aggro❄ still slaps, and you’re going to play against it a decent amount once everyone realizes these other early shells aren’t actually good. That’ll be especially true in this weekend’s tournaments, when a lot of people (including me) play it close to the vest.