Briarbridge Tracker Is Esika’s Chariot’s Best Friend In Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard

Ross Merriam thinks Briarbridge Tracker and Esika’s Chariot will pair well in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard. Check out his early builds with the two powerful MTG cards.

One of my favorite things in Magic is watching how the whole of a deck becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. Even weak cards can be made strong when you find the right context for them to shine, and the eureka moment of finding that context and taking down stronger cards from your opponent is a great feeling.

However, if you go too far searching for these moments, you wind up putting yourself at a disadvantage, often playing a ton of weak cards and finding yourself at the mercy of your opponent, hoping they don’t have the disruption to break up your powerful synergies.

Early in a format, whether it’s during preview season or shortly after a new set’s release, most players are focused on finding the powerful synergies, and less focused on finding the right disruption to stop their opponents. This leads to situations where synergy-driven decks overperform until the metagame adapts to stop them. It’s at that point that the synergy decks give way to decks featuring more raw power.

There’s one more step in this process, and that’s taking decks comprised of individually powerful cards and finding little synergies in order to elevate those cards even further. These synergies are particularly difficult to stop because breaking them up with disruption still leaves your opponent with those individually powerful cards. They’re of course happy to see their synergies come together, but it’s no longer a disaster if they don’t. In other words, you get most of the reward of more synergy-dependent decks with much less risk.

Today I want to explore a card from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt that is powerful by itself, yet also synergizes nicely with existing powerful cards, making it one of the most intriguing cards in the set for me. That card is Briarbridge Tracker.

Briarbridge Tracker

An obvious callback to Tireless Tracker, the latest version won’t run away with games like its predecessor, since you’re limited to just the one Clue token. But in turn you get a bigger body up front and the first Clue comes regardless of whether you make a fourth land drop. That third point of toughness will be quite relevant in a format that’s adding Play With Fire as a common removal spell for red decks of all stripes. And the addition of vigilance will help out any midrange deck that wants the versatility to play offense and defense simultaneously.

Briarbridge Tracker won’t win you a game by itself, but as a creature that provides immediate card advantage and a solid rate body, its floor is as high as they come. Cards with high floors may not draw as much attention and hype as those with high ceilings, but they tend to win a lot of games.

Esika's Chariot

And if you’re looking for that high ceiling anyway, Briarbridge Tracker plays very well with Esika’s Chariot, which I think will be a key synergy for green decks in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard. I think Esika’s Chariot is one of the best cards remaining after rotation, along with Goldspan Dragon, because this format doesn’t have cards like Emergent Ultimatum and Into the Story that can generate huge swings in resources. So Esika’s Chariot being able to create three permanents for one card, threaten to snowball even further if left unchecked, and offer the flexibility to play both offense and defense is incredibly valuable.

Because Chariot is such a draw, cards that play well with it are also going to be in demand, and Briarbridge Tracker is a perfect fit. It can crew the Chariot by itself so long as you control a token, which Chariot conveniently generates if you’ve already sacrificed Tracker’s Clue token. But you’ll want to keep that Clue around, because copying it with Chariot’s triggered ability is an excellent option, especially in control matchups where extra Cat tokens are apt to all get swept away by a Shadows’ Verdict or Vanquish the Horde.

Briarbridge Tracker and Esika’s Chariot are a dynamic duo that fit into a variety of shells, starting with an updated version of one of the most successful decks from Standard 2022 on Arena, Mono-Green Aggro❄:

As an aggro deck it’s rather straightforward, but I’m attracted to the idea of putting a lot of pressure on your opponents when you have so much built-in card advantage. Old-Growth Troll, Esika’s Chariot, and Briarbridge Tracker are all clean two-for-ones or better, and between the many creature-lands, Ranger Class, and Werewolf Pack Leader, you’re unlikely to run out of things to do with your mana. So you may as well get your opponent on the back foot and limit their options as quickly as possible.

We’re mostly interested in building around a tight curve here, and there are plenty of options to fill out each spot, with the exception of ones. Mono-Green Aggro❄ has been lacking there since Pelt Collector left, and I’m begrudgingly adding Deathbonnet Sprout over Swarm Shambler despite having no way to fuel its transformation because I still think the upside is higher with Sprout. This deck is curving out as often as possible, leaving little spare mana for Swarm Shambler. Its main draw was how it made it nearly impossible to stop a Lovestruck Beast from attacking by dealing with the small creatures and that’s no longer relevant, thankfully.

At every other spot in the curve, Mono-Green❄ has great options. Werewolf Pack Leader is among the best two-drops in the format, and triggering its pack tactics ability is easy to do with only one other creature. Old-Growth Troll should also be much better now that it’s not consistently running into Lovestruck Beasts and Extinction Events. Kazandu Mammoth isn’t as good in a world without Fabled Passages, but it’s still gigantic for three mana, and Mono-Green Aggro❄ is always looking for the biggest creatures for their cost. You could try Primal Adversary in that spot, but in a deck with so many mana sinks, I like erring on the high side of the land count, and DFCs make it easy to do so without significantly increasing your risk of flooding.

The other weak point of this deck is the sideboard, where you’re mostly scraping the bottom of the barrel for reasonable options, but that could easily turn around once we have a known metagame to target. So while I’m concerned about this part of the deck, it’s far from a lost cause at this point. But if you want to have more optionality in the sideboard, you can easily go Gruul and add another solid card that has great synergy with the rest of the deck:

The card I’m referring to is Reckless Stormseeker, which is simply excellent in this shell. My colleagues have also noted the power of a 3/3 haste creature for three mana that continues to give your successive creatures haste. Several of them put it in their Top 5 cards for Standard in all of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. In this deck, you take full advantage of that haste. Take the following curve as an example:

  • Turn 2: Werewolf Pack Leader
  • Turn 3: Reckless Stormseeker, give itself haste, attack for six, trigger pack tactics to draw a card
  • Turn 4: Esika’s Chariot, crew the Chariot with Cat tokens, give Chariot haste, attack for nine, make a third Cat and draw a card

This simple 2-3-4 curve results in fifteen damage, two extra cards drawn, and a battlefield of five creatures and Esika’s Chariot. And a single removal spell still leaves you with a significant battlefield so your opponent will need to stay with you on every step in order to not fall far behind.

Jaspera Sentinel Magda, Brazen Outlaw

Going Gruul also opens the door for Jaspera Sentinel and Magda, Brazen Outlaw, an excellent package for early mana acceleration that can ramp you quickly to Goldspan Dragon or let you double-spell with cheaper threats. It’s a major upgrade to the Deathbonnet Sprouts in Mono-Green Aggro❄ and all it costs you is some of the token synergy with Ranger Class and Esika’s Chariot. You still have plenty of mana sinks with the addition of Shatterskull Smashing.

Lastly, you get to upgrade the removal package from the low-floor, high-ceiling Blizzard Brawl to the more consistent and versatile package of Dragon’s Fire, Play with Fire, and Burning Hands. The latter is especially important in green mirrors, which makes me value the red here quite a bit, even if the mana for two-color aggressive decks is notoriously poor. Jaspera Sentinel and Magda should go a long way towards smoothing out the inconsistency there.

The most surprising aspect of this list is how few of the major Werewolf cards I’m playing. Only one maindeck copy of Arlinn and two of Tovolar, Dire Overlord, despite the fact that Werewolf Pack Leader, Ranger Class, and Reckless Stormseeker all fit into the tribe. But I’m not interested in devoting myself fully to a tribal theme, since that will only make the deck more vulnerable to disruption. Tovolar is a fine card by itself and certainly has good synergy with the deck, but it has a lower floor than the other three-mana creatures. Same for Arlinn relative to Esika’s Chariot. I’m happy to pepper those cards in, but there’s no need to be a dedicated Wolf deck when you have more powerful options at your disposal.

The last shell I have for Briarbridge Tracker and Esika’s Chariot is the least aggressive, instead opting to add black and play some threats that have the potential to completely dominate games:

Between Magda, Kalain, and Lotus Cobra, this list is full of acceleration, trying to get to four and five mana ahead of schedule, so the curve is naturally higher. Briarbridge Tracker is the only three-drop, letting you still curve out in the face of removal on your early creatures, but you’d much rather land an Esika’s Chariot or Immersturm Predator on Turn 3.

Immersturm Predator

This card was the primary motivation to move into black, as I think it’s a big winner from surviving cards. It’s very difficult to remove now that Extinction Event is out of Standard, and evasive threats are important for breaking through battlefields that are cluttered with Cat tokens from both sides. You have Goldspan Dragon in Gruul, but Predator puts you even further ahead in those mirrors, especially when it’s entering the battlefield on Turn 3.

Tovolar's Huntmaster

With so much acceleration, I also moved the Tovolar’s Huntmasters, which were in the sideboard of both Mono-Green❄ and Gruul, to the maindeck. They’re great in midrange mirrors as a trump to almost any battlefield, but with the ability to cast it as early as Turn 3, I’m no longer afraid of having them clog my hand too often in aggressive matchups.

This list still has plenty of inherent card advantage to grind through decks with lots of removal, but it’s certainly geared towards beating other midrange decks with a premium selection of hard to answer, evasive, and efficient threats. The tricky part is making the mana work, but the new cycle of dual lands helps there quite a bit. You can play one tapped on Turn 1 in many games, so I’m comfortable playing six or seven. You just have to bias the rest of your non-Pathway lands towards green to make Jaspera Sentinel castable. That’s why I went with Lair of the Hydra as a creature-land over Den of the Bugbear, which has some good synergy with Immersturm Predator and Esika’s Chariot.

Cards with high floors may not draw as much attention and hype as those with high ceilings, but they tend to win a lot of games.

None of these decks maximize the synergies from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, but they’re flexible, resilient, and capable of running away with games early. In each case, Briarbridge Tracker is the glue that holds them together, offering a bridge between the early threats and the game-ending four- and five-mana creatures. It’s not flashy, but I’m confident it will be effective in this Standard season, especially when it’s supporting Esika’s Chariot.