Now that we’ve had a little less than a week to play with the cards in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, one thing has become pretty clear: the colors aren’t balanced.
This doesn’t mean the format is bad, and it doesn’t mean that all the blue cards are better than all the red cards. It means that, as the general populace is prioritizing cards, you will win more games by biasing towards black and/or blue.
The reason for this is the depth of card quality in each color. The green and red commons are spread thin. When I draft Izzet, it’s possible a pack has three red cards that I can’t play in my deck. Similarly, if I draft Selesnya, it’s possible a pack has three green cards I can’t play in my deck. By contrast, for almost any black or blue archetype, there’s a deep suite of commons that can go in any archetype. White is basically in the middle, where the card quality at common is a bit lower than black and blue, but it isn’t as spread thin as red and green. This yields a color ranking of:
At the moment, most colors are being prioritized at a similar value. Given the depth of card quality described above, this means that the probability of getting a good blue or black deck is massively higher than the probability of getting a good green or red deck. Hence, I strongly weight my options towards those two colors, which is reflected in my current top commons list:
Eventually, the format will self-correct. More people will lean into blue and black, which will balance the scales such that the probability of getting a good deck doesn’t have a wide disparity between colors. I imagine, when that happens, a new contender will rise to the top, likely a white aggressive deck.
With all of this in mind, the following draft is pretty interesting. While red is the worst color, I still correctly started the draft with a red bomb: Sunstreak Phoenix. The question is, where should I go from there?
Pack 1, Pick 5
The Picks So Far:
Croaking Counterpart is a cool rare, but it’s not high-impact enough to warrant a splash. Given that my Izzet or Gruul decks likely aren’t interested in splashing it, I think that rules it out as an option.
Shadowbeast Sighting is a great rate for a creature, but that’s all it is. I originally thought that would be good enough to justify a slot in my top commons, but it just isn’t. It’s a good card, but nowhere close to a pull to green, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to take it prior to having any green cards.
Falkenrath Perforator is a solid two-drop for a red aggressive deck. Sacred Fire in the pool leads this to be an option, even though it’s a low-impact card in general. Density of two-drops is important for any aggressive deck, and I actually wouldn’t fault anybody for taking the Perforator.
Diregraf Horde has been extremely impressive, but I think is overall overrated by a lot of the community. Yes, it’s “Grave Titan at home.” No, I’m not happy to first-pick the card. There’s such a density of great four-drops and five-drops in the format that it’s so important to prioritize the lower part of your curve and interaction.
Yes, Diregraf Horde is the best five-drop at common. Yes, I’ll play as many as I can get in my Dimir decks, and probably even most black decks. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to take here. Part of that is because my current pool isn’t going to go to Dimir, and Diregraf Horde is not so special in Rakdos. Now, it’s possible I pivot to Dimir from here, but I’m not going to speculate on that, particularly when I’m not a big fan of Rakdos and I am a big fan of Izzet.
To me, this pick is between Consider and Secrets of the Key. I’ve found my Izzet decks to want a high density of cheap spells, and both cards play important roles. To hammer this point home, I actually end up playing Otherworldly Gaze in Izzet, which is a card-disadvantageous spell for the same cost as Consider and Secrets.
I believe the correct pick here is Consider, but there’s important nuance about this pick. I believe the first copy of Secrets of the Key is more important than the first copy of Consider. This is because Izzet really needs card advantage, and there are so many ways to function at instant speed in Izzet that it’s really easy to leverage the Clues and flashback component of Secrets of the Key. However, given how mana-intensive the card is, the second copy is a lot worse than the first. Secrets goes relatively late, and it’s early in the draft. Hence the correct pick is Consider because, while the first copy of Consider is worth less than the first copy of Secrets, I’ll play as many copies of Consider as I can in Izzet.
Before making your decision on the next pick, take a look over the pool (displayed in the order in which they were picked). The highest-probability archetype is still Izzet, but all red archetypes are still options.
Pack 2, Pick 1
The Picks So Far:
Revenge of the Drowned is a solid removal spell, and one I’m happy to play in every blue deck. It’s the marquee card for assuming the role of the beatdown, while still being reasonable interaction when behind. If I can get ahead on the battlefield, I’ll take that opportunity to cast Revenge and cement a victory by the massive tempo advantage that provides. However, the current pool suggest I’m 100% to be red, and while blue is the most likely second color, I think it’s best to take an efficient red creature over the blue interaction.
Falkenrath Pit Fighter, Flame Channeler, and Festival Crasher all have merit here. Pit Fighter is the best of the three in Rakdos, Festival Crasher is the best of the three in Izzet (unless you have a high density of damage spells), and Flame Channeler is the best on average, as it’ll be good in any Izzet or Rakdos deck, but that isn’t the case for the other options.
Given that Izzet is the highest probable option, that eliminates Falkenrath Pit Fighter as an option. I currently think Festival Crasher is underrated in Izzet. It plays defense until it ends the game, which is quite impressive for a two-drop. If I had more burn spells than Play with Fire in my pool, I would probably take Flame Channeler. But given that burn spells are generally high picks, with only two packs left in the draft, I think Festival Crasher is the better pick. But is it a better pick than Morbid Opportunist, which may very well be the best uncommon in the set?
I think this pick is incredibly close, and I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking the Opportunist. If I had a single good midrange black card in my pool, I would take it. That could’ve been a random black removal spell, or even if I had made a different decision in Pack 1, Pick 5 and taken Diregraf Horde over Consider. However, without any reason to be a non-aggressive Rakdos deck (the reason I say non-aggressive is that my current red cards pull in that direction), I think the correct pick is Festival Crasher.
Pack 3, Pick 1
The Picks So Far:
Ardent Elementalist is a card that I wish I liked. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either, even in Izzet. That might sound weird, as it has high synergy with spell density, but four mana is a lot to invest, and that slot gets clogged quickly. Basically, Ardent Elementalist makes your average Izzet deck, but not the best ones. Revenge of the Drowned and Organ Hoarder are the best for that slot.
Given that I already have an Ardent Elementalist in my pool, and access to other better four-drops, the probability I play two copies of Ardent Elementalist is almost zero. I think it’s pretty easy to go on autopilot and take the card because you see it as an Izzet synergy card, and the other options in the pack are not. But don’t forget to take a step back and imagine what your final deck will look like. If you do that, you’ll realize it doesn’t include two copies of this card.
Phantom Carriage is a card I thought would be better than it has performed so far. When it can only search for mediocre flashback cards like Electric Revelation and Secrets of the Key, it’s just too expensive. I would rather have Stormrider Spirit in this particular Izzet deck if I’m being honest. Phantom Carriage has a great home in any deck looking for top-end threats that also have a good amount of cards with disturb. I think it’s pretty good in Simic and Azorius, but not in most Izzet or Dimir decks.
Lunar Frenzy has been quite impressive so far. It might look like a combat trick, but it’s a lot better than that. The flexibility of giving first strike for cheap makes it function like a risker Divine Arrow, while also having a late-game Fireball mode to force through the last points of damage.
When I originally took this card, I wasn’t sure how it would play given the low creature count in Izzet. But it won me multiple games. Even just casting it for one mana to pump some Festival Crashers yielded a Turn 4 kill (well, my opponent was at 3 and I had Moonrage’s Slash to end the game on Turn 5). I don’t think Lunar Frenzy is a high priority in Izzet in the same way it is a high priority in the aggressive variants of Gruul, Rakdos, and Boros. But it’s still a strong card, and what I believe to be the correct pick out of this pack.