Let’s Get To Breaking Ghoulcaller’s Harvest In Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard

Ghoulcaller’s Harvest could form the backbone of a new MTG Standard deck with the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. GerryT explores the possibilities and offers lists.

Gerry, stop trying to make Plumb the Forbidden happen. It’s not gonna happen.

Plumb the Forbidden

It may seem like I’m a broken record at this point. So far, we’ve struggled to find a build with the card that is closer to Tier 1 than Tier 2, but it might be time. Plumb the Forbidden is an incredible engine that just needs the right pieces. Given that we have an Innistrad set on the horizon, which is notoriously generous toward graveyard and sacrifice strategies, we’re probably closer than we think.

Thankfully, we have Ghoulcaller’s Harvest.

Ghoulcaller's Harvest

Not only does Ghoulcaller’s Harvest give you something to do after you’ve sacrificed a bunch of creatures, it also provides fuel for Plumb the Forbidden. Ghoulcaller’s Harvest is great both before and after Plumb, plus it enables a variety of win conditions, which is one of the major things the deck was lacking. 

At worst, Ghoulcaller’s Harvest will always make one token, which isn’t a terrible deal. When you’re making two tokens, it’s a decent deal. Anything more than that is fairly generous, especially when you take flashback into account. Even though the tokens can’t block, they’re still valuable as engine pieces and win conditions.

I started with a fairly obvious shell.

The early turns will consist of you developing your battlefield presence, getting in for chip damage when possible, and starting to churn through your deck with Village Rites and Plumb the Forbidden. Eventually, your Plumbs will be large enough to draw a significant portion of your deck. At that point, you might be able to chain them together and eventually win with some decayed Zombie attacks or drains from Witherbloom Apprentice. Ideally, you’ll be able to combo Harvest with Plumb at some point, which gives you a solid chance of assembling that combo again. 

There aren’t many new cards here. However, the ones that are new happen to be incredibly impactful. Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia provides a constant stream of bodies, making cards like Village Rites or Eaten Alive trivially easy to keep online.

Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia Prosperous Innkeeper

Prosperous Innkeeper is a huge help. It isn’t entirely new, but the deck was rarely played after Strixhaven’s release. The lifegain helps offset Plumb’s life loss and gives you some extra time against aggro decks. If you’re generating multiple tokens, it gets even better. 

Without the likes of Stitcher’s Supplier, Mire Triton, and Tyrmaret Calls the Dead, we’re significantly lacking in options for milling ourselves. Instead, we have to rely on Village Rites and Plumb the Forbidden being able to churn through the deck. If we had more ways to self-mill, I could see playing some copies of Old Stickfingers as a Tarmogoyf, even though it’s legendary. I keep expecting some blue self-mill cards to show up so I can build a Sultai deck, yet I’m constantly disappointed. 

Getting the right mix of creatures for Ghoulcaller’s Harvest might be difficult considering we also want Plumb the Forbidden, some interaction, and maybe things like Village Rites. Some DFC lands like Tangled Florahedron help. 

Sedgemoor Witch

With Bonecrusher Giant gone, we could easily see an uptick in Sedgemoor Witches. It’s a powerful card if it’s able to survive and certainly works well in a shell like this. If it trades one-for-one with some extra damage, that’s a fine trade. Cards like Jadar typically require removal as well, so you’ll have some lightning rods. 

Golgari’s manabase isn’t great, although it does have access to several utility lands. Necroblossom Snarl is not good enough, so I’m really hoping Innistrad: Crimson Vow has the enemy cycle of dual lands.

Hostile Hostel

I’m unsure about Hostile Hostel. It seems made for an archetype like this, so I’m willing to try it. Finally getting to transform it is cumbersome, as is the clock it provides. If you have nothing else to do with your mana, it’s easy enough to keep alive, but is that worth it? Without Jadar, I probably wouldn’t bother, but the two form a strong enough combination that it could work out.

My sideboard is mostly random answers to things, including a single Lithoform Blight for the Faceless Haven / The Book of Exalted Deeds combo. Golgari is slow enough that it will need an answer. In a deck that can draw the majority of its deck, you shouldn’t need more than one answer. The Field of Ruin reprint is also solid. 

Overall, this deck looks promising, yet it might be difficult to convince me not to play the massive combo of Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven in any green deck. Chariot is a great payoff in a deck that creates many tokens, even if it isn’t a creature for Harvest or spell for Witch. Even though it’s slow, Wrenn and Seven provides defense against flyers, a large token for Esika’s Chariot to copy, and self-mill if you need it.

This version is much clunkier, which means cards like Plumb the Forbidden are weaker. On the bright side, your late-game is more robust. The first version could potentially lose to a pile of spot removal and sweepers. In some metagames, going slightly bigger could be preferable. Plus, those cards, especially in combination, are very fun.

Here are some other cards I’ve considered:

Lolth, Spider Queen Egon, God of Death Nullpriest of Oblivion Old Stickfingers Skyclave Shade Dina, Soul Steeper Tainted Adversary Gelatinous Cube Deadly Brew Morbid Opportunist Eyetwitch

Tainted Adversary is close to making the cut. It’s a fine early blocker and does a mediocre Ghoulcaller’s Harvest impression. If you want to try self-milling, Egon, God of Death is reasonable, if not a bit slow. The rest of these are fine cards in their own rights, just not exactly what I was looking for.

There are other ways to utilize Ghoulcaller’s Harvest without necessarily relying on Plumb the Forbidden.

Finally, a use for Zariel, Archduke of Avernus!

Zariel, Archduke of Avernus

At some point, it dawned on me that giving haste to your Zombies could be the secret. First Day of Class and Zariel are the two best options for global haste. Zariel won out because it doesn’t seem bad as a Devil maker in a sacrifice deck. 

As always, I’m looking for a way to kill in one turn after drawing a pile of cards with Plumb the Forbidden. Ghoulcaller’s Harvest can set up kills over a few turns, except it might not be good enough in situations where you’re already under pressure. Giving haste (and +1/+0) can allow you to win from nothing, which is worth exploring. 

Last season I tried going harder on the Treasure synergies with Xorn and/or Skullport Merchant. Both can be impressive at times, except it’s not quite what we’re trying to do here. I’d rather play cards that make Ghoulcaller’s Harvest better. Without them, Kalain, Reclusive Painter might not be what I want. However, it fixes your mana, accelerates into big Orcus, Prince of Undeaths, and gives you fodder for Deadly Dispute.

Tangled Florahedron doesn’t curve well into Kalain. You’ll have problems with that sort of thing when you’re trying to cast Jaspera Sentinel on Turn 1 anyway. Even if Kalain is a Turn 3 card, it’s more than fine.

Another possible way to build the deck includes Moonveil Regent, at which point you will certainly want Kalain.

Moonveil Regent

It’s a way to fill the graveyard, churn through your deck, and utilize the excess mana from Treasure tokens to cast multiple spells per turn. If your mana curve is low enough, you should be able to empty your hand quickly and have some explosive turns. Having extra multicolored cards in your deck would be a boon, but it’s not entirely necessary. 

Retriever Phoenix is another possibility, although I found those builds could run out of gas quickly. Having Plumb the Forbidden can help, but Moonveil Regent could be incredible. Regardless, Moonveil Regent is one way to quickly stock your graveyard for Ghoulcaller’s Harvest. If you want to try it, you could cut some combination of the other four-drops and Plumb the Forbidden.

Ghoulcaller’s Harvest will spawn its own archetypes and that’s the most exciting type of card to find during preview season. Maybe they’ll be simple Golgari versions or something more exciting with Moonveil Regent. Either way, filling your graveyard for fun and profit is something to look forward to in Standard with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt.