Welcome back to Innistrad: Midnight Hunt First Impressions week!
All week long, various members of the SCG Staff will share their thoughts on the Top 5 Innistrad: Midnight Hunt cards in each format. Yesterday, we kicked things off with Standard. Today we’ll knock out Historic, Wednesday will be Pioneer, and Thursday will be Modern. To add a little fun to the mix, a scoring system has been put in place so that we can get an idea of what card ranked in what place in the aggregate to close out each article. The scoring system is as follows:
- 1st — 5 points
- 2nd — 4 points
- 3rd — 3 points
- 4th — 2 points
- 5th — 1 point
Today, we begin things with Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir champion, Ari Lax!
Wow, look at that. They let you play a bunch of broken Izzet stuff from the Strixhaven Mystical Archive and Modern Horizons 2, and guess what — all the new important cards are going to be Izzet spells that work with them! I guess Sunset Revelry is an honorary Izzet Spells card just on raw rate for impact, even if it isn’t quite the card you want against Gruul Aggro. I have hopes that Play with Fire starts adding up to let Mono-Red Aggro do some nice stuff, but realistically competing with Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Mizzix’s Mastery is tough.
The last two cards are certainly less exciting than the first three. Memory Deluge is a little less interesting in Historic since you want to recast graveyard cards for free in these control decks with Mizzix’s Mastery and Torrential Gearhulk. An expensive card draw spell that explicitly doesn’t let you do that isn’t the best, but Memory Deluge is still a strong enough effect to make the anti-synergy worth ignoring. Smoldering Egg is in a similar boat. It might just be a bit too slow with the raw efficiency of spells weirdly working against it, but it’s asking for the right things with the right kind of payoff.
Consider is as safe a bet as a card can be for these rankings and I’ll be shocked if it isn’t still on top when we follow up here in a few months. It’s not just a strict upgrade for Opt; it’s redundancy on Opt in a format that has seemingly everything else but lacks glue cards like Thought Scour or Serum Visions to fuel spell-heavy decks. The loss of Brainstorm hit Izzet Phoenix hard, but Consider is even better there and is a bigger gain for Izzet Phoenix than for other blue decks still reeling from the Brainstorm ban — in particular, it was hard to find enough one-mana spells to set up an early Arclight Phoenix in matchups where your red removal was unreliable.
Memory Deluge fills a hole for big blue decks that want a card draw spell that aims higher than current role-players like Behold the Multiverse. Memory Deluge has some tension with popular finishers in Jeskai Control like Mizzix’s Mastery and Torrential Gearhulk — which are so strong precisely because you aren’t paying mana for their targets — but it’s so good at its job that I’m inclined to lean into it as hard as possible. In control mirrors where you have time to cast it and flash it back, it either puts you ahead on both card quantity and quality or trades with two pieces of interaction — all while getting around Narset, Parter of Veils — and in general it pairs well with reactive tools like Archmage’s Charm that just joined the format.
Did you know Timely Reinforcements is in Historic? The hyper-aggressive decks that card is best against aren’t popular in the format right now but Sunset Revelry is arguably better there. You want this effect as a bridge to a later phase of the game, so being cheaper and less conditional is a big deal and much more versatile across the board. Any pair of modes is a bargain at two mana and it’s relatively easy to set that up (whereas Timely Reinforcements would often ‘just gain life or create blockers).
Entirely derivative of Faithless Looting, Faithful Mending gets to work alongside its inspiration in Historic while extending that effect to colours that didn’t have it before. You can set up Mizzix’s Mastery with even greater consistency or explore other graveyard nonsense with the likes of Priest of Fell Rites or Vesperlark.
Speaking of Vesperlark, The Meathook Massacre may help that card to deliver on the great expectations placed upon it during the Jumpstart: Historic Horizons preview season. Bryan Gottlieb identified that Blood Artist and similar payoffs were the weakest part of his Vesperlark shells, but The Meathook Massacre is a Blood Artist equivalent that isn’t exposed to removal and can also be a valuable sweeper against the creature decks that are somewhat popular right now. This is a more speculative pick than some honourable mention, but if it does prove to be that missing piece, it may have a bigger impact than anything else.
The older the Historic format gets, the less impactful new sets are. This is the way of things and for a very good reason. Folks appreciate stability in their non-rotating formats, as problematic cards require a quick banning, rather than them naturally expiring. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is such a nice set; it was easy to devise the Top 5 most noteworthy cards for the Historic format. Figuring out the five was no problem, with the trickiest part being ordering them correctly.
Even though Consider is at the bottom of the list, I can see it moving higher up in conjunction with its buddy, Delver of Secrets. Although you get inadequate library manipulation from this new cantrip, it’s still a solid upgrade to Opt. Since the cantrips are slim pickings now, this is likely going to see extensive play in Historic, Pioneer, and Modern. Now, Jeskai Control is leaning on the power of Expressive Iteration, with a manabase that is slightly hostile to a Turn 1 untapped blue source. Additional blue decks will emerge that want an Opt-like effect, especially those that spawn from the high-spell demand of Delver of Secrets.
The next two are paired up as well. Sunset Revelry and Fateful Absence will see play in Historic, as white-based control decks are starving for solid removal. Watching a poor Jeskai Control deck get pummeled by a lone Shifting Ceratops breaks my heart but is not surprising. The removal in the Historic control decks is strong enough to fend off any early-game threat; however, things can fall apart if some more powerful threats emerge later in the game. The embarrassment must stop here, with the assistance of Fateful Absence. Right below that is Sunset Revelry, a card that will be spotted in most Historic, Pioneer, and Modern white sideboards. When they hand me a gorgeous upgrade to Timely Reinforcements, I graciously add it in every applicable deck.
At the top of the list is a card that may not stand out much. Pithing Needle is a staple sideboard card of older formats and will now be legal in Historic. With Witch’s Oven back on top, an answer this clean is attractive to all decks. Pithing Needle is not a control exclusive and will provide all archetypes the cheapest answer to activated abilities in town.
I’m excited about my Top 5 list here, filled with sideboard cards and modest enhancements to the Historic format. These new Standard sets should not shake everything up in the older applications, especially when one of my favorite archetypes is still running the show.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
- Fateful Absence
- Delver of Secrets
- Arcane Infusion
- Smoldering Egg
Finding a Top 5 for Historic was a bit harder than doing it for Standard, but that’s not unexpected in a set without a Mystical Archive. I’m pretty sure the top two cards are going to see play, but the other three are a bit more speculative.
My pick for the best card in the set for Historic is Consider. Consider is a better Opt, and Opt already sees play in Historic. The upgrade isn’t small either, as putting a card in your graveyard is significantly stronger than putting it on the bottom of your deck given the amount of synergies that are in the format. If you see an Arclight Phoenix, for example, then being able to put it straight into the graveyard is huge, but it also works with any flashback spell, Torrential Gearhulk, Mizzix’s Mastery, the delirium cards, etc.
On top of that, this also gives people the ability to play eight Opts, which some decks will most definitely want (Izzet Phoenix included). This card is guaranteed to see play and might make certain archetypes that rely on the graveyard meaningfully stronger than they were before.
In second place, there’s Fateful Absence. Aggro decks in Historic already get to play Declaration in Stone, but Fateful Absence is much better for control decks, given that it’s an instant and also destroys planeswalkers. I believe Jeskai Control decks with Torrential Gearhulk decks will be interested in this card, as the ability to recur a “destroy target creature or planeswalker, no questions asked” later in the game with the aforementioned Gearhulk seems pretty good.
Then, we have everyone’s favorite reprint in the set — Delver of Secrets. I’m not sure where Delver of Secrets is going to slot, but it’s traditionally a good card in formats with cheap cantrips, and we now have eight Opts to play with it. Izzet Phoenix is a possibility, but it should also work quite well in Mono-Blue Tempo decks.
It’s fun to think that Delver of Secrets was supposed to be in Historic alongside Brainstorm. Can you imagine that? Transforming it would be so easy. Right now it’s not as easy, and you can’t really “cheat” it or speed it up reliably, but I believe there are enough instants and sorceries in the format that it will be easy to transform naturally.
My next pick, Arcane Infusion, is also speculative. I’m not sure of it, but I suspect it’s good enough to see play in Historic. Four looks is not that much, and if your deck has a lot of non-spells you run the risk of missing entirely, but with 30 spells you’re almost 95% to hit, which means you’re only going to brick roughly one in twenty times you cast this — definitely good enough. Then, flashing this back later on is potentially a big advantage. I don’t think this is an Izzet Phoenix card necessarily (they have too many creatures), but it might be good in Jeskai Control decks or any Izzet Control decks that appear.
Finally, we have a personal favorite that’s even more speculative than Arcane Infusion — Smoldering Egg. Thing in the Ice was a centerpiece of the Izzet Phoenix deck in Modern, and, even though this is not as good of a card and the support is also not as strong, this card has a lot of potential. A baseline 0/4 is enough to survive most of the commonly played removal in the format (Lightning Helix, Anger of the Gods, etc.) and to serve as an early blocker, and then once it transforms it can become really hard for your opponent to play the game, as this is just going to kill everything and then kill them. Interestingly enough, unlike Thing in the Ice and cards like Young Pyromancer, this doesn’t necessarily need a lot of cheap spells to get going, but you’re still going to want those for after it’s transformed.
Historic is about to get weird. Delver of Secrets is one of my all-time favorite creatures, and a reprint of it means it should start seeing play in Historic very soon. Alongside Dragon’s Rage Channeler, the pair of creatures should be the start of many great aggressive decks in the Izzet color combination. As the disruption and card selection get better in the format, both of these threats will continue to increase in strength. I’m literally salivating a the thought of casting Memory Lapse while controlling a transformed Delver of Secrets!
Faithful Mending is a powerful enabler that should help decks like Azorius God-Pharaoh’s Gift get a leg up on the competition. This type of looting spell will enable various graveyard decks for a long time to come. The flashback and lifegain aspects are both icing on the cake, but the spell itself is efficient and redundant. Giving you that extra ability to loot again when things are going poorly is what made Faithless Looting so powerful in the first place. Now we just have a slightly different version that’s a little more expensive but in a completely different color combination.
Smoldering Egg will be the Thing in the Ice that Historic doesn’t have yet. Decks like Izzet Phoenix will want it, but it doesn’t stop there. Because of the scaling of the counters due to mana value, you can play Smoldering Egg in control decks that have more expensive spells. That means you don’t have to play eight copies of Opt and Consider before adding another spell to your deck. In fact, I’d wager that many of the decks playing Smoldering Egg don’t end up playing stuff like Memory Deluge instead. Transforming it quickly is the key, so I’d be looking for cost reduction spells first, efficient or flashback spells second. Overall, this card is weaker than Thing in the Ice, but I like how differently it plays and I’m looking forward to trying it out.
Cathartic Pyre is another heater, but this time coming in at uncommon. Abrade has always been one of my favorite cards, but it was always a bummer that it didn’t hit planeswalkers. Cathartic Pyre doesn’t have this problem, but instead of a Shatter effect, you instead are given a spell that goes perfectly in Arclight Phoenix decks. Discarding and drawing cards has always been great, but those spells are often limited in their functionality. I love versatile spells in decks like Izzet Phoenix. This card looks and acts a lot like Izzet Charm, but has that extra bite to take down a slightly larger creature, which was the major downside of Izzet Charm to begin with.
Lastly, I think Hostile Hostel deserves a slot on this list. It’s outrageous alongside Claim the Firstborn, but it should easily slot into most sacrifice decks. Fair warning: It’s a land that taps for colorless mana, so make sure to treat it like a spell when you can. The fact that it enters the battlefield untapped is great, as lands like these often come with some sort of drawback. The creature on the back protecting itself is also a nice touch. It isn’t the flashiest win condition, but it acts like an engine on the front half and gives you some much-needed play on the back. I think the land will shine in multiple formats.
- Delver of Secrets
- Champion of the Perished
- Fateful Absence
- Cathartic Pyre
Unlike Standard, where the games drag out a bit and are won by powerful three-, four-, and five-mana spells, Historic is the direct opposite of that once the introduction of Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive took place. Yes, Mizzix’s Mastery and Collected Company are cards that generally win the game upon resolution, but cheap interaction or creatures allow one to get to that point. With that in mind, my Historic Top 5 is filled with the cheapest of both from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt.
Lets get the easy part out of the way first — Consider is completely busted and is going to see plenty of play in Historic, most notably in Izzet Phoenix and alongside Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Delver of Secrets. The card is better than Opt in almost every way possible and those two one-mana cantrips will be seeing play alongside Faithless Looting until Looting is eventually banned in Historic (it’s gonna happen so just deal with it).
A lot of people are higher on Delver of Secrets than I am but I’m aware that it’s going to see plenty of play and success even if all the tools aren’t there. With Brainstorm banned and Lightning Bolt never seeing the light of day, Delver isn’t going to dominate Historic like it does Legacy, but everyone’s going to try and make fetch happen regardless.
Champion of the Perished is the one-drop Zombie decks have been missing and it’s absolutely legit. Alongside Cryptbreaker and some combination of Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Fatal Push, black-based aggro decks get to lower their curve in a very meaningful way while also cutting the truly mediocre Shambling Ghast. Toss in Diregraf Colossus, Dark Salvation, and Lord of the Accursed, and Mono-Black Zombies is beginning to look like a real contender in Historic.
Next up is Fateful Absence, the removal spell that Azorius Control and Jeskai Control have been looking for. Giving your opponent a Clue token is never ideal, but given that Azorius Control isn’t going to care most of the time due to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Jeskai Control can overpower it with Mizzix’s Mastery on Magma Opus or Torrential Gearhulk returning, well, anything, this is the kind of cheap interaction that these blue-based control decks have been begging for.
Last up is Cathartic Pyre, a potential replacement for Abrade in Izzet Phoenix decks. Being able to blow up an artifact is becoming less and less relevant as Historic has evolved, so the trade-off of being able to potentially finish off a planeswalker or discard useless garbage for new cards is upside worth noting. If artifacts begin to ramp back up, Abrade will have its place once again, but I don’t believe it to be the better card right now.
And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Innistrad: Midnight Hunt cards for Historic are…
5. Pithing Needle — 5 points
T-4. Memory Deluge and Faithful Mending — 6 points
T-3. Sunset Revelry and Fateful Absence — 10 points
2. Delver of Secrets — 14 points
1. Consider — 21 points
Cya back here tomorrow for our thoughts on Innistrad: Midnight Hunt’s impact on Pioneer!