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. On Monday, we knocked out Standard. On Tuesday, we took a stab at Historic. Today, we’ll take a look at Pioneer and tomorrow is everyone’s favorite volatile format — 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 kick things off with our Pioneer aficionado, Todd Anderson!
Smoldering Egg is my pick for best card for Pioneer from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. It doesn’t have the same payoff as Thing in the Ice, an immdediate battlefield clear when transformed, but it has explosive potential and closing speed. If you don’t want to play blue, you can still have Smoldering Egg be your win condition. It blocks early, and provides you with a cheap win condition that lets you spend the rest of your mana drawing cards, killing creatures, or whatever else tickles your fancy.
My greatest sadness comes from the fact that delve spells like Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time don’t let you cheat on transforming it, as it only counts the mana you actually spend on the spells. With that said, modal spells that allow you to pay a variable amount of mana will definitely make the cut. I mean, you know what goes well with killing a bunch of opposing creatures and casting a lot of spells? Sounds a lot like Treasure Cruise to me!
Hostile Hostel is my second-favorite card from the new set for Pioneer because it fluidly fits inside an already existing shell. I have a soft spot for sacrifice decks, and I’m a big fan of every card that works fluidly with Claim the Firstborn. Sacrifice outlets aren’t easy to come by, and will regularly get blown up by all manner of nonsense, but lands are harder to interact with and this one transforms into quite the eldritch monstrosity. The back of it, Creeping Inn, might not hit very hard on first attack, but it’s difficult to kill and will continue the barrage in the face of blockers. It also has great pun value, if that’s your thing.
Cathartic Pyre is a versatile removal spell that works fluidly with Arclight Phoenix and other graveyard-based cards. While it might not have that “wow” factor, I’m thinking this spell will see play in a variety of formats similar to Abrade. Softspoken but a worthwhile addition to any format it touches, removal spells with modality have always been a favorite of mine. Perhaps that is why I’ve played Izzet Charm at every possible moment for the past decade.
Augur of Autumn isn’t Coruser of Kruphix. It might not even be as good as Jadelight Ranger. But maybe it ends up being better? The jury is still out, but any card that lets me play lands or creatures from the top of my library is pretty cool. This one also happens to have two green pips, which is convenient because Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is the best mana engine in the format. Mono-Green Devotion has long been a favorite of mine in Pioneer, so any goodies that might add to its resurgence have my vote (and my axe).
Lastly, Faithful Mending looks to be a great enabler for another graveyard deck in Pioneer: Azorius God-Pharaoh’s Gift. While it might not be as cheap as Faithless Looting, this new filter spell is the perfect speed for a format like Pioneer. It adds a level of consistency to God-Pharaoh’s Gift that didn’t exist before, provides the caster with a light life buffer, and is castable from the graveyard if you mill it over somehow. In decks that constantly mill themselves, a card like Faithful Mending is excellent so many reasons.
This looks a lot like my Historic rankings, but things are a bit different in terms of how things play out.
Consider in a Treasure Cruise format is dumb. If they keep printing cards like that, I’m skeptical Cruise lasts much longer in the format. Sunset Revelry also a gets a bit of a boost since smaller creatures are more prevalent in this format. Memory Deluge no longer competes with Mizzix’s Mastery, so it gets a boost. Play with Fire drops a couple of slots since you already had every Shock you wanted to make red aggro work, so it’s just a clean but minor upgrade.
Champion of the Perished is the one change between the Historic and Pioneer lists I made, and that’s largely based on Pioneer having a long history of Mono-Black Aggro winning. Vampires has proven itself as a notable subarchetype in the past based on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord giving you good angles in aggressive mirrors. Zombies opens up some additional synergy angles to explore.
Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are somehow still legal in Pioneer. You can argue that several cards died for Dig’s sins but they may be on borrowed time with Consider around. Izzet Phoenix and Four-Color Jeskai Ascendancy were already two of the best decks in the format, largely thanks to Cruise, and Consider powers up Cruise while working well with each of their namesakes.
Cathar Commando has obvious applications in a format full of Ensoul Artifact and Jeskai Ascendancy, but it’s so much more than that. You can justify playing more copies (even in your maindeck!) as it’s a solid threat, it can be recurred with Lurrus of the Dream-Den to lock out artifacts or enchantments, and I’d even want it in control mirrors as a cheap, hard-hitting, instant-speed threat that can probably find a target.
Champion of the Perished is a tempting card in every format and probably a good one in Pioneer. Most other formats either have too few Zombies to make you care or such stiff competition that tribal nonsense has to be truly exceptional; I hope and believe that Pioneer hits that sweet spot in between. Zombies joins Mono-Black Aggro and Mono-Black Vampires as a viable aggressive deck but I have my eyes on the creature combo shells Ari explored. Who can say no to Rally the Ancestors?
In contrast to Historic, the aggro decks you desperately want Timely Reinforcements or Sunset Revelry against are alive and well in Pioneer. Sunset Revelry is the ideal tool there for Azorius or Jeskai Control and a source of Transmogrify or Indomitable Creativity targets for those shells.
Angelfire Ignition is a sleeper pick with a very narrow role. Boros Heroic (Lurrus) has explosive draws but can run out of steam in the face of resistance or large enough blockers. Angelfire Ignition offers permanent power boosts, two sets of prowess or heroic triggers, and a giant stack of keywords that lets you plow through blockers or swing races with lifelink. In longer games, Ignition granting haste allows a freshly drawn Dreadhorde Arcanist or Favored Hoplite to become an immediate threat.
- Play with Fire
- Champion of the Perished
- Faithful Mending
- Briarbridge Tracker
Unsurprisingly, the cheap cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt are best-equipped to find their way into Pioneer. Consider leads the pack as the second quality, one-mana cantrip which will greatly increase the consistency of Izzet Phoenix and other spell-based decks. The surveil also synergizes nicely with Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, among the most powerful cards in the format. It’s a huge upgrade and should secure Arclight Phoenix a long-lasting spot at the top of the metagame.
Play with Fire is also an upgrade, this time over Wild Slash, which is a staple removal spell of the format. Getting an extra scry when you go upstairs is excellent for decks like Boros Wizards (Lurrus) and Izzet Phoenix that want to cast their burn spells proactively. Decks like Gruul that have enough big creatures to turn on ferocious may still want Wild Slash, but they may not even be in the market for a cheap burn spell. I think most decks will switch over to the new toy.
The third one-drop of the list, Champion of the Perished, is interesting in a format where Mono-Black Aggro with few Zombies is an established archetype. Frankly, no aggro deck in Pioneer has a one-drop with the potential of Champion, and there are enough Zombies to make use of it. Whether the deck as a whole has legs right now is unclear, but even if it takes some time and more Zombies to fill out a competitive list, Champion of the Perished will make a mark on Pioneer at some point.
Izzet Phoenix already got some good new tools with Consider and Play with Fire, but they may be eschewing the Izzet label in order to fit in Faithful Mending. With Pathways the splash should be workable and Faithful Mending is a major upgrade on the existing discard outlets. I don’t see much potential for the card elsewhere, but Jeskai Phoenix looks to be a strong contender.
Last on my list is Briarbridge Tracker, a solid three-drop in a format where Llanowar Elves and Collected Company are staples. More linear aggro decks may favor the stats of Steel Leaf Champion, but sacrificing a point of power in order to get an extra card is usually a strong trade-off.
- Play with Fire
- Memory Deluge
- Sunset Revelry
- Augur of Autumn
Just like in my Innistrad: Midnight Hunt First Impressions: Historic Top 5, lets get the easy one out of the way first. Everything I said about Consider in Historic applies here, except for in Pioneer we have Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time to work with (though I cannot imagine that lasts for much longer). Consider is far and away the best card in this set for older formats; that much is obvious.
Play with Fire is an upgrade over Wild Slash in Boros Wizards (Lurrus) decks and that’s good enough to put it at #2 on my list. While the deck hasn’t been terribly dominant in Pioneer lately, it’s still a relevant piece of the format and this minor upgrade may prove to be a major one over time.
Memory Deluge still gets the “if control decks exist, this will be play a part in that” role like it has by many others. I don’t expect Memory Deluge to see play in heavy numbers but it’s too powerful to ignore and may end up winning the Oboro, Palace in the Clouds Fun-Of One-Of Award whenever Patrick and I cover this set on The Resleevables.
Sunset Revelry has been getting a lot of hype from my colleagues, and while I don’t see it in other formats, I do see it in this one because Pioneer has a lot of low-to-the-ground aggro decks like Boros Wizards (Lurrus), Azorius Ensoul, and whatever the new take on Mono-Black Aggro looks like. I’m not entirely sure what deck will play Sunset Revelry to combat the aforementioned aggro strategies, but, at the very least, it’s a tool at this hypothetical deck’s disposal.
I’m going to round things out today with Augur of Autumn for the Mono-Green Devotion stans out there. All things being honest, I think that deck is absolutely terrible but people continue to play it, this is a natural fit in it, and coven isn’t hard to turn on given that the deck has mana creatures with one power; this with two power; Nissa, Who Shakes the World making things with three power; and Vivien, Arkbow Ranger tossing around +1/+1 counters to help make the numbers work.
I’m hopeful that Pioneer gets back to the popularity it was at during Q4 of 2019 because the format was pretty rad then, but that seems like forever ago now. Perhaps this set will help!
And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Innistrad: Midnight Hunt cards for Pioneer are…
5. Memory Deluge — 6 points
4. Champion of the Perished — 7 points
3. Sunset Revelry — 8 points
2. Play with Fire — 10 points
1. Consider — 20 points
Cya back here tomorrow for our thoughts on Innistrad: Midnight Hunt’s’ impact on Modern!