Innistrad: Midnight Hunt was my most-anticipated set of the year, and I’m happy to report that the actual card file did not disappoint. Shadows over Innistrad was a pretty big miss for me as compared to original Innistrad, though this has been the general trend when it comes to revisiting planes. The second goes at Ravnica and Zendikar didn’t live up to their original blocks either, but both of those also went back to their roots and gave us some awesome sets the third time around.
My ranking of the visits to these planes as “first was the best, second was the worst, and the third is firmly in the middle” might not be exactly how everyone else experienced these blocks, but you won’t get me to budge on that position. It would take an incredible set for me to immediately love it more than Innistrad, and I’m very happy with the look of things as is.
However you feel about Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and its relation to other sets, I think we can all agree that it provides a deep well of Cube-worthy cards. Today I’ll be going over my list of the Top 10 broadly impactful Cube cards from the set, but first let’s talk about some of the themes and more general offerings that it provides.
It wouldn’t be an Innistrad set if there wasn’t something going on with the graveyard, and you’ll find a range of graveyard-based mechanics here. Disturb and flashback are both featured prominently in the set, which makes for cards that are totally reasonable to cast face-up or that you can freeroll some value off of if you can get them to your graveyard by other means. There’s also more dedicated graveyard stuff like Ominous Roost, which I’m sure is an immediate favorite for Burning Vengeance fans.
It is well-established that the graveyard is a dangerous zone to mess with, so it’s not surprising that most of the pushed cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt care more about the battlefield. Most of the graveyard-matters Cube goodies here incidentally care about the graveyard or are for more obscure Cubes like my Spooky Cube, which is probably for the best.
Day and Night
Innistrad was the first set featuring double-faced cards so their inclusion is a bit of a no-brainer. A number of these cards transform with mechanics unique to one or a small number of cards, though most commonly we see creatures that care about whether it is day or night. There are also a handful of non-transform creatures that care about day and night, though mostly the mechanic was implemented to clean up the Werewolf experience, and the new execution looks solid.
It will be slightly awkward to play these cards in conjunction with old werewolves like Huntmaster of the Fells, but I do believe that the execution of the mechanic is cleaner and this is a fine cost to pay.
While Innistrad is better known for graveyard shenanigans, a fundamental part of the setting is a strong tribal theme, and Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is giving us plenty of additional goodies for Human, Spirit, Zombie, Vampire, and Werewolf tribal!
Some of the tribal support is more explicit than others, but you’ll see a good number of creatures of the relevant types for all of these tribes in the set, and nothing matters more than volume when it comes to making tribal decks work. Humans and Zombies were already excellent tribes for Cube in my experience, and I’m excited to explore Vampires and Werewolves with the new tools being provided. I still feel like Spirits are lacking, largely in the one-drop department, but they get a little better all the time and are worth keeping an eye on.
There’s a lot to like in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt for more niche Cubes, and as it turns out there’s a good spread of generic power as well. Let’s get to the meat of it and break down my Top 10 Cube cards!
10. Infernal Grasp
I said in our Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set review on The 540 with regard to Power Word Kill that we’ll probably never see a card for 1B that just says “destroy target creature,” but that over time we see more effects that more or less give us this text for any given Cube. Infernal Grasp might be as close as we ever get, and for most environments the ability to hit any creature is well worth the cost of two life.
There will be games when that two life catches up with you, much like there are games when your Doom Blade can’t hit the threat that you really want to hit with your removal spell. All the same, this is the new bar for generic black creature removal, and I particularly like the idea of it being another nice tool for the Death’s Shadow decks in my Tempo Twobert.
9. Fateful Absence
After praising Infernal Grasp so highly, it might look a bit odd to then rank a white removal spell higher, but there are a few things going on here.
The most obvious is that Fateful Absence can hit planeswalkers, which tend to be heavily featured in the “classic” Cubes as we call them. Beyond that, Infernal Grasp is upgrading a more crowded space; it’s likely that your Cube has some other card for 1B that will be upgraded more directly to Infernal Grasp, whereas Fateful Absence adds some depth to the relative dearth of two-mana white removal. For the most part, you have Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, Unexpectedly Absent, and a list of more expensive sorcery-speed options.
There’s some give and take with all of these options, but in a high-powered environment it’s not free to spend time cracking Clues, and in recent years cards in hand have been less meaningful than presence on the battlefield in a general sense as well. Compare to Baleful Mastery, which gives the opponent a card immediately when cast for two and has been a solid inclusion in the original Twobert. Cards in hand just don’t matter as much as threats on the table in efficient environments.
It’s also worth noting that you can target your own things in a pinch when converting the card yourself could be useful. I wouldn’t expect this to come up super-often, but it’s a pretty good way to push back against a Control Magic and I can imagine a few other situations where this would come up.
This card has met pretty mixed reviews upon being previewed and I could see it underperforming in slower, lower-powered Cubes, but I’m bullish on it for at least Legacy and Vintage Cube.
8. Brutal Cathar
And now back to upgraded versions of existing cards. There’s a real argument to be had over which card is more powerful between Brutal Cathar and Skyclave Apparition, and while I imagine Skyclave Apparition wins out in most scenarios, it is worth noting that Brutal Cathar can nab multiple creatures if you are able to transform it multiple times.
This is perhaps an overly optimistic note on the card, but it does take comparatively less effort to transform the card once, and upon doing so Moonrage Brute is both a more formidable threat and more difficult creature to answer.
Ultimately Brutal Cathar is going to be a downgrade from Skyclave Apparition in an environment with Signets and other fast mana, but an upgrade over any other Fiend Hunter and also a card that presents a higher ceiling than Skyclave Apparition in games that center more around creatures.
7. Cathar Commando
“Upgrades to familiar cards” seems to be the theme today, and this card makes a lot more decks than Qasali Pridemage. Flash versus exalted is a difficult comparison to quantify, but it’s easy to say being mono-white is more desirable than being Selesnya. These cards won’t be competing directly for slots for that reason, but it’s nice to be able to compare to a historically Cube-worthy card.
Maindecking Disenchant is in-bounds for Vintage Cube, and turning that slot into a creature is going to generally be an upgrade, even if at the cost of an additional mana. The flash body also makes this something of a Neck Snap effect with the ability to attack down planeswalkers as well.
It’s really difficult to argue that Cathar Commando is bad on rate, and at common with white generally being about creature-based decks in most Cubes, it is likely that Cathar Commando ends up showing up in more Cubes than any other card in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. It’s also a Human!
6. Light Up the Night
I have a soft spot for Blaze effects. Devil’s Play and Crater’s Claws are two that I believe offer cool Cube incentives, though Light Up the Night is easily at the new top of the list. This is a category that a lot of Cubes don’t really touch, but I believe that Light Up the Night is better than previous versions in ways that will cause it to show up in more Cubes than any previous similar spell.
For starters, Light Up the Night can kill a Turn 1 Llanowar Elves on the draw. This is a massive upgrade for this sort of spell. It’s also a decent scaling tool for killing planeswalkers.
These two things are good enough for inclusion in many Cubes already, but then it also has sort of a “combo” potential with the flashback ability. It’s not as accessible as Devil’s Play in this regard, but it can offer a lot of reach when combined with high-loyalty planeswalkers like Gideon Jura and Chandra, Awakened Inferno.
“Planeswalkers matter” is also a theme that I’ve been interested in trying in Cube for a while now. As a baseline that’s just kind of what Magic is these days, but I mean more thematic stuff like Oath of Jace; Sarkhan the Masterless; Kasmina, Enigma Sage; and proliferate. I wasn’t exactly a fan of War of the Spark Limited, but I am still intrigued by the concept. At any rate, Light Up the Night is another card for such a theme and I especially like the idea of pairing it with Chandra, Acolyte of Flame.
5. Suspicious Stowaway
Well, what do you know? Another upgraded version of an already great card! I like Looter il-Kor more than most, and Suspicious Stowaway is a more powerful card for multiple reasons. It can block more creatures, it transforms into a creature with more power that actually generates card advantage, and it’s a Human!
It’s technically true that a lot of the incentive to play a card like Looter il-Kor is as a discard outlet, but if you run into trouble because Seafaring Werewolf doesn’t let you discard cards, I’ll be there for you with the world’s smallest violin.
Suspicious Stowaway is one of the better tools for blue aggressive decks, plays great in midrange shells, and will do what you want it to do in Reanimator decks and other strategies that care about filling the graveyard.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Consider is the upgraded version of Opt that I never knew I needed. Cantrips just make decks more often than not, and as somebody who Cubes with Mental Note more than most I’m very excited about Consider. I like supporting delirium, I like cards with delve, and I like having a high volume of cantrips.
Consider isn’t quite at the power level of Ponder and Preordain given their superior card selection, but I’d argue that for most Cubes it’ll be the next-best cantrip after those two. Well, Gitaxian Probe enters the conversation, and the good Brainstorm decks can make better use of that one, but all the same this is quite the company to keep.
If Consider doesn’t make a Cube, it’s likely going to be because cantrips are “boring” and there’s only so much space for that sort of card. If you support any graveyard themes or even just have cards like Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger in your Cube then I would, uh… consider this one.
3. Augur of Autumn
Augur of Autumn isn’t a direct upgrade over any existing card, but it does have similarities to one of the most-played green Cube cards in Courser of Kruphix. It also does a lot of what Realmwalker, a card that I’m personally fond of, does for Humans decks. The ability to play lands off the top of your deck will be enough reason to include Augur of Autumn in most green Cube decks, and the coven ability strikes me as easier to turn on than it might seem at a glance.
It just so happens that the best green creatures for Cube naturally have pretty diverse stats, and this is also something that you can influence with a heavier hand if you decide to add Augur of Autumn to your Cube.
Three toughness doesn’t offer much resistance to commonly played removal, but Augur of Autumn is another must-answer threat, and having a high volume of that sort of thing is just as effective as presenting threats that are more difficult to answer on their own.
While Augur of Autumn isn’t a direct upgrade over Courser of Kruphix, it will perform better in some matchups. In any matchup where players are racing to generate the bigger battlefield, you’ll be grateful for the ability to cast creatures off the top of your deck, though you’ll lose some points against red aggressive decks. Mostly I expect to play both cards in the same deck.
2. Bloodthirsty Adversary
Is Bloodthirsty Adversary technically an upgraded Goblin Dark-Dwellers? I’ll let you decide on that one. Either way, a scalable two-drop that is totally fine on Turn 2 is just what the doctor ordered for red decks in high-powered Cubes. Vampire isn’t the most relevant creature type, but it’s definitely one that you can support and Bloodthirsty Adversary is going to be one of the nicer cards for a Cube trying to do so.
I often talk about how the digital Cube offerings have too much expensive stuff in the red column, and cards like Bloodthirsty Adversary and Figure of Destiny are the sorts of things that these decks actually want at the top of their curve: stuff that’s meaningful in the late-game, but that keeps the pressure on in the early-game when they need to pull ahead. Red just isn’t as strong as other colors going late and unless you take extreme measures to disincentivize aggressive strategies, then cards like this are going to be monumentally important for your red decks.
Bloodthirsty Adversary is also just an ace for midrange decks, and I’d have a hard time not adding it to any Cube that doesn’t have a more general restriction that bars its inclusion.
1. Intrepid Adversary
For as much as I adore Bloodthirsty Adversary as a scalable threat, I have to give the nod to Intrepid Adversary as the best Cube card from the set for a number of reasons. Human is a more relevant creature type than Vampire, but there’s more going on here in terms of generic power.
Everything that Bloodthirsty Adversary does is good, but everything that Intrepid Adversary does is exactly what white aggressive decks would be doing at that stage of the game anyway. A two-mana 3/1 with lifelink is going to make the cut just to keep your curve efficient more often than not, though that’s also true of a two-mana 2/2 with haste for red decks. More significantly, Honor of the Pure and other similar effects are big players alongside cards like Spectral Procession and Legion’s Landing in the white aggressive decks, and stapling Blade of the Sixth Pride with upside to your Anthem is a slam-dunk Cube inclusion for these strategies.
Intrepid Adversary also just scales more easily with the ability being paid in two-mana increments as opposed to three. It’s a lot easier to get to six mana than eight. The double-Anthem on six also provides that “Overrun”-style effect that will be able to pull otherwise close games out for white decks that no other card that would realistically be in the Cube would.
Once again, white took more slots in my Top 10 than any other color, and that’s great to see given that the other colors tend to have a leg up historically. I especially like the look of Cathar Commando as a sign for the sort of creatures we’ll see as flash threats are moved more concretely into white. The list of cards that I need from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt for my personal Cubes is quite long, and knowing the whole set, I’m even more excited for Innistrad: Crimson Vow.