Welcome to the black segment of our Gladiator Innistrad: Midnight Hunt set review! Let’s get to it!
Augur of Autumn
Courser of Kruphix is back, baby! Admittedly, Augur of Autumn’s smaller body and lack of lifegain reduce its effectiveness against Aggro compared with Courser of Kruphix. On the other hand, this three drop’s third line of text can generatea lot of card advantage in the mid to late game. The first part of this card’s text also calls to mind Radha, Heart of Keld, and the second part is reminiscent of Vizier of the Menagerie. Coven will be easy enough to turn on in creature-heavy decks, so the third ability will frequently be available. Lands decks will be able to utilize the second line of text to get additional Landfall triggers. Green Midrange and creature-based Ramp decks like Hoof will be able to use Augur of Autumn to great extent, effectively drawing multiple cards each turn.
With stunning art by Mathias Kollro, Briarbridge Tracker comes crashing in with four power for three mana. Because aggressive green decks tend not to have many tokens, Briarbridge Tracker will often rely on you keeping around the Clue token to have the additional power. In the later game, when a 4/3 body might be less relevant, sacrificing the Clue can help you find the piece that will help you push through those last points of damage. The single green pip makes Briarbridge Tracker easy to cast on-curve in a two-color deck, which is especially important in aggressive decks. Briarbridge Tracker will see play in Mono-Green Aggro as well as two color Aggro variants such as Golgari or Gruul. Lastly, the Human creature type is nothing to scoff at- with Jumpstart: Historic Horizons and Innistrad: Midnight Hunt being added, Human tribal has gotten a huge boost in playable and efficient threats.
What do you get when you cross a Biogenic Ooze with a Tarmogoyf? You get a Consuming Blob! Consuming Blob comes in at five mana and makes a token on your end step, meaning you will likely immediately get something out of it. Note that Consuming Blob only counts your graveyard, so you have to help fuel it to increase its power and toughness. On average, Consuming Blob will be a 3/4 that makes more 3/4’s, providing inevitability if your opponent can’t remove it. Unfortunately, in Midrange and Ramp decks Consuming Blob is outclassed by other powerful five drops like Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Hoof decks want more five drops than other green decks, but they are so creature-dense that Consuming Blob will usually only be a 2/3 with no way to fuel itself. Ultimately, I wouldn’t expect to see Consuming Blob anywhere in Gladiator (unless you’re dead set on Ooze tribal).
Deathbonnet Sprout // Deathbonnet Hulk
An adorable little Fungus friend joins the party with the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. This one drop can help fill your graveyard until you have enough creatures to flip it. The backside is a sizable threat that can close out the game. The point of contention, however, is whether Deathbonnet Sprout will be able to flip quickly enough. Without any other ways to fill the bin, this card won’t flip on any consistent basis. On the other hand, in Golgari Aggro, an aggressive deck that aims to be graveyard-synergistic, Deathbonnet Sprout’s efficient backside is desirable. For now though, Golgari Aggro is missing the density of graveyard-matters and recursive creatures to justify Deathbonnet Sprout’s inclusion. Deathbonnet Sprout may have potential in Graveyard Midrange decks like Sultai or Jund Graveyard Midrange that are rising in popularity recently.
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A strictly better (yes, I said strictly better) Recollect. Recollect doesn’t see much play in Gladiator, but it does show up in Temur Thousand-Year Storm decks as a way to reuse card draw spells or rituals. Dryad’s Revival, with its Flashback ability, provides some extra late-game utility, and can also help keep up the chain of rituals or card draw during a combo turn. In Simic Turns decks, sometimes called “Curb” decks, Dryad’s Revival might be worthwhile as yet another copy of Regrowth to help recur Time Warp. Outside of Thousand-Year Storm Combo decks and Turns decks, which want lots of redundancy, Gladiator decks have better options in Regrowth and Bala Ged Recovery, so don’t expect it to show up anywhere else.
Duel For Dominance
As Arlinn and Tovolar square off in this card’s art, Duel For Dominance squares off against the plethora of green fight and punch spells in Gladiator. Duel For Dominance’s closest comparison is Smell Fear, a card that’s seen some play in Mono-Green Aggro lists. They each cost the same amount, and both Smell Fear and Duel For Dominance will likely be able to kill the same creatures. Compared to Smell Fear, Duel For Dominance will consistently put a counter on your creature, though it can’t put multiple counters as Smell Fear can. Duel For Dominance warrants testing in Mono-Green Aggro, but it’s not an immediate shoe-in.
Outland Liberator // Frenzied Trapbreaker
Another Naturalize on a body, this Werewolf helps Aggro decks have answers to pesky non-creature threats like The Great Henge or to remove an on-board removal spell like Seal Away. As evidenced by Thrashing Brontodon, having the ability on a proactive creature is much more powerful in Aggro decks than a reactive card like Reclamation Sage because it allows them to apply pressure on the opponent from the turn it comes down. Additionally, the backside of Outland Liberator can be a real headache for your opponent, blowing up their key artifacts or enchantments. The single green pip makes Outland Liberator easy to splash in green Aggro decks too, so Golgari Aggro and Gruul Aggro will also be able to take advantage of it.
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Primal Adversary not only breaks the pattern of two mana adversaries, but will also break your opponent’s spirit. At base case, Primal Adversary has an above-rate body at 4/3, and trample is always good. If the game goes long, being able to turn lands into threats to close out the game is also powerful. Primal Adversary’s creature type as well as turning the lands into Wolves specifically can be relevant— Nightpack Ambusher can pump them, and new Werewolf/Wolf Tribal cards are coming with the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, such as Kessig Naturalist. Primary Adversary will show up in green Aggro decks as an incredibly efficient beater, and aggressively tilted Midrange decks.
Saryth, the Viper’s Fang
Saryth makes her first appearance in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. Saryth’s first ability helps protect your other threats until they can start swinging in. This ability works particularly well with vigilance creatures like Elder Gargaroth or Questing Beast. The second ability makes sure your creatures always trade with blockers. In decks like Mono-Green Stompy, Saryth’s deathtouch-granting ability synergizes with the trample on your big threats, such as Froghemoth. Your creatures need only deal one damage to the blocker, and the rest of the damage tramples over because the one point of damage is counted as lethal damage. The tap ability allows your best threats to play offense or defense. You can untap your creature in response to a removal spell to save it, and you can make it hard to block profitably when in combat as well.
Note that Saryth does specify “other creatures”— particularly important because Saryth will not have hexproof, so your opponent can just remove her to mess up your combat math. Saryth’s four points of toughness will often stonewall early aggression from white and red Aggro decks, dodging Lightning Bolt variants as well as being able to block Adanto Vanguard and the like efficiently. This snake-loving character is going to fit in very well in Stompy and creature-heavy Midrange decks, though the mana cost and three power will keep it out of green Aggro decks.
Storm the Festival
Storm the Festival, also called “SlowCo” or “Mega-CoCo”, has a lot of similarities with Collected Company (often called “CoCo”). Storm the Festival also allows you to look at your top cards and put two things into play, albeit at six mana and sorcery speed. Of course there is the dream scenario where you cast this and put into play an Elder Gargaroth and a Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate, but let’s get down to the more realistic scenarios. In order for Storm the Festival to feel good, you probably want at least your mana’s worth in cards – you are around 35% to get your mana back in an average Hoof deck, and about 0.45% to whiff and hit no viable permanents. However, if you can’t make back your mana, putting lands into play can help you get closer to being able to Flashback Storm the Festival, getting another chance at putting two permanents into play. I would not expect Storm the Festival to see very much competitive play, though it is a card that will create great stories.
Tovolar’s Huntmaster // Tovolar’s Packleader
A clear parallel to Grave Titan, Tovolar’s Huntmaster slams into the battlefield at six mana with ten power across three bodies. Once it becomes night, this card makes two 2/2 Wolf creature tokens each attack and can start throwing them into fights with your opponent’s creatures, killing off chump blockers that would possibly slow down your 7/7 beater. The fight ability also gives you something to do when you want to be casting one or zero spells to keep Tovolar’s Huntmaster on the Nightbound side, but also don’t want to waste your mana. As with Outland Liberator above, the Werewolf creature type as well as the Wolf creature type on the tokens can be relevant with various lord effects. Tovolar’s Huntmaster seems like an amazing inclusion in Ramp decks as well as Midrange decks that want to get to six mana quickly.
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“That sure is a massive looking creature,” is what you will say looking at the art and what your opponent will say staring down your board. Unnatural Growth, drawing clear parallels to God-Eternal Rhonas, can help close out games where your board is either wide or tall with trample. Unnatural Growth does have some notable downsides compared to Rhonas, however:
Furthermore, the repeatability of Unnatural Growth isn’t that important compared to God-Eternal Rhonas. Typically, the first Rhonas trigger is enough to kill them or put them to a low enough life total any of your creatures could kill them. As a whole, it seems that God-Eternal Rhonas is a bit better. Therefore, it really comes down to whether any decks want two copies of this effect. In Elves and Hoof, there’s a high redundancy in creature tutors, so they frequently have access to this effect and don’t need a third version. However, in Mono-Green Stompy, a deck that plays fewer tutors, this might be a card worth testing.
The third ever Treefolk Spirit (if you count Spirit of the Season, and I do), Willowgeist comes in as a small creature with the potential to grow a whole lot bigger. Notably Willowgeist can only gain one counter even if multiple cards leave your graveyard at once— for example, if you are targeted with a Bojuka Bog, which does slow it down a bit. On the other hand, Willowgeist can grow with any card leaving your graveyard in any way, which includes:
- Flashback (like Faithless Looting)
- Aftermath (like Never // Return)
- Escape (like Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger)
- Embalm or Eternalize (like Champion of Wits)
- Jump-start (like Chemister’s Insight)
- Undying/Persist (like Endling)
- Graveyard-exiling effects (like Scavenging Ooze)
- And returning creatures from your graveyard (like Chainer, Nightmare Adept or Regrowth)With all these synergies, and the release of Innistrad:Midnight Hunt bringing in some new graveyard-matters cards, a multicolor graveyard-based Midrange deck could appear, potentially in Jund, Sultai, or maybe even four colors without white.
With all these synergies, and the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt bringing in some new graveyard-matters cards, a multicolor graveyard-based Midrange deck could appear, potentially in Jund, Sultai, or maybe even four colors without white.
Wrenn and Seven
Wrenn is back, after her first appearance in Modern Horizons! This time the Dryad planeswalker has bonded herself to a new tree, as shown in the art of Dryad’s Revival.Wrenn’s +1 can help make sure you never miss another land drop— digging four cards deep and putting all the lands into your hand is some decent card advantage. Notably, Wrenn puts the rest of the cards into your graveyard, fueling any graveyard synergies you may have. The 0 can dump your hand of lands that you’ve accumulated with her +1, potentially triggering multiple Landfall triggers on cards such as Valakut Exploration. Wrenn’s -3 makes a huge Treefolk, notably with reach. If played on curve with five lands in play, the token will be capable of blocking most fliers. The -8 is basically Praetor’s Counsel, but often it will be better to continue to use the -3 to make huge beaters to close out the game.
Typical Midrange and Ramp decks won’t play Wrenn, as the +1 won’t draw many relevant cards, and the 0 won’t be very helpful once you’ve already hit five mana. Wrenn will likely shine in Lands decks, where she can help you chain together the value from lands entering play, and in Graveyard Midrange decks, where she can fill your graveyard and make big blockers while you set up your engine.
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Gladiator enthusiast, constant brewer, and self-proclaimed premier UG tempo and blitz pilot of the format.