Even though Midnight Hunt hasn't been out for long on Magic Online and MTG Arena, it hasn't stopped players from getting in a lot of drafts! I am one of those players. I've been playing a ton of the Limited format, and today I want to provide a few tips to help players improve their drafts.
In many formats, it really doesn't matter what's in your (or your opponent's) graveyard. This is not one of them. Limited includes both Disturb and Flashback — two essential ways to gain card advantage. Basically, all creatures with Disturb are playable, though they'll be especially good if you can get them into your graveyard easily. Note that this isn't always going to be done in combat — sometimes you want a card like Shipwreck Sifters to put cards directly from your hand into your graveyard.
There are also self-mill effects that can help you mill cards directly. Eccentric Farmer is an example of a card that I have come to value more highly, because it can potentially mill a card with Disturb or Flashback. Since having your own ways to utilize the graveyard is important, graveyard disruption is also essential. Take a card like Diregraf Horde, which would already be good — it's now even better, because it can exile cards from the opponent's graveyard when entering the battlefield. There are also cards like Rotten Reunion that focus on specifically disrupting the graveyard. You're incentivized to use a Disturb or Flashback card immediately, because of the possibility that it could get exiled later.
Don't create Zombie tokens with Decayed for the primary purpose of attacking with them — there are multiple other ways to use your tokens. Personally, I try to hold off on attacking with them for as long as I can. Whether it's having a creature in play to be sacrificed to a card like Eaten Alive, having another creature to tap in order to use Siege Zombie, or triggering Morbid Opportunist, there are plenty of ways to get additional value out of these Zombie tokens.
There are multiple sacrifice outlets and creatures that require tapping multiple creatures for a triggered ability. When drafting cards that create Zombie tokens with Decayed, remember to think about what synergy cards you have to go alongside them. Blue and black tend to pair nicely together, mainly because much of the Decayed synergy happens to be in those two colors. A card like Falcon Abomination is likely to be more effective in Blue-Black than Blue-Red, for instance, so it's important to know which archetype you're going for.
When I first started drafting this format, I was super excited to play with Werewolves. Some of them appeared absolutely busted on the surface, and even the common ones looked super strong in the night phase. Unfortunately, once I began to play with the common Werewolves — and even some uncommon ones — they just don't live up to the hype.
There are removal spells like Olivia's Midnight Ambush and Silver Bolt that specifically punish Werewolves. I've gotten to the point where I'm actively avoiding cards like Tireless Hauler and Shady Traveler. The Werewolves often don't synergize particularly well with the rest of your deck — well, unless you're playing Red-Green, but even that has issues. Paying high mana costs for creatures that don't immediately give you some value means you'll frequently be trading down on mana. That happens time after time with Werewolves. That's not to say you should avoid them altogether! There are some pretty good ones once you get to the uncommons and rares.
I touched on this earlier, but most of the creatures that have ETB effects guarantee you can generate value off of the card, even if your opponent kills your creature. Take a card like Organ Hoarder — perhaps the best common in the format. Playing it gets you an important trigger, so once it's on the battlefield, it has already done its job, regardless of what happens to it.
Creatures that generate multiple bodies with a single card are good for enabling Coven — think Bat Whisperer, Clarion Cathars, and Dawnhart Mentor, to name a few. Having additional tokens around is also nice for sacrifice fodder.
This transitions well to my next point. Since there are so many creatures that generate value as soon as they enter play, removal spells are less likely to cleanly trade with your opponent's cards on a one-for-one basis. There is also a decent amount of removal in general. Just take a look at black: we have Eaten Alive, Olivia's Midnight Ambush, and Defenestrate, all at common, and that's not even mentioning uncommon removal! These three cards are all of a similar power level, but there is a point where your deck has too much removal in it.
When removal isn't good, it means that pure control decks are very hard to draft. It's incredibly difficult for everything to properly line up against whatever your opponent is doing. Decks generally want some sort of proactive gameplan, even if they have a very good late game. The expensive removal like Burn the Accursed is barely playable, simply because there are better options. Similarly, the aura based removal shouldn't be a priority because it isn't clean removal. Sometimes you run into enchantment removal or the opponent can sacrifice the creature with the aura on it for some sort of value.
In the Limited format, you generally want to draft a deck with a low curve. This doesn't mean you don't have anything to do with your mana later in games — it just means you have plenty to do in the early turns. Ecstatic Awakener is a perfect example of a card you want to be prioritizing — that is, cheap cards that also can become more threatening later on, as the game progresses. You want to find ways to use all of your mana in the first few turns, if at all possible.
Cards that require a significant mana investment before you are able to get full value from them should be used with caution. I'm talking about cards like Heirloom Mirror or Secrets of the Key. They're good cards if you have a lot of time, but too clunky in most games for you to realize that potential value they can create. I normally play 16 lands in this format because curves are mostly low, and decks are most often two colors. Splashing or going more than two colors is not recommended, because it's just going to throw off your ability to be truly mana efficient.
Here's what I mean: in a vacuum, red is the worst color. It doesn't have the same sort of card advantage as the other colors, and is forced to play aggressively (well, unless you're running Blue-Red Spells). This generally means relying on Vampires or Werewolves to get the job done. Be aware that if you are playing against a red deck, you very likely have the better late game. This means that the red deck needs to aggressively force through damage, and life total management is very important. Lunar Frenzy is one of the scariest red cards you can play against, because it can kill you out of nowhere.
Similarly, a card like Abandon Post can suddenly clear the way for large chunks of damage. Red doesn't do a great job of playing late game, but it can be a frustrating color to play against if you aren't careful. Beware of taking damage early, especially against Red-Black Vampires. It can enable all sorts of extra effects if you already took damage in a turn.
I mentioned Coven a bit already, but I've found Coven conditions relatively easy to achieve. The key is to draft a deck with a high density of creatures to best utilize Coven. Almost all the best white cards are creatures, so this shouldn't be that tough. Also, you don't want to trade off your creatures early if you can avoid it.
You can make Coven happen as long as you keep it in mind during the course of a game. Not only is there a good mix of creatures with different powers, there are also creatures like Gavony Silversmith and Contortionist Troupe that help ensure you have enough creatures of different power.
This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Limited Magic is all about card advantage. Blue has the ability to generate Zombie tokens for value, as well as a number of generically great creatures like Organ Hoarder, Nebelgast Intruder, and Overwhelmed Archivist that typically create card advantage by themselves. The color is also fairly deep in terms of good commons — and the disturb cards as well, like Baithook Angler and Galedrifter, which aren't even among the top commons. That's how good this color is.
I like the Limited format because there are very few cards that feel anywhere near unbeatable. The most unfair card in the format is probably Tovolar's Huntmaster, but overall, the mythics and rares have felt on par with some of the commons and uncommons. Also, many of the best rares are multicolor cards that force you to commit to two colors.
In general, I think formats are healthier when the rares don't overpower the format, and in this case I don't think they do. Sometimes this is a big reservation players have when deciding whether or not to play Limited — people generally want to avoid feeling like games and decks are largely dependent on the rares they open. In this case, I think WOTC did a great job of producing rares that are difficult to evaluate, and not just clearly busted. Many are good but not great. You can start to compare them to a really good uncommon like Morbid Opportunist, only to realize that there just aren't many rares worth taking over Opportunist.
That's all for now! As always, I suspect we see a bit of a shift in terms of color and archetype preferences moving forward. Players may start to overdraft blue and underdraft red, for example, once it becomes easier to see power level discrepancies between colors. This could make for an interesting dynamic as we see how deck performances change in the weeks ahead.
Thanks for reading,