The new Standard format is finally arriving. While players may have been trying to figure out the format by playing Standard 2022 on MTG Arena, that still didn't include Midnight Hunt, so the format is very much a mystery in a lot of ways. I am going to be competing in the World Championship in a few weeks using this format as well, so you had better believe I'm keeping my eye on how it develops.
I want to go through and talk about a number of cards I believe will be important factors in this new format.
I'm going to start with the Adversaries, the signature cycle of Mythics in Midnight Hunt. I don't believe all the Adversaries are on the same power level, despite them all appearing very strong. It reminds me a lot of the Titans back when they were first printed.
Flash is the reason Spectral Adversary is good. Blue will be looking for a replacement to Brazen Borrower, and Spectral Adversary is a Spirit so it does have some tribal synergy. The ability to phase something out is nice, but still there is some question as to how powerful that effect actually is.
Bloodthirsty Adversary is very reminiscent of Goblin Dark-Dwellers in terms of the effect it provides. I could certainly see this card in an Izzet deck alongside cards like Prismari Command that are ideal for flashing back later in the game. If you play any Adversaries (and you probably should) it'll be because they're so flexible, like Hydroid Krasis. You won't always want to use them in one particular way.
Moonveil Regent seems like a good card even if you aren't playing a deck that is a lot of colors. This card is going to be good in decks with lots of cheap spells, with Moonveil Regent at the top of the curve. In many aggressive red decks you'll have no cards in hand, or very few, later in games. Now you can draw more cards and refuel faster with Moonveil Regent in play. The fact it deals at least a little bit of damage when it dies is nice. The issue is it's hard to get maximum value out of this card in a format where most decks will end up being two colors.
I talked about Delver of Secrets last week so I won't go into too much detail here. You always need to be aware of Delver in formats where it's legal. As we already know from its history, Delver's usage is going to be contextual to what instants and sorceries you can play with to maximize its effectiveness. It certainly won't be as powerful in Standard as in Legacy, but that's to be expected. People will definitely play with Delver, the question is whether it gets all the way to tier 1 as you really need to build your entire deck around Delver of Secrets to maximize its power.
Fateful Absence reminds me a lot of Declaration in Stone. White having a strong, flexible, instant-speed two-mana removal spell is really nice. Giving the opponent a resource in a Clue isn't ideal though, so the tradeoff is significant. This one has a lot of hype and I do think it will see play, but also might not fully live up to expectations.
Another card I went over last week. Field of Ruin is a very important role player, especially in formats with powerful nonbasic lands that turn into creatures, like post-rotation Standard. This is definitely a tool control decks will want to fully utilize.
There are a number of Midnight Hunt cards that resemble cards we have seen before, but with a different sort of a spin on them. Memory Deluge is going to fight with Behold the Multiverse in terms of which card advantage spell blue decks want to be playing. Both cards are very similar in that they net you two cards and can look at up to four cards, though Memory Deluge gives you full information when you cast it, while with Behold the Multiverse if you scry cards to the bottom it can be a bit of a gamble. Behold the Multiverse is a bit more flexible, and also an instant, but Memory Deluge can be flashed back.
I don't think one card is clearly better than the other, so it will likely be deck dependent which one to play. Memory Deluge does give you a lot though, because when you flash it back you get to look at seven cards, which makes it better in the late game.
Briarbridge Tracker is of course very similar to Tireless Tracker, the most popular generator of Clues we have seen to date. I definitely believe Briarbridge Tracker is good enough to be played, though it isn't as strong as Tireless Tracker was, as you only get to investigate once with it. However, a lot of the time because of its stats Briarbridge Tracker is going to immediately trade off with an opposing creature or removal spell. This means you still have that Clue left over to provide some card advantage. It's hard to go wrong with choosing this as your three-mana play.
I'm hoping we see a Dimir Zombies deck that can take advantage of Grafted Identity. The key is definitely having creatures you don't mind sacrificing to pay the cost of Grafted Identity. This is going to require a bit of work, as you can't just stick this card in a control deck, as they often have very few creatures. In a deck with inexpensive creatures or creature tokens, Grafted Identity will be good. Enchantment removal likely won't be super popular, and it's starting to look like every deck in this format will have creatures worth stealing with Grafted identity.
WotC got the power level right with Cathartic Pyre. Two mana to deal 3 damage to a creature or planeswalker is the going rate for removal these days. We can compare it to cards like Scorching Dragonfire for instance. If you do loot with it, it's worse than a card like Tormenting Voice, as you will always be trading down on cards. Cathartic Pyre will be a flexible role player.
Personally, I'm more excited about Play with Fire than I am about Cathartic Pyre. This may come down to the importance of being able to kill 3 toughness creatures as opposed to 2 toughness ones. I really like being able to scry for such a low cost, and Play with Fire being straight up better than Shock is a big deal. This was one of the first Midnight Hunt cards spoiled, so players have already had time to evaluate it, but I still think it will overperform.
Florian, Voldaren Scion seems really nice in a deck with burn spells like Play with Fire. Even if you aren't able to attack the opponent you can still burn them out with a card like this. Florian is the perfect sort of Rakdos card, and I would love to see a Rakdos burn-style deck rise to power. I'm not sure if there are enough tools to build around that concept right now.
Florian, Voldaren Scion is going to be very good in a format without much creature removal as it shouldn't be too hard to get some cards off Florian over the course of a few turns.
Foul Play may end up being primarily a sideboard card. It's going to be great against decks that actually have small creatures, but it could be a dead card against some decks, which is a problem. Still, if you are able to play it as a two-mana "kill an opposing creature and investigate," that is going to be a card you always want.
It may be tough finding Werewolf synergy outside of Gruul, but Brutal Cathar has a lot of potential, as it is going to be a creature that needs to be answered most of the time. If you are able to exile even one or two opposing creatures and the opponent can't answer Brutal Cathar you are very happy. This card compares favorably to cards like Banisher Priest or Fiend Hunter.
Another card that we have known about for a while, but could still be one of the most played cards in the set. Consider is simple yet effective. Decks that want a cantrip will be hard pressed not to play this card. It should go in any deck that has Delver of Secrets in it.
I like Arlinn, the Pack's Hope a lot, though it will have to fight with Esika's Chariot as they both do similar things for the same mana cost. Both cards are very strong though, so there may be decks that play four copies of Esika's Chariot and some number of Arlinn, the Pack's Hope.
Most of the time I believe it will be best to immediately make the two Wolf creature tokens. That way even if Arlinn, the Pack's Hope goes away you will have gotten some value, and if not you can definitely accumulate quite a bit more value off this planeswalker.
I'm really hoping we see a Gruul deck focused on Werewolves that can transform, and if we do, expect to see Tovolar, Dire Overlord as one of the deck's key pieces. Being able to draw cards and turn into Tovolar, the Midnight Scourge really helps bring the Werewolf tribe together. Remember, Werewolf Pack Leader is already legal in Standard, and playing that turn two followed up by Tovolar turn three sounds pretty strong.
Kessig Naturalist is another important piece to the Gruul Wolves deck. I suspect we will be hearing much more about this deck in the weeks to come. This is exactly the type of two-drop you want, and it can even curve directly into a four-mana play like Arlinn, the Pack's Hope for instance.
For the top end of the Werewolves deck, this is the card you want. You get three Wolves in a single card, and then a lot of the time you can find a way for it to be night in order to take advantage of Tovolar's Packleader since that's the stronger side of the card. Being a larger creature and making even more Wolves on attacks is quite nice. In green mirror matches, this seems like the way to go over the top with more power.
The entire new cycle of lands will see plenty of play. This won't be a format where you can pick and choose which nonbasic lands to play. If you are playing two colors and there is a rare land that produces those colors, chances are you will play four copies of that land. It's that simple. On power level, these lands are very good too. Even aggro decks can sometimes afford to play a tap land turn one.