Innistrad: Midnight Hunt has come and gone, quickly replaced with previews of Crimson Vow. Looking back, Midnight Hunt was advertised as “The Werewolf Set,” but did it really deliver on that promise? Sure, there are werewolves in it, but they didn’t really stand out any more than the zombies, spirits and other monsters of the set.

But why is that?

The Weakest Archetype

Red/green werewolves is generally considered to be one of the weakest decks to build in Midnight Hunt Limited; blue/black ended up taking the top spot, and looking at the grindy nature of the format that’s not all that surprising.

Blue and black often lend themselves to longer games, and have plenty of tools to win through card advantage, especially in this set. On the other hand, red/green decks are usually aggressive, and lean on their larger than average creatures to dominate the battlefield. Werewolves take this strategy a step further by punishing opponents who are unable to cast a spell each turn.

This isn’t to say that fast decks can’t win games in Midnight Hunt, but the abundance of efficient removal spells at lower rarities tend to slow things down, which favours control strategies over aggressive ones.

The Night Isn’t Just for the Wolves

The iconic werewolf “no spell/two spell” transformation trigger that appeared in the original Innistrad got a nice update in Midnight Hunt with the new day/night mechanic. Along side it are the Daybound and Nightbound keywords, which not only regulate when the new werewolves transform, but even allow them to enter the battlefield on their flip side if it’s night.

This is all well and good, but the trouble is that the day/night mechanic gets used by a lot of non-werewolf cards. This isn’t inherently bad, and in fact has resulted in a lot of cool new designs that alters how games play out. Still, it takes away from the werewolves.

If Midnight Hunt had been the first set in a traditional block, like the original Innistrad or Shadows sets, the day/night mechanic could have been introduced with werewolves there, then expanded upon in the rest of the block. This would have let werewolves stand out in their own set, while still allowing room for other, more complicated day/night cards to appear later on. Instead, we got everything all at once, and the werewolves blended into the background.

It isn’t just the day/night mechanic, either. Even the Daybound and Nightbound keywords aren’t reserved exclusively for werewolves. Curse of Leeches is exactly the sort of design that would have shown up in the second or third set of a block once upon a time: a unique variation on a set mechanic.

Even if it’s just a single card in the set, and a rare at that, the presence of Curse of Leeches still mananges to dilute the impact of the new werewolf keywords. Its presence makes it feel like Daybound and Nightbound isn’t a faction-specific ability, but merely an extension of the wider day/night mechanic. Which, if we’re being honest, it is.

Perhaps the most telling thing is how the reminder text that appears on the new werewolf cards only talks about how to turn day into night. It says nothing about transforming your creatures, or even having them enter the battlefield on their Nightbound side. All of that information appears on the Day/Night token instead.

This choice was likely done to save space, but by moving the transformation rules to the reminder token has the unfortunate consequence of completely de-emphasizing the ability of the set’s marquee faction, and moves the focus to the wider day/night mechanic.

Daybound and Nightbound sit in stark contrast to the other faction mechanics in the set. Disturb could easily have been put on all sorts of cards, but in Midnight Hunt it only appears on cards that come back as spirits. Similarly, Decay only appears on zombie tokens, with the exception of creatures returned with Gisa, Glorious Resurrector.

Gisa gets a pass, though, since she’s an established ghoulcaller in the lore, which ties her to the zombies. Similarly, it’s fine for Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope to have Daybound, despite being a planeswalker card; the character is a werewolf in the lore. These cards fit with and support their respective tribes, so using their factions’ new mechanics only makes sense. The same can’t be said of Curse of Leeches!

The Odds Are Stacked Against Them

To make matters worse for the werewolves, a lot of the removal in Midnight Hunt Limited is particularly effective against them. Not only is there the (admittedly thematic) Silver Bolt that specifically destroys them, but some of the set’s best common removal gets a boost when cast at night. This severely punishes werewolf players who skip a turn of spellcasting to transform their creatures, a play that can already be a big tempo hit for such an aggressive faction.

Looking at these cards, Moonrager’s Slash and the aforementioned Silver Bolt are at last on theme for a werewolf set. The same can’t be said for arguably the best option: Olivia’s Midnight Ambush, a spell that feels more like an advertisement for Crimson Vow than anything else.

Werewolves don’t even feature that prominently in the rest of the set’s art; zombies, vampires and other monsters take up a lot of space on noncreature cards that could have just as easily been used to depict their canine adversaries. The end result is that Midnight Hunt doesn’t feel like “The Werewolf Set,” but rather a general return to Innistrad.

Not What Was Promised

From a game balance perspective, you certainly don’t want one faction to outclass any other, but at the same time it sends a strange message when the unique element that made your marquee faction stand out shows up on other cards, and the structure of the set is such that the other tribes end up performing much better in Limited. Even from a flavour perspective, it’s an odd choice not to include more claws and fur.

Despite all that, however, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is fun and flavourful. The new mechanics are interesting, Limited gameplay is engaging, and cards from this set are proving to be powerful but fair additions to several Constructed formats. Midnight Hunt is a success, just… not at the one thing it was expected to be.

The question now becomes whether Crimson Vow will live up to its promise of being a vampire-focused wedding set, or if it’ll end up like its supposedly-werewolf-themed counterpart.

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