It’s no secret that Innistrad is one of the more popular Magic: The Gathering planes to have ever graced the tabletop game’s multiverse. The gothic-inspired horror world played host to several thematically inspired cards that drew on pop culture references like The Fly and The Invisible Man, while multi-format staples like Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets appeared in its initial iteration. In the return to Innistrad, body horror and Eldritch abominations took center stage, alongside the iconic Eldrazi threat that has spanned multiple sets and worlds.
To follow up on both of those visits is no small task, but Innistrad: Midnight Hunt – and, later, Innistrad: Crimson Vow – look to make the third time back to the gothic plane just as charming as the last two. To do that, the flavor is returning to its roots, focusing on werewolves, zombies, and vampires and eschewing the more mind-bending elements of the Eldrazi influence that colored Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon.
In a preview shown to press prior to the set’s spoiler season kicking off today, it was made very clear that there will be something for everyone in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. More importantly, with set rotation for Standard coming and the oppressive influence of Throne of Eldraine finally leaving the format, the return to Innistrad lines up perfectly with a new, smaller Standard card pool that will give its new cards room to breathe. To begin with, though, the cycle of rare lands in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt looks extremely powerful, and will immediately give players a reason to build decks in allied color pairs:
Given that most games of Standard extend beyond the first few turns, these lands look primed to fix mana for midrange and control strategies, while offering a strong incentive for aggressive strategies to branch out into at least two colors. While mana fixing hasn’t been that big an issue in Standard thanks to triomes, it’s hard to overstate the importance of dual lands entering the battlefield untapped. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt will also mark the return of a fan-favorite planeswalker in Arlinn Kord, a werewolf native to Innistrad who is getting a brand new card:
The Booster Fun variant of Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope, shown here, is an example of the new art style debuting in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt on select cards. Inspired by harvest themes, the cards complement the world of Innistrad well while managing to stand out from the sea of already loud Magic: The Gathering art variants from previous set releases. Arlinn is also a double-faced card, showcasing the Daybound and Nightbound mechanic that will see the battlefield set to dawn or dusk with powerful effects available for cards that care about this effect:
There’s even a new spin on and old Magic: The Gathering classic, as Innistrad: Midnight Hunt allows players to create zombie tokens – something that’s common across many of the game’s sets – but with a catch that allows the game’s designers to more aggressively pursue token creation as a strategy.
Decayed tokens sacrifice themselves after they’ve attacked and can’t block, which makes them hyper-aggressive additions to the battlefield that don’t create board stalls the same way that other token generators, like Field of the Dead, can. It’s also thematically appropriate, as Innistrad’s barely-held-together zombies begin to fall apart when they’re raised by stitchers who simply want minions quickly (rather than pursuing the quality that some of the lore’s more powerful necromancers, like Gisa and Geralf, often bring out of their own creations).
There’s a lot to unpack from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, but it looks like a set that’s going to deliver on its gothic horror inspirations while featuring a number of callbacks to previously beloved Innistrad denizens. That, coupled with a powerful land cycle and new mechanics like Daybound/Nightbound and Decay, seems like an indication of an expansion that’s going to reinvigorate Standard – and give players plenty of pause as they’re building Commander decks themed around werewolves, zombies, or other creatures of the night, too.
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt releases on September 16, 2021 on Magic Arena and Magic: The Gathering Online, and on September 24, 2021 for tabletop. Screen Rant attended a private press presentation for the purpose of this article.