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Ranking the Adversary Cycle in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt – Riley Ranks

The Adversary cycle in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is a really interesting one, offering five cards with powerful, scalable effects that offer a good amount of utility. Evaluating these cards is a little difficult, particularly with how situational some of the abilities are, but I think it’s an interesting exercise to figure out how they stack up against one another and to anticipate how much play they’ll see. 

I’ve put together a lot of lists like this for ChannelFireball, and I have to say this is one of the ones I’m the least sure about. I think it speaks to good card design that it’s not immediately obvious how good these cards are, and that it will require playing with them to determine that properly – but nonetheless, here are my initial impressions of these five cards. 

 

 

Header - 5. Spectral Adversary

 

Spectral Adversary seems to me to be a feast-or-famine card. When it’s good, it’s excellent, but a lot of the time it’s just an inefficiently-costed flyer in a tribe that already has effects like these that work a bit better. I don’t think this card is remotely playable outside of a dedicated Spirits deck, for starters – four mana is too much for a 3/2 flyer that saves one creature from a removal spell.

In a Spirits deck, you already have Rattlechains and Mausoleum Wanderer that offer what is essentially the same effect in much more efficient and playable ways. Of course, a tribal creature deck is interested in ways to defend its creatures, but it should also be interested in playing cheap, efficient creatures that gain a benefit from lord effects and the like. 

Spectral Adversary, as a two-mana 2/1, isn’t that exciting. As a four-mana 3/2 it’s unplayable, and if you’re playing Spirits and have six mana spare, well… something has gone wrong. Even with the fact that this card can also save artifacts and enchantments, I just don’t see it happening. It’s too expensive and too inefficient, even in a Spirits deck. 

 

Header - 4. Primal Adversary

 

Primal Adversary has a set of stats that looks a bit better at first blush, although bear in mind we’ve been conditioned to evaluate cards through the lens of Stomp being the most-played removal spell for a very long time – perhaps three toughness isn’t the watermark it used to be. Nonetheless, a 4/3 for three is a good, if unexciting start. 

When it comes to the scalable ability, this isn’t something I’m interested in putting an extra two mana into – it has to be more. Playing this on turn five, making a five-mana 5/4 and waking up a land only to lose both to a sweeper sounds like an absolute nightmare – not only have you lost your board, but you’re also down a land! Because this doesn’t untap the lands it animates, you don’t even get to sneak in hasty damage. No thanks. I have no interest in losing animated lands to removal or sweepers for no value.

At what stage does this card become good? When you have nine or more lands and can “kick” it twice and attack for an immediate six? Sure, it’s nice to have a flexible card that can be played on turn three or turn one billion, but if you’ve got nine mana, wouldn’t it be better to just… put it into Lair of the Hydra or something like that? I just don’t see Primal Adversary making it in anything other than huge ramp decks, and they have much better finishers (albeit less flexible ones) such as Koma, Cosmos Serpent

 

Header - 3. Bloodthirsty Adversary

 

Bloodthirsty Adversary requires a few deckbuilding hoops to be jumped through, it’s true – but assuming you fill your deck with cheap instants and sorceries it’s worth flashing back, this card can provide you with a lot of value. Even with something basic like a Cathartic Pyre, playing a five-mana hasty 3/3 that deals three seems great. 

It scales terrifically, as well. In a blue/red deck that combines burn spells and draw spells, this card offers spectacular late-game value by coming down at five or eight mana, drawing cards, killing stuff and applying immediate pressure if needed. Aggressive spellslinger decks will be well-served by Bloodthirsty Adversary – the haste, in particular, makes it a great draw in the late game (when those strategies can sometimes struggle off the top).

However, I suspect its applications are somewhat narrow. You have to be playing a critical mass of instants and sorceries – it doesn’t just go in Red Deck Wins – and I don’t know if it has a place in slower, controlling decks that play a lot of instants and sorceries, either. Maybe red aggro wants this as a hasty 2/2 that sometimes gets cast for five to kill something with a Dragon’s Fire or the like – that could be possible – but it still does feel a little narrow to me.

 

Header - 2. Intrepid Adversary

 

Intrepid Adversary also seems somewhat narrow, but for much more obvious reasons – it’s only really playable in aggressive white creature decks. However, the effect it offers there is absolutely bananas. We know that Glorious Anthem effects are massive in strategies like these, and having one staples to a creature like this has the potential to just be bonkers. 

The flexibility of this card is key in an archetype like White Weenie, as you’re happy enough to play a three-power two-drop (particularly with lifelink, in case you’re racing), and hope to curve into another Adversary at four mana, buffing the first. Unlike the other Adversaries we’ve talked about, Intrepid Adversary gets a lot better in multiples, and I can see it juicing up low-to-the-ground creature strategies as a result. 

Of course, it’s fragile and therefore less reliable than a Glorious Anthem – but Glorious Anthem can’t attack or block. Overall, I think you’d prefer a four-mana 4/2 Glorious Anthem rather than a three-mana enchantment (one is a much better topdeck) – and Intrepid Adversary can scale even further if the game somehow goes long. I like this card, and if white-based aggro is a viable strategy, this card could end up being a key piece of it. 

 

Header - 1. Tainted Adversary

 

Tainted Adversary is, for my money, the best of the five cards here for one simple reason – it’s the least narrow of all of them. This card will be good in most situations, and won’t be bad in many. It may not have the ceiling of a Bloodthirsty Adversary that flashed back two spells and attacks for four, or an Intrepid Adversary that adds eight power to the board for four mana, but its floor is much higher, and I think it’s the most generically powerful of the cycle. 

At worst, it’s a two-mana deathtouch 2/3. That can hold off early aggression or trade with a big green idiot – it’s always going to take a card down with it. Not exciting, sure, but a decent start. For five mana, however, you get seven power spread across three bodies! Sure, it’s no Grave Titan, and its defensive applications are somewhat limited because the tokens have decayed, but that is still a lot of power that scales pretty terrifically – for seven mana you get 12 power of attackers!

Between this card’s high floor and reasonable ceiling, I think it’s positioned to do some real work. Even its defensive weaknesses are made up for by the fact that it has deathtouch and will hold off your opponent’s best ground creature, and stonewall aggro decks filled with two-power creatures. Tainted Adversary is my pick for the best of the bunch, purely because it is a robust, powerful card with a lot of good applications – it’s not narrow like the other Adversaries. 

 


 

This was a tough list to put together, and even now I’m not convinced I’ve got these evaluations right. What do you think? Is Primal Adversary better than I’m giving it credit for? Is Bloodthirsty Adversary not as narrow as I think? Let me know!

 

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