2RR flying haste, 4/9, double damage.
I like a card that generates different reactions. For whatever reason, big flyers that cost 2CC and have a drawback often exist in this space. Rathi Dragon back in the ’90s, Abyssal Persecutor, Avaricious Dragon, Inverter of Truth. It’s a strange trope, but it seems to work at getting some people’s creative energy going while merely stirring the skepticism of others.
In the case of Goldnight Castigator, I am excited and I want to take you on a trip through my stream of consciousness as I started to think about this card and where it might fit into the new Standard format.
First, I thought of how costly “If I’m behind, I can’t cast this” drawbacks usually are.
4 damage in the air is nice, but it is going to feel less nice if you can only use it when the board is empty, or if you have to hold back your creature to block, meaning you pay for haste but don’t get to use it. If the opponent plays Bounding Krasis and taps this, you will want to shred your deck. The drawback is real, and if you aren’t careful, it might just cost you the game.
Then I thought, one way of being careful is by sideboarding this card rather than maindecking it.
I doubt Goldnight Castigator will be good against other red aggro decks. Well you know something? Choke isn’t good against red aggro decks either. Any opponent that isn’t trying to race you is probably not going to want to see this card in your 75 (with apologies to Ben Rubin), even if it’s only in the 15. Killing someone’s Jace, Ob Nixilis, other Jace, or Nissa, or other Nissa, etc. sounds fun. They want to sit back on these cards and take over—don’t let them.
Red aggro is one of the oldest, most consistent presences in Standard. Year after year, some players race to deal 20 using small creatures, burn, and curve-toppers or sideboard slots to work around opposing sweepers and blockers.
Then I thought, those control decks we’re aiming for with our curve-topper or sideboard card will probably use Grasp of Darkness and/or toughness-based sweepers like Languish.
If I’m the red deck, my opponent isn’t just stumbling into these types of cards—they are reaching for their sideboard to grab extra copies. Goldnight Castigator hits harder than Mantis Rider, doesn’t require 3 colors to cast, and Grasp and Languish are absolutely punished by its 9 toughness.
Even killing it via damage requires 5, making it a pseudo-4/5—so a Rhino that can’t be Roasted and can rarely be blocked. Oh, and it certainly can block if you are behind in the race. Not every opponent goes wide—some will have single threats, almost none of which can manage better than a trade with Goldnight Castigator at or near her casting cost.
Will it sometimes die to Ultimate Price? Of course, but this is a haste flyer and it only costs 4, so the “dies to Doom Blade” concerns are somewhat mitigated. If I get their Jace and their Ultimate Price, I won’t be losing sleep.
Finally, I thought about this card in combination with Assault Formation.
Sometimes the forums discussing the possible combos for a newly spoiled card suggest something pretty cool. Here you have a 9-toughness haste flyer, which Assault Formation turns into a functional 9/9. I don’t know if you can make Assault Formation playable otherwise (I doubt pumping 4 of your Angels is enough for a card to be added in your deck), but I know people will try.
Like I said at the top, I love the exercise of thinking about a new drawback and how best to minimize it, how to make my opponent fear the upside much more than I fear the downside, and how to win with the card. Goldnight Castigator has plenty of upsides—just be careful out there.