Reviewing the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt “Undead Unleashed” EDH Precon

MD Alvis • September 22, 2021

Drown in Dreams by Lena Richards

Opening the Grave

Hey all! Today we’re going to look at one of the two new EDH precon decks coming out alongside Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. There’s a lot of ground to cover as we run through the “Undead Unleashed” deck today, and to start off we’re going to take a look at some of the most impactful reprints.

Back from the Dead: Notable Reprints

Death Baron

This was one of the best lord effects for the Zombie tribe ever printed for quite a long time, and it wasn’t too long ago (think 2019) that the Shards of Alara printing was hovering above $15. Deathtouch plays better than than it has any right to, and with the trajectory of Zombies moving towards tokens (even more so than in the past with the introduction of decayed), I think this is one of the best possible reprints in this banger of a commander deck. 

Diregraf Colossus

If anyone can remember from the before times, Gerry Thompson piloted a mono-black Zombies deck to a pro-tour victory in Shadows over InnistradAhmonket standard. This card, along with Cryptbreaker, was the standout contributor in that archetype. Diregraf Colossus currently sits in just over 6000 decks on EDHREC, and its ability to generate fodder for offense and defense alike gives it a lot of play. Overall, I’m super happy to see this one reprinted. 

Endless Ranks of the Dead

This card gets out of hand very quickly, and this was one of the cards that I fell in love with when I came back to the game during the original Innistrad block. This card really feels like the trope it is emulating: if this card lasts too long, it really can feel as though the walls are closing in. This was over $10, and I am glad to see it become available for more people. 

Gravespawn Sovereign

Originally printed in Onslaught, Gravespawn Sovereign is a really powerful engine that can swing a meager board and get you back in the game after a board wipe. The art is grotesque, and I love it. This is one of my favorite pseudo-lords that I have encountered in any tribe, and this is a well-deserved reprint. 

Liliana, Death’s Majesty

Liliana, Death’s Majesty is secretly a really, really powerful planeswalker outside of the Zombie tribe, and it has somehow gone under the radar since its printing in Amonkhet. Being able to have a repeatable Zombify that can also make tokens is a recipe for a planeswalker that can grind out some serious advantage if unchallenged. I really like this card, and this is a great spot for a reprint before it got too expensive. 

Rooftop Storm

This card spiked this summer off the back of Acererak the Archlich, but this card was bound to improve with time anyway. Being an Omniscience for Zombies is really powerful, and Gravecrawler loops are the well-worn path. I’m very glad to see this get a reprint. 

Talisman of Dominance

The talismans stand out as some of the best mana rocks in the format, some of the allied talismans have suffered from having no reasonable reprints since they hit the scene many moons ago. While not super fun or interesting, Talisman of Dominance is a great “meat and potatoes” reprint for the format overall. Honestly, this is the reprint I was most glad to see. Here’s hoping we see more from than cycle. 

Dawn of the Dead: New Commanders

Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth

Of the three new entries to the legendary category, Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth is probably the most open-ended and, therefore, most interesting of the bunch. Let’s look at each line of text and see what we can come up with. 

“Whenever another creature you control dies, investigate.” This text is killer. Turning every creature (including tokens, like ones with a decayed trigger) into a delayed draw is a very powerful effect. Ashnod’s Altar and Phyrexian Altar, along with the other usual suspects, can effective transmute any mopey creature into two resources rather than one, which is a big game. Ashnod’s Altar in particular let’s you crack clues immediately which seems really strong. This also maximizes effects like Village Rites, which are borderline playable but exceed the threshold from “just okay” to “good enough” with Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth on the battlefield. 

“Whenever you sacrifice a token, surveil 1.” Academy Manufactor is bananas here, as it is oft to do, but the fact that treasures, food, and clues all trigger Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth is an incredible synergy. Looking at other cards that make treasures, we have some real bangers: Fain, the Broker, Pitiless Plunderer, and Forsworn Paladin are all repeatable ways to generate treasure tokens that also have some upside, but one that might fly under the radar is actually Ruthless Knave

This little uncommon from Ixilan is secretly one of the better engine pieces we can have on the board, even if it is mana intensive. Turning creatures into treasures while triggering Eloise is great, but then converting those treasures into cards while triggering her second ability puts it over the edge. This card also lets us turn things like food into cards, which is bonkers.

Overall, I think Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth will be really powerful, but I think the burden of riches will lead a lot of people to the same place: Revel in Riches. I think my #1 recommendation would be to explore other ways to win first, because Revel is A) more expensive than it has any right to be and B) not very interesting, especially when you are churning through your deck and you have the best tutors at your disposal. 

Gorex, the Tombshell

Meandering Towershell’s lost some weight and is, well, useful for the first time. Gorex, the Tombshell has some really interesting synergies, but it doesn’t really compare to other mono-black commanders. The one thing I can think of is that you could stack a deck with a bunch of Gravedigger creatures to buy back Gorex from the graveyard, and just make some kind of weird creature-heavy voltron beatdown deck, which while challenging from a deck building theory perspective doesn’t seem like it would be hard to actually make work…but the more I type, the more interested I become. Let us know in the comments if you want to see a deck tech for this big turtly boi! 

However, in the 99 this card reminds me a lot of former legacy all-star Ethereal Forager, but for creatures. Having double delve is really powerful, and the decks that want this will be able to nearly always cast this for two mana. Deathtouch is a great keyword for a creature you want to turn sideways, and until they remove Gorex, the Tombshell or trade for it in combat, you will be getting back cards left and right. I think a lot of people are more down on this than they should be, but it definitely a roleplayer for than the star of the show.

Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver

We have another in a long line of Zombies-matter commanders in UBx very much in the vein of Gisa and Geralf. Generating a card each turn is a pretty minor effect, but it isn’t nothing, especially when the decayed Zombie tokens will be flowing. What I am most interested in, though, is the cost for generating tokens: free.

This past Saturday, the Spike Feeders released the latest in their “Better Know a Combo” video series that outlines a really simply combo centered around Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver’s token generation. In combination with the back side of Poppet Stitcher, which removes the decayed ability from the tokens but leaves the Zombie type line in tact. In combination with a card like Altar of Dementia you can mill out the table as each Zombie token sacrificed will immediately replace itself with a vanilla 3/3 Zombie. 

Even outside of the combo potential, Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver seems like a powerful addition to the roster of Zombie commanders and might very well be one of the more popular additions.

Fresh out of the Graf: New Cards

Cleaver Skaab

This card is a value machine. There are currently 516 Zombies printed, and while the vast majority of those are…underwhelming…there are lot of incredible options available. Replicating lord effects like Death Baron or Lord of the Accursed is just the beginning. 

 Want to just burn everyone out with Gary? We can do that. How about drawing enough cards that you are legitimately at risk of killing yourself with Undead Augur? We can do that too. That’s what I’m talking about! 

Ultimately, Cleaver Skaab is only limited by the range of effects you are packing in the 99. While slow, this card has the uncanny ability to grind out some incredible advantage. Overall, I am way into it and I’m here for slowly taking over the board with an army of Undead Augurs. 

Crowded Crypt

In the same vein as Cursed Mirror, Crowded Crypt walks the fine line between balancing inefficiency at 3 mana value with some upside, and in this case the ability to be cashed in late in the game to push an advantage on board. The fact that the tokens have decayed makes them pretty weak in comparison to other tokens, so I don’t think the effect will have a major impact most of the time. 

This does punish board wipes, which is an upside for creature-heavy strategies. All told, it’s pretty low opportunity cost if you’re in the market in black creature decks, but you probably will need additional uses for the tokens to make it worth it over something like a Commander’s Sphere that at least draws a card. 

Curse of the Restless Dead

Curses are always walking the fine line of fragility and inefficiency for a compounding effect, and I honestly think Curse of the Restless Dead might be one of the better cards in the category. While the tokens do have decayed (meaning this card’s advantage won’t be much when you are behind), it can really punish decks like Omnath, Locus of Creation and Lord Windgrace by having a personal reverse Rampaging Baloth

I don’t love this, but it is almost certainly a sure-in for curse decks like Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor or Mathas, Fiend Seeker and could see an inclusion when your meta devolves into everyone playing Burgeoning

Curse of Unbinding

At seven mana, I expect a lot…and the only thing that is “a lot” about this card is the mana cost. While you can occasionally spike a Consecrated Sphinx, Blightsteel Colossus, or Emrakul, the Promised End, it is more likely that you will get something really, really mopey. For every time you get something decent, my guess is that you will hit like 5-7 Llanowar Elves, and I’m off it. Like the previous entry, this seems like a fun include in Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor but outside of a dedicated curse deck, just run Bribery

Drown in Dreams

I’m here for it. In my Jorn, God of Winter deck, Blue Sun’s Zenith and Stroke of Genius have killed my opponents more than a few times. This card is strictly better than Stroke, except that you don’t get to shout weird sentences that can make the table blush. There’s some value there…I think? In any case, this is going straight in there as soon as I get my hands on a copy. 

Having the flexibility to mill out your opponents or refuel is huge, but this card is really quite efficient as a self-mill enabler. That flexibility inherent to the split effects gives this one the nod for me, and it will almost assuredly make it into at least a few decks I build. I kind of love this with Slogurk, the Overslime as a way to cast a weird pseudo-Hatred in Simic colors, or to enable cool cards like Havengul Lich. This card will undoubtedly see play in a lot of decks, and while the hipster in me hates it I can’t help but love the card. 

Empty the Laboratory

Turning all your tokens into real cards is a big game, and I think in this EDH precon that will feel incredible. The tokens with decayed are not great for board position, especially when you’re behind, and, at best, on offense they will all feel like Shocks at the face. If I can convert those worthless tokens into things like Gravespawn Sovereign, Undead Alchemist, or Undead Augur will feel like cheating when you get it off. 

Cards like this feel a bit like [/el]Polymorph[/el], and with a card like Conspiracy you can turn this into a combo card…probably. Seems like a lot of work, but it is a thing. 

Ghouls’ Night Out

How bad is decayed? That’s the question we are forced to wrestle with when we look at Ghouls’ Night Out. If you are trying to push for lethal or you need to create some blockers, it’s the worst. If you can take advantage of your opponent’s ETB effects, it’s effectively a non-issue. I am a sucker for Mind Control, Mind’s Dilation and Etali, Primal Storm, so having another way in a different color to play with my opponents’ stuff is something I am really into, even if I need to be careful to select things with ETB effects. Is this better than Sepulchral Primordial? I don’t think so. Is it Sepulchral Primordial number two for less mana? Yes.

Hordewing Skaab

This card does a great Wonder impersonation while also giving you a pseudo-Reconnaissance Mission for your Zombies. I’m all about it. In any kind of aggressive-leaning Zombie deck, Hordewing Skaab will convert bodies to cards, and with the plethora of decayed creatures this is just another way to utilize those effects while also pushing damage through. This is expensive, so I wouldn’t want it to be the only card of either of these effects in my list, but if you can land it it should turn the tide of the game as long as you can protect your board position. 

Prowling Geistcatcher

Prowling Geistcatcher becomes a huge threat in token decks or it can let you re-buy some enter-the-battlefield effects. That’s a pretty big range. This card doesn’t make all that much sense in the Zombie archetype, but commanders like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician might really like this effect. It really hurts the ceiling on this card that it doesn’t have flash, but I’m glad for that design space to stay in white’s section of the color pie. 

Ravenous Rotbelly

We’ve talked a lot about enters-the-battlefield effects today, and we have talked a lot about converting decayed tokens into real things. Ravenous Rotbelly might be one of the best this deck has to offer in both of those categories. Turning three bad tokens or locked down creatures into a Taste of Death seems really, really powerful. I have found that “each players sacrifices three creatures” is pretty close to “destroy all creatures” a lot of the time, and this leaves a 4/5 on the board to pick up again or to attack a planeswalker seems great. 

Obviously, “…is good with Grave Pact” is something, but I can’t think of many things that aren’t, so go nuts if that’s your thing. I love this as an effect you have to work for, and this deck in particular gives you the tools you need to maximize it. 

Shadow Kin

This card is fine. Flash does a lot for it, but the fact that Shadow Kin doesn’t look at the whole graveyard lowers the ceiling on this card significantly. I love this design, and there are decks that I will want to run this (like some kind of attach-triggers-matter kind of deck), but because this can’t take advantage of the abilities of cards like Ravenous Rotbelly, it seems pretty loose to run almost anywhere.

Tomb Tyrant

Tomb Tyrant might be one of the best lord effects for this tribe. Having a reasonable body, a universal buff, and the ability to rebuy potentially meaningful creatures from the graveyard is a lot for one card, especially at just four mana. Even though the second ability is random and requires you to have at least three Zombies in the graveyard, it’s still very powerful on rate. My guess is that this setup will come online really easily, and that each time you get back even something as innocuous as a Fleshbag Marauder or a Corpse Augur you’re going to feel good about it, and there are often going to be a lot of other great targets too. 

Closing the Casket

Overall, the “Undead Unleashed” EDH precon seems really strong, and it is packed to the gills with value. Between powerful (and, at the time of writing, expensive) reprints, some really solid additions to the tribe like tomb Tyrant and Hordewing Skaab, and some crazy powerful entries to the format at large (here’s looking at you, Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth and Drown in Dreams), it really seems like Wizards really knocked it out of the park. 

It might be that I have a soft spot for Zombies (I do), but outside of value this deck seems like it would be really fun to play. You draw a lot of cards, make a ton of tokens, and you have a good amount of interaction to have game against a variety of different gameplans and power levels. I for one am planning to purchase this one and keep it together and I am planning to grab a handful of singles for decks too. 

What do you think about this EDH precon? What cards are you most excited to play? Are there any of the new commanders you are planning to build around? Let us know in the comments! You can find more Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Commander content here!

 



MD might Force of Will your Cultivate because he's been hurt before. Spike at heart. When he isn't trying to jank out the table with Garruk Relentless and Clever Impersonator, you can find him hanging with his family, playing games with friends, or working as a coach and spiritual director in SW Missouri.