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Magic: The Gathering’s new werewolf cards bring back a cool, challenging mechanic

Double-faced cards will flip for day and night

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A werewolf storms into the Harvesttide festival, teeth bared. Image: Johann Bodin/Wizards of the Coast
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is the next set of cards for Magic: The Gathering, and it arrives in stores and online in mid-September. It’s a return to the classic style of Gothic horror first seen in 2011 with the launch of the original Innistrad Block. It also brings back a challenging gameplay mechanic; heroes and monsters with different stats for the daytime and for the night.

As Jay Annelli writes in the new book Planes of the Multiverse: A Visual History, Innistrad “is home to all manner of monsters and fiends [where] Werewolves rage in the night, hunting beasts and humans with equal vigor.” Standing against them (and the vampires, and the zombies, and the other hungry fiends) are the planes’ equally powerful human warriors. Priests, called cathars, lead the way with “swords, sorcery, and the holy power of the archangel Avacyn.”

As you might imagine, a lot has changed on the plane of Innistrad in the last decade. During an exclusive preview presentation, world-building design manager Meris Mullaley filled members of the press in on the details.

“We’ve got some crazy stuff going on with the day-night cycle,” Mullaley said. “It is very much out of balance, and you can kind of see that in these lands. The sky doesn’t really have a normal-looking sun. [...] Growing night just makes life a lot harder for the delicious humans, and we’ll see how the humans are trying to restore balance and fight back against the encroaching dangers from werewolves, vampires, and zombies.”

Haunted Ridge, a land, provides either black or red mana. Image: Wizards of the Coast
A borderless version of the Haunted Ridge land. Image: Wizards of the Coast

To represent that imbalance, a series of allied lands (paired to classic color combinations like black/red and green/white) enter the battlefield tapped unless the player controls two or more other lands. That may tend to slow down the early game, filling the field with more low-level spells and creatures — food, essentially, for more powerful cards to come.

The big draw to this set, however, is the return of the day and night cycle. Here’s how it works: If a player casts no spells on their turn, it will become night for both players the next turn. During the night, cards with the nightbound keyword become more powerful. Later in the game, if a player does cast two or more spells on their turn, it will become day for both players. During the day, cards with the daybound keyword will then become more powerful.

Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope shows the planeswalker dressed in white and carrying a bear cub.
The daybound side of Arlinn. Note the sun in the upper left-hand corner.
Image: Wizards of the Coast
Arlinn, the Moon’s Fury shows off her night bound side. She’s still wearing her leather arm wraps, and the bear cub lingers in the background.
The nightbound side of that same card. Note the persistent costuming.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt will include many double-faced cards, each one portraying the same character with daybound and nightbound stats. Expect the next season of Magic to revolve around furiously flipping the time back and forth — which should be particularly entertaining for players who stocked up on inexpensive cantrip spells from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Tovolar, Dire Overlord is a legendary creature, a human werewolf.
Note the additional 4/4 in the lower right, reminding player’s what’s on the nightbound side.
Image: Wizards of the Coast
Tovolar, the Midnight Scourge on its nightbound side. The werewolf is in the same post as the human on the other side of the card.
Wizards said that poses and thematic elements in werewolves have been baked in to help players keep track of who’s who at night.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

We’ve included a full gallery of the cards revealed at the preview event below.

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt arrives for Magic: The Gathering Arena and Magic Online on Sept. 16. Pre-release week kicks off on Sept. 17, with a full physical release on Sept. 24. According to publisher Wizards of the Coast, the full product line will include Draft, Set, Collector, and Theme Booster packs of cards, a proper bundle for getting started, and two Commander decks — Undead Unleashed and Coven Counters. Pre-orders are available now through your friendly local game store and online.

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