Midnight Sentinel is one of my favorite human faction cards in Shattered Fates. Its utility is subtle, but the impact that it has on games is undeniable. First thing of note is its cost. 3cc is the prime point for allies. Most resource curves allow for the bulk of allies in the deck to be 3cc, however there is also a great deal of competition to fill those roles. Among humans there are great cards like Aldon the Brave, Jasmine Rosecult, Fleet-Footed Messenger, Layarian Seductress, Twilight Ritualist and Priest of the Light to name a few. On top of that, each class has a variety of excellent 3cc allies as well. Why, when faced with all of those options would you choose Midnight Sentinel? There are actually several reasons that I will go through in some detail, namely – survivability, ambush, utility at each stage of the game, exhausting opponent resources, damage prevention and combos.
1) Survivability – the most obvious thing that Midnight Sentinel does is it gives you a fat body on the board. It may not do much damage on its own, but they also cannot be ignored. A consistent 1 damage throughout a game represents a threat that must be eliminated. The fact that it is difficult to eliminate it means that the opponent must choose either to race you, or waste resources eliminating your threat. In addition to its own survivability, Sentinel buffs a friendly ally, which adds to its survivability. One goal that I often have, when facing a mage for example, is to buff an ally to have over 5 hp. That is the magic number for Supernova. Since Supernova wipes out most allies, having an ally that will stick after a supernova, continue to deal damage and wear the opponent down is very valuable. The extra health can also be very helpful vs stall decks that use evil ascendant or poison to wear down your allies. In one recent game vs stall Skervox, I played a Wily Smuggler, followed by 3 Sentinels (over the course of two turns), he then conceded the game. Even though the smuggler was immobilized twice and poisoned while taking damage from evil ascendant, the opponent saw the writing on the wall and conceded the game.
2) Ambush – this is akin to survivability. Having ambush on an ally means that the ally can attack without fearing a counterattack. One common scenario for me would be to play a T2 Puwen (or equivalent) and a T3 Midnight Sentinel. This allows me to do damage to whatever is on the board, and be left with a 2/5 and a 1/5. Usually this is not enough to kill anything, but it forces the opponent to deal with my allies, rather than attacking me. It effectively delays a rush. If the allies are left unchecked, then they can continue to harass and destroy opponent allies, thereby granting me card advantage and limiting their utility. Although a T2 Puwen and T3 Aldon can achieve similar results, they are also much more vulnerable to common responses that opponents may present and may still be unable to destroy an ally with 4hp without sacrificing health or an ally.
3) Utility at each stage of the game – What is better than Aeon Stormcaller? Aeon Stormcaller with 3/10 and ambush with a 2/6 ally sitting behind him that he just buffed. Midnight Sentinel may not always be the ideal play, but there are points at each stage of the game where he can make a difference. Perhaps your opponent just played a Hunter’s Gambit on your ally, in the hopes of taking it out next turn. Sentinel may put it outside of their kill range. Perhaps you are facing Skervox and need a few more HP on your poisoned ally to stay alive one more turn. Perhaps your Armored Sandworm has already survived 2 fireballs, but could stand to take one more. An extra 2 HP on an ally is useful even in the late game, as is the ambush. On top of that you get an extra body that is not trivial to eliminate. Priest of the Light may or may not be useful on turn 6, depending on the matchup, and the board state, Jasmine Rosecult may not last a turn to use her ability, and Layarian Seductress may not have her effect because you’ve got too many resources. Midnight Sentinel will only be slightly less useful if you don’t have any allies out.
4) Exhausting opponent resources – Because Midnight Sentinel adds 7 hp to the board, it changes the way that the opponent must allocate resources. It forces the opponents to allocate damage that would otherwise go to the hero to your allies instead. But what about cheap removal cards like Death from Above Transmogrification and Assassination. Well Midnight Sentinel is certainly as vulnerable to those as other cards, but whereas Aldon may be easily killed by a Karash and Death Mage Thadeus, Midnight Sentinel will survive those two allies, and likely make another ally on board capable of surviving them as well. The opponent is therefore forced to use removal cards earlier than they would like to and on targets that are of potentially low priority. This leaves your later cards open to play without threat from cheap removal cards. It also limits the opponent’s ability to expand their forces early in the game; effectively preventing a rush. Versus a mage, for example, a Turn 4 lightning bolt may make it possible for the opponent’s puwen and aldon to destroy my sentinel and puwen, however it also prevents a great deal of damage that would have gone to my hero, and it makes it impossible for that opponent to play another ally that turn. It also squanders one of their targeted ally removal spells, which may lead to them using a supernova at a bad time later in the game or a fireball on an ally rather than my hero.
5) Damage prevention – if opponents have to allocate damage to Midnight Sentinel and your buffed allies, then it is not going to your hero. Healing touch is a good card, and is included in many priest decks. It is versatile, but is usually used simply as a heal. Healing 4 hp is therefore worth 3cc and 1 card. Midnight Sentinel places 7 hp on the board, and that often means at least some damage that would otherwise go to your hero is wasted on your allies. Having a Puwen and a Midnight Sentinel could potentially result in over 10 damage (as some attacks may be overkill) being prevented from your hero. In many cases at least 5 hp worth of damage may be prevented by this combination.
6) Combos – Midnight Sentinel combos well with allies that have other complimentary abilities. The most notable of these are Armor, Ambush and Stealth. Ambush is the most obvious, as it results in a +1 attack buff. Cards that temporarily grant ambush (like Backstab) can be used in conjunction with midnight sentinel to grant this +1 attack buff. Aside from that, Midnight Sentinel also goes well with stealth, for example Nightshade, Eleanor and Erika Shadowhunter are potentially strong cards in matchups without access to direct damage. By giving them ambush and more health, Midnight Sentinel may make them somewhat viable in their bad matchups as well – putting them outside of lightning bold range, and will make them nearly untouchable in their good matchups (A Legend Rises on Erika can destroy most warrior decks – and Ambush just makes her completely immune to anything but Retreat!). Similarly, Midnight Sentinel combos well with allies like Armored Sandworm, who already are difficult to kill, but with ambush and more health become much more difficult to kill. Midnight Sentinel also combos well with The Last Harvest, as it makes allies hard to kill, making it more likely that more allies will receive the buffs. It also combos well with Road Less Traveled or other cards with bounce effects, as it can get repeat uses of its ability.
LIMITATIONS AND WEAKNESSES:
1) Board wipes – All the health in the world won’t protect allies from Tidal Wave. Similarly, a single Supernova can take out your allies even if you used Midnight Sentinel (however if you’re careful, you can play sentinel so one of your allies survives it – which essentially makes it a much better card than any other 3cc ally in that situation).
2) Low attack – Midnight sentinel won’t win you a game by itself – it’s too weak! It really is a support ally, and needs strong allies to partner with to be effective. Certain classes, like Rogues benefit from having allies on board, even when they have very low attack, since it allows them to use Assassination. Similarly, Tala may benefit from having a tough ally on board that she can use as a protector. Warriors and Priests may benefit by playing King’s Pride and making Sentinel into a monster. However, not all heroes and decks can take full advantage of an ally with 1/5.
3) Cards that discourage many allies on board – Spirit Shuriken and Yari Marksman can both make you pay for playing over 2 allies. If you only have two allies to choose from all game, Midnight Sentinel would not be one of them. If you think that the opponent is going to be using such cards, midnight sentinel may cause more harm than good by forcing you to play too many allies at a time.
4) Only ally on board / in hand – If you have no other allies on board or in hand, Midnight Sentinel doesn’t get to use his ability, and then he’s only a wimpy 1/5. That’s still better than nothing in such a situation, but I would rather have almost any other 3cc ally. If you have a deck that is often faced with this situation (for example priests who need to place a single ally after Tidal Waves), then Midnight Sentinel may not be the right one for you.
In conclusion, this card is excellent for decks that seek a defensive posture using allies for control. It has several limitations but also synergizes well with a lot of cards and abilities. It is strongest in decks that can capitalize on having allies that are tough to kill, without requiring excessive damage output from those allies. It has limitations, but those limitations make it an interesting card, and not by any means weak. If your deck has a defensive focus at all, give Midnight Sentinel a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.