Archetune-Up - A Hunt Most Dire
(Unnatural Moonrise | Art by Ryan Pancoast)
If There's One Thing Werewolves Hate...
Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme Pages!
This week is a return to form as we come upon the final week of Monster Month and dive headfirst into Werewolves! No extra colors, no stretching justifications to flavorfully make a certain commander work for a tribe, or anything else of the sort. I'm as straight-laced and focused as I was during the first article. No tricks today, we're picking the low-hanging fruit and sticking with red and green.
Werewolves are probably the coolest tribe on Innistrad. Having to balance between two sides of a card while also playing the subgame of knowing when to flip them is incredibly fun. There's just something really enticing about playing a handful of innocuous Humans, only for them to flip into a pack of terrifying fanged beasts!
Despite being a beloved tribe, it's taken Werewolves ten years since their breakout inclusion in Innistrad for them to have a proper tribal commander. An attempt was made with Ulrich of the Krallenhorde, but while he is a really good Werewolf, he is an incredibly subpar Werewolf commander. WotC knew they had to fill this (frankly embarrassing) hole in the commander roster, and with Midnight Hunt, I believe they did, and with aplomb!
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In my Gold Set Review for Midnight Hunt, I unabashedly praised Tovolar for being the best Wolf and Werewolf commander, and I still stand by it. Unlike Ulrich, Tovolar actually cares about Wolves and Werewolves, allowing you to draw cards with them, automatically flipping Werewolves when it comes back to your turn, and giving his team their own personal Kessig Wolf Run, and all for three mana! This is the commander that Werewolves have needed for a a long time, and I'm happy they've finally got him.
I'm not the only one who thinks this either. The data also reflects this opinion:
Tovolar is leading the pack in terms of most built commanders from Midnight Hunt, with nearly 1,500 decks built around him in the past month, which is incredibly impressive. There was obviously an appetite for Wolf and Werewolf tribal that needed to be sated, and Tovolar seems to sate it... for now.
Enough praise. Let's dig into the issues with the average list. First and foremost, as always, there aren't enough lands. This deck is mana-hungry, especially since we have a mana sink in the command zone. 34 lands just won't cut it, even if the deck has two Zendikar Rising MDFCs in it. I added two basics basics and brought the land count up to the minimum 36 lands (though a few more wouldn't hurt either). On top of this, a handful of the Werewolves in here are... unimpressive, to say the least. Lambholt Elder and Mondronen Shaman are pretty laughable and aren't impactful enough, even if Tovolar flips them. Unnatural Moonrise and Waxing Moon are flavor home-runs, but we have better options both these effects in the command zone and in our deck.
When all was said and done, I trimmed 12 cards from the list and added two lands, which left me with ten slots I had to fill, so I prowled through the Werewolf Tribal Page to see what offerings it had for our pack.
...It's a Collar...
Of the 12 cards I cut, six of them were creatures, so my first order of business was replacing them with more impactful pooches.
While the Eldrazi Werewolves don't work super well in a Tovolar deck, since he is unable to flip them, I believe Shrill Howler is a really solid inclusion regardless. Tovolar wants Werewolves to connect with opponents so you can draw cards, and having one that's difficult to block, especially when combined with the plentiful amount of power-pumping in the deck, is splendid. Since I was interested in some non-trample evasion, I also added Gatstaf Shepherd to the deck. Shepherd can come down early, get some damage in and draw some cards, and keep the beats coming once it flips and gains intimidate! I love me some 2/2s for 2 with upside!
Speaking of pump, it's an absolute travesty that Wolfir Silverheart and Fangblade Brigand have not made their way into the average Tovolar list yet. Silverheart is an absolute beating, adding an additional 4 power and toughness to itself and another creature, providing immediate impact. Fangblade Brigand on the other hand doesn't have the board-shaking presence of Silverheart, but it does threaten a huge amount of damage once flipped thanks to its board-pumping ability. Having a massive team-wide pump that we can dump our mana into is awesome, especially when combined with all the various ways to give trample in the deck. These two are my personal favorite inclusions for this list based on their strength alone.
With all this consideration of pumping power and going wide, the final two creatures to add will help us do just that: build out a large pack! Both Primal Adversary and Master of the Wild Hunt give us Wolves, which synergize with all of our mass pump and tribal synergies, while also being great cards in their own right. Primal Adversary is a big trampler that can get bigger the more mana we put into it. This will also immediately give us a huge board of Wolf-lands too, helping out build out a board immediately. Meanwhile, Master of the Wild Hunt will slowly make 2/2 Wolves over time, but also gives us the ability to leverage them as a form of removal if we need it, clearing the way for the rest of our creatures.
...Especially Avacyn's Collar, the Symbol of...
With the creatures out of the way, I wanted to see if there were any good noncreature spells I could fit into the last four slots. The enchantment package in the deck was robust, and I felt like the artifacts and 'walkers were fine as well, so I turned my attention to see what instants and sorceries would work best here.
In terms of instants, Ram Through and Valakut Awakening are fantastic for us. I pulled Moonlight Hunt out of the deck for Ram Through. While both will often function as a Murder, Ram Through has the upside of being able to nug opponents for a ton of damage if we pump any mana into them with Tovolar's activated ability. As for Valakut Awakening, it's one of the best MDFCs red has to offer, and any deck that can run it should do so. We'll be drawing a lot of cards in this deck, and it is great to have a spell that can filter less desirable ones out of our hand, while also being a land if we need it.
As for sorceries, I'm quite pleased with the options here as well. My picks for these slots were Dire-Strain Rampage and Fury of the Horde.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I am an absolute sucker for modal spells, so a sorcery version of Roiling Regrowth that has Flashback but also doubles as removal for pesky permanents? Sign me up! Flexibility like this can't be beat. Conversely, Fury of the Horde does one singular thing and does it very well: it lets you beat even more face. Fury of the Horde is often overlooked due to its prohibitive casting costs - it's only included in 3,500 decks, while Relentless Assault, which is much easier to cast, shows up in over 10,000. That said, Fury of the Horde is perfect for a Tovolar deck. We're going to attack so often and draw so many cards that we'll happily exile two red spells from our hand to potentially kill an unsuspecting opponent, all while refilling our hand to boot! Like I said earlier, this deck is incredibly mana-hungry, so if we can get a free extra combat step, while dumping all of our mana into activated abilities and recouping the card investment, why wouldn't we?
...A Joke that Never gets Old.
There we have it! A wily and wild Werewolf deck, suitable for only the most vicious hunter!
All I can say is that I am so incredibly excited that we finally have a proper Werewolf commander, and one that works not only with both old and new Werewolves, but one that can also double as a Wolf commander too!
One thing I want to mention is that, while I went full force and embraced my inner Werewolf to include the biggest, splashiest ones I could, I think there's also a build of this deck that goes super low to the ground with cheap Wolves and Werewolves, a la Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Do I think such a hypothetical build is any good? Honestly, I'm not too sure. The threats aren't evasive, and we don't have access to extra turn spells, but I thought it was worth mentioning regardless, in case it was something that you wanted to try out.
With all this out of the way, I can't help but notice the moon dipping below the treetops. The sun is rising, and Monster Month comes to an end. Thank you all for coming along with me for this terrifying October treat. I love Halloween and Autumn in general, so I appreciate the company on these chilly nights, and hope I was able to put you in the holiday spirit, even if it was just by a bit.
If you would like to check out my previous three Monster Month articles, please feel free to follow the links below:
As always, you can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, get vaccinated, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.
Archetune-Up Hooting, Hollering, and Howling
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