There Wolf

Posted in From the Lab on October 6, 2011

By Noel deCordova

Wolves. They can be pretty vicious creatures. Lithe and swift, wolves are not beings to be underestimated. If you were alone in a dark forest, you'd be scared of wolves. Well, probably anything, but wolves fall under the "anything" umbrella. That's my favorite umbrella.

What was I saying? Right, wolves. See, some wolves are particularly powerful and frightening, because they take human form and walk among the rest of us. Isn't that freaky? The worst part is that these transformations hinge upon the moon, which comes out on a regular basis. So with a touch of moonlight, that guy you were strolling along with/having an argument with might turn into a vicious monster and rip out your lymph nodes.

Werewolf Week was inevitable, from the moment Gatstaf Shepherd / Gatstaf Howler blew everyone's minds. I can't remember a new tribe having this much buzz and brawn at once. Perhaps Eldrazi could qualify, but they aren't a tribe so much as a universal destructive force. The Zendikar Vampires are probably the closest comparison, but they didn't boast a wumbo-flavorful mechanic as these internally tortured Humans do. Transform effectively captures the feel of the Werewolves. I highly enjoyed transforming my Instigator Gang and doling out huge amounts of damage with Wildblood Pack at the Innistrad pseudo-Prerelease I attended.

So let's see how many Johnnyish decks I can squeeze out of the whopping twelve Werewolves in Innistrad, all of which are basically fat bashers of faces. A tough assignment, but I'm game. I'll start off by playing the almighty "straightforward" card and slowly spiral into typical laboratory chaos. Savvy?

    Werewolf Parade

The Werewolves in Innistrad are red and green and pack massive beats. Reckless Waif is potentially a 3/2 for one red mana. Such a blatantly amazing card is reined in a bit by the transform mechanic, which serves as both flavor juice and power balancing powder. Villagers of Estwald might be a 4/6 for three, a creature that somehow trumps the already silly Leatherback Baloth. And Daybreak Ranger might be a fighting 4/4 for three. Casting and attacking with Werewolf cards feels like harnessing an unstable and jagged strength that might dissipate with the dawn of a new day.

My favorite hidden aspect of the Werewolves and other transform cards is that these cards have two names! The split and flip cards technically do also, but these guys are new! For instance, Merciless Predator, Nightfall Predator, and Howlpack of Estwald were all discussed in the above paragraph. Them werewolves sneak right into blocks of words! Horror lurks within indeed. I earnestly hope there's a Werewolf in Dark Ascension or "Roll" with two names that are an anagram of each other.

Wildblood Pack | Art by Greg Staples

So should I proceed to straightforward green and red Werewolf beats? Righto, though I'll sprinkle the list with some special singletons. First let's introduce our troops. Reckless Waif and Mayor of Avabruck kickstart the deck's curve, followed by Kruin Outlaw and Daybreak Ranger at the three slot. Instigator Gang and two copies of Ulvenwald Mystics bring up the rear. When night falls, they will transform into, respectfully, Merciless Predator, Howlpack Alpha, Terror of Kruin Pass, Nightfall Predator, Wildblood Pack, and Ulvenwald Primordials. They attack for a howling win.

Support cards are rampant. Moonmist (certainly a mind-blowing card in all aspects... "Transform all Humans?" That's a thing?) and Full Moon's Rise can bolster your guys. Evolution Charm is a one-card wonder that either helps your mana, returns a fallen Werewolf, or gives a creature flying. The latter is useful not only for evasion but for throwing up a nice target for Daybreak Ranger to snipe.

As for those wacky singletons, I thought Quicksilver Amulet might be a fun way to keep your creature flow constant without actually casting them (good for transform.) And Decree of Annihilation just needs to crop up sometimes, just to remind people that it's an uncounterable instant-speed Armageddon! Destroying all lands makes it hard to cast two spells in one turn, rendering it eternal nightfall. Oh, and super-nuking the board is fun too.

Flip, Howl, Swing

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    Mayoral Duties... Pssh

Mayor of Avabruck is a masterful card in both flavor and ability. The aesthetic value of two different tribal "lord" abilities on the two sides of one card is conceptually equaled by the cursed town mayor. On Howlpack Alpha's art he's apparently busted through the window near the back of his office. You'd think he would have planned ahead on that one. How are his correspondents not suspicious of this guy? Busted windows, mounted antlers, creepy wolf statues... all signs of either anger or political paranoia. I bet he stays elected by going after his opponents at nightfall.

Mayor of Avabruck | Art by Svetlin Velinov

Mayor of Avabruck brings a global +1/+1 to three different tribes, none of which have ever had a dedicated boost before. Wolves had Master of the Wild Hunt and Wren's Run Packmaster as lords of sorts, but Howlpack Alpha instantly vaults into their group and makes the "Wolf" deck better. Which "Wolf" deck? The one I now have an excuse to make! Yay, manipulation via words!

Two of the better Wolf generators are Howl of the Night Pack and Wolfbriar Elemental, which told me two things: mono-green and mucho mana. I filled out the early turns with actual Wolves. Darkthicket Wolf tore chunks off my life during the Prerelease, and I now respect its bite. Lone Wolf has a form of evasion, and Rot Wolf seems fun even if poison wasn't my primary victory method. That card draw can come in handy (especially when Preying Upon something. Oh yeah, Prey Upon is awesome. And in this deck).

To find my mana, I wanted something I could activate repeatedly, and wound up with Journeyer's Kite. It's useful in case I need a Mayor to transform, and its art and flavor text rock. Collective Voyage is also in the deck as a funnier version of New Frontiers. Part of me giggles when I cast a join forces card in a two player duel. Come on, opponent. Let's journey together, to a giant forest where wolves can eat... just you. Yep, they're mine. Ha?

Majestic Mosh

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Funny random things about this deck: Mayor of Avabruck pumps Master of the Wild Hunt (long-lost siblings?), and Fable of Wolf and Owl is in here. I guess it's only Fable of Wolf though.

    Something Arcane

Although simply aligned beatdown decks can trigger joy through waves of attacking, I prefer the off-kilter, slightly hysterical version of joy. The kind that induces minutes of barbed laughter, with underlying sobs and crazed body movement. There's only one such place where I partake in such activities: in public. Er, the Lab.

Anyway, that's the prologue. I was looking for interesting ways to stop Werewolves from transforming back into their tiny Human frames and stumbled across Arcane Laboratory. Well then. The next puzzle piece clicked into place when I decided that green needed a break and called the red transformers to my side. In short: A red-blue Werewolf deck with Arcane Laboratory. This is my alley.

All the red Werewolves leapt into the deck, the most excited ones being Hanweir Watchkeep, Village Ironsmith, and Tormented Pariah, since they weren't called back for today's first deck audition. They seem more than willing to transform into Bane of Hanweir, Ironfang, and Rampaging Werewolf. And under the transparent eyeball of my Lab, they'll never turn back, leaving them bloodthirsty minions forever.

I hope everyone gets how this works: through logic. Since Arcane Laboratory puts a bottleneck on spells, Werewolves will never transform back into Humans. You know what else makes total sense? I'm a night owl by nature. Ah, blissful destiny.

In the end this winds up a sillier version of Werewolf beats. Since Islands are in the deck, I added some fun blue spells. Repeal is just a solid bounce spell and can play an annoying role when your opponent's feverishly trying to land a creature (one per turn) and you bounce it. My favorite addition, though, was Skyscribing. This card blends into the deck so well it tickles my mind. You can spend your time forecasting it, which isn't casting a spell (so you can transform your creatures over whilst being productive!) And filling up your opponent's hand (especially with an occasionally huge one you actually cast) sounds like good times with the Laboratory out.

Besides, the interlocking flavor is amazing. Searching for inspiration in the sky leads to some revelations. I read the sky, and sense the forthcoming rise of the moon. Here's a card and some fangs in your neck. Oh, you've got some red on you, by the way.

Laboratory Nights

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Next week I'll wrap up the Pick-a-Word Contest. I'm extremely happy that some have seen the flavorful potential in these decks. Decks are entire worlds, you know. And when worlds collide... that's a game of Magic. Synergy is everywhere. Reach out and snag it. Until next time!

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