Welcome to Innistrad Block Constructed

Posted in Reconstructed on May 1, 2012

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

You say you've been to Innistrad. You say you've drawn mana from its spooky forests and tombstone-ridden swamps time and time again, that you've summoned all manner of Zombie and Werewolf and Spirit. Innistrad, you say, is a plane you've grown to know well.

But have you ever seen it like this?

Welcome to Innistrad Block Constructed.

While you might be used to tapping into Scars of Mirrodin block or Magic 2012 for your Standard decks, in this format there is no such luxury. Staples like Day of Judgment, Mana Leak, Birds of Paradise, Dismember, Swords of X and Y, Green Sun's Zenith, and even just plain ol' Doom Blade are nowhere to be found. The format is diversified further from Standard by the bannings of Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue. With the card pool cut by more than half and two key cards surgically removed, a lot changes.

Context is crucial—without it, I might as well be explaining how this deck stacks up against Tempest Block Constructed decks. (And seriously, who wants to play against Recurring Nightmare combo?) So this week, I'm going to try something a little different.

First, I'm going to show you the deck I'll be looking at. Then I'm going to run through the format and use the state of the format to inform our deck-building decisions. Finally, I'm going to come back to the deck and, after seeing how it fits in the format, make some changes.


I've received a lot of requests to look at a Werewolf deck, and what better opportunity than Innistrad Block Constructed? This week's deck comes from Daniel Deck—and yep, it's Werewolves! Let's take a look at his deck and where it fits in Block Constructed!

Daniel Deck's Werewolves!

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    The Landscape of Innistrad

While the Pro Tour is still a week and a half away, players on Magic Online have been relentlessly playing away at this format. I've been watching the online format for the past couple of weeks, and players have been adapting to changes very quickly. Sideboard tech calls for new sideboard tech, and some new archetypes vanish as quickly as they appear, while the core decks tend to stick around.

Griselbrand | Art by Igor Kieryluk

The most interesting wrinkle to the format is one we can't account for online: Avacyn Restored. It won't be out on Magic Online until after the Pro Tour, and the lack of tournaments combined with the freshness of the set leaves a lot of room for breakout cards.

The format will likely end up looking a little different after high-impact cards like Terminus; Griselbrand; and Sigarda, Host of Herons worm their way into decks. But let's look over some of the most popular decks on Magic Online as they stand right now, starting with what most pro players feel is the current deck to beat...

Tocayin's Red-White Humans

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It turns out that if Innistrad Block Constructed told the Innistrad storyline, we would have a much different plot on our hands.

On Innistrad, humans got beat up on in the first two sets, then Avacyn was restored and saved humanity. Order was restored, Griselbrand was slain, zombies were repelled for great justice, and so on.

In Innistrad Block Constructed, the Humans deck packs a punch after two sets, and people are looking to Avacyn Restored for ways to give the monsters and control decks the edge.

It's too bad my Griselbrand Restored packs went the way of Mirrodin Pure.

In any case, the reason this deck is so powerful is a combination of its blistering speed and long-game resiliency. Riding on in for lethal on turn five isn't unreasonable, and any draw with Champion of the Parish into Gather the Townsfolk outputs a ton of damage.

At the same time, if the opponent demands you play the longer game, Geist-Honored Monk, Brimstone Volley, and a pair of flashbacking Fireballs (aka Devil's Play) can push through a ton of damage. Even just end-stepping Midnight Haunting into Rally the Peasants can be game over against an opponent who thought he or she was safe. To make matters trickier, using one-for-one removal—usually a good strategy against beatdown—is extremely ineffectual here.

If you look down the Magic Online events, this deck is everywhere. The pros have acknowledged they are deep into working toward building decks that are strong against this deck. Like almost all Block Constructed Pro Tours, by the time Barcelona rolls around I am confident most pros will have a deck that is sure to defeat this one—but it's certainly a force to be reckoned with.

It is crucial that our finished Werewolf deck has elements to fight against this deck. Full Moon's Rise and Kessig Wolf Run are both strong against them because of the trample, and Geistflame does a lot of strong work against Champion of the Parish and token generators. A board sweeper like Blasphemous Act can be highly effective against Tokens as well, though it's not something I'd really want to main deck.

Isabadow's Red-Green Beatdown Innistrad Block

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Whereas the Red-White Humans deck focuses more on the first couple of turns, this beatdown deck focuses more on turns three through five. Huntmaster, Daybreak Ranger, Garruk, and Vorapede are all gigantic threats that can come down quickly and overwhelm the opponent. This deck sacrifices a little bit of speed from the Tokens deck, but puts those points into increased size and resiliency.

Like most beatdown decks, you just want to play up the curve and push them toward your opponent. Your creatures are so huge that you will often just be trying to attack at every opportunity. Flayer of the Hatebound is at the top of this deck's curve, adding absurd strength to Vorapede and Strangleroot Geist. Also, note the two main deck Blasphemous Acts—a testament to how important it is to fight off the Token deck in this format.

It's worth noting that our Red-Green Werewolves deck is different from this one. It gains some power out of the tribal linear and also just has a different curve. Our Werewolves deck will likely end up looking fairly different from this deck, despite the same colors.

Growingrage88's Innistrad Jund

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Jund is the evolution of the straight Red-Green beatdown deck above. This deck plays a more midrange game, cashing in some of the speed the straight red-green deck tried to provide in favor of all-star Sever the Bloodline and Curse of Death's Hold.

This deck makes much better use of the card advantage elements such as Garruk Relentless. Olivia Voldaren provides a nice way to wrench control of the endgame against straight red-green decks, and Faithless Looting is some much-needed card selection.

From the results online, it seems like most of the straight red-green players are being pushed out of the format. The Tokens deck is faster, and this deck does a better job of having top-end control elements. This informs me that our Werewolves deck is going to need to be faster than the red-green deck to survive. If Red-Green Beatdown is already on the downtrend because of being stuck in the middle of two archetypes, we don't just want to fill that gap again!

DontGetDoogled's Deranged Milling

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This deck is certainly attractive in part just because of how much fun it is. However, with a good draw, it can defeat most decks—even Tokens—fairly easily. It is susceptible to slow starts with weak draws or if the pieces don't come together.

How does it work? Your plan is to start milling yourself, making cards like Ghoultree cheap to cast and your Boneyard Wurms and Splinterfrights gigantic. This particular build also uses Kessig Cagebreakers to go crazy in the long game, creating a lethal amount of 2/2s in a single attack.

Gnaw to the Bone is the key card against beatdown here, creating a huge lifegain swing early on that will ideally buy you enough time against Tokens and Red-Green. Armored Skaab also does a surprisingly good job of holding down the fort.

Note that, while this deck is typically green-blue, there's a small splash of red here. Unexpectedly, it's to help out against Tokens. Blasphemous Act, continuing to highlight the importance of sweepers, is the only spell this deck splashes for. The other card? Kessig Wolf Run, ensuring your huge Boneyard Wurms get through anything in their way!

In case you were wondering why the red-green deck above splashed Undead Alchemist... now you know! The Alchemist is a card this deck loathes to see, and practically shuts the entire engine down. Good to know in case we want to also adopt this trick!

Wshader's Enchantment Delver

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Finally, there's this weirdo deck. If you're thinking, "wow, this just looks like a really good draft deck," you're not crazy. (By contrast, if you're thinking, "wow, this looks delicious and would make a good sandwich," then you probably are crazy.)

There are some cards in this deck most often seen on the draft tables, like Butcher's Cleaver and Fling. But it turns out that—just like in draft—Invisible Stalker plus enhancements can quickly create an insurmountable clock.

Let's imagine you lead with turn-two Stalker into turn-three Cleaver. Your draft experience might tell you that's pretty good on its own, but not good enough to send a Constructed deck like Tokens packing. However, suit that Stalker up with a Furor of the Bitten alongside the Cleaver and suddenly you're sending in for 6 points of lifelink damage every turn—youch! The fact that this deck sideboards Hysterical Blindness to race is no laughing matter, as often that one-turn tempo swing can be the game.

When you don't draw Stalker, you can also just be a Delver deck. Geistflame and Dissipate allow you to play a little control game of your own. Flipping Delver and handing it Furor of the Bitten can be a surprisingly scary make-your-own-Dragon—and then a Fling can occasionally end the game out of nowhere.

Fortunately, my experience says that quick Red-Green Beatdown draws are favored against this deck. Unless they have the perfect Stalker draw, you can quickly overwhelm them with creatures pretty easily.

    Revising Werewolves

With all of this Block Constructed information in mind, let's take a look toward revising the Werewolves deck!

Avacyn's Pilgrim | Art by Jana Schirmer amp; Johannes Voss

One of the key points of the format is that it's pretty fast. This build is going to need to play quickly to keep up with decks like Tokens, and also likely play some light removal that can help fight off Champions of the Parish.

I wanted to speed this deck up, and after thinking on the best ways to do that I settled on Avacyn's Pilgrim. Drawing a Pilgrim pushes you one turn ahead, allowing you to play a three-drop on turn two. Perhaps most importantly, it lets you play Huntmaster on turn three, a turn ahead of when your opponents can play theirs.

In a Huntmaster war, the person who plays the Werewolf first has a tremendous advantage. If I play my Huntmaster and then you play yours, on my turn I can elect to play no spells and pass to you. Then, because of Magic's APNAP trigger ordering—meaning, in simple terms, that if two triggered abilities would happen at the same time the player whose turn it isn't has his or her ability happen first—means mine will transform first, killing your Huntmaster before it ever transforms.

In short, getting the jump on the Huntmaster curve is a huge advantage. Most of the other Huntmaster decks can't do this, because they play Dawntreader Elk.

While Pilgrim does only produce colorless and is vulnerable to Geistflame, the downsides feel worth the tremendous upside. In many cases, his speed will just allow you to steamroll the opponent.

There were two other huge cards I added.

Daybreak Ranger was one of them. First, it's an easy-to-cast-off-Pilgrim three-drop that is also on-theme. Second, it's very good in this metagame, with its front side fighting off flying tokens and its transformed side killing most of the threats decks have to offer. It's dangerous out there, and I definitely wouldn't leave without taking this.

The other card I added was Wolfir Silverheart. This card has flown relatively under the radar, and normally I wouldn't want to curve up to five in this deck, but the strength of this card forces me to make an exception.

Wolfir Silverheart has been called the green Sovereigns of Lost Alara, and for good reason. He's an 8/8 for five mana that also has 4 extra points of haste power the turn he comes down. He works great with Kessig Wolf Run and Immerwolf to get damage through, and his body is game winning if the opponent can't deal with him. There isn't even Dismember in block to put a cramp on his style!

I reworked the numbers on the creatures, trying to parse it down to the best Werewolves, and also played around with the spells a little to maximize removal while leaving plenty of room for creatures. The result:

Empire of the Wolf

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I'll get into sideboarding in just a moment—but before I do, several people have sent me emails and tweets asking for me to provide other takes on the decks I pick when possible. Since I worked through this deck in several different ways before ending at this conclusion, I'd be happy to oblige!

There was another list I liked. Instead of being a little higher on the curve and using Pilgrim for acceleration like my first list, this one is just a straight-up, low-curve beatdown deck. It can be quick and brutal with tons of Werewolves and ten "lord" effects. Knowing how to manage your turns so your Werewolves flip is gigantically important in this deck.

Ultimately, I preferred the version that curved a little higher because I love lands and felt Wolfir Silverheart is worth it, plus you aren't in such rough shape to cards like Rolling Temblor. However, it's still a pretty good route and is worth checking out. For you Werewolf players who love to beat down, here you go:

Bonus Beatdown Werewolves

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Against Beatdown

While fighting against aggressive decks, you are usually positioned well to be the beatdown or controlling player depending on your hand. If you lead off with Pilgrim, you can very easily put the opponent—even Tokens—on the defensive.

However, most often you will end up attritioning them and playing a more midrange game. This is where Silverheart really shines. Trading looks all fine and good to an opponent—until WHAM! 4 extra damage plus an 8/8.

Tracker is a complete gamebreaker against any kind of slower, nontoken-based beatdown deck. In conjunction with a flipped Werewolf or Wolfir Avenger, it can turn into a one-sided The Abyss fairly easily. Full Moon's Rise helps you play the attrition game better while also trampling over tokens, which is incredibly important. Pillar is added removal that is incredible against Strangleroot Geist.

Blasphemous Act is a key card here. Don't overextend yourself, and try to trap your opponent in a Blasphemous Act. Keep in mind, your opponent will likely be doing the same, so play accordingly.

The weak cards in this matchup are Wolfbitten Captive and Immerwolf. Huntmaster is crucial here, and Immerwolf interacts poorly with your own Huntmaster. (Although a 5/5 is certainly nothing to complain about!) The Captive is just slow. He's unlikely to flip, and you don't really want a random beater one-drop in these matchups; your more pricey cards are the ones that really matter.

Against Control

It's hard to say what to do for sure, because the closest to control there really is in the Magic Online format is the Jund deck. Against Jund, you board very similarly to against the beatdown decks, only you don't bring in Blasphemous Act.

I'd imagine post-Avacyn Restored, however, there is a deck that uses Terminus; Tamiyo, the Moon Sage; and potentially Devastation Tide, alongside some card drawing, light removal, and Snapcaster Mage. It doesn't really sound like any of your sideboard cards are that exciting in this case, which is not ideal.

The two cards I would look at adjusting the sideboard to include for control are Archwing Dragon and Triumph of Ferocity. But until there is a better idea of what control looks like (which there might be by the time this article is published) I would leave the sideboard as-is.

Against Combo

The Milling deck definitely fits the combo bill. Against them, you just want to attack over and over, while targeting their important pieces with removal. In general, you want to try and flip Daybreak Ranger and Huntmaster, since they can remove a lot of the smaller creatures in your way and generate an advantage.

Undead Alchemist stops them from doing anything until they kill it, but keep in mind they will likely be prepared for it; it's simply a vehicle to buy you time. A sideboarded-in Tracker can also be quite good against them if drawn early. A huge Boneyard Wurm, Ghoultree, or Splinterfright is very difficult to deal with outside of Blasphemous Act, so you will want to use those sparingly.

I would take out Wolfbitten Captive, as the body isn't too exciting against them. Wolfir Avenger is also mediocre as just a body that might get blocked by a 1/4.

Against Stalker Blue, Tracker, Pillar, and Full Moon's Rise are all fine cards to bring in over Silverheart and Immerwolf. Generally, you just want to be as aggressive as possible and you should be able to take it down with little difficulty. Watch out for Rolling Temblor, and keep in mind Full Moon's Rise is a good answer for it.

You also want to bring in the single Grudge. I only wanted one in the sideboard because drawing it when your opponent doesn't have Cleaver or Pike really slows you down, and the matchup is fairly favorable to start. If you feel you ever need more help in this matchup, look to sideboarding more Grudges.

    Honorable Mentions

I receive many great decklists, but can only choose one each week. Here are some other candidates that nearly made the cut from this week. What would you change to these decks?

Mikelis Sepanuks's UW Delver

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Garth Avery's Miracle Control

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Nathan's Dual Casting Combo

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Cael's Grixis Vengeance

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    Block Party

With the Pro Tour next weekend, we're staying the course on Block Constructed for next week! Part of the goal of this week's article was to set you up for what Block looks like right now.

Now that we've gotten that information into your head, it's time to commence Phase Two: unrestricted Block submissions!

Format:Innistrad Block Constructed
Restrictions: None! (Please ensure your decks are Innistrad Block Constructed legal, however. No cards from Scars of Mirrodin block or Magic 2012 are allowed!)
Deadline: Wednesday, May 2 at 6pm Pacific Time
Send all decklists via email by clicking the "Respond via Email" link at the bottom of this article

With the Pro Tour happening next weekend, the goal for next week is to make a deck that someone would be happy playing on the Pro Tour. I'll be taking a very Spike-like approach to the exercise next week, so keep that in mind while submitting.

Looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with! If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to send them my way on Twitter.

Until next week, may your opponents choose Block and not block.


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