Running with the Pack

Posted in Serious Fun on September 25, 2007

By The Ferrett

Wren's Run Packmaster.

Sounds like a tongue twister, doesn't it? Go on. Say it four times fast. Oh, you did say it fast?

Then I guess it's not a tongue twister, but one of the best casual cards to come along since Stuffy Doll. Wren's Run Packmaster is stuffed with solid abilities, including a solid protection against Wrath of God that masquerades as a downside and a happy synergy with some of the protagonists from Jack London's most famed works.

And the good news is, you don't have to open booster packs to get this little gem—you can get a pretty foil copy with alternate art just by playing at the Prerelease this weekend! Really, there's nothing bad about Wren's Run Packmaster.

Except stumbling on that name. I can't say it four times fast.

But you don't know what Wren's Run Packmaster is.... So I'm going to reveal it slowly to you, one bit at a time. Let's start by discussing the fine details of Wren's Run Packmaster's casting cost, Wren's Run Packmaster's size, and Wren's Run Packmaster's supposed "drawback."

Click here.

That's a pretty spicy package right there. A 5/5 Elf Warrior for ? Given that you'll naturally be playing with Elves (and their mana-generating abilities), this could be out by turn three without too much trouble. Even if it was vanilla, you'd still have a pretty darned big creature out early, ready to beat down at will.

Obviously, based on the artful way we've blacked out the card here, Wren's Run Packmaster isn't a vanilla 5/5. But bear with me for a moment as I unveil this little casual champion to you, bit by bit.

Now, the whole "champion an Elf" thing means that you have a choice to make: do you assume your opponent(s) have no removal, and just plop it down on turn three to try to speed it out... or do you wait until you have a couple of backup Elves in case someone has a Shock? After all, it would be disappointing to triumphantly shout, "WREN'S RUN PACKMASTER!" only to have to sacrifice him because your Llanowar Elves got Terrored.

But that's not a real drawback. For one thing, Elves are small and cheap. You can easily play two Elves by turn three (I suggest Llanowar Elves and the old-school Priest of Titania) as a backup plan—or if not, you can wait until you have a few more Elves out to ensure that your Packmaster hits the field. Championing an Elf should be fairly trivial.

The good news is that you don't lose your championed Elf. It just hovers there like an angel about the Packmaster's shoulders, waiting for that Wrath of God to hit. And when Wren's Run Packmaster has gone away, it comes trotting back, possibly the lone survivor of a devastating cataclysm.

Caller of the Claw
In fact, if you're very clever, you can abuse that by choosing to champion an elf with a "comes into play" ability—so if someone takes out the Packmaster, you get a nifty consolation! Now, admittedly, Elves aren't known for their "awesome comes-into-play abilities" ... but given that a lot of Elves have been printed over the years, there are some solid choices to pick from, like:

  • Civic Wayfinder or Wood Elves to fetch you land
  • Sylvan Messenger to stock your hand with more Elves
  • Viridian Shaman to destroy those randomly pesky artifacts
  • Fierce Empath to get you some large men to ramp into
  • Deranged Hermit to get you a four-set of 1/1 Squirrel tokens with a +1/+1 bonus (a favorite strategy of Aaron Forsythe)
  • Caller of the Claw, to punish someone quite severely for daring to use mass removal to get rid of your Packmaster (this old-time favorite was suggested by none other than site manager Scott Johns)

(Other options to be experimented with: Coiling Oracle, Llanowar Sentinel, Multani's Acolyte, Quirion Sentinel, Quirion Trailblazer, Riftsweeper, Skyshroud Sentinel, Wurmskin Forger—all of which might have their place at your table, but I think they're not quite as useful as the ones listed above without some deck-tweaking to maximize their potential. Oh, and if you're feeling larfy, you can always try to re-roll your Elvish Impersonators.)

But personally, I think that one of the better ways of abusing it might be with another card in Lorwyn... but more on that in a bit.

Wren's Run Packmaster, in effect, offers you three choices:

  • You can go for speed and beatdown by Championing disposable elves to get an early massive body.
  • You can bank against a Wrath of God by Championing some large threat like an Elvish Aberration—or, better yet, an Elvish Soultiller.
  • You can try to beat the system both ways by abusing it with comes-into-play stuff.

That's a pretty nice set of options for ... and that would be pretty neat, even if that was all there was to it. But there is more!

Click here.

All of your Wolves have deathtouch? That's pretty nice—especially since both Tolsimir Wolfblood and Elfquest showed that Elves and Wolves are as tight as peanut butter and jelly.

The rules tell me this:

"A Wolf's deathtouch ability will trigger if both Wren's Run Packmaster and that Wolf are in play at the time the Wolf deals damage. The deathtouch ability will then destroy the creature dealt damage by the Wolf even if the Wolf or Wren's Run Packmaster leaves play before the ability resolves."

So basically, as long as you manage to have both the Wolf and the Packmaster in play, your Wolves kill everything. They are poison wolves. Their fangs glisten with a deadly substance that chews through walls, seeps through dragonhide, slaughters anything that touches their molars. Yes, you are the Packmaster, your Wolves an unstoppable battalion...

...What's that? There aren't that many good Wolves to throw into a theme deck? Actually, I agree with you. There's Howling Wolf, which can fetch another three copies of himself, and Lone Wolf, which has a nice ability but works totally at odds with deathtouch, and the vanilla 3/3 Watchwolf. Oh, I suppose you could throw in Wyluli Wolf to boost your guys, but that's not a battalion of Wolves—that's a random scattering of doggy tribes, without much to link them together.

Oh, wait—did I forget to mention the best ability on Wren's Run Packmaster?

Click here.

Wren's Run Packmaster

That's right, baby—the Packmaster comes with its own army. Add mana and stir.

I'm "the multiplayer guy" here at, so let me harp on one of my own recurring themes: multiplayer games are often a battle of attrition. Stretching a slim sixty cards out far enough to kill six players is a difficult thing to do, especially when you draw them at the slow pace of one or two cards per turn. As such, a lot of multiplayer games are won by the person who has the most cards in hand.

Wren's Run Packmaster is designed to make that attrition war yours. You don't need to play other creatures when the Packmaster's in town—sink your mana into its token-generating ability at other players' end of turn, and soon enough you'll have an army that nobody can block without losing their men. One or two go-rounds with this guy and you'll be a threat to be reckoned with, all without expending any more cards.

What's that? People will try to kill the Packmaster? Of course they will. But when it dies, you get a creature back—one that, as I've noted, can get you some considerable benefit when it returns. Like, say, the Lorwyn card I mentioned earlier.

Click here.

Elvish Harbinger

Aww, yeah. Turn one Llanowar Elves, turn two Elvish Harbinger to fetch the Wren's Run Packmaster, turn three champion out the Packmaster with two mana to spare for protection spells—and if someone cacks the Packmaster, well, you can just fetch another one when the Harbinger comes back down. You can't tell me that's not sweet.

And given that one of the best colors to combo with green is white, which offers scads of protection abilities (even assuming you don't play with some in-green protection spell like Dense Foliage or Privileged Position), and given that the Packmaster is low-cost enough that you should be able to play it with mana left over for tricks, it'll probably be a bit more difficult to kill this guy than you'd think.

Even if they do, though, chances are pretty good you'll have squeezed a Wolf or two out of him before he dies. That means you've put some threats on the table without expending cards from your hand. Now you have a mitt full of options (and some extra bodies around for offense or defense), while your opponent has had to spend his cards getting rid of the Packmaster! Sweet.

The Packmaster is a very nice creature for casual environments. And as I said, it's available at your local Prerelease this weekend, where you can also experiment with Sealed and see the other pretty, pretty cards that Wizards has to offer. What's not to love?

Oh. Right. That tongue-twister name. But I'm sure you'll hear it said enough that you'll get used to it Real Soon Now.

Go to your local store for Lorwyn Release Events October 12-14 for lots of fun activities and to play with the Lorwyn set as soon as it goes on sale.

Get a sneak peek at a Lorwyn Prerelease on September 29-30.

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