Last updated on October 27, 2021
Tovolar, the Midnight Scourge | Illustration by Chris Rahn
It’s October, the month of spooky stories and horrifying monsters! WotC is celebrating by releasing two horrifying sets in close succession: Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow. Vampires and werewolves are running rampant in both Limited and Constructed, and today I’ll be going over a deck that features one in honor of this month’s theme.
That’s right! It’s time for a furry welcome to Historic werewolves, a new deck that’s slowly gaining popularity and packs a firm bite in the meta.
Let’s dig into it!
Llanowar Elves | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez
Ranger Class x4
Llanowar Elves is your primary enabler. It ramps you from turn 1 into turn 3, which is enormous if you consider that Reckless Stormseeker and Tovolar, Dire Overlord can quickly turn the tables if you cheat them into play a turn early. It’s also an early creature that can enable cheaper Embercleaves. It’s not as good if you top deck it late game, but the explosiveness at the beginning makes it worth a slot in the deck.
Speaking of explosive turns, Burning-Tree Emissary enables them. Sure, a 2/2 bear and one more creature may not seem like a big deal, but it can scale into quickly killing your opponent if you start piling multiples. Not to mention that you’re also running Embercleave.
Kessig Naturalist fills kind of the same role in ramping you into your late game with the benefit that it pumps more than a half of your team if it’s Night, including tokens made with Ranger Class or Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope.
Card Draw Engines
As far as the rest of the team goes, Werewolf Pack Leader and Tovolar, Dire Overlord are excellent options to avoid running out of gas. They’re both card draw engines most of the time and hits your opponent hard. Tovolar also works with Embercleave very well since it usually draws you two cards.
Reckless Stormseeker is a terrifying wolf that can pump and give haste to any creature. It’s similar to Strixhaven’s Combat Professor but on steroids. The last creature spot belongs to an all-time favorite, Bonecrusher Giant. Its flexibility and power are a must in this kind of Gruul aggro deck.
Ranger Class and Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope can both create wolf tokens and fill the role of permanents that are hard-to-deal without unconventional removal. The Class has proved its worth in Standard and now threatens to impact Historic. A single wolf isn’t that big of a deal, of course, but the fact that it threatens to grow any attacking creature is enormous, especially paired with the likes of Reckless Stormseeker or Bonecrusher Giant.
Arlinn poses a different threat. Its front side can make any creature bigger as it enters the battlefield. It can also help cast creatures at instant speed, which is huge against control decks. And let’s not forget its backside that makes it a 5/5 wolf that’s ready for action if let loose! The ramp aspect isn’t as significant but can come in handy from time to time.
The last two are probably the best spells in the deck: Collected Company and Embercleave. I can’t fully express how good these two cards are. They’ve been crushing players since their introduction and this deck exploits them as much as it can.
As far as the mana base goes, there’s not much to talk about. Stomping Ground, Rootbound Crag, and Cragcrown Pathway all provide a smooth transition between turns. Your only other manland is Den of the Bugbear, which can get a couple counters from Ranger Class while creating some goblins, especially in the long game.
Collected Company | Illustration by Franz Vohwinkel
- While casting Collected Company at the end your opponent’s turn is the usual game plan, you might want to cast it in your pre-combat main phase most of the time. It can enable attacks with Reckless Stormseeker and other card advantage.
- If you do cast Collected Company at the end of turn, make sure to count how many wolves and werewolves you end up with on the battlefield. Tovolar, Dire Overlord’s first ability transforms them at the beginning of your turn. Try to prioritize those creature types if you can.
- Kessig Naturalist can also pump wolf tokens.
- Werewolf Pack Leader can be tricky to cast since Burning-Tree Emissary doesn’t help get it on the battlefield with the mana it provides. Playing the Pack Leader first is usually better, but it depends on what you have in your hand. The mana can be used in multiple ways, like casting Bonecrusher Giant’s Stomp adventure or leveling up Ranger Class.
- Kessig Naturalist’s mana can be spent to cast Embercleave on attacks, so you can play it earlier if you need to, since the mana generated doesn’t empty when steps and phases end.
- Tovolar, Dire Overlord’s backside is a total powerhouse since it acts as a pseudo-Kessig Wolf Run.
- Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope’s +1 ability can be exploited and paired with Collected Company. This usually happens when you already have Arlinn in play and draw the Company. Activate Arlinn’s first ability, you pass the turn, and it transforms. Arlinn’s ability is still active, so those creatures get a +1/+1 counter as they enter the battlefield when you cast Collected Company on your opponent’s turn.
Post-sideboard is a different story. They’ll add in removal and potentially some artifact hate in the form of Kolaghan’s Command so you want to cut less impactful cards like Llanowar Elves that die against a single activation of Mayhem Devil. Instead bring in critical cards like Outland Liberator to deal with Witch’s Oven and Trail of Crumbs plus Abrade to kill Devils and Ovens.
Be aware that this deck doesn’t have a clean way to kill a resolved Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, so you need to counter Korvold before it lands.
You need to keep your opponent in check with Bonecrusher Giant and punch them harder with your naturally giant creatures in game 1. Killing their life gainers is critical, so those are a priority.
Game 1 can be rocky since your opponent will have multiple ways to gain life, and a timely Collected Company of their own can be devastating. It’s not impossible as long as you disrupt them enough and aim to finish things off with a big Embercleave swing.
Rampaging Ferocidon is critical to stop the life gain post-sideboard and Abrade aims to kill the rest of your opponent’s creatures. Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope doesn’t shine here and neither does Ranger Class since you don’t aim to go the long game.
Izzet Phoenix is still one of the top dogs on the metagame despite some bans, so you need to be prepared. Aim to kill Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Sprite Dragon before they get out of Bonecrusher Giant’s range. This match is going to be a grindy one, as you might expect.
Rakdos Arcanist is a very similar match to Izzet Phoenix. in that they both heavily rely on their graveyard. But this deck runs a lot of hand disruption paired with removal, which can be tricky if they get to resolve a turn 2 Dreadhorde Arcanist. Being on the play is critical more than other matchups since you rely on your deck’s explosiveness to get your opponent on their knees.
- +2 Scavenging Ooze
- +1 Klothys, God of Destiny
- +3 Abrade
- +1 Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope / Arlinn, the Moon’s Fury
Control decks are present in every format, and Historic is no exception. Whether it’s Dimir, Azorius, or really any deck running blue that aims to go the long game, the plan stays about the same: kill your opponent before board wipes clear everything and planeswalkers take over.
You need to rely on Collected Company to win here. Memory Lapse’s ban narrows control players’ options to interact with it. Haste creatures are also crucial. Reckless Stormseeker in particular shines against this kind of deck.
You can run cards that the original Gruul aggro build already runs. I’ll also give you some cards that can see play in the main deck or the sideboard to stay on-theme.
Primal Adversary can create more friends if you end up with a mana flood. Its ability also triggers upon entering the battlefield, meaning you can pair it with Collected Company and use mana from Burning-Tree Emissary.
Sometimes I feel like I have too many lands in hand. Shatterskull Smashing can be used as extra removal in aggressive matchups to remove pesky blockers.
Lair of the Hydra is another manland you can slide in if you decide that just running the red one isn’t enough. It’s usually good to have multiple options available, and this one fits in the deck perfectly.
Kessig Naturalist | Illustration by Johan Grenier
I enjoyed playing this deck. It can kill your opponent out of the blue with very aggressive starts and naturally large creatures. It also punishes your opponent for not playing anything.
So, what do you think? Is this build better than traditional versions of Gruul aggro, or is it worse? Let me know in the comments down below!
If you’re playing Historic, I’ll bet it’s on MTGA, so make sure to grab our free app Arena Tutor so you can track your matches and get statistical insights. It’s awesome.
As always, it’s been a pleasure. I’ll see you in the next one!