“The moon waxes, full and gibbous above Innistrad. Gather round, my packmates! I see many new eyes amid the darkness — as we would expect our numbers to grow during this time of endless moonrise, this… Midnight Hunt.”
“But wait! The new blood among us must know who leads the pack before they can play their part in this glorious night. Generations of werewolves before you have lent their strength and cunning to our hunt, and you will learn their names if you too wish to lead the howlpack to victory. They are the most powerful wolves to ever claw their mark upon the plane of Innistrad… and beyond.”
Werewolves have been one of the more popular options for tribal creature decks ever since their first modern appearance in Innistrad block. With tons of strong rares and a natural synergy through their shared transformation mechanics, it just makes sense to seek out other strong lycanthropes when you’re trying to improve your list! But now that we’re up to our fifth and sixth Innistrad expansions – not to mention a few cameos in supplemental products – it’s worth combing back through the list of Werewolf cards to pick out the 10 you can windmill slam into any deck.
Hailing from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms means this alpha lacks a second face to transform to, but she doesn’t let that hold her back! Getting an accessible, zero-mana card draw trigger on a 3/3 for just two mana is an incredible rate by any standards. But in any tribal-themed deck where she can pick up additional buffs and support, Werewolf Pack Leader becomes an all-time standout. She can draw cards even when attacking alone, and you’ll get maximum usage from her trample-granting “transformation” ability. She’s even tearing it up in Standard Mono-Green!
Half the incentive to play a Werewolf deck is the impressive arsenal of tribe-specific support spells. In addition to almost joining the elite club of “cards that share the name of a Magic expansion” this year, Moonlight Hunt might just be the greatest fight/bite spell ever printed! The unique templating not only ensures an irresistible amount of damage to the target, but unlike other “one-on-one” fight spells, there’s no risk of being blown out by opposing removal on the friendly target. At just two mana and instant speed, this card is a constant headache for opponents trying to block your Wolves, and all but guarantees tramplers will get through for the killing blow.
Werewolves are mostly notable for their terrific power-to-cost rate, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also contribute to a combo kill from time to time! The poster cub for main-phase utility here is Duskwatch Recruiter, who has carved out a storied career every from Standard, to Pioneer, to Modern, to Cube, to Legacy.
Look everyone, our boy’s on TV!
Despite his grizzly front-face stats, the Recruiter has found a solid niche in green toolbox decks, especially those capable of producing infinite mana (which, let’s be real, is most of them). Recruiter’s modest size and cost make him easy to tutor for and cast, where he then allows the combo player to deterministically draw and play every creature in their deck on the spot. And while he’s considered a bit of a runt among his own litter, the 3/3 stat line of his Werewolf face is often a blessing for decks packed with fragile mana dorks. When the combo plan gets hated out, it’s often the Recruiter who offers a path to recovery, offering card draw, cost discounts, and incidental beatdown.
Now here’s a card most of you probably didn’t expect on a “greatest Werewolves” list. You might even say you were… ambushed.
But it’s true! This former terror of Standard is actually a lord for Werewolf decks, and given the still-incredible deal it offers for its mana cost, it should be one you’re grateful to include. Obviously, the teamwide buff and on-type token generation are an ideal package for any tribal deck. But the ability to cast Ambusher at instant speed can be just as important to RG Werewolves as it was to UG Flash! A 4/4 is already quite a large blocker, and that’s before you calculate the amazing blowout potential of an instant teamwide pump. Any Werewolf-heavy deck must reckon with the tension of needing to grow its army without double-spelling on their turn; having one of the all-time great flash threats in-tribe is an immeasurable blessing.
Midnight Hunt has allowed us to share the glory of Werewolves across all segments of the color pie. My only regret is that it puts a card as great as this outside the reach of most Werewolf Commander decks. Brutal Cathar has already made a massive impact on Standard in just a few short weeks: with its combination of great creature types (it’s still a Human!), solid beatdown potential and built-in removal, it can swiftly send your opponents on a journey to nowhere. As time goes on, Brutal Cathar may even steal slots from Skyclave Apparition across the non-rotating formats – and that’s the highest compliment a white three-drop can get these days!
Mark Rosewater recently shared the internal vision document for the original Innistrad set, proving that WotC were planning to print a Werewolf planeswalker card as far back as 2009. Unfortunately for those lycanthrophiles among us, it took them another 12 years to finally do it – but at least this card was worth the wait! Unlike her mediocre first incarnation, Arlinn, The Pack’s Hope is an actual Werewolf, gaining the creature type along with a busted attacking statline. And since those new nightbound transformation rules allow her to show up already transformed in most cases, this Arlinn feels much more like one of the pack; having the more value-oriented side as a backup when the beatdown isn’t going well is the ideal play pattern for a were-walker!
Instigator Gang doesn’t get nearly the amount of press as the other cards on this list, even among some Werewolf players! But it should — you get the better half of a lord effect on the Human face, and once transformed, this card enters the top echelon of aggro enablers. Wildblood Pack will straight-up double the damage output of most boards (including the odd non-Werewolf utility guy – don’t worry, I won’t dob you in), and a dedicated Wolf deck should be able to guarantee it’s transformed on most attacks. The cherry on top? The templating here includes Wildblood Pack itself; even alone, you can celebrate getting an 8/5 trampler for just 3R!
Another honorary Werewolf here, and as of Midnight Hunt, perhaps the most important one of all. Yes, as a reasonably-costed lord, Immerwolf was already worth the price of admission for tribal decks, but now those decks are potentially operating under two distinct transformation rules. Immerwolf avoids any awkward desynchronization between our Midnight Hunt Werewolves and their older cousins and prevents any day triggers from setting back our clock! While the daybound/nightbound rules have unfortunately overridden forced transformation, Immerwolf’s second ability still works on nightbound Werewolves, thanks to Magic’s general rule of “can’t overrules can.” Werwölfe für immer!
Yes, you all knew he would be waiting down here at the elite end of the list. But I think the wait is important to help emphasize the historic greatness of the Huntmaster. He didn’t just define midrange decks for the better part of a decade across Standard and Modern. To many players of the era, Huntmaster of the Fells defined great card design and peak Magic gameplay. To balance a 2/2 gold card for four at mythic rarity during a period when the average power level of cards was spiking dramatically is a tremendous achievement, and the natural back-and-forth moments he provided at the top end of classic Jund endeared him even to those facing him across the table. Huntmaster’s second career as a Cube staple proves his lofty status as one of the most fun Magic cards of all time.
Looking at the number of standout cards on this list and beyond, it’s safe to say that Werewolf decks punch well above their weight for how few sets the tribe has appeared in. However, before last month there was one very significant knock against them: there was no truly satisfying Werewolf legend to lead a tribal Commander deck. It took until Eldritch Moon for WotC to offer their first effort in Ulrich of the Krallenhorde, and even then, most players were not happy to settle for a bulked-up Huntmaster in the command zone. They cried out for a pack leader who could cover for the weaknesses of the tribe — one cheap enough to show up while the game was still in the balance.
And in Midnight Hunt, WotC finally delivered with Tovolar, Dire Overlord. Like the new Arlinn, Tovolar’s daybound face delivers exactly what we need in that situation — a way out of it as soon as possible. With a flavorful Kessig Wolf Run activation stapled to the nightbound side, and the “bonus” of his obscene multi-draw trigger, Tovolar is wolf-man enough to satisfy Timmy, Johnny, Spike and Vorthos all at the same time!
TIME TO DANCE WITH THE WOLVES
“There you have it, new blood – the legends of the great wolves whose tracks you now follow. Hunt well, and perhaps soon you will be lucky enough to run alongside them instead. Howl to your kin, and be ready, for the season of the wolf is still far from over! In just a few more weeks, we’re going to crash a vampire wedding…”
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.