Tovolar, Dire Overlord is the hot new Werewolf commander from Midnight Hunt. How much better is he than what we’ve had before? How does he work? How should you build him? The moon is waxing, so let’s get started.
TOVOLAR, DIRE OVERLORD
There’s a general rule when it comes to printing viable commanders, and that’s either putting card advantage or ramp on them — or in some cases, both. (Though not too much; RIP Golos.) Tovolar, Dire Overlord has those magical words “draw a card” written on him, and it’s a fairly achievable goal — hitting an opponent with combat damage from a Wolf or Werewolf. The ability triggers anytime you deal combat damage — no limits like “once per combat” or “once per opponent.” What’s more, he has this text on either side of his transformation, ensuring you’ll always draw cards provided you can get through.
If Tovolar had no additional text, he’d still be a good Werewolf commander, but it gets even better. At the beginning of your upkeep, it becomes night if you control three or more Werewolves. Then, you can transform any number of Human Werewolves you control. That last part might seem redundant, given that the new Werewolves transform when it becomes night, but it really isn’t. It ensures that Tovolar can transform the older Werewolf cards that care about spells cast by any player.
This is an elegant way to buff the tribe in Commander, and ensures that you’ll be able to get value out of Tovolar’s transformed side more often. Once Tovolar is transformed, he has an activated ability that is basically Kessig Wolf Run for Werewolves, which is icing on the cake. Tovolar is awesome, so let’s brew around him.
Werewolves have been a troubled tribe in Commander. They haven’t had a bomb-level commander, and the old way Werewolves used to work prevented you from getting value from your board. The new rules for Daybound/Nightbound mean new Werewolves will transform more reliably, especially as the newer cards by default enter transformed when it is night. This doesn’t affect older cards, but if you’re lucky, your playgroup might let you Rule 0 to errata the older cards to match the new rules. You can always ask, right?
One thing Tovolar doesn’t give us is access to white or black. A lot of people love to play Saskia as their Werewolf commander; it lets you play both black Werewolves, as well as white effects like Rule of Law and Deafening Silence.
Because of the variance in how Werewolves end up performing, I think it’s best to account for that in deckbuilding if you want a consistent experience.
If you’re playing Tovolar without these anchor cards, you’re probably doing it wrong. Getting access to transform your board is key to making the deck work for you, and while neither Unnatural Moonrise nor Moonmist will transform your whole board (given Daybound/Nightbound cards can’t transform in any other way), they’re still great tricks to have in your back pocket.
The Celestus is really the key to the deck, so having a tutor ready to get it out when we need it is something I don’t want to pass up on. Moonsilver Key also grabs the excellent Cursed Mirror and one of the best green cards in the format, The Great Henge.
The deck needs both cards and mana to keep flowing, so we’re running plenty of both. Grow from the Ashes compliments Cultivate this time around, as our mana will vary in different stages of the game — especially given the win condition I’ve chosen.
That win condition is extra combat steps. Given we’re already swinging in to draw cards and win through combat damage, I don’t see why we can’t make mana in the process. Radha is one of the honorary non-Wolves in the deck, providing some much needed mana boosts to help us drop a board in no time. She’s joined at the top end by Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient.
The usual hits of card draw are all accounted for, with plenty in our creature base, too. Because we have Tovolar in the command zone, it shouldn’t be an issue keeping cards flowing, especially when we have multiple card draw sources in play.
Some non-Werewolves are too hard to pass up in this deck, and both Toski and Ohran Frostfang are backup ways to draw cards when Tovolar isn’t on the field. Duskwatch Recruiter and Werewolf Pack Leader are nice early drops that help us frontload our value to be used to swing with later on.
Flash & Haste
Two things make Werewolves better: flash and haste. There are some great planeswalkers available in Gruul, and Viviens and Arlinns are the flavor of the week when it comes to Tovolar. Our chosen superfriends help us cast our creatures when it’s convenient to us, while also gaining us value through tokens. Arlinn, Voice of the Pack rounds out our planeswalker package, pumping the team while dropping in 2/2 Wolf tokens.
While the headline haste cards Rhythm of the Wild and Xenagos, God of Revels both make appearances, we have plenty of action going on from our tribal creatures, too. Geier Reach Bandit, Reckless Stormseeker and Village Watch all lend power to our team while letting them swing when they arrive.
One thing to note: I concentrated on filling slots with the better Wolves and Wolf token generators, as they’re always going to be good for us where transform cards might not be.
We’ll need a wide board to win the game, so one thing the deck really wants to do is spill as many Wolf tokens into play as possible before we go for the big win.
Of course, once we have a board, we need to keep it. Anara helps keep Tovolar alive and swinging with impunity, and we can run some of the better interaction in the format in Deflecting Swat and Heroic Intervention. If we’re struggling to get through, we have both Access Tunnel and Rogue’s Passage. At worst, it’ll let us draw cards, and at best? Some of our creatures can end up lethally large!
Finishing the Game
Our main way to win with this deck is to go for extra combats. We can generate mana through combat with our creatures, and we’re in no danger of missing land drops given our generous amount of card draw.
If that isn’t enough, we have Druids’ Repository to store up mana that we can use with Aggravated Assault later on — or just at the same time. It’s hard to have too much redundancy, though, so I’ve dropped in Triumph of the Hordes and a personal pet card of mine, Winter Blast. It’s flexible and has a lot of uses, and in this deck, it can act like an Open into Wonder a good percentage of the time.
The final sample decklist looks a little something like this. I feel like 36 lands is normally pushing it for a deck that wants to get to two spell turns as fast as possible, but given the amount of card advantage in our deck, I don’t foresee missing land drops very often on average.
There are a couple final cards worth mentioning that I really like in this build. Giving our Wolves and Werewolves trample and buffs is pretty easy, but it can be more difficult for our supporting cast. Volatile Claws is a one off buff that also shares changeling around our board for the turn, meaning we can share the love to our Gods and Snakes and Elves.
Volcanic Vision is a great piece of recursion. It can get back one of our synergistic spells, one of our win conditions, or just a piece of interaction we know we’ll need, while still being a great board wipe. Buying back Blasphemous Act is particularly brutal!
Finally, Inscription of Abundance grants us a little extra life to help keep us in a game, while also giving us more relevant main modes.
Tovolar, Dire Overlord really refreshes the brewing space around Wolves and Werewolves. Stapling some great card draw and activated abilities onto a commander that can centralize the strategy, a commander that works with both new and old Werewolves? What a well designed card! I’ve opted for consistency with this build, but you could easily sub in a few cards to change up how you want it to feel.
Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. As a member of the Commander Advisory Group, Kristen lives and breathes Commander. When she’s not playing Magic, she works as a freelance writer and editor in the UK.