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Werewolf Standstill


In this experiment, we bring out opponents to a standstill, make them hesitate, and then toss them to the werewolves.

Building a Doran, the Siege Tower Tiny Leaders deck last week turned out to be a lot of fun for me. New formats tend to have that effect, as a new format means new deck-building specifications and new environments for different types of effects to be showcased. Magic: The Gathering has so many cards that far too few of them are actually played with any kind of regularity, so I like to find any excuse to feature those that can be made new, interesting uses of.

Even though Tiny Leaders is basically just Commander with more restrictions, those restrictions mean a lot of different cards become usable, and those restrictions also create a different environment—when we can expect our opponents to play different types of cards, we can play different types of cards to try to defeat those opponents.

This week, I started with a concept that could be used in basically any type of deck, but then I built it in a way that should make for a unique and interesting Tiny Leaders list.

Standstill Werewolves

Innistrad’s Werewolves featured the transformation mechanic with double-faced cards. Other transform cards had different trigger conditions, but Werewolves shared the “day/night” mechanic—if no player cast a spell during a turn, Werewolves transform to their “night” sides (Bane of Hanweir) on the next upkeep. If any player cast two or more spells during a turn, the Werewolves transform to their “day” sides (Hanweir Watchkeep) on the next upkeep.

Mayor of Avabruck
Howlpack Alpha

Thus, the creatures would be frequently changing back and forth between their weak and strong forms. But what we really want is for our Werewolves to change to their strong sides and then stay that way. Werewolves can be good with instants because we can choose to cast nothing during our own turn, and as long as our opponent doesn’t cast something to ruin the night, our Werewolves will transform. Then, we just hope our opponent doesn’t cast two spells, and we can still spend our mana on our instant or card with flash.

But it would be nice if we could make it so our opponent is the one who doesn’t cast a spell, and it would also be nice to find ways to prevent our opponent from casting two spells to transform our Werewolves back to their Human sides.

Standstill makes for a good incentive for our opponent to not cast anything. And if he or she does, we get to draw three cards. Of course, if we cast a spell after we play Standstill, our opponent is the one who draws three cards, so it’s important that we are very happy with what the battlefield looks like before we cast the blue enchantment. A turn-one Reckless Waif into a turn-two Gatstaf Shepherd into a turn-three Standstill against a slow-to-set-up opponent would be pretty awesome.

Arcane Laboratory
Mana Maze

In a normal, sixty-card deck, we could play four copies of Standstill. But since we can only play one in Tiny Leaders, I looked for some other options to dissuade our opponent from casting too many spells.

Arcane Laboratory strictly prohibits anyone from casting two spells in a turn. That means that once they’re Werewolves, our creatures will never transform back into Humans. The restriction hits us as well, but we’ll just have to accept that. And we will be building our deck in such a way that we won’t be too tempted to cast multiple spells in a turn anyway.

Hesitation should live up to its name and make our opponent hesitate. It’s kind of just a bad Counterspell variant, as our opponent is able to choose what is countered, and we have to spend the mana upfront, but maybe it will be worth it if it makes our opponent pass the turn with no play. If you’re on the other side of the table from a Hesitation, just cast a spell and take that thing of the battlefield as soon as possible—unless you’re ahead onboard.

Reckless Waif
Merciless Predator

Mana Maze is yet another parallel effect that won’t bother us so much if we’ve built our deck to not want to cast more than one spell in a turn. However, if our opponent is playing any of the same colors we are, things can become more complicated. For example, if Mana Maze is on the battlefield and we leave our mana up to cast Boon Satyr on our opponent’s turn, if he or she casts a green spell before we cast our Satyr, we won’t be able to do so at all. It’s worth considering casting such a spell during the opponent’s upkeep just to lock him or her out of spells of a certain color. Regardless, Mana Maze should act as a kind of Arcane Laboratory to help us keep our Werewolves in savage form.

Finally, Taurean Mauler doesn’t directly restrict spell-casts in any way, but it does reward us for our opponent’s spells, thus serving as a possible dissuasion. It also has changeling, meaning it’s both a Human and a Werewolf for tribal purposes with Mayor of Avabruck (and Full Moon's Rise if you decide to use it).

Commanding the Wolves

With the shell of the Werewolves and the Standstill effects, and with the knowledge that we want to build a Tiny Leaders deck, we have to determine a commander for the team.

Yasova Dragonclaw
Werewolves are red and green, and Standstill and friends are blue, so we need a Temur-colored, 3-mana, legendary creature. Yasova Dragonclaw seems perfect! She’s a high-powered, aggressive creature with built-in Threatens, thus clearing away blockers and creating more attackers to let us deal more and more damage with our transformed Werewolf army.

Yasova, however, doesn’t work directly with Werewolves in terms of synergy. She doesn’t lock out our opponents from casting spells in any way, she doesn’t transform creatures, and she doesn’t work with any potential tribal synergies. But she does offer some tricks of her own.

Notably, whenever we borrow a creature, we’re free to attack with it, but we can also make use of it in other ways to really amplify her creature-borrowing superpower.

Something like Fling is the obvious choice. After—or even during—combat, we can sacrifice the Threatened creature and deal some damage to another of our opponent’s creatures or directly to our opponent. That said, I decided to forego Fling and run a few other options instead.

Reckless Abandon is very similar, but it deals a guaranteed 4 damage, which I expect will be higher than most opposing creatures’ power, considering the 3-mana format cap. In addition, it only costs 1 mana. It’s a sorcery, but we probably won’t want to sacrifice the creature until after combat anyway.

Life's Legacy should give us a good return on card-draw. The worst case is that we are playing against my Doran deck from last week and have to sacrifice one of many 0-power creatures, but sacrificing, for example, a 2-power creature to draw two cards and destroy our opponent’s dude is plenty good enough. Even one is worthwhile, and three or more would be pretty crazy.

Reckless Abandon
Life's Legacy
Nulltread Gargantuan

Crack the Earth seems great, as it’s also only 1 mana and is guaranteed to take away two opposing permanents: the one we borrowed and one of the opponent’s choice. Whereas Reckless Abandon may not be able to kill another of the opponent’s things, Crack the Earth will definitely hit something. The opponent may not mind the loss, such as an excess land, but I still think this will be a strong choice with Yasova Dragonclaw.

Finally, I included Nulltread Gargantuan. One of the goals of this deck was finding ways to circumvent the 3-mana restriction by finding cards that let me make alternate uses of mana (such as kicker and X spells) and by finding cards with drawbacks that keep their massive sizes below 3 mana (such as Werewolves and Nulltread Gargantuan). We don’t really want to be putting our own creatures on top of our library, as that costs us a card, but if we can use 6 mana to Threaten a creature and then make a 5/6 while putting that borrowed creature on top of our opponent’s library, we will be pretty happy.

Daybreak Ranger
Nightfall Predator

As a bonus, Jinxed Idol is one I included in the sideboard. But it might just be worthwhile for the main deck. If we sacrifice our opponent’s creature to it, we’ve both denied him or her a creature and given him or her the choice between sacrificing more creatures and starting to take a steady stream of damage. This does have the potential to backfire, but with Yasova always on deck to let us sacrifice an opponent’s creature and a 0-mana sacrifice outlet, Jinxed Idol seems pretty great.

My sideboard is twenty cards instead of ten, so feel free to move some of them into your main deck based on card availability and preference, and then cut the rest of the cards you don’t like from the sideboard. Before I go, I’ll discuss a few individual cards.

Kavu Titan
Turbulent Dreams

Kavu Titan and Teleportal both fit the plan of playing cards that let us bypass the 3-mana restriction. Kavu Titan is a 2/2 for 2 or a 5/5 with trample for 5, which isn’t normally allowed in this format. I haven’t played much Tiny Leaders, but I wonder if 5/5s are just bigger than most everything (other than Nulltread Gargantuan of course). Teleportal costs ur, but we can overload it for 3ur, letting us cast a spell with 5 mana worth of power level. I expect the downside of this deck is having a bunch of high-power creatures that can’t break through for some reason (though Yasova should provide quite a bit of help), and Teleportal can just let us end the game.

From the sideboard, I’ll mention Apocalypse Hydra, Turbulent Dreams, Hypnotic Siren, Kavu Lair, and Ceta Sanctuary. No, X spells aren’t secrets in Tiny Leaders, but X spells also tend to make players pay for their versatility, and thus, they tend to not to particularly mana-efficient. When we cast it for 5rg, however, Apocalypse Hydra becomes more than efficient as a 10/10. That’s quite a top end for a format that maxes out at 3.

Kruin Outlaw
Terror of Kruin Pass

Turbulent Dreams is an alternative, or backup, for Teleportal. If we have enough cards, we can Cyclonic Rift our opponent’s board for less than 7 mana, clearing the way for a huge attack. The downside is that it will give our opponent plenty of cards to cast to transform our Werewolves, but with an Arcane Laboratory or Standstill follow-up, our opponent could be severely throttled, and with the Dreams’s uu cost, we just may be able to afford casting an enchantment afterward (though we may not want to . . . ).

A 1/1 for 1 with flying isn’t super-impressive, but Hypnotic Siren also gives us a Mind Control variant, which is pretty rare under 3 mana. (Legacy's Allure seems pretty good though.) With Yasova around, though, I think we’d rather steal a creature for 3 than for 7.

Kavu Lair seems interesting. Ultimately, it’s outdated and mostly replaced by Temur Ascendancy, though that’s only true for a Temur-colored deck. Without blue or red, Kavu Lair could provide a good amount of card advantage for a player with a 4-power commander, as 4-power creatures should be relatively rare. If you’re playing with Marath, Will of the Wild, for example, consider Kavu Lair.

Hypnotic Siren
Kavu Lair
Ceta Sanctuary

Finally, Ceta Sanctuary is somewhat of a pet card of mine, and it works quite well with Firewild Borderpost. This is a bit more of a tempo deck than it is an attrition deck, but against an opponent who makes you play a long game, the card advantage and selection of the Sanctuary seems strong.

If you miss Werewolves, if you love casting Standstill, or if you just want to Nulltread Gargantuan an opponent’s creature, give this deck a try.

Andrew Wilson


fissionessence at hotmail dot com

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