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Advanced Jumpstart: Innistrad's Werewolves


We're back for another wicked week of Advanced Jumpstart - Innistrad edition! This time we're moving onto one of the more savage tribes of the plane: werewolves! Yes, the vicious lycanthropes have been a massive fan favorite and it was only a matter of time before I tackled them here. As with many of my articles discussing the plane of Innistrad this year, there've been many great werewolf horror films I've enjoyed over the years. Classics like An American Werewolf In London, The Howling, and Ginger Snaps have been favorites of mine for a long time, and it's wonderful to see them slowly get more and more love over the years.

Remember when I mentioned that vampires were extremely rare when I started playing Magic back in the 90's? It was even worse for werewolves! While vampires slowly started to get a trickle of creatures over the years before Innistrad, werewolves had only three. You read that right: there were only three werewolves in the entirety of Magic prior to Innistrad. Here they are:

Lesser Werewolf
Greater Werewolf
Treacherous Werewolf

None of these were good, and arguably a bit off-flavor as well. With each one being Black, it's apparent they were trying to play up the horror aspect and monster vibe, which would happen with a lot of these horror monsters in the past. There wasn't really any focus on the wild nature of them in Red and Green like we see today. Nowadays Wizards is a lot more willing to put the "evil" tropes and characters into a multitude of colors, so it brings us to the wondrous world of Innistrad's werewolves.

Now give a big old howl, bark at the moon, and let's dive into some sweet Advanced Jumpstart - Innistrad Werewolves! Let's start out with the classics of the original Innistrad block - Magic's first major foray into this majestic tribe!

When it comes down to it, werewolves are by far the most straight-forward aggressive strategy you could hope for with these kinds of Jumpstart packs. Now, that's obviously not to say that vampires and zombies weren't as well (these things happen with Limited oriented tribal lists), but those had a little more going on with them. Vampires utilized discard to work with madness and the like, while zombies had some sacrifice, mill, and tap down interplay. Werewolves? By and large, you're turning them sideways and attacking.

Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells
Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha

For the most part, this has to do with Wizards erring on the side of caution with a lot of the double-faced cards. This was new territory for Magic and that can lead to WotC either overshooting it and making the cards too strong, or they end up a bit more on the conservative side. The latter is where we end up on the original Innistrad block. Unlike most of the other tribes which all have something interesting about them, the werewolves this time around mostly end up being either basically vanilla creatures or else French vanilla. They're boring and either have no abilities besides their flip, or if they do they're keywords or stat boosts.

In fact, some of the only interesting ones were cards like Daybreak Ranger // Nightfall Predator and the Constructed classic Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells. The other problem is that once you hit Avacyn Restored, werewolves actually went away full stop. Instead, we ended up with the Wolfir... and only in small numbers at that. Thankfully most of the werewolf tribal stuff worked with plain old wolves as well, so it worked out in the end. What we're left with, though, are mostly just narrowing the packs down to arguably their most aggressive and calling it a day.

Wolfir Avenger
Wolfir Silverheart

Thankfully, Shadows Over Innistrad block offers a little bit more in terms of variety, so let's check out what that has to offer us in the next pack.

Now here's where things start to get a lot more interesting! Don't get me wrong - at the end of the day these are still by and large attacking and raw aggression. That's Gruul colors for you, after all. You're not going to get too much complexity out of it and by and large, it's a lot of attacking. What you do get here, however, is a lot more strategic elements being added to the mix.

With the original Innistrad block, most of the creatures are simple and basic. You play them out, they boost each other, you attack with them, and that's mostly all you can really do. Here, though, you get activated abilities! Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler lets you find creatures and even makes ones already in your hand cheaper once it flips. Ulrich's Kindred makes your creatures unkillable if it's attacking - not to mention Ulrich himself does a ton of damage on his own and can take out opposing creatures.

Shrill Howler // Howling Chorus
Arlinn Kord // Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon

Then there's Shrill Howler // Howling Chorus. I actually considered putting more of these Eldrazi werewolves into the mix, and I think there's definitely room for them if you want to swap things around. Here, I simply wanted to keep it tight to a lot of the best that the sets had to offer, and I think this was easily the best of the bunch. If you transform it, you can get a ton more creatures each turn it connects for damage, which is a hell of a good deal. Several of the others are quite powerful and have solid effects, so if you wanna change things up a little, I'd absolutely make sure you give them a look first.

Last but not least, it's worth mentioning that here we also get a planeswalker for the first time in this set of packs thanks to Arlinn Kord // Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon. She's a great planeswalker with a ton of superb ways to play into the werewolves strategy. She can either make more creatures, buff your existing board, or, if she gets big enough, she can create an emblem that'll make your team nigh unbeatable. Just an all-around excellent planeswalker, and dare I say an MVP for something like Jumpstart packs.

Of all the tribes so far, I think it's pretty safe to say that werewolves is actually one of the best when it comes to Shadows block. Vampires and zombies both try to play a little too much with discarding and self-mill - strategies that don't translate as well to Jumpstart where the other half of your deck likely won't correlate with that at all. With werewolves, though, you get a more refined version of the first block and it works well with other unrelated Jumpstart packs, and that makes it great for what's being attempted.

We have one last block to check out, though, so let's dive into the two most recent sets of Midnight Hunt and Eldritch Moon.

More creatures, more attacking! That's Gruul for you, and so too are werewolves! I do think these ones are a bit of a step down from the ones we had in Shadows block, but not by much. Make no mistake: these cards are far better than what we had in the original Innistrad, but there's also a reason why a number of players were disappointed in werewolves in this block. There just didn't feel like there was a ton of substance for what you'd expect out of a set like Midnight Hunt that was touted as a set defined by werewolves.

Thankfully, though, there's still a lot of great cards and a lot of excellent play. We've got far less activated abilities, with the only ones here being Outland Liberator // Frenzied Trapbreaker and Child of the Pack // Savage Packmate. Both fill excellent roles with the former taking care of problem artifacts and enchantments as needed and the latter putting down a ton of creatures and later pumping them up. And if you get Tovolar to flip, you get access to a powerful and repeatable Kessig Wolf Run effect, which is no joke!

Tovolar, Dire Overlord // Tovolar, the Midnight Scourge
Avabruck Caretaker // Hollowhenge Huntmaster

Cards like Ascendant Packleader, Packsong Pup, and Avabruck Caretaker // Hollowhenge Huntmaster all pack an absolute wallop as well. You can also get some additionally potent buffs from Reckless Stormseeker // Storm-Charged Slasher and Howling Moon, and if you need removal Duel for Dominance and Moonrager's Slash have your back. Last is Arlinn, the Pack's Leader // Arlinn, the Moon's Fury. She's a bit less potent compared to her Shadows Over Innistrad version, but she still makes a ton of creatures, enables you to flip to night more effectively, and can give you some extra mana toward your top end as well. That's the whole package right there, and makes for an excellent pack!

Now, let's mix all the sets together for one epic pack!

With this pack, we're back to getting as all in on the aggressive cards as possible. That might not seem too exciting, but that's how it tends to happen when you get a deeper pool. The more aggressive cards end up being oftentimes the least interesting and, frankly, that's what ends up happening here. It's a greatest hits with a little extra in Tovolar's Huntmaster // Tovolar's Packleader, which I opted for here over Avabruck Caretaker // Hollowhenge Huntmaster to fill out the board more. Drop the heavy hitters and take your opponents down!

And that wraps up another sweet week of Advanced Jumpstart! We've had quite a successful hunt with our werewolf friends and now it's time to move it along. Next week we're going to be covering the ghoulish and ghostly spirits of Innistrad, and we'll be doing tons of tapping in the process. I'll see you there!

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

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