Cloister Graveyard In The Snow by Capar David Friedrich (1810).
Arlinn, Voice of the Pack by Ryan Pancoast.
Way back in 2005, Wizards of the Coast brought us to Ravnica and introduced us to Tolsimir Wolfblood and his legendary sidekick, Voja.
Tolsimir was a six CMC legendary Elf Warrior who pumped your Green and White creatures and who could tap to put a legendary 2/2 Green and White Wolf creature token named Voja into play. With Tolsimir on the board, your 2/2 would actually be a 4/4, so you were getting 7 power worth of creatures for your six mana. Because of its legendary status, you could replace Voja but without Mirror Gallery in play, you couldn’t easily find a way to combo off and create a huge army of Voja tokens.
The format has changed over the years. We have more powerful creatures and lower mana curves and every new set seems to find ways to push the boundaries of what we can do in Commander. With the release of the upcoming War of the Spark Magic expansion set, we are going to have a new, leaner, meaner Tolsimir.
Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves is a 3/3 who costs one less and is now an Elf Scout instead of an Elf Warrior. When this Tolsimir enters the battlefield we create Voja, Friend to Elves - a legendary 3/3 Green and White Wolf creature token.
The old and new Tolsimir and the old and new Voja can coexist on the battlefield and synergize really well together thanks to Tolsimir’s second ability.
Whenever a Wolf enters the battlefield under your control, you gain 3 life and that creature fights up to one target creature you don’t control. What that means is that with both old and new Tolsimir out, you can tap Tolsimir Wolfblood to create a 2/2 Green and White Voja token and Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves will have it fight an opponent’s creature. It would be a 4/4 thanks to the 2-color anthem from old Tolsimir. it’s also worth noting that Voja, Friend to Elves will be a 5/5 with old Tolsimir on the field.
All we need now is a Delorean and a stand-in for Dr. Emmett Brown and we’ve got a time-travel plot for the inevitable Magic: The Gathering movie. Who needs high drama and epic storylines when we’ve got Voja, Voja and A Tale of Two Time-Traveling Tolsimirs!
Leaner and Meaner
Before I start on my inevitable janky wolf tribal deck tech, I should take a moment to admit that I was seriously thinking of writing this column in verse. I was going to write The Ballad of Tolsimir, and was fixated on his apparent eagerness to fight his wolves against his foes’ creatures.
Voya, Friend to Wolves is a 3/3, so you could have him fight Saprolings, Zombies, Cats, Goblins and much, much more and survive. You could even throw Voja at Beasts, Centaurs, and some weaker Dragons and while he could die, he’ll be back the next time Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves enters the battlefield.
All this fighting inevitably found me thinking about how I’d work PETA into the storyline. Could I bring myself to find a rhyme for Michael Vick that didn’t start with “d” or “pr”? Of course, this was all under the assumption that Voja and any other wolves in the story didn’t actually want to be thrown into the fighting pit with whatever monstrosities your opponents are playing. Is Tolsimir not really that nice to his wolves? Maybe these wolves just love to fight?
The other issue with my plan was that I was initially working under the impression that you have to fight your wolves, but the card actually reads “that creature fights up to one target creature you don’t control”. That means that you do not actually have to fight your wolves. If you don’t have a good fight target, or if you simply don’t feel like introducing your puppers to the not-so-wonderful world of blood sports, you can choose to not fight them.
There’s a point here that is worth going over. As I understand it, you do have to target an opponent’s creature if there is one to target. It does not say “you may fight”. After targeting the creature and before the fight resolves and the creatures do damage to each other, you may choose not to have the fight resolve. That means that if you target a 2/2 and your opponent gives it +3/+3 or deathtouch until end of turn, you can bail out of the fight and not lose your wolf.
Is Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves really just the worst kind of friend, goading his little buddy Voja into fight after fight when he would rather just be running around howling at Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and relieving himself on Wood Elementals?
Rest assured that I can actually separate fantasy card game mechanics from true moral quandaries, but I still find it amusing.
Wolves Worth Running
This deck is going to have wolves but I’ve done my best to not just include every wolf I could get my hands on. Let’s start with a few non-token wolves.
I’m running two wolves with Undying - Howlgeist and Young Wolf. If a creature with Undying would die and it doesn’t have a +1/+1 counter on it, it is returned to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. This means that Howlgeist, a 4/2, and Young Wolf, a 1/1, can each fight a creature and then fight again if the first fight was more than it could handle.
This list has two wolves with Flash - Pack Guardian and Briarpack Alpha. The former is a 4/3 who will let you discard a land card and create a 2/2 Green Wolf creature token. The latter will let you give target creature +2/+2 until end of turn when it enters the battlefield. Both will let you deal an additional 2 points of fight damage, with Pack Guardian allowing you to clear out an extra one or 2 power creature if that’s something you need to do.
Wolfir Silverheart is a creature with the soulbond keyword. When another creature enters the battlefield under your control he can soulbond with it and give both himself and the new creature +4/+4. If you have a seriously big creature and have the ability to play a bunch of wolves, you can have Wolfir Silverheart pair with each one and increase your fight damage output by a ton until you take down your prey. Once this Wolf Warrior is paired with a creature, he can’t bond with another creature until he or that other creature has left the battlefield.
Darkthicket Wolf is one last wolf that’s included in Tolsimir’s pack. It’s 2/2 Wolf who can get pumped +2/+2 for 3 mana () when it enters the battlefield. There are lots of ways to create Wolf creature tokens, so let’s take a look at some of those.
We’ve got a pair of humans in our list who can help give us more wolves. Master of the Wild Hunt gives us a 2/2 Green Wolf on our upkeep and he can tap and then tap all untapped Wolf creatures we control to have them all fight target creature. I’m not sure if this is exactly a “fight” as your opponent can choose how their creature deals damage to your wolves, but it’s a way to use your wolves for removal once they’ve already entered the fray.
Kessig Cagebreakers will create a wolf for each creature card in your graveyard when it attacks. In the late game that could really amount to something, if you don’t wind up losing your wolves by fighting them. I’ve thrown a Wolfbriar Elemental into the mix as well. It has a multikicker keyword and will create a 2/2 Green Wolf for each time it was kicked. Since the kicker cost is just one Green mana, this might be a one-time thing but it could net you a good number of wolf tokens.
Wolfcaller's Howl should give us a steady trickle of 2/2 wolves. Feed the Pack will let us sacrifice creatures to make more wolves. Howl of the Night Pack should scale well with how long the game goes, and will net us as many wolves as we have forests. If you’re not a fan of high-CMC enchantments that don’t have an immediate impact on the game, drop some of these out and throw in more wolves. They’re easy enough to find. You’ll drop your mana curve and in some metas that can be helpful.
I don’t always include the Swords in my decks but the Sword of Body and Mind gives protection from Green and Blue and can get you another wolf if you can deal combat damage to an opponent. You’re relatively likely to be able to swing at someone with only Green and/or Blue blockers, so I think this is a pretty good piece of equipment for this deck.
With Voja in the mix, I decided not to go with token doublers like Doubling Season and Rhys the Redeemed, but between Voja I, Voja II (lupine boogaloo), our Wolves and our Wolf token creatures, we should be able to use the fight mechanic relatively often.
Bigger, Better Wolves
Fighting our Wolves might be an attractive thing to do in the early game, but as the game progresses we’ll be less and less likely to have profitable fight targets. A 2/2 Green Wolf token can take out plenty of mana dorks, but the bigger we can make them, the more likely they will be to survive a fight and the bigger the prey they’ll be able to take down.
Tolsimir Wolfblood isn’t the only creature that can give Green creatures +1/+1 and White creatures +1/+1. Wilt-Leaf Liege can do that too, and if an opponent forces us to discard her, we get to put her onto the battlefield. Mirari's Wake will not only pump our creatures, it will also pump up our mana production. Expect it to be removed, though. Most opponents won’t let you get too many turns with that much extra mana at your disposal.
I’m running a few other anthems, including Dictate of Heliod, Marshal's Anthem, and Konda's Banner but they all pale in comparison to the Queen of Mean, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. She will effectively pump our creatures for four by giving us +2/+2 and giving our opponents’ creatures -2/-2.
Moonglove and Nightshade
Another way to have our wolves punch above their weight class is by giving them deathtouch.
Ruthless Instincts can help us deal with flyers or can be used as a offensive combat trick, but we can also use it when we fight a wolf. The reach won’t do much, but the deathtouch is really what we’re after here. Lace with Moonglove will not only give one of our creatures deathtouch, it replaces itself. Deathtouch doesn’t care if damage is combat damage or not, so our wolves will be able to take down any foe that isn’t indestructible.
Nightshade Peddler is our second creature with Soulbond in this list. When a creature enters the battlefield, if it hasn’t been paired with another creature, Nightshade Peddler can soulbond with the creature and both of them will get deathtouch. If we have a lot of wolves entering the battlefield at the same time and Nightshade Peddler is unpaired, we can stack the triggers so that each wolf enters, gets paired, gets deathtouch, fights, kills its target creature, and then dies if the target creature is big enough to kill it.
We can essentially set up a Wolf Gatling Gun.
Dealing With Flyers
We’ve all been there. You build up your army of Zombies, Saprolings, or Goblins and your buddy across the table from you is playing his Dragons, Sphinxes or Angels deck. He is just completely unconcerned with your boardstate. He can swing in at you any time he likes and there’s nothing you can do to stop him, He can keep his beefy winged creatures up as blockers and safely deal with you at his convenience.
This deck has a few ways to deal with flyers above and beyond Ruthless Intincts. One way will let you get damage through and the other will help clear out flyers.
You probably shouldn’t drop either of these first two enchantments until you’re ready to swing in, but if you’ve got a problem with flyers in your meta Bower Passage and Dense Canopy will give you a way to get damage through. Corrosive Gale will let you pay mana to try to clear the skies. You’re unlikely to have any flying wolves, so you should be safe to cast this for as much as you need to get the job done.
There is another way to deal with flyers that I almost hesitate to mention.
Wolves can’t fly.
When a wolf enters the battlefield, you can target any creature for your wolf to fight.
Your wolves get to fight your opponents’ creatures, even if they fly.
I’ve got two ideas on how this would actually work.
The first way I can see Tolsimir fighting his wolves against flyers is pretty simple. He’s hanging out on the ground, as most Elf Scouts tend to do, and he spots a Drake flying way, way up in the sky. He calls out to it again and again, increasingly insistent, until he can get it to come down to earth.
“Hey you! Up there in the sky! Yeah, you - the Drake! Come here a minute… I… I’ve got something for ya!”
The unsuspecting Drake eventually floats down to earth, either tired of the constant badgering or just unable to resist the urge to find out what this odd little Elf is going on about.
The Drake lands and hops closer to Tolsimir, as the crafty Elf beckons it on, one hand behind his back… and when it gets just close enough…
He whips out a wolf and beats the Drake to death with it!
I know, I know. It’s silly, and implausible, and why would a flyer bother to come down to earth just because some whiny little Elf Scout won’t stop yammering at it?
You’ll be happy to know I’ve got another equally implausible option - the Wolf Cannon!
It’s quite simple. Tolsimir has developed the technology to load up a fancy darksteel cannon with a payload of teeth and claws that is more than capable of hitting even the highest flying foe.
If you’re not going to buy my WHA-BANG! Wolf cudgel idea, and you don’t think a Wolf cannon is quite right for Magic the Gathering, I’m not sure what we’re left with.
A Wolf Catapult?
Wolves on hang-gliders?
Wolves in Iron-Man suits!
I think the idea that you can fight your non-flyers against flyers to be inherently hilarious and you should too. It’s fine, but it’s silly, goofy fun that the folks at Wizards probably should have thought better of.
There’s a healthy mix of protection, ramp, draw and boardwipes in the list, but a younger me would have loaded up much more heavily on wolves and called it a day. I think I’ve gotten better at building more robust, resilient decks but if you’re the kind of deck-builder who turns their nose up at staples or you’re looking for more of a budget build, you can probably drop out a lot of the pricier cards, add wolves and still have a lot of fun with this deck.
Tolsimir’s Fight Club | Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Tolsimir, Friend To Wolves
- Creatures (22)
- 1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
- 1 Beast Whisperer
- 1 Briarpack Alpha
- 1 Darkthicket Wolf
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Howlgeist
- 1 Karametra, God of Harvests
- 1 Kessig Cagebreakers
- 1 Master of the Wild Hunt
- 1 Nightshade Peddler
- 1 Pack Guardian
- 1 Selvala, Explorer Returned
- 1 Silverfur Partisan
- 1 Temur Sabertooth
- 1 Tolsimir Wolfblood
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Wilt-Leaf Liege
- 1 Wolfbriar Elemental
- 1 Wolfir Silverheart
- 1 Wren's Run Packmaster
- 1 Young Wolf
- Instants (15)
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Harrow
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Lace with Moonglove
- 1 Moonlight Hunt
- 1 Naturalize
- 1 Nature's Claim
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Predator's Howl
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Rootborn Defenses
- 1 Ruthless Instincts
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Teferi's Protection
- Sorceries (12)
- 1 Camaraderie
- 1 Corrosive Gale
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Ezuri's Predation
- 1 Fumigate
- 1 Howl of the Night Pack
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 Rout
- 1 Shamanic Revelation
- 1 Soul's Majesty
- 1 Wrath of God
- Enchantments (10)
- 1 Bower Passage
- 1 Dense Canopy
- 1 Dictate of Heliod
- 1 Feed the Pack
- 1 Marshal's Anthem
- 1 Mirari's Wake
- 1 Raised by Wolves
- 1 Shielded by Faith
- 1 Smothering Tithe
- 1 Wolfcaller's Howl
- Artifacts (5)
- 1 Konda's Banner
- 1 Lifecrafter's Bestiary
- 1 Selesnya Signet
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sword of Body and Mind
The mana base is pretty straightforward. You’ve got your obligatory Sol Ring and Selesnya Signet and 35 lands including five that can tap for both colors. I’ve included Avacyn, Angel of Hope as a way to make my wolves survive a fight, and Teferi's Protection to help us survive anything so scary that we don’t want to be around for it. Both of those could be dropped out along with Elesh Norn, the Sword and a couple of other cards if you’re looking for a more budget list and you’d cut $100 off the price of the deck.
It’s worth noting that I did not include any combos in today’s list. If you’ve got a Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves combo that I should have included please tell me about it in the comments section.
I think a Tolsimir Fight Club deck could be a lot of fun in a casual meta. It might even win some games, but it’s quite possible that I’ve gone too light on Wolves in my desire to cover all my bases and include enough of the important (non-Wolf) things that make most decks playable.
I’m not sure yet if I’m going to build this list in paper. I’m a little concerned that too many lost Wolf-fights will result in a lot of mana spent for not much of a boardstate, but Tolsimir does give you a convenient way to remove problem low-toughness creatures and that’s pretty nice. If you build this and play it, I sincerely hope that you eventually get the chance to flash in an Briarpack Alpha and have it eat a Laboratory Maniac right as your opponent is about to draw his or her last card. That would be pretty sweet.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. I hope today’s lighter tone has made for a fun read. For some reason Tolsimir tickled my funny bone and I decided to have a little fun with what is usually a slightly more serious affair.
Wolves on Hang-Gliders. I think that’s my final answer, Regis.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!