Friday, June 22, 2012

Deck Tech of the Week: Legend of the White Wolf

Every player has a certain card or deck they despise. They hate playing against it; they hate the power level/advantage a particular card generates, etc. I rarely play the consensus “best deck” partially due to this reason. Usually the culprit has some singular card that just offends me. 

Few have ever done this on the level of Primeval Titan and the Valakut/Wolf Run menaces he spawned. At the beginning of the current Standard season, and up until AVR, I played B/W Tokens, and would spend much of my time staring at the ugly titan menace across the table. He and his ilk offended me, not just because he was a 6/6 with trample, but because the deck he enabled seemed incredibly unfun both to pilot and to play around. I knew if there was one deck I wouldn’t play in Standard, it would be one with Prime Time.

…Until I ate my words and dove into a different variant of Wolf Run. I had seen White Wolf Run do well in events previously, but it was a fringe strategy I didn’t check out very well. Then, while waiting for the bus one day to go into the city, I brewed up the beginning of a deck idea. Restoration Angel had been spoiled, and I thought a deck abusing her would be absurdly powerful. So I started to think where she would fit well. My thoughts led me to the former boogie monster of the meta, Wolf Run. I thought about the tools the deck possessed, and it dawned on me. It wasn’t the same linear ramp strategy that R/G Wolf Run was. It carried a much heavier control element, and seemed to have the tools to also stand against Delver and Naya Pod, the two decks that stood at the top at the time. 

 So I sucked it up, and over the next weeks, threw the deck together. I got excited about it as I took it to FNM and smashed my way through the decks I played. However, reality set in the next day at an SCG IQ event I took the deck to. I had won the last one with Tokens, and thought I had the best deck in the room. That is, until I ran into Naya Pod, which thrashed me in two games. It wasn’t even close. I finished the event, and went home unhappy with how the deck performed. I wasn’t done with it however. Over the past month and a half, it’s gone through several iterations, arriving now at the following list:

Wolf Run White
The big thing to realize when looking at this list is that it has a much more varied set of tools than a typical G/R Wolf Run deck. Part of the attraction I have to the archetype is that, in most cases, the cards it has access to are simply BETTER than their red counterparts. Whipflare and Slagstorm? Nah, I think I’ll play Day of Judgment and Terminus.  Inferno Titan? Elesh Norn and Gideon Jura are better than he is. 

 However, even playing with White as the secondary color, we ARE a ramp deck, with 26 lands and 16 ramp cards. We can afford to keep red in the deck, and at a larger capacity than just Kessig Wolf Run. Bonfire of the Damned is one of if not THE best card of the format, and it is truly degenerate in a ramp deck. At a recent GPT, I got to cast it for game by tapping out for 19. It’s that powerful that you really don’t mind opening with a copy of it, knowing that around turn 5 or 6, you’ll be able to wipe anything but a Titan off the board. Along with Bonfire is a pair of Huntmasters in the main that round out our Red. He’s such a powerful card that he is capable of keeping us alive when we shouldn’t even be in the game, and the advantage he churns out over a long game can be insane. He also is the best 4-drop available to Green Sun out, and that helps us dodge his red mana cost if for some reason we’re being screwed on fixing.

While I mentioned Restoration Angel above, she is absent in both the main and the side in this list. There is a reason for that. Simply put, she was too much of a “cute” card. In Magical Christmas Tree Land, I was bouncing Titans for double Triggers, or resetting a Huntmaster from a removal spell and getting free advantage. In reality though, she would either come at the most inopportune times, or be a dead card in hand I desperately wished was something else.
 The sideboard plan gears primarily towards beating Delver, Esper Control, and aggro strategies. Dismember is very good right now at beating the new forms of Delver, especially since you can cast it for a black mana or two off of Birds and Sphere, and you have more life gain than any other deck in the meta.  Crushing Vines has gone from a trash bin staple to a viable sideboard card, and it has a versatility that is great in the Delver matchup. I hated siding in Grudge, because it didn’t do enough too often in the matchup. Crushing Vines, however, gives you the ability to blow out a Restoration Angel, or deal with the Sword of Feast and Famine that is hanging over your neck. To round out the sideboard, we have Terminus and Timely Reinforcements to beat back aggressive strategies such as Naya Pod and Zombies, while Cavern of Souls, Surgical Extraction, and Karn round out your ability to knock Sun Titan decks for a loop.

 Overall, the deck has been an absolute blast to play for me. A strategy I always hated became much more control-oriented, and I rarely feel that I’m in a situation my deck can’t pull me out of. In the last month, it has gone undefeated in four FNMs, as well as 5-3 at a GPT, placing 26th out of 185 players (two losses to Delver matchups, and one to a Ramp matchup where the opponent got away with a less than savory move).  This weekend I’ll be attending a PTQ with some friends and plan to pilot this build, and I expect it to have a great matchup against the field. 

 Any questions or thoughts on the deck? Post in the comments, I would love to hear from you!

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