Hello TCGplayer readers! Today we'll be continuing our series of dissecting Shadows over Innistrad mechanics for Standard. We already talked about madness and delirium, and this week we'll be going over two of the tribes in Shadows over Innistrad: humans and werewolves.
The first thing I look for when building a tribal deck are reasons to build one. I don't want to jam a bunch of humans or werewolves in the same deck for no reason. We need good rewards for playing lots of creatures of the same tribe. For example, in the werewolf tribe, we have a really cool card that rewards us for playing all werewolves: Howlpack Resurgence. Cards with flash have great synergy with the werewolf mechanic because they allow you to pass the turn without playing a spell, triggering transform on all of your werewolves. Then once your werewolves flip, you can cast Howlpack Resurgence on your opponent's turn and all of your werewolves will get bigger and gain trample. This card can be a huge surprise to opponents who plan on blocking your creatures and is capable of winning the game out of nowhere.
Tribal can succeed in Standard if there are cards of that tribe across all the legal sets. Human is one of the most common races in Magic, and with all the humans that already exist in Standard, we have a lot of options for building a strong human deck.
Werewolves, on the other hand, are unique to Innistrad. There haven't been any werewolves printed in non-Innistrad sets, which means that in order to build a werewolf deck, most of our cards have to come from Shadows over Innistrad. It's unlikely that one set will have enough cards for a Standard deck, so we probably can't build a great werewolf deck right now. What we can do, however, is build a red/green midrange deck with both werewolves and non-werewolves. It won't really be werewolf tribal, but it may still end up being a great deck.
With humans being the most dominant tribe across all of the Standard-legal sets, it's my vote for the strongest tribal deck right now. There's a great reason to play a human deck right now: Thalia's Lieutenant. Champion of the Parish 2.0 is good both early and late and is rarely a dead card. Early in the game it is a two-mana Champion of the Parish, which is fine, as Champion of the Parish was a bit on the strong side for Standard anyway. Late in the game, Thalia's Lieutenant acts as an anthem for your team. This card is at its best on turn four or five after you've curved out. For example:
Turn One: Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Turn Two: Knight of the White Orchid
Turn Three: Reflector Mage, bounce your opponent's creature
Turn Four: Declaration in Stone opponent's blocker, Thalia's Lieutenant, pump team, attack for nine.
Here is my mono-white aggro list. It plays a lot like the White Weenie decks from years ago; the idea behind the deck is to play as many 2/1s for one as possible and follow up with Glorious Anthem effects. When you draw the right combination of cards in the right order, you'll be able to kill your opponent before they get anything going. Here's the list:
This deck has a whopping 16 one-drops, giving you amazing odds of having a play on turn one. 12 of the one-drops hit pretty hard as 2/1s, especially with four Thalia's Lieutenant and four Always Watching in the deck.
Thraben Inspector is severely underrated right now, and I expect great things from it in Shadows over Innistrad Standard. Thraben Inspector is a great play at any point in the game. It helps you get the beats going early and late in the game, it gives you a card and leaves a 1/2 body behind. Having access to an extra card is valuable in a White Weenie deck that tends to run out of gas and sometimes has a hard time to win once the opponent has stabilized. The best part about Thraben Inspector is that you can sacrifice the clue on your own terms. If you have nothing to do on turn two, you can spend your turn sacrificing the clue, or you can wait until after your hand has been deployed.
Dragon Hunter is another card that is sometimes much better than a 2/1 for one. It blocks hard-to-deal with dragons like Dragonlord Ojutai and Thunderbreak Regent, and it swings past them too. Kytheon, Hero of Akros is the forgotten-about Planeswalker from Magic Origins and it finally has a home in human tribal. With 16 one-drops, it's easy to transform him on turn three. He's also a human, so you can add a counter to him with Thalia's Lieutenant.
In the two-drop slot, we have Knight of the White Orchid, a card that's better on the draw but still fine on the play. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is the only non-human in the deck, but it's great here. The one downside of Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is that she wants you to overextend, which can be dangerous when playing against decks with Languish or Radiant Flames.
White's removal is good right now. Declaration in Stone has my vote for strongest targeted removal spell in Standard. It really shines in a White Weenie deck because your opponent will be under so much pressure they'll rarely have the time to crack the clue. It exiles, which is relevant against decks that rely on dies triggers or graveyard recursion. It's also amazing against tokens. Stasis Snare is another strong removal spell in this format with creature lands and Archangel Avacyn running around.
With such a low curve we can get away with playing only 22 lands. Westvale Abbey is our only non-Plains land and is a great card to have access to if we flood out. Even when we're not flooding out, there will be situations where the board stalls and we will rely on transforming Westvale Abbey to break through. Transforming it is risky, but it's something that your opponent will have to play around.
Another version of human tribal that I'd like to try is one that splashes blue for Reflector Mage and Ojutai's Command. It would not be as aggressive as traditional White Weenie, but would instead be more of an aggro/tempo deck. Reflector Mage is a human, so it fits here, and it's an incredibly strong card when we are playing an aggressive deck. I also like the idea of searching up Prairie Stream with Knight of the White Orchid so the deck can run less Islands. The humans deck looks great and seems like one of the top aggro decks in the format.
As I've mentioned earlier, werewolves is probably not a strong deck right now because there are not enough Standard-playable werewolves in Shadows over Innistrad. We don't have good one- and two-drops like Mayor of Avabruk and Reckless Waif like we did in Innistrad. However there are some really cool things going on with werewolves in Shadows over Innistrad. The first deck I built was my attempt at an actual werewolf deck.
There are a few issues with this deck, and the main one is that there are not enough werewolves worth playing. I was able to build a deck with four different werewolves and also considered Geier Reach Bandit as the fifth, but cut it because I did not want to be cluttered on three-drops and this deck really needs four Howlpack Resurgence. The lack of creatures also means that Collected Company, a card I thought would be great in this deck, got cut. If there were two more decent one- and two-drop werewolves, we'd be able to build a strong Collected Company deck, but that's not the case here.
The mana is also an issue. We have a red one-drop in Village Messenger, but less than half our lands provide red mana on turn one. Additionally, the majority of our deck is green, meaning that we need both red and green mana by turn two. There will be plenty of opening hands with Game Trail and Evolving Wilds, meaning that we won't be able to play our spells on-curve because our lands will enter the battlefield tapped.
Another downside of werewolves is that you really don't want to play any sorceries. Playing a card at sorcery speed means that we can't flip our werewolves and therefore strong removal spells like Roast have to get cut from the deck.
What the werewolves deck does have going for it is Arlinn Kord. Arlinn Kord is a strong Planeswalker that is at its best in a red/green aggressive deck with lots of creatures. All of her abilities protect her either by giving you a token, dealing three damage to a creature, or giving a creature vigilance, allowing you to both attack and block. Even if werewolf tribal does not make it in Standard Arlinn Kord will surely find a home in a red/green creature deck of some kind.
Overall I don't think that this version of R/G Werewolves is strong enough for high level Standard events but I'd happily take it to FNM or Game Day. I still want to build a deck with werewolves and Arlinn Kord, so here's a second try at a red/green creature deck.
Arlinn Kord shines in this deck with lots of creatures to protect her like Sylvan Advocate and Hangarback Walker, as well as creatures that can hit hard with her creature pumping abilities. My biggest problem with this deck is that the removal suite is not that strong compared to removal we have access to in other colors. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is public enemy #1, so we really need spells to kill him, hence the three Fiery Impulse and two Roast. However, in general, the removal is too situational. Roast can't kill Archangel Avacyn and Fiery Impulse can't kill Thought-Knot Seer. With this removal suite you really have to just hope you draw the right spells at the right time.
This deck makes a lot of Thopters. Along with red's best four-drop, Thunderbreak Regent, they work well with Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon's mini-Overrun ability on her transformed side.
Duskwatch Recruiter is a card that made it into both of these red/green lists. I really like this card as a way to gain some card advantage during times when we have nothing going on. Historically, red/green doesn't get access to card draw, so I'll take my card advantage where I can get it.
The human tribe is promising and I can see it being one of the top aggro decks in Standard with mono-red taking a dive post-rotation. It has everything a white aggressive deck wants including two anthem effects (we have not had access to good anthems in a while) and great removal.
Werewolves is somewhat of a disappointment. We really don't have many cards to work with. However, some of the individual cards are great, and red/green midrange with Arlinn Kord is a deck I would like to continue to work on.
That's all for this week! Next week we'll take a look at more two more tribes: zombies and vampires!
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