Welcome to part 2 of my Magic Duels play journal. As part 1 promised, this entry will give you an in-depth look at my personal deck, “Blood Moon”. This is a green/red aggro deck with a tribal werewolf theme, relying less on tight synergy and more on fast and unpredictable offence.
Most notable about the deck is its focus on Magic’s transformation mechanic that sees regular cards flipping to a more powerful side when certain conditions are met. In the case of the deck’s diminutive human creatures, this involves transforming those cards into their more powerful werewolf form and thus benefiting from their beefier stats and stronger abilities as long as that form persists.
Again, in some ways this is a deck that has “built itself” in that the majority of key cards and synergies have been highlighted by its governing expansion set, Shadows Over Innistrad. It’s important to stress that this deck has and will continue to change over time and I’ll save any detailed talk concerning the deck’s strengths and weaknesses for a future post.
There will be dozens of decks better suited for reaching rank 40, no doubt, but this is probably the best and most entertaining deck that I can personally create with the cards I have available.
Below you can view what I consider to be my basic decklist as well as an individual analysis of every card therein.
Neglected Heirloom/Ashmouth Blade (x3)
The first and only 1 mana card in this deck is actually one of its most important offensive staples that can turn the gimmicky transformation mechanic into a winning strategy.
Neglected Heirloom boosts an equipped creature by a respectable +1/+1, but when its encumbered werewolf transforms, the heirloom’s terrifying power is unleashed in the form of Ashmouth Blade.
It’s rare that I don’t accept an opening hand containing this card as the pressure it can apply early is often enough to win some games outright. The cheapest creatures in this deck are all werewolves with a flip side, and they can almost always be played the turn after your heirloom hits the table.
Spending mana on the blade’s equip cost doesn’t count as playing a card which makes it easier to force a transform at the end of your third turn and flip the sword without losing too much tempo. A persistent +3/+3 bonus with first strike makes for an intimidating creature going into your fourth turn and it gets even more ridiculous if you can combo it with a creature possessing trample.
Unlike the werewolves that use it, Ashmouth Blade never transforms back to its ‘sun’ side (assuming it doesn’t leave the battlefield) which means its incredible power can be transferred to another creature should the first one be removed. In order to balance this, however, the equip cost increases from 1 mana to 3 mana, so that can be problematic your land cards aren’t showing up consistently.
Another snag comes with the card being an artifact. Powerful artifacts and vehicles were very popular during the Kaladesh block and so many players still plan for them. Cards like Reclamation Sage and Solemn Offering are popular deterrents that players like to use and Neglected Heirloom does sometimes fall victim to these counters as a result.
Hinterland Logger/Timber Shredder (x3)
Hinterland Logger is a reliable 2 mana creature whose relatively weak body hides some welcome synergies once it transforms into Timber Shredder.
The most obvious combo this card enjoys is with Neglected Heirloom as it can be played immediately after it on turn 2 and will benefit hugely once the artifact transforms into Ashmouth Blade.
Timber Shredder’s heavy attack and addition of trample arguably make it the best candidate for Ashmouth Blade as the high power creature really appreciates the extra security that first strike brings in combat.
A few swings from an equipped Timber Shredder can be devastating and so one of the hidden benefits of this card is how it can attract your opponent’s precious removal cards, thus giving your rarer creatures more chance to make an impact.
That 2/1 body is quite vulnerable to begin with though, so you’ll need to be careful when playing against black or red decks who employ a lot of targetted damage or health de-buffs.
Rabid Bite (x4)
It’s not the most reliable removal card in the world of Magic: The Gathering, but Rabid Bite is both a useful and thematic addition to this deck that helps you combat those troublesome enemy creatures.
Rabid Bite is a nicely scalable card for green decks in general and here it makes a nice combo with the cards that boost the power of your creatures prior to deployment.
The card is less useful before you have a transformed werewolf though and if an opponent interrupts your casting by killing the creature you’ve chosen to deal the damage, then the spell will fizzle. Luckily I’ve found this to be quite a rare occurrence and more often than not you’ll be relying on this spell a lot.
Possesses excellent synergy with Silverfur Partisan.
Twin Bolt (x4)
The other direct form of removal in this deck is a red card that always makes its presence felt.
An invaluable tool for clearing away creature tokens and other early game threats, Twin Bolt unlocks added synergy that your opponents will often struggle to predict.
As a targetted Instant, Twin Bolt compliments many cards in this deck, not just by giving your werewolves time to transform, but also by tricking opponents during combat and even generating new creatures alongside Silverfur Partisan.
Twin Bolt’s ability to destroy a couple of 1 toughness creatures at the same time is great for generating card advantage and it can even act as a finisher should your wolves come up short during their final push.
Lambholt Pacifist/Lambholt Butcher (x3)
Lambholt Pacifist is an uncommon card with the sort of power and reliability that befits something rarer.
A 3/3 creature for 2 mana is an absurdly good deal which leaves the card’s inherent drawback (may only attack if you control a power 4 creature) as the only balancing factor.
The drawback certainly can hamper your vital early game aggression, but like most Magic cards of this style, the negative ability is pretty easy to work around and it’s nullified completely should you play Howlpack Resurgence or attach a Neglected Heirloom to it.
To that end, the flip side of Lambholt Butcher is not particularly impressive when compared to the other werewolves featured here, but that fact only serves to highlight how well the creature performs with or without its transformation coming into play.
One of the best plays you can make with this deck involves you dropping a Lambholt Pacifist on turn 2 following a Neglected Airloom played on turn 1. You’ll be attacking on turn 3 with 4/4 creature that has the opportunity to transform into something even meaner, thus creating an early threat that many opposing decks will struggle to deal with unless they commit a removal card.
Duskwatch Recruiter/Krallenhorde Howler (x3)
This deck relies on getting access to a solid turn 2 creature in order make use of any Neglected Heirlooms, so here is another creature in very much the same spirit.
Whilst not as defensive or immediately threatening as Lambholt Pacifist is, Duskwatch Recruiter features an excellent transformation that can make any subsequent creatures you play cheaper.
Flooding the board with werewolves is really nice because if you can get them all to transform together then you’ll really put the hurt on your opponent. If you’re keen to get those transformations triggering then you can also take advantage of this card’s mana ability that can reliably fetch creatures from the top of your deck (without you needing to cast any spells that turn).
Using this ability does come with an element of risk though. Any crucial non-creature cards will be buried following this action and sometimes you can undo yourself without even meaning to. The ability is also expensive, so whilst it’s a great way of improving your all-important card advantage, sometimes it’s better to find another play to better keep up the pressure.
Kessig Forgemaster/Flameheart Werewolf (x3)
The final 2 mana creature in this deck is a red werewolf who does what red always does best; burn things.
Any creature coming into contact via blocking or attacking is immediately hit for 1 or 2 damage (depending on which side is currently active) and it’s amazing how many of your opponents will forget about this little detail during the heat of battle.
I’ve experienced many favourable exchanges using this card and even better is its innate synergy with Twin Bolt as once a creature makes contact their toughness is immediately reduced before combat damage is calculated. This allows you to cast Twin Bolt and destroy any wounded combatants before they get a chance to fight back. Very cunning!
Kessig Forgemaster is also a prime candidate to equip Ashmouth Blade as a boost in attack power as well as first strike will make it near invincible in most combat situations.
Howlpack Resurgence (x3)
Howlpack Resurgence provides the typical ‘anthem’ style buff to every creature in the deck including any wolf tokens that might be generated by Pack Guardian or Silverfur Partisan. This reason alone makes it one of the most powerful cards at your disposal, but the benefits hardly end there.
Of particular note is the added flash keyword that allows the enchantment to be cast even when it’s not your turn. Not only does this unlock the potential for wily combat tricks using the entirety of your army, but it also frees up the casting on your turn. Howlpack Resurgence, like any instant spell, lets you skip your main phase (in this case to trigger werewolf transformations) whilst still maintaining tempo.
Giving all of your creatures trample is also highly advantageous in terms of pressure and you can even sneak through critical damage from time to time because of it.
There is barely a single card in this deck that doesn’t benefit from Howlpack Resurgence in some way, so seeing a copy in your first few draws is nearly always a blessing.
Silverfur Partisan (x2)
This is a card that I have referenced a lot up until now and with good reason. Silverfur Partisan is strange in the sense that the card appears less aggressive than some of the other creatures listed here and there are times where it may be hard to appreciate its value seeing as it doesn’t transform.
Removal cards are something that you’re always going to encounter though and so it’s very useful to have your ranks replenished with wolf tokens following one of your opponent’s replies. Silverfur Partisan severely hampers spells with multiple targets and there will be times where an opponent forgets about the passive effect here entirely and grants you wolf tokens unnecessarily.
Its innate trample ability is mere gravy considering its fragile body, but it does work well should you equip it with an Ashmouth Blade. This creature comes in handy when you are faced with an opposing 1 toughness creature. A spare Twin Bolt can easily destroy that opposing creature whilst you use the extra 1 damage to target one of your own tougher creatures and generate a free wolf token.
It’s even possible to use Twin Bolt to create two wolf tokens if desired and because this can be done at instant speed, there are times where you can lure an opponent into committing too many attackers and then overwhelm them with wolves. Silverfur Partisan also works in the same way with Rabid Bite thus guaranteeing you fresh troops whenever the two cards are combined.
Geier Reach Bandit/Vildin-Pack Alpha (x2)
It’s uncommon for Vildin-Pack Alpha to make much of an impact with its transformed ability as it can lock you into only casting one spell a turn and it’s easy at that point for an opponent to transform all of your cards back by playing multiple spells of their own.
However, the relatively cheap cost and speed of Geier Reach Bandit make it an excellent overall addition for dealing early damage with the threat of more should the opponent not keep up with their curve.
Its frail body (typical of red) doesn’t get you the most favourable trades, but it’s important not to underestimate the power of haste and how quickly it can turn a game around in the final moments, especially if Howlpack Resurgence is in play.
There are many times where you’ll be keen to topdeck this card and I’ve won more than one game because of it!
Pack Guardian (x3)
Pack Guardian is in the upper spectrum of creatures, cost wise, but the impact it can have on your game is unmistakable.
Key to this of course is its flash keyword, which much like Howlpack Resurgence, allows you to skip turns and prompt transformations whilst still getting threats onto the battlefield with the untapped mana at your disposal.
To a greater degree than the enchantment, however, Pack Guardian possesses far more potential as a combat trick and because you can discard a spare land card to generate a wolf token, you’ll be able to force your opponent to make some very tough decisions with their blockers on the following turn.
The only downside to this superb versatility is that Pack Guardian is quite mana hungry. The wolf token already requires a discard, which isn’t always feasible, and the two green mana in the cost can occasionally cause headaches when your deck isn’t cooperating and giving you the colours that you really need.
Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon (x1)
Because every Magic Duels deck needs one, meet the planeswalker Arlinn Kord!
Indeed, the sheer power and card advantage emanating from these special leader cards makes their inclusion a no-brainer, but at least Arlinn Kord perfectly fits the theme of the deck as she is actually a lycanthrope just like the rest of her pack.
Featuring almost double the number of abilities as regular planeswalkers, remembering what Arlinn can do is half the challenge for your opponents and there will be times when they’ll be caught out by her Embraced by the Moon form that grants access to direct damage.
Costed at 4 mana, Arlinn doesn’t hit the table with quite the same splash as some other planeswalkers do and her starting loyalty level is quite low thus making her vulnerable the turn after she’s played. Luckily her human form possess two defensive abilities that work well with an aggressive play style and they’ll combo nicely with Howlpack Resurgence should you get that to the table too.
Her 6 loyalty ‘ultimate’ ability will surely win you the game if it ever makes it to that point, but the cheaper abilities are going to be a much more realistic prospect 99% of the time, especially since the best way to play her seems to be to transform from one side to the other as you mix offence with token generation.
Sage of Ancient Lore/Werewolf of Ancient Hunger (x2)
We’ve arrived at the end of the deck’s mana curve here which makes these final few cards quite rare plays all things considered.
That being said, Sage of Ancient Lore is instantly notable for drawing you a replacement card the moment it reaches the battlefield. Whilst that fact alone maintains good prospects for upcoming turns, as a creature this card really requires its transformation to happen before the real fun can begin.
Werewolf of Ancient Hunger is a monster at almost all stages of the game and should you have an Ashmouth Blade (or two like I had in that one awesome session) then your opponent needs to come up with a kill card very quickly before being soloed down to zero health.
Ultimately this strategy is tough to pull off because of the sheer amount of time and luck needed to do it. Sage of Ancient Lore is a great addition because of the added card draw and scalable stats (withholding mana cards is a great way to boost him further), but without Howlpack Resurgence in play you can actually restrict yourself to needing at least one card in hand at all times lest you lose him completely.
As the deck evolves this might be the first card that I look at replacing, but for now it covers its niche rather well.
Ulrich of the Krallenhorde/Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha (x1)
I don’t own many cards from the Eldritch Moon set, but on a spur of the moment purchase of a free booster pack recently, I was amazed to pull the one and only available copy of Ulrich of the Krallenhorde; the only mythic rare creature in this entire deck.
Pulling Ulrich in this fashion is part of what inspired me to take up the challenge of achieving rank 40 in the first place, though ironically it’s currently the least played card in my collection!
Like many cards befitting of his stature, Ulrich has the potential to rapidly alter games in progress. Dropping in with a free Titanic Growth is great when you have a friendly wolf possessing trample and it gets even better when he transforms into the Uncontested Alpha as he will immediately fight an opposing creature with little threat to his own safety.
With all that said though, Ulrich’s specific mana cost is pretty steep for a deck of this recommended speed and even though he can be very strong, there are relatively few times when the card really ‘bombs’ the game right from first casting.
Including the one permitted copy of Ulrich still seems like a good idea though as having a solid late game powerhouse with targetted buffs will certainly help those tricky battles which teeter on the verge of victory.
Forest (x14)/Mountain (x8)/Rootbound Crag (x2)
The mana split in Blood Moon is an ongoing balancing act much like it is in most competitive Magic decks, but the one constant is that green is the dominant colour.
Deciding on the number of lands to include has been difficult. Due to the presence of equip costs, activated abilities, and Pack Guardian’s optional token generation, I’ve found that the standard(ish) count of 24 lands works best, though I might consider lowering to 23 if I found a new card that really suits the deck.
There are other special lands and ‘split’ cards that I either don’t own or haven’t researched yet too, so there will surely be some room for improvement regarding mana further down the line.
And that’s all for part 2 of this play journal. At the time of writing my rank sits comfortably at 25 with progress being steady but positive so far.
Join me later for part 3 where I’ll give a more detailed account of my current rank as well as a few deck improvements and other bits and pieces I’ve learned along the way.
Continue to Part 3