I came late to the game, but I’ve always been interested in building a Werewolf deck. The only problem seems to be Wotc’s insane mechanics for the Werewolf tribal. But with a new Innistrad set centering on Werewolves (Midnight Hunt) coming in September, maybe we can finally get a Lycanthrope tribal we can work with. But, first, for the uninitiated, let’s look at the problem at hand.
The first werewolf cards were ‘Lesser Werewolf’ from LEGENDS in June 1994 and ‘Greater Werewolf’ from HOMELANDS in October 1995 and they were the only two to carry the Lycanthrope creature type until they were updated to ‘Human Wolf’ in the Great Creature Type Update of 2007. As you can see, neither of these cards brought the flavor of the transformation.
Werewolf became a subtype during the introduction of the first Innistrad set in 2011, but this began the heaviness of the Double sided transformation mechanic. In order to gain the transformation into the werewolf, your opponent or, if playing Commander, the player who went before you had to play NO SPELLS. AND, if you were lucky enough or smart enough a deck builder that this happened, all your opponent had to do to undo this was play two or more spells.
Now, there were a few cards (and I do mean a few) that could be played once for one transformation or all. But this was still at the mercy of that player who had two or more spells ready. I understand the flavor. The werewolves are crafty and won’t change so close to someone casting spells. It still doesn’t make this mechanic work any better. And I’m sure that many players ended up like me just putting the werewolf cards up until something came along to help this work better.
Well, there may not be something coming to help all of those transforming Double Sided cards, but, hopefully, Wotc has figured a way to make this work smoother in the up coming set. And our first clue is one card in the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set that will be hitting tables officially this week.
Werewolf Pack Leader (pictured left) may give us some clues as to where the Werewolves in Midnight Hunt will be going mechanically.
Let’s not miss the fact that the Pack Tactics activated ability will drive a good many wolf and werewolf decks in the days to come. No, let’s keep to the subject.
Instead of being activated by something your opponent does or doesn’t do, it is a mana paid ability. Here it’s three and a forest to turn this creature into a 5/3 trample that isn’t human. I think we can all say that we’d rather have the opportunity to transform our creatures via mana activation than how it went in many of its earliest forms.
This is somewhat like the last transformation mechanic we got for the werewolves in Eldritch Moon in 2016 where we were able to spend mana for this ability. This was however more about the werewolves becoming horrors, but I hope the mechanic in Midnight Hunt is closer to this or something even easier to play.
The only problem is the same as the answer: mana activation. More precisely it’s the cost. Notice on the cards above the cost of transformation. It may fly in Commander, but this kind of cost is NOT conducive to Standard. If they do go to mana pay, they’re going to have to work that cost down.
On top of all of that, the details of Werewolf Pack Leader aren’t much to celebrate. It ups the power, but not the toughness which makes it infinitely easier to remove. The Trample’s nice, goes nowhere to making this mechanic viable in the coming meta. And taking the human type off the card tells me they’re working pro human ramps into Midnight Hunt and don’t want to add these bumps to werewolves. This is probably best.
Whatever it is, I’m sure we will get plenty of double sided cards with transformation. The only question is how hard are they going to be to play?