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Woo Brews – Black Wolf Run

There’s no better feeling than building a new deck and falling in love with it.

I’ve been playing this game for 18 of my 23 years. 18 years of joy. 18 years of occasional tears. 18 years of sometimes just playing for the sake of playing. But sometimes, something happens. I’ll build a new deck. Just a random idea. And it changes everything.

I’ve been working on a deck for two weeks now. I’ve put in maybe 50 hours directly—more, depending on how you count them. And I have been having SO MUCH FUN. So much fun that I HAD to play it in a tournament.

So, I bought a plane ticket to SCG Vegas this past weekend, just to play. And I wrote a diversion article last week to keep this deck secret. I had to, so that I could win SCG Vegas.

Well, I flew down there, and I played, and I had SO MUCH FUN, but I did not win the tournament. But my confidence remains unshakable. I stand by this deck. It is powerful, and it sits in a nice spot in the metagame.

Black Wolf Run

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetary
9 Swamp
4 Kessig Wolf Run
3 Farseek
2 Sign in Blood
3 Victim of Night
2 Gruul Keyrune
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Mutilate
4 Crypt Ghast
1 Olivia Voldaren
4 Thragtusk
4 Griselbrand
Board
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Victim of Night
4 Gloom Surgeon
1 Liliana of the Veil
3 Slaughter Games
1 Olivia Voldaren
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
3 Rakdos’s Return[/deck]

The deck plays Swamps. It ramps with [card]Farseek[/card], [card]Gruul Keyrune[/card], and [card]Crypt Ghast[/card]. It kills things with [card]Victim of Night[/card], [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], and [card]Mutilate[/card]. It gains life with [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card], [card]Crypt Ghast[/card], and [card]Thragtusk[/card]. And then it plays [card]Griselbrand[/card].

Griselbrand!

GRISELBRAND!

Is this a real card? I mean seriously, what the hell? Anything you may have learned about “card advantage” is thrown out the window, because this ONE card is sometimes worth 28 cards. It’s absurd.

He’s giant, evasive, gains life. And he punches the opponent out.

Main Deck

[draft]Farseek[/draft]

[card]Farseek[/card] is great. Bant and Jund decks have been abusing this card since it was reprinted. [card]Blood Crypt[/card] and [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card] are Swamps that Farseek finds on the way to casting our big spells.

3 is a weird number to a lot of people. First of all, drawing 2 is pretty poor. The second one is usually uncastable until we run out of lands, which means a second one is usually worse than drawing any old random land.

The card is also sometimes hard to cast with only 9 ways to do so by the second turn. 9 is enough to do it often, but not often enough that I want multiple copies stranded in my hand in the early game.

[draft]Sign in Blood[/draft]

Drawing cards is awesome. Paying life and early-game mana is not—especially if you are on the draw and have to discard.

I’ve found that the card is really not that good in multiples, and 2 is usually the number I would sideboard down to whenever I was playing second, so I figured I would only play 2. If we’re winning, we are going to be playing second a lot in the post-board games anyway, and this saves space.

[draft]Victim of Night [/draft]

[card]Victim of Night[/card] kills most of the current threats for only two mana. [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card], [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card], [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card], and [card]Geralf’s Messenger[/card] are some of the cards it doesn’t hit.

That’s ok. The alternatives—[card]Dead Weight[/card], [card]Tragic Slip[/card], and [card]Ultimate Price[/card]—are too narrow, while [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Dreadbore[/card] are too unreliable on the second turn.

[draft]Gruul Keyrune[/draft]

[card]Gruul Keyrune[/card] is here to produce mana. It’s our 10th and 11th green sources, and our 6th and 7th red sources. He ramps from 3 to [card]Thragtusk[/card]. He also attacks planeswalkers. In the really late game we can pair him with Wolf Run to be a real dangerous threat.

[draft]Liliana of the Veil[/draft]

[card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] is exceptionally flexible and powerful.

A lot of the control decks have switched from [card]Detention Sphere[/card] to [card]Planar Cleansing[/card], which means if you are on the play, a third turn [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] WILL ultimate before they can do anything about her. She’s game breaking.

She’s not great against the [card]Burning Tree-Emissary[/card] aggro decks, but there are lots of situations where she can either snipe their only creature and dominate the board, or buy precious time.

One of her beautiful secrets is how she smoothes our own hand. As we tick her towards the ultimate, we need to pay tribute. This means discarding a stranded [card]Farseek[/card]. It might mean discarding a useless [card]Victim of Night[/card] or [card]Mutilate[/card]. It might mean pitching a second [card]Griselbrand[/card]. Basically, she allows us to play certain situational cards in the main deck that are useful as raw fuel to Liliana.

As great as she is, she is also difficult to play. There are times she ticks toward ultimate while we are almost getting to Griselbrand. In those situations, I’ve found there are times to just not use her. If our spells are really that awesome we don’t have to use her… even if it means losing her. THAT is sacrifice.

[draft]Mutilate[/draft]

Alright, so we are playing [card]Mutilate[/card], but only 17 swamps out of 26 lands. Isn’t this a problem?

The reality is that Mutilate gives us a lot of control. We can use it as a one-sided wrath. We can play it to leave an empty board aside our own Griselbrand.

There are times when Mutilate doesn’t get there, but those times are rare when you consider the commonly played creatures. A lot of decks are obliterated by -2/-2. A Mutilate for 3 kills the majority of played creatures—Boars, Beasts, Vampires, and Humans alike. The main cards that dodge a Mutilate for 3 are [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], [card]Restoration Angel[/card], and [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card], but these cards are not super popular—and if they are, maybe we can just Mutilate for 4.

With 17 Swamps and 3 Farseeks, virtually a third of our deck is Swamps. That’s plenty for Mutialte to be INCREDIBLE right now. Better than [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], when you consider our own control and the presence of [card]Falkenrath Aristocrats[/card] and [card]Experiment Ones[/card].

[draft]Crypt Ghast[/draft]

[card]Crypt Ghast[/card] is a madman. Through [card]Farseek[/card], he can generate a fourth turn [card]Griselbrand[/card]. He can go nuts with [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card].

And don’t underestimate the extort. A point here and a point there really adds up. There have been a bunch of times where I untapped and extorted a surprised opponent out from close to 10 life. The card is worth building around and this deck really abuses it.

[draft]Olivia Voldaren[/draft]

Olivia is a powerful late-game mana sink that is functional in the mid-game as well. At first, this card was a [card]Gruul Ragebeast[/card], but Olivia turned out to be more flexible.

[draft]Thragtusk[/draft]

It’s no secret I like [card]Thragtusk[/card]. It’s also no secret that a lot of people like Thragtusk. The card is an awesome stabilizer against the aggressive decks. The card is also two bodies against control decks, which makes this beast sweet in every matchup.

5 life can be a lot in any matchup, when you consider our game plan is to convert life to cards in the late game. The life gain provided by this guy really adds up and can be a game-winner in any matchup.

[draft]Griselbrand[/draft]

Here he is! The Griseldaddy himself. This card is absurd right now. Against aggro decks, he completely blunts an offense by providing a giant life gainer.

Against control decks, the card draw ends the game. They can [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] all they want, but we can pick up 14-21 cards and crush them with those. He gives us late game inevitability over every deck in the format.

The Mana

[draft]Overgrown Tomb
Woodland Cemetery
Stomping Ground[/draft]

Here is our green mana. Nine is a lot, but not so much that we can always hit [card]Farseek[/card] on turn 2. We often can, and in the late game, [card]Thragtusk[/card]s come down and [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] comes online.

[draft]Kessig Wolf Run[/draft]

This is maybe the most important card in the deck. Any big mana ramp deck can use a late-game mana sink. With 31 mana sources, we are bound to flood out sometimes. But 4 of our lands make it so that we can spend every single point of mana in killing the opponent, even if a majority of our draw is mana. The difference between drawing this card and not drawing this card is huge.

Wolf Run is sick with [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card]. It can provide massive life swings. It’s sick with [card]Crypt Ghast[/card]—yeah, it doesn’t take much for it to be lethal. It’s awesome With [card]Thragtusk[/card]. Thragtusk buys life on the defensive and gives two bodies to put the opponent on the defensive. And then there is [card]Griselbrand[/card]. If you connect with a Wolf Runned Griselbrand—sayonara!

Four is a lot of colorless lands to play, but the card is really that good. I would play 5 if I could.

Matchups

I like Black Wolf Run vs. the field. Since it’s doing something inherently powerful, it has game in general. The metagame also happens to line up such that Black Wolf Run can feast.

Wolf Run Black Vs. Jund

Let’s start with the hardest matchup. I wouldn’t call the matchup bad, but the margins are incredibly tight. Expect a 3-game match that comes right down to the wire.

Jund wants to deplete our resources, so our main trump is [card]Griselbrand[/card]. If we stick him, we probably win. He’s more powerful than anything they are doing. But 8 mana can be a lot, with dueling Liliana’s and [card]Rakdos’s Returns[/card]. Plan around living until 8 mana so that he can come down. That means gaining as much life as possible and playing for the long game, which means playing defensively.

Another advantage we have is 4 Wolf Runs while they generally play 2. This means that if we are able to get on the offensive, we have a better chance of closing the game. They do have a lot of removal though, so watch out.

Sideboarding vs. Jund

+1 [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card]
+3 [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]
-3 [card]Victim of Night[/card]
-1 [card]Mutilate[/card]

The sideboarded games are often races to cast a big [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]. This isn’t always the case though, as some quick [card]Thragtusk[/card]s on the field can create so much tempo that there isn’t time for someone to spend a turn not affecting the board.

Olivia can come down for either player and dominate the game, so be careful and save an Olivia or [card]Mutilate[/card] for the Vampire.

Liliana is an interesting card in this matchup. It’s not particularly good against [card]Thragtusk[/card] or against [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card]. Since we are playing for a long game with [card]Griselbrand[/card], we don’t necessarily want to be +1’ing either. But the card happens to be pretty good against us and our own is our best answer.

All in all, the matchup is really close. Mistakes are costly and there are times when topdecks will win games for either player. Enjoy this match because it is the closest and most interactive.

Wolf Run Black Vs. Burning-Tree Aggro

Burning-Tree Aggro wants to blitz us out and kill us on the fourth turn. We have [card]Mutilate[/card] and [card]Farseek[/card] into Mutilate which makes certain games very, very easy. They can’t really afford to play around it, because if they give us enough time we will stabilize by other means.

We can win without Mutilate too. [card]Victim of Night[/card] into [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] into Liliana into [card]Thragtusk[/card] is an example of a curve that can win pretty easily on the play.

There are times we just get blitzed out. If they are swinging for 7 while we have 1 land in play, we might be dead even if we do have a Farseek or a Victim. But if we don’t, the game is pretty much over anyway. That’s okay, the Burning-Tree aggro decks are pretty solid and there are times they function as intended.

Sideboarding vs. Burning Tree Aggro

+1 [card]Victim of Night[/card]
+4 [card]Gloom Surgeon[/card]
+1 [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]
+1 [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card]

-4 [card]Griselbrand[/card]
-3 [card]Crypt Ghast[/card]

Let’s bring the curve way, way down. This allows us to win a lot more non-Mutilate games. Now we have so many two-drops that we can preserve our life total to the point of getting Thragtusks and Olivias online.

It’s okay that we don’t have Griselbrand in the deck anymore because if the game goes long enough and we stabilize, we can just kill them with a Wolf Runned anything.

Burning-Tree Aggro becomes pretty easy after sideboarding, but there are still times they can juke us out, especially when we go second.

Wolf Run Black Vs. Blue Control

I’ve found blue control to be hard to play against, but easy to win. My records against Esper, Bant, and UWR are all really, really good.

The main reason is Griselbrand. Blue control decks can’t afford to run more than a couple counterspells in their entire 75 right now, which means Griselbrand has a good chance of resolving. If he resolves, he beats even the biggest [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]s.

[card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] is a huge problem card for the Esper lists, and pretty solid against Bant and UWR as well. Esper in particular really can’t interact with the card except for [card]Planar Cleansing[/card], which means they are doomed to a turn 3 Liliana.

[card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] is another reason why we can win so often. Even if we flood out, we can start fireballing them every turn. A single Nighthawk or [card]Crypt Ghast[/card] becomes a huge problem card when all of our mana is dedicated to damaging them. As long as we are forcing them to react on the board or die, they can’t play a big Sphinx’s Revelation to try to pull ahead.

Sideboarding vs. Blue Control

Vs. Esper and Bant

+1 [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]
+3 [card]Slaughter Games[/card]
+3 [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]
+1 [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]

-3 [card]Victim of Night[/card]
-4 [card]Mutilate[/card]
-1 [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card]

After board, we have Slaughter Games for their Sphinx’s Revelations and Rakdos’s Return for their hands. Rakdos’s Return is pretty insane against the planeswalkers they sometimes board in. They tap out, and BAM, their hand and planeswalker are gone forever.

We also have access to an extra land in [card]Cavern of Souls[/card], which ensures we can stick our big threats if we draw it. One is not very many, so we will only have access to it in maybe 1/3 of the games, but when we do it can be really, really powerful.

Vs. UWR

+1 [card]Victim of Night[/card]
+2 [card]Slaughter Games[/card]
+3 [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]

-1 [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]
-2 [card]Mutilae[/card]
-3 [card]Crypt Ghast[/card]

Removal is much better in this matchup, because they plan on killing us with [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] and [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. This makes [card]Victim of Night[/card], Liliana, and [card]Mutilate[/card] all okay. It also means we don’t necessarily have as much time to mess around with Slaugther Games, so I have been only bringing in 2.

The key to these matchups is really using all of your mana whenever possible. If you pass a full turn spending no mana, it is a window for them to refuel. Be aggressive with your play. If we spend all of our mana only to get our [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] [card]Azorius Charm[/card]ed, that is okay, because that is two cards and 2 life they couldn’t gain this turn.

Tweaking for Your Meta

There are other decks out there obviously, but I just covered the main ones.

• If counterspells make a resurgance, a second [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] would make a huge difference.

• If Human Reanimator rises up, a 4th [card]Slaughter Games[/card] is what we need.

• If Aristocrats disappears, the [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/card] is not really necessary.

• If the meta is all aggro, the 4th [card]Victim of Night[/card] over the 4th [card]Griselbrand[/card] will be awesome.

24/7 Black Wolf Run

The deck is powerful, flexible, and well positioned in the metagame. I am completely in love with the deck and I’m having so much fun playing it. If you like it enough to put it together, play hard, good luck, and have fun! You won’t be disappointed.

<3 Travis facebook.com/travisdwoo
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Questions! Comments! Think there’s something I forgot?!

Discussion

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