The second card of The Frostspark Collection (that was revealed by Teamrankstar during their TRS Classic Tournament) is Apex Wolf, a yellow 6-cost Wolf with a power and health of 4 and both Breakthrough and Drain keywords. For this alone, the card would be understated – just compare it to the 6 cost 6/5 Night Shadow in the Endurance attribute.
So the power of the card must be sitting somewhere else – obviously a good candidate for this is it’s Last gasp effect, that draws the top creature of your deck and gives that creature Breakthrough and Drain as well. Hence, it provides an additional card draw that thins your deck by a creature, plus gives more life gain and more reach – certainly an interesting RNG effect. But is the card draw and the additional effect enough to make this card playable?
Let’s apply Quadrant Theory: with a cost of 6, Apex Wolf is not a card you could play in the opening phases of the game. At parity, Apex Wolf puts a strong body on board that does not have an immediate effect and it is a little bit understated as well. With Breakthrough, Apex Wolf can effectively help in winning the game and provide a little bit of reach – although it is not a strong card – for 6 magicka there are more powerful cards with Breakthrough.
The main strength of Apex Wolf is in the Losing/ Turnaround quadrant: it provides life gain, a card draw and also the Drain keyword to the creature you draw. Again, for 6 magicka, there are stronger cards that provide Drain, except in the red Strengths and the blue Intelligence attributes. So the card could be a Turnaround card to consider in midrange or control Monk or Mage.
Still, I’m not 100% convinced the card will be good enough, unless there are strong synergies from other cards in the deck. Let’s look at some options:
A Wolf Tribal deck rising?
The obvious synergy for Apex Wolf is in Wolf decks:
- If Apex Wolf gets boosted by Pack Leader it gains another +1/+1 to become a 5/5
- If Alpha Wolf is in play Apex Wolf gets a boost of +2/+0 – this makes him a 6/4 with Breakthrough and Drain, so a pretty powerful beast,
- If Wolf Cage is in play, the newly summoned Wolves get another +1/+1
- If Conjurer’s Spirit is in play, the Drain effect can help summon 2/2 Familiars (Wolf Ghosts)
Definitely, Apex Wolf will be a worthy inclusion in any tribal wolf deck. Whether that will be enough to move Wolves deck to a higher tier remains to be seen. But definitely something one can experiment with…
Thieves’ Den and Pilfer Breakthrough Synergy
By providing Breakthrough and Drain for itself and ideally another creature, Apex Wolf gets an option in a deck running Thieves’ Den. Here, the Breakthrough effect will make the card stronger for its next attack and also provides the keywords to another card in the deck. Apex Wolf could be worth trying in Monk or Hlaalu decks that are also running Haalfingar Marauder. With Skooma Underboss and Thieves Den, the Pilfer/Breakthrough effect of the card could go crazy even when slaying your opponent’s creatures.
Obviously, a card with Breakthrough and Drain will obviously be a good inclusion in any deck that runs Unstoppable Rage. Maybe in a Wolf Crusader or in Control Hlaalu? Definitely worth a try…
Apex Wolf can also have a great effect in decks with a reasonable number of Charge creatures (~18 or more cards with that keyword in a 50 card deck). In such decks, the Breakthrough/ Drain combination can make the Wolf a winning card if it provides that attribute to a charge creature. Consider a deck with World-Eater’s Eyrie and Swiftwing Dragon and Aspect of Hircine as finishers.
Altar of Despair and Last Gasp Synergies
The strong Last Gasp effect makes the card an interesting option for Altar of Despair decks where it can be sacrificed to advance the Altar, and at the same time provide card advantage and equip another creature with Breakthrough and Drain. I’m not aware of any Wolf-Token Altar decks, but maybe this can be something new to investigate a little further.
In addition, the usual Last Gasp synergy with Necrom Mastermind can help to get more value out of the Apex Wolf. Currently Necrom Mastermind decks are not played oftentimes on the ladder, so maybe Apex Wolf can help to bring him into a few more decks?!
Spriggans, Ebonheart Oracle and Ring of Namira
Another synergistic combination for Apex Wolf is with Ebonheart Oracle, Ring of Namira and Animal Monk, where Spriggans like Green-Touched Spriggan benefit from the health gain and Shadowgreen Elder would boost Apex Wolf with +2/+2 as well. Another midrange Monk that could become a bit more viable with Apex Wolf in it.
In-Deck Creature Buffing
Another interesting synergy for Apex Wolf could be around cards that buff the cards in your deck. Examples are Caius’ Machinations, an action that gives the top three creatures in your deck a buff of +1/+1, or Praetorian Commander, who gives all creatures in your deck a buff of +1/+1. While Apex Wolf summons the top creature in your deck, this could be a nice additional boost in Wolf Spellsword or in Redoran Conscription type decks.
Some will say, the card is just too weak based on it’s stats. The card certainly makes Wolf tribal decks a bit more viable. It also provides some interesting synergies to some existing deck ideas (like Animal Monk/ Spriggan decks), predominantly as a turnaround or as a winning card, so definitely an interesting card to try in a few different ways. Certainly, the card will not see a lot of play in aggro decks. It’s only going to see a bit of play possibly in some niche midrange or control decks. Should be fun to see more Monk decks on the ladder!