It’s that time of year again! Great-Father Winter is putting together the final touches for his epic ride around Azeroth. His little helpers are scurrying about trying to ensure everything is just right. Oh and an army of rampaging murloc-crab mutants are massing on the horizon!
Clearly what everyone thinks of when the calendar changes over to the final month of the year.
It felt thematic to talk about the Big Bad of classic at the moment during the month of December. While it didn’t take home the crown this year at Gencon, it is still a force to be reckoned with in the format and something you need to consider testing against. What exactly makes a monster crab tick? Why are the undead drawn to these monstrosities? How exactly does the Wondervolt mash up these creatures? All this and more on this episode of:
*Note: The show title is a working title and your experience may vary with the validity and accuracy of arguments presented below.
4x Presence of Mind
4x PX-238 Winter Wondervolt
4x Shield of Distortion
4x Spell Suppression
4x The Taste of Arcana
2x Boundless Magic
4x Bottled Knowledge
4x A Question of Gluttony
2x Mystery Goo
4x One Draenei’s Junk
4x Rituals of Power
Total cards in deck: 60
This is the “base” decklist for the wolf of the classic format. It is taken from one of the MetaMart events and as Wife and I have mentioned on the show previously, the holiday cards seem to have a penchant for absurdity. You may already be aware of Tim Batow’s bunny deck which was the talk of the town at the NACC a number of years ago. While the deck didn’t make a big splash at the following EUCC, it certainly does warp things around it and it justifiably earned a ban for the new era of classic events. Not inherently for power level, but due to its impact on the game. We are all here to have a good time, not play around with graph paper. Although I guess that is some people’s definition of fun? I dunno and I am digressing anyway.
Did we simply swap furry critters for ones with claws and shells? Well sort of. It is my opinion that the wondervolt combo is more resilient and threatening than the bunny combo. We’ll get there though, let’s start with what the actual combo is:
PX-238 Winter Wondervolt + Crabbyfin
That’s it. The entire combo. Two cards costing a total of 5 resources allows you to generate infinite murloc-crabs by just naming “murloc” when the Wondervolt is played. This causes tokens generated by Crabbyfin to trigger his effect an arbitrarily large number of times. If you want to win immediately feel free to add in RwlRwlRwl to give those guys +1 attack and ferocity. Alexstraza could also be utilized if you want to be a little more meme-y. In a vacuum this doesn’t immediately appear to be significantly stronger than the bunny route. Both are essentially 2 card combos (any mount + Unending Breath) but the kicker here is that the Wondervolt can be plopped right into any class you’d like whereas the bunnies require warlocks. Are bunnies secretly demons? Or drawn to demons?
Second digression aside, the ability to port the combo to different classes is important. Additionally, while the bunny combo on the surface is a 2 card combo it is technically a 40+ card combo. You must have a sufficient number of quests (and Krazals) in your deck to ensure that you can run through a sufficient number of rotations. This quickly defines the rest of the deck. As you’ll see if you peak back at the decklist, we aren’t beholden with the Wondervolt to a specific class. You could theoretically run a DK version and instead utilize a stashed Strangulate to ensure you are mostly untouchable the turn you go off. Maybe you want to be more sneaky about it and utilize pinpoint discard from rogues to shred your opponent’s hand and make sure they are helpless the turn your hellish machine starts spitting out legions of mutants. There are a lot of avenues to go down which makes the deck exciting. The most effective list likely is the one shown, a mage one.
Even within this class there are other routes you can take, but let’s breakdown this particular one first.
Making a List
You have this giant list of toys you want, but how do you get them? Well, you have 7 cards that draw multiple cards. We aren’t too concerned with anything but finding our key components and getting this monster from 0 to 29836754819265467816954768 murlocs in no time flat. Mana Agate and Bottled Knowledge let us dig deep and for reasonable costs. In our testing I tried replacing them or stuffing in more draw in the form of Boundless Magic, Arcane Intuition, and a few other options. Mages have plenty of solutions to the card draw question so choose your favorite and go to town. A word of caution though: keep your goal and target turn in mind. The deck really wants to be efficient with its resources and you must plan multiple turns ahead as you are dancing on a razor’s edge in many cases. One misstep will spell disaster and that can be as simple as spending a single resource incorrectly.
This goes double for the quests. One Draenei’s Junk and Mystery Goo both enable the deck to complete their holiday shopping as efficiently as possible given the crowds. Both can feel a little clunky though so you still need to plan ahead.
Naughty Is Not Allowed
OK so we have our list of toys, we have our tools to ensure we can find them, how do we make sure our opponent isn’t spoiling our holiday cheer? Mages are historically the class of “no”. No has a lot of synonyms though and it doesn’t have to be an interrupt. Here we take a different direction and instead choose to just take our murlocs and go home. The defensive suite of Invisibility, Cold Front, and Disappear make it exceptionally difficult, and frustrating for your opponent to really do much of anything if it involves attacking. Keep in mind that you can also become untargetable with Invisibility. That part is key against matchups like rogue or warlock. Why is this better than just interrupting your opponent’s stuff? Well you do still sport a little bit in the form of The Taste of Arcana and Fizzle, but in a format where your opponent may just explode with holiday cheer and bring roughly 55 of their closest friends to the table in short order the ability to have say Cold Front play gatekeeper instead of denying a single enemy entry via an interrupt is important. The 8 interrupts do give you cheap options to address very specific threats that come down. Using the stall tactics to buy time, combined with the card draw you can sculpt a really defensible position from which no amount of snowballs can assail you.
Oh. Don’t forget that these tools are great in the mirror as well.
You can’t hold back the tides of merrymakers forever though. Some patrons will be a little rowdy and it is important to be able to shutdown the nonsense down before it gets out of hand. The old favorite Spell Suppression teams up with Rituals of Power to ensure that one guy over there won’t spoil the fun, or at least keeps him powered down for a turn. The latter is quietly very powerful. While Spell Suppression can be interfered with, it is really difficult to negatively impact a Rituals of Power. It will just sit and wait patiently for when you are ready then enforce your definition of holiday cheer. There have been several games where I have been able to fight through multiple Vuz’dins and Miniature Voodoo Masks since a mere 1 resource deactivates them long enough for me to go off. Let’s not forget our hero. Velindra’s flip is a super cheap polymorph. Don’t bother wasting a suppression on the first Vuz’din you can just turn him into a sheep when you are ready. Additionally, the flip is a fantastic defensive tool aside from the “loses powers” part. It prevents an attack as well so that rampaging Jadefire Scout just looks on wistfully remembering when he didn’t have wool covering him.
One potential alternative here is Shield of Distortion. This uncommon from Scourgewar is 1 resource cheaper than Cold Front and can also prevent non-combat damage. The issue of course is that it targets (careful with Invisibility), and more importantly it only prevents “non-melee” damage. If your opponent is all in on weapons or their allies all are sporting sharpened candy canes you could have a problem. Still, a number of classic decks are damage themed intentionally or not. You may score a discount by utilizing this instead of Cold Front.
I WANT IT TO BE WINTER VEIL NOW!
One card I’d like to draw attention to is Presence of Mind. The intent is obvious. You instantly cast Wondervolt at the end of your opponent’s turn and then it eases a mana burden accelerating your finishing turn. You just simply ready your stuff and play Crabbyfin plus maybe a RwlRwlRwl and go to town. However it can provide other utility as well. For example, instant Mana Agate’s can get you a few cards deeper to the cards you need. The fact that you are spending 2 cards to draw 2 cards is irrelevant if you just win as a result. That doesn’t tickle you? How about instant speed Spell Supressions. Interested now? Now to get you really excited what about instant speed RwlRwlRwls? OK, maybe that last one doesn’t really work but if you decide to tweak the deck with other options keep in mind that Presence of Mind isn’t solely tied to putting up the lights for the Wondervolt during the end step.
Speaking of accelerating the approach of the holiday one change I saw from Pat Eshgy at Gencon was inclusion of Arcane Potency:
1cc Mage Ability
Ongoing: This ability enters play exhausted. This ability can be exhausted to pay the cost of abilities as though it were a resource.
Given the majority of the deck is abilities, including one half of the core combo, this seems pretty spicy. Just some food for thought.
So that’s the deck, how do you play it? The biggest tip is to not get too excited. It is easy to think you can just go off before anyone comes knocking. However, you can easily walk into things, or be delayed by common answers. Vuz’din has already been mentioned, opposing interrupts, Miniature Voodoo Masks, or even simple instant speed removal for Crabbyfin. It will take a lot of practice to get familiar with what answers are likely going to show up from specific decks and at what times. Sometimes you are going to need to roll the dice and if your opponent has the answer they have it. You have a ton of stall so you don’t need to rush things. Think of each Disappear/Invisibility/Cold Front as also having “draw a card” on them. While they don’t literally draw you a card, they buy you another draw step. Not to be a broken record but maybe Scrooge wasn’t completely off base, sometimes it pays to be a miser. You need to carefully ration out your defensive tools. It may be appropriate to Cold Front on turn 2 since that 3 damage from Rosalyne may matter 6 turns from now, or it may make more sense to hoard your abilities until a later turn where they prevent more damage. It is something that testing will teach you as each opposing deck will present different clocks. Unfamiliarity with playing against Wondervolt is also an asset. I’ve found that if you do not present an appropriate threat and simply lean on having “all the answers” you are in for a rude awakening. This deck draws a ton of cards, more than your opponent probably will. You are likely to find ways to address their disruption. However, if they are pressuring you while also disrupting, that’s where things get sticky.
Can’t Always Be Winter Veil
In the end I’ve toyed with a number of different iterations and I think each has their own merits and weaknesses. The biggest threat to the deck is outside the game itself though and that’s through bans. That is the real elephant in the room. Personally I would not shed a single tear if PX-238 Winter Wondervolt was banned. I can’t come up with a single non-degenerate deck that it is a part of. I guess maybe you could name “dragonkin” and make something work there? Please don’t misunderstand, the deck is beatable. It may be even be the best deck. The deck also takes a lot of skill to pilot as you constantly have to juggle when and how to progress your win condition vs. trying to stay alive. It may just simply be the best combo deck available. My primary concern about it is that certain classes are just not well equipped to present the correct responses. Death Knights are my common example here. They have little instant speed removal for Crabbyfin despite having a lot of removal in general and have a similarly low set of answers to the Wondervolt itself. If you branch into allies I have found if blue you can use Goran, Timewalker Lavacaller to try and pop the ongoing ability at instant speed in an uninterruptable way. It is likely that will only work once. Otherwise your opponent is going to Rituals of Power your Concerted Efforts or other card that is revealing Goran prior to playing Wondervolt. It isn’t as though DKs can present many other threats.
Maybe that’s OK though. Not every deck is going to have good matchups against every other deck and it is possible Death Knights just have to accept that swarms of mutated murlocs are a weakspot for them. The good news is that Wondervolt overlaps card types with another pillar of the format in Unholy power. That’s good because they both will suffer as people try to address one or the other. Both are ongoing and are destroyed by the same cards. Both decks can protect their stuff, but you’ll have the same fighting chance if you focus on hitting the major ability.
In the interest of full disclosure, I waffle between thinking the deck needs to be removed and thinking it is fine. It really is a community decision. It certainly is strong and can feel oppressive when it wins. Key word there is feel though, it feels oppressive. The actual question is whether the deck really is. Or maybe the feeling is sufficient since all these events are for fun. Is anyone really breaking out Wondervolt lists for their raids or for kitchen table games? Maybe.
In the end just remember there is one fishdude stuffing his pet into a weird machine to clone him into a gazillion copies so they can rampage over the countryside and isn’t that really what the season is all about?