With all of the strong Wolves and Werewolves printed in Innistrad: Crimson Vow, none were really playable in the one drop spot. Fortunately, Crimson Vow offers a very good one-drop Wolf that could even work in other decks. At it’s very worst, Ascendant Packleader is a 2/1 for a single Green mana. But, if you control a permanent with mana value 4 or greater, it gains a +1/+1 counter when it enters the battlefield. Then, when it’s in play, whenever you cast a spell mana value 4 or greater, it gains a +1/+1 counter. Werewolves have plenty of good cards with mana value 4 or more, such as Arlinn, the Pack’s Hunt, Tovolar’s Huntmaster, or Volatile Arsonist. Other popular Standard cards like Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven fit the bill, too.
Ascendant Packleader could even work in mono-Green, which plays even more mana value 4 or greater spells. Even a Selesnya aggro deck might play it, as Green simply doesn’t have many great one-drops in the current Standard. Green only has Deathbonnet Sprout, Jaspera Sentinel, Neverwinter Dryad, Snarling Wolf, Swarm Shambler, Tajuru Blightblade, and Willow Geist in the current Standard format that Crimson Vow enters. Most of those are only good in very specific decks, and Snarling Wolf was the only Wolf that Werewolves even had. Willow Geist could become quite good in the Disturb Spirits deck that Crimson Vow will likely made playable. But, Ascendant Packleader looks like it’s poised to be a strong contender for best Standard one-drop in any deck playing Green.
In Modern, there are so many strong one-drops in Green that Ascendant Packleader doesn’t seem like an obvious play. It is extremely good with Bloodbraid Elf, as it not only gains a counter if Bloodbraid comes into play, but also gains the counter if it is cast through the Elf’s Cascade trigger. It’s also pretty good in Modern Werewolves, which aren’t a top-tier deck competitively, but they have Huntmaster of the Fells as yet another strong four mana creature. It may not make the deck fast enough, but it’s a solid play in the right type of red/green midrange strategy.
While one-drops are rarely relevant in Commander, there are places where Ascendant Packleader can be good. Not only is it obviously good in Werewolves or Wolf Tribal, because of the +1/+1 counters, it can fit into some of those popular Hardened Scales decks. While Hardened Scales is a strong deck in Modern, the Modular creatures that fill up that deck are probably just much more synergistic in a deck already chock full of one-drops. But, in Commander, there’s definitely room and it’s likely it will see play in a variety of Hardened Scales decks such as Reyhan, Last of the Azban, Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, and more.
What do you think of Ascendant Packleader? How many decks can you see it slotting into not mentioned here?