Now that Eldritch Moon has been entirely spoiled, it’s time to start assessing which cards might be constructed playable. It can be difficult to assess these cards at times given that we have not seen them in action yet, however people have already been theory-crafting decks with these new additions. One card that I have noticed getting a fair amount of attention since Eldritch Moon was spoiled is Lupine Prototype.
Lupine Prototype is a 5/5 Artifact Creature – Wolf Construct that costs 2 generic mana and reads “Lupine Prototype can’t attack or block unless a player has no cards in hand.” Right off the bat, there are a few things to note about this card. First, it is a 2 mana 5/5. In the past, we’ve seen two mana creatures with big bodies do well in constructed formats i.e. Tarmagoyf, Sylvan Advocate, Pack Rat, Fleece-mane Lion etc. Secondly, it costs 2 generic mana. This greatly increases the flexibility of this card, allowing it to be played in virtually any shell. And thirdly, this creature is an artifact, which opens itself up to several synergistic possibilities.
Now we have to address this card’s drawback – and it is a significant one. This creature cannot attack or block unless a player has zero cards in hand. When I first read this card, I thought it read “this creature can’t attack or block unless you have no cards in hand.” If this were in fact what the card read, I think it would be significantly worse. While on the surface this drawback seems large, it may not be as difficult to work around as one might think. Obviously, everything is dependent on what shell Lupine Prototype is being played in, but there are current decks that would allow this card to potentially shine.
Having addressed the card details of Lupine Protoype and its drawback, we can finally contemplate what shell this card might fit in to. Immediately, given the characteristics of the card, people have started to toy with the Prototype in an Affinity shell, so we can look at this possibility first.
It makes sense that people would make this connection due to the fact that Affinity tends to dump its hand rather quickly. In this shell theoretically the drawback would not be so severe. Additionally, its presence as a creature that can be used with Springleaf Drum, and its artifact nature that triggers Metalcraft, would allow this card to be impactful even if it can’t attack or block. Straightaway however, we see some problems with Lupine Protoype in Affinity, primarily that it doesn’t really do anything. If we look at the creatures in Affinity lists (i.e. Vault Skirge, Signal Pest, Master of Etherium, Arcbound Ravager), we see that there is pattern here – the creatures in Affinity decks have to do something. Most of the creatures in Affinity provide evasive threats, and the creatures that do not like Arcbound Ravager and Master of Etherium help to augment those evasive threats. For this reason, I think that the Prototype will have a difficult time cracking this list. The only creature that I would imagine the Prototype replacing is Steel Overseer, and even then not completely. Lupine Prototype is a resilient body (does not die to Lightning Bolt) that presents a large amount of damage to the battlefield early in the game. In this respect, the Prototype is better than the Overseer in some cases. The Overseer however can pump an Inkmoth Nexus as well as allow the Affinity deck to go wide, which the Prototype simply cannot. I could foresee Prototype playing as a one-of or two-of in affinity decks at first, just to see how it plays, but I do not believe this card is a good fit for this deck. Lastly, in the “5/5 slot”, Lupine Prototype has to compete with Ensoul Artifact which has less of a drawback than the Protoype, which proves just another obstacle for Lupine Prototype to be played in Affinity.
A shell that I see Lupine Protoype fitting in to much more smoothly is 8-rack. Right now, the 8-rack deck is extremely fringe (I have not seen it played or getting results at any of the most recent Modern events) and as a result has become rather irrelevant in the scheme of the Modern metagame. Despite these things, I think that 8-rack could possibly be a good shell for Lupine Prototype. For one, the goal of the 8-rack deck is to empty your opponent’s hand and kill the opponent in large chunks; in doing so emptying your own hand as well. All of these traits seem favorable for Lupine Protoype to shine. I am not sure it will see play in either of these decks, or at all in constructed, but I feel that in the right shell this card can be a dangerous threat.