Hoofing It

Posted in Card Preview on March 1, 2017

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Magic moves forward all the time. New sets and releases drive the discussions around decks, and even when there aren't new cards, we still refine and adjust what we're playing next time. There's always something up ahead. The game is always on a breakneck pace toward the future.

Getting a real chance to look back seems rarer and rarer every year.

Modern Masters 2017 Edition is one of those chances, and it's exciting for me personally. I'm closing in on a decade of Magic writing, driven by a lifetime of Magic gaming. Revisiting cards is part of why I love Commander so much, and Modern is the best competitive way to take the cards you love this year and never let them go.

And sometimes I get to talk about a card again years later with the benefit of hindsight. Welcome back, Craterhoof Behemoth—I'm happy to see you again.

When I first saw the Behemoth, I so eloquently said, "While it's easy to dismiss Craterhoof Behemoth as 'just another big, dumb creature,' I think there's plenty of things to do with it that will leave opponents smarting."

We should, uh, catch up on how that's worked out.

Moving Formats

At first, Craterhoof Behemoth felt like a fun Commander-esque card ready to go big late in the game. It turns out the actual math on that was better than expected. Among the first to leave opponents in a crater, Brad Nelson showed it off during its trip through Standard with a graveyard-fueled deck aptly titled "Hoof, There It Is!"

Brad Nelson's Hoof, There It Is!

That's a pretty sweet spot for a card—getting to matter in Standard. (It was an angelic miracle I went two-for-two in Avacyn Restored previews. 2012 was a weird time.) What's better is when a card goes beyond just a Standard or casual and becomes a staple way to play Magic for years.

Hello Modern. In Vancouver. Just the other week.

Chris Norrie's Genesis Wave

Oh, and Legacy too. That same week.

ThePrevailer's Craterhoof Behemoth

I looked into Vintage, since Paul Rietzl unironically took a Spirits deck into Season 5 of Vintage Super League and, to my surprise (with the help of a deep dive back a few years) I found our favorite Behemoth hit home there, too.

Scandimaniac's Elves

While you can't put it into today's Standard decks (You can turn your head sideways a bit and squint at Decimator of Provinces for something similar.), the staying power of Craterhoof Behemoth is impressive.

Here's why:

  • Chord of Calling and other ways to tutor it out onto the battlefield mean going wide and ending games immediately go hand in hand.
  • Because you can reliably tutor it up when you need it, you don't need many copies in your deck, keeping your opening hands and set up draws clean.
  • Most decks that run it and end up drawing it make enough mana to cast it, planning to play it off a huge Genesis Wave or as a function of approximately a million Elves.
  • Going wide and attacking without the Behemoth can work, too. It turns out enough small creatures can lead to lethal damage without a supercharged Overwhelming Stampede.

At any point of the game, Craterhoof Behemoth needs to be respected. If you wait for it to appear, you may be overrun by small fries. If you keep stomping the tiny creatures, it still takes just a handful plus Craterhoof Behemoth to finish you off.

Craterhoof Behemoth is among an elite few cards that do what they do like no other. It functions in a way that makes it easily playable in decks. It lends itself to strategies that feel different from what other decks are often doing. I've seen a parade of Lightning Bolts and Tarmogoyfs across Modern and Legacy, but jamming an eight-mana creature that lets you make a pun off cratering opponents' chances of winning is always going to be close to my heart.

A Commanding Presence

Oh, and there are other formats, too. As I shared earlier, Commander is a natural home for Craterhoof Behemoth. It's big, plays nice with others, and can surprise even opponents with mighty life totals.

It also happens to be among the best ways to win with my favorite Commander of all-time: Rhys the Redeemed.

Adam Styborski's Rhys the Redeemed

COMMANDER: Rhys the Redeemed
99 Cards

There's a few Aether Revolt and Command Zone–inspired tweaks I need to make, but that doesn't change that Craterhoof Behemoth isn't a very fair card in this deck. Using the clever ways Modern, Legacy, and Vintage decks can trick it out on the battlefield—plus my personal favorite in Defense of the Heart—it's not terribly challenging to assemble a cadre of creatures and suddenly attack for over 100 damage.

Of course, when I do that is a little different than my competitive-format friends.

Craterhoof Behemoth is a threat every savvy Commander player watches for. They know that token strategies lead to cards like Cathars' Crusade and Craterhoof Behemoth, so they try to keep a way to stop that in hand. You can't prevent everything everyone does in multiplayer—well, you can, but you may find you run out of friends to "play" with after a while—but watching for the critical cards and turns that can let a deck win out of nowhere is still valuable.

Tracking your opponents' plans is Multiplayer 101.

I like breaking out the Behemoth when things have gone too far. Perhaps it's been an hour since we sat down to play. Maybe someone's persistent meddling and awkward effects are just too bothersome. Sometimes a player who's been persistent about beating you down is due a little just comeuppance.

Rarely, I'll just decide it's time to try and win right now.

Whatever the reason, it's an exception for which I'll allow myself to pop the combo lock open and wreak havoc on life totals. Having a "stop that" button to end a game, or just eject a player from it, is a handy tool even if you don't need to use it every time.

It can be entirely appropriate to kill a fly with a sledgehammer, and you can't hit much harder with creatures than Craterhoof Behemoth. Modern Masters 2017 Edition releases on March 17, and I can't wait to hoof it all over again. Brad Nelson was right: Hoof, there it is.

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