Give 'em the Claws

Posted in Perilous Research on September 4, 2014

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. The Khans of Tarkir Prerelease is fast approaching, and we're finally getting a glimpse of the powerful new cards therein. Today, we'll be discussing an exciting preview card from Khans of Tarkir.

Fireball is one of the most iconic Magic cards ever printed. For over 20 years, Magic players have counted their Red opponents' lands, subtracted one, and chump blocked appropriately. Big sorceries that deal X damage have been successful tools in Constructed and absolutely ridiculous in Limited throughout the game's history.

Unfortunately, X-damage spells have become less effective in a world where the creatures of Constructed have become larger. Now, killing our opponent's three-mana creature will often cost five mana with an X-damage burn spell. The possibility of killing an opponent out of nowhere is enticing, but it's hard to include a card in our Constructed decks that might sit idly in our hand until the final turn of a given game.

Still, the allure of big X-damage spells is undeniable. There are countless games where someone loses with more land in play than the opponent has life remaining. Every time this happens, we dream of a situation where we might have been able to fire off a huge X-damage burn spell to secure victory.

More recently, we've seen some X-damage burn spells with some serious upside. Devil's Play had some Constructed success, but the printing of Sphinx's Revelation quickly made it irrelevant. Now, with Sphinx's Revelation rotating out of Standard, the biggest burn spells are up for consideration again.

We need more than X damage for . We need some kind of upside. Luckily, Crater's Claws does not disappoint.

Crater's Claws is one of the best X-damage burn spells ever printed. In the coming months, we can expect a lot of games to end a lot earlier than they would have otherwise as players fire off Crater's Claws for huge amounts of damage to close games out of nowhere. Traditional Fireball math no longer works here. With Crater's Claws in the mix, players will need to count our lands add one, and chump block accordingly.

One of the best parts about Crater's Claws is the ability to use it as a sorcery-speed Shock or Lightning Strike when we play a large creature into a tapped-out opponent. This is level one with Crater's Claws: we cast Polukranos, World Eater, and then use our one remaining mana to Crater's Claws the threat off the other side of the table. This is a bit of a dangerous play if our opponent has mana open and cards in hand, though. It'll be best to save these types of plays for turns where we have knowledge of our opponents' hands or have them tapped out or have them on zero cards. Paying mana to get two-for-oned by the opponent is usually backbreaking enough to lose a game, and we want to be maximizing the power of this card, not using it to give our opponent an opportunity to get back into a game.

Crater's Claws | Art by Noah Bradley

Crater's Claws works especially well with green cards. Green cards allow us to accelerate our mana, so our Crater's Claws becomes more impressive at an earlier stage of the game. Additionally, green cards give us access to the best large creatures, to get an added bonus to our X spell.

The most impressive combination with Crater's Claws available in Standard is definitely Nissa, Worldwaker. Magic 2015's most powerful card not only provides the 4/4, but it also lets us untap four lands. Assuming we have four Forests, even if we don't hit our land drop, we'll be able to cast Crater's Claws for ten if we untap with Nissa, Worldwaker. Nissa, Worldwaker will become one of the best cards in Standard without question once cards like Sphinx's Revelation and Pack Rat rotate out. Identifying cards that work especially well with Nissa, Worldwaker will, in all likelihood, put us far ahead of the curve when brewing for the new Standard.

It's pretty absurd to think how big of a difference there is between Blaze and Crater's Claws. Adding an extra 2 damage to a card without increasing its mana cost is a massive upgrade; it's the difference between Spark Spray and Lightning Bolt.

Be sure not to miss the rest of the Khans of Tarkir previews here on Magic's latest set will change everything we think we know about the Standard format. Will Crater's Claws be a major player in the new Standard format? I certainly expect it to be, and it doesn't seem like the kind of card that's going to disappoint.

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