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The Top Ten Best Beasts in Constructed Magic: The Gathering

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Before digging into the actual card list of Beasts, I had this romantic idea of cramming Beast Attack into the Top 10 Best Beasts of All Time.

Beast Attack

Though not itself a Beast, Beast Attack makes two Beasts! What could be more Beastly?

It turns out a lot! In fact there are so many good - even great - Beasts I was shocked at who didn't make the cut.

Questiing Beast! It even has "Beast" in the name! One of the most exciting 4/4s for four in the history of Standard play... Especially when combined with Embercleave.

Hydroid Krasis! I won a PTQ with this one myself. It's kind of everything to everyone. It has the life gain of some of the best Beasts, and sheer size that can't be matched (provided you have the mana).

Arboreal Grazer! No one, as far as I know, has ever gotten past one. It also breaks one of the two core synergies of Magic: The Gathering. How good must Beasts be if Arboreal Grazer didn't make the Top 10? Pretty good, it turns out.

Crater Hellion, borrowed by Simic decks... Nucklavee, who broke the Rule of Four... Phantom Nishoba, the biggest and burliest lifeline of its era...

Not a one broke

The Top 10 Beasts of All Time

Number Ten

Kaheera, the Orphanguard

Let's be clear about something to begin with:

The Companion mechanic is a complete disaster. To begin with, the Development team somehow managed to get the casting cost of every single Companion wrong by the delta between an Ancestral Recall (best card in the history of Magic: The Gathering) and Concentrate (yeah, you probably have to look that one up; which kinda does the same thing).

Even then multiple Companions managed to get banned in multiple formats. So, the concept of clever deck design around, say, Yorion or Lurrus is kind of dubious.

Like, I once asked my daughter who she thought the best martial artist in the DC Universe was.

"Easy," she replied. "Superboy Prime."

I was like, "No, I mean like Karate Kid or Nightwing or Batgirl."

She was like, "I know what you meant. But if it takes two different Supermen to throw one Superboy Prime through a red sun and fifty Green Lanterns at all times to keep him down, I just think he just shifts the conversation of who the best martial artist is."

Amid the chaos of Companion, Kaheera, the Orphanguard actually makes for a pretty good overlap between cleverness and utility. Jegantha, the Wellspring gets played in almost any Red or Green deck that wants to just draw an extra card once in a while (even if it's a crappy 5/5 for five)... But Kaheera actually has a little style.

Most commonly Kaheera gets played in uw decks that don't have any creatures at all (and as such is just a freebie that might have some relevance in grinding Game 1s)... But the snazzier stuff is like so:


Kaheera can play the usual Companion role in Game 1... But actually, takes along some friends after sideboarding. Cats, typically, rather than Beasts; but Regal Caracal and Brimaz, King of Orestes make for a transformative sideboard strategy that blocks well and can gain tons of life.

Rawr.

Number Nine

Thrashing Wumpus

Thrashing Wumpus was one of the highest leverage, highest skill, cards of its era.

Situated in the middle of both Block Constructed and Standard formats that were defined by either the powerful Rebel chains...

Ramosian Sergeant
Steadfast Guard
Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero

... or green threats so fast and burly they could only be contained by Fading counters.

Blastoderm
Saproling Burst

Thrashing Wumpus could handle the little guys... But they were putting pressure on a Black mage's life total; and so was Thrashing Wumpus!

The Green threats could be even worse! A Blastoderm - given Shroud - was hard to contain. So sometimes you just needed to pour 2-5 life into your own Beast and hope for the best.

If you were really good at managing your resources - life total in particular - there might not be a better way to win than Thrashing Wumpus. It was a fast clock and control all in one card.

The icon, of course:


Number Eight

Cavern Harpy

When you think of Beasts, you probably think of dealing a bunch of damage to your big dumb opponent; probably with a bulky attack.

But what about doing literally infinite damage? That doesn't sound merely big and dumb. I mean, you have to do a little work to get there; maybe gain infinite life along the way? But Cavern Harpy might be just the Beast for you!

Archetype Deck:


Masashi Oiso has ten - ten - Pro Tour Top 8s... But "only" one Grand Prix win. He did it with the Aluren deck that played not just three Cavern Harpies in the main... But one in the sideboard to go get with Living Wish.

How does this one work?

Once you have Aluren in play, you can play Cavern Harpy for free. When Cavern Harpy enters the battlefield, it has to return a Blue or Black creature to your hand. Why not itself?

Auriok Champion

If you have an Auriok Champion in play, you can just gain a bazillion life that way. Once you're at, say, two bazillion, Maggot Carrier offers a way to actually win the game.

Maggot Carrier

I mean this is a really convoluted way to do it. Maggot Carrier enters the battlefield; tings both players for one... You end up having to pay a life with Cavern Harpy a bunch of times to get it back into your hand so you can keep gating Maggot Carrier. But hey, two bazillion life, am I right?

Cavern Harpy was a signature Beast in a hell of a deck... But that's not the only reason it is one of the Top 10 Beasts of all time.

This card was a killer in Invasion Block Limited as well.

Cavern Harpy was literally printed at Common!

It single-handedly out-classed an entire color. But what about some of the cards it could combine with, in Limited?

Phyrexian Rager
Ravenous Rats
Stormscape Battlemage

None of these cards were rare!?!

Number Seven

Protean Hulk

Billy Moreno made the best Constructed deck "ever" played at a Grand Prix; often called the best Constructed deck of all time:


Four ex Protean Hulk!

Imagine you sit down at the Grand Prix table and your opponent plays first turn land, Chrome Mox, and Flash?

Then he shows you Protean Hulk with Flash, and kind of gestures at his deck.

Would you know how the combo works?

Well neither did Steve Sadin.

Sadin just got a ton of concessions through Day One until Owen Turtenwald made him actually go through the combo. That didn't go so well.

They had a rematch in the Finals, where Steve acquitted himself to the tune of a Grand Prix victory (his deck was THAT good); having learned how to execute the combo somewhere along the way.

FWIW, Protean Hulk costs seven; Karmic Guide + Carrion Feeder only cost six total... Karmic Guide can re-buy Protean Hulk; Carrion Feeder can eat it to create another trigger (which gets Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker)... and then Kiki-Jiki and Karmic Guide can create a lot of hasty Angels.

Number Six

Arc-Slogger

Big Red | Mirrodin Block | Kuroda Masashiro, 1st Place Pro Tour Kobe 2004


It was the height of Ravager Affinity.

Skullclamp was still legal!

Tooth and Nail emerged in the very same tournament - in the hands of none other than Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif! But Yellow Hat only came in second.

Arc-Slogger got him.

Arc-Slogger got everyone.

Basically, if you untapped with this card in play, your opponent died the next turn.

Surely, it had some help from Shrapnel Blast and other burn cards; but really? Arc-Slogger got everyone.

Number Five

Thragtusk


I don't even know what to say about Thragtusk, other than if you only looked up the Reid Duke decks with Thragtusk you'd have quite a buffet of different cool strategies. I mean it's Reid, so get ready for a bunch of grinding Jund decks [with four Thragtusks], but at least they will be across multiple formats.

I chose this one because it has always been the deck that I wished I had designed myself. Reid won this particular Grand Prix, but Andrew Cuneo and Sam Black spilled their DNA all over it as well.

Because this is an article about Beasts, the sizzle here is the flashy combination between Thragtusk and Restoration Angel. Gain five; pick it up, get a 3/3; re-load for another five... Get a sweet 4 toughness block along the way? But me? I still adore the Nephalia Drownyard kill thanks to Farseek.

Thragtusk has had just an impressive a career just coming out of Modern Tron sideboards.

And a bazillion-and-one other midrange decks (or decks that shifted into midrange).

Number Four

Spiritmonger

What is there to even say about Spiritmonger?

When this card came out people were kind of incredulous. A 6/6 for five? Also you basically can't kill it?

Sol Malka snapped Spiritmonger up as quickly as possible and slammed it into the deck that eventually became known as The Rock and His Millions.

Yours Truly won a Grand Prix Trial with Sol's The Rock, beating Dr. Michael Pustilnik for the byes. MikeyP ran with the list and won Grand Prix Las Vegas with it. I had the byes but had to settle for winning the Day Two PTQ.

But the victory - both victories, really - belonged to Sol, and Spiritmonger.


In case you don't have a PHD in Malka deck design, Sol would play a random regenerator in all his deck lists. Survival Control... With River Boa? Any random midrange deck... With Albino Troll? Sol always named his decks after pro wrestlers, and Albino Troll's was called Big Poppa Pump, after Scott Steiner.

Thank Gawd - and thanks for the Blue Envelope - that Spiritmonger made so much sense in The Rock.

Number Three

Craterhoof Behemoth


Once upon a time [no relation] the best creature you could get with a Natural Order was a Verdant Force. No really!

I went through the Premodern card list, and Verdant Force really is the best thing you can get; meaning back in the day, it really was the best thing you could get. Still, a Verdant Force is gigantic, and kinda sorta generates a ton of card advantage (or at least an unending stream of blockers).

But for contemporary Magic?

We can do a little better.

For a deck like Legacy Elves, which has so many bodies on the battlefield already, Craterhoof Behemoth is basically where you want to be. You cast Natural Order, it comes into play, everybody gets trample; your opponent gets trampled.

It's arguable that Craterhoof Behemoth is actually the best Best BEST Beast; because it's the card that the best players choose to win with, when casting cost is literally of no consideration.

Still, #3 is pretty great. Especially when you have to get past 1 and 2.

Number Two

Aquamoeba

Scottie Pippen also has six Championships, and is also in the NBA Hall of Fame. What I mean by that is that even the Savage Bastard could not do it alone.

Aquamoeba's biggest fault was simply that it wasn't, exactly, Wild Mongrel.

But a two mana creature that was also a madness enabler - that didn't rely on being able to untap successfully - made Aquamoeba the pivotal go-to; even when Standard and even wider formats like Extended gave options like Merfolk Looter.

Consider Billy Moreno's career-making hybrid Madness deck:


What you have to understand about Billy's deck is that this deck could do everything. Gifts Ungiven could set up Deep Analysis or Life from the Loam, and draw more cards than any control deck. It had first turn God draws thanks to Chrome Mox, and could rule The Red Zone thanks to Umezawa's Jitte. Gifts Ungiven or the dredge mechanic (or both together) could produce Wonder on demand. It even had a Merfolk Looter!

Billy's deck could do everything and still Aquamoeba was there to make sure that it all did happen; that he didn't get run over before it could happen.

This was several years into Aquamoeba's existence, and two levels up from Block Constructed; plus a year past Geoffrey Siron's deck from Columbus the previous Extended Pro Tour:


Yes, the Savage Bastard was the best. It was the Jordan to Aquamoeba's Pippen; but Aquamoeba still offered a ton in seemingly every Madness build. That third toughness was actually quite important as a baseline. Red Decks even in Extended had to choose between cards like Magma Jet and Volcanic Hammer for a while. Lightning Bolt hadn't been reprinted yet; so a 1/3 on defense was actually kind of a stop sign against a legion of 2/1 creatures.

Once you got past that, everything else was where this Beast shined.

Mid-combat 4/4s. 1 mana Counterspells. Keeping them guessing. Invalidating a planned defense thanks to being a Wonder enabler. Was Aquamoeba Wild Mongrel? For the third time, no. It was Number Two in a strategy that still performs in Premodern in 2024!

That's why we "only" made it Number Two.

Number One

Ravenous Baloth

Wait a minute. Isn't Obstinate Baloth just better?

Not really.

Not in context.

Obstinate Baloth is kind of better on paper; but when was the last time a beatdown player was quaking in their boots over an Obstinate Baloth?

Ravenous Baloth, though?

That was the Beast's Beast. It even ate other Beasts to keep you alive!

This is a card that slotted right into The Rock once it was printed (and got along okay with big daddy Spiritmonger, especially in Red-splash versions)... And this was a card that stood alongside Loxodon Hierarch in a time when a 4/4 life gain creature could actually give a beatdown player pause.

But Ravenous Baloth was probably at its height in the Top 4 of Pro Tour Venice, in the hands of Jordan Berkowitz:


Sure, Canopy Crawler probably had the higher ceiling at four mana; but nothing could compare with Ravenous Baloth's sheer consistency. Always 4/4. Always ready to rumble with an oncoming Goblin Warchief.

And remember what I said about splash-Red? Take a second and read Contested Cliffs. Chef's Kiss on this one.

The Beast's Beast.

LOVE

MIKE


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