Dominaria celebrates Magic’s history while adding an entry to the power/toughness matrix. Accordingly, I wanted to pay homage to some of the weirdest power/toughness combinations ever printed on Magic cards. Let’s get to my choices!
Future Sight was wild, and negative power was only one of the many bizarre things it explored. Char-Rumbler’s negative power kept the double striker with firebreathing in check. Since it deals no combat damage while its power is -1 or 0, you have to spend 2 mana before it actually does something. But it does get pretty powerful once you have plenty of red mana.
9. Force of Savagery
Yup, another Future Sight card. It looks unplayable at first glance, making you wonder what you are supposed to do with a 0-toughness creature. After all, it will just go to the graveyard immediately as a state-based action.
But ultimately, it gets you thinking about ways to use it. To have Force of Savagery survive, you could use a card like Gaea’s Anthem. Alternatively, you could exploit its high power and definite death with Varolz, the Scar-Striped. Although neither approach has led to a competitive Modern deck, I love that cards like Force of Savagery exist.
8. Wall of Shards
Magic has seen plenty of high-toughness Walls, and cards like Glacial Wall or Wall of Stone make sense from a flavor perspective. They are sturdy and hard to kill, but they don’t damage any creature that tries to assault them.
Wall of Shards is unique in that it’s the only 7+ toughness Wall with non-zero power. I can only wonder how—maybe the creatures cut themselves on the shards? Either way, the card is made even more bizarre by its cumulative upkeep, which can be exploited with Tainted Remedy and Rain of Gore. It’s even an underused sideboard option against Death’s Shadow. But most of all, Wall of Shards’ size is odd.
7. Little Girl
Silver-bordered sets always include lots of weird designs, and Unhinged was no different. As the set’s sole vanilla creature, Little Girl took advantage of the fact that the set used fractions. As Mark Rosewater wrote: “Once we decided to do fractions, it became clear that this card was a must.”
If you wonder how the card even works: well, if you get hit by Little Girl when you’re at 20, you would take half a damage, falling down to nineteen-and-a-half. And with the half-white cost, you can tap a Plains to cast two Little Girls on turn 1. That may sound underwhelming, but she worked well with Fraction Jackson and City of Ass.
6. Autochthon Wurm
There are multiple creatures with 13 toughness (including the peculiar Tree of Perdition and Tree of Redemption) and two creatures with 15 toughness (namely Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Worldspine Wurm). But there is only one creature in Magic’s history with 14 toughness: Autochthon Wurm.
To make matters even weirder, Autochthon Wurm lacks the square stats that Darksteel Colossus, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, and almost all other huge creatures have. Still, it can survive Shivan Meteor, and I can only imagine the R&D discussions that pegged the Wurm at exactly 9 power and exactly 15 mana. Would it really have been overpowered at 10 power and 14 mana?
5. Spinal Parasite
Even considering its built-in way of growing, Spinal Parasite’s negative power and toughness is just plain weird.
R&D’s Brian Schneider explained the design as follows: “We hadn’t done a -1/-1 before and with sunburst it just felt like it was the right time. We were looking for a way to make Spinal Parasite more unique, and Mike Elliott half-jokingly submitted ‘make it a -1/-1.’ The development team liked the idea, and thus, Spinal Parasite is a -1/-1. It could have been a 0/0 and more powerful… but sometimes being more powerful isn’t more interesting.”
4. Big Furry Monster
Big Furry Monster, the most popular card in Unglued and the inspiration for the augment mechanic from Unstable, historically put an end to the years-long arms race between the 8/8 Force of Nature, the 9/9 Colossus of Sardia, the 10/10 Leviathan, the 11/11 Polar Kraken, and the 12/12 Phyrexian Dreadnought.
B.F.M. is so big that it even extended over two cards. The next-biggest square-stats creature (not counting the Marit Lage token that Dark Depths creates) is Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which is a puny 15/15 by comparison. That said, even after drawing two different cards and spending 15 black mana, B.F.M. is easily taken down by a Typhoid Rats and two Squirrel tokens. At least Emrakul required 15 flying Squirrels.
3. Infinity Elemental
Infinite power? What does that even mean? Well, apparently, we should treat Infinity Elemental’s power as if it has no bound, which means that it can’t change with a pump spell and instantly slays any creature, planeswalker, or player it touches.
That’s fair enough, but things get weird when you combine Infinity Elemental with other cards. For example, what if you block your opponent’s Broodhatch Nantuko with Infinity Elemental and then attack back with Nacatl War-Pride? (You still die.) And what if you used Swords to Plowshares to gain infinite life and then get hit with an opposing Infinity Elemental? (You’d still be at infinite life.) Indeed, this card is infinitely weird.
2. Lord of Tresserhorn
For those that might not know the expression, a way to say goodbye in CB slang (CBs were a type of radio used by truckers back in the 70s) was “10-4, good buddy.” “10-4” was a way to say “okay” that you heard the other speaker. “Good buddy,” at the time, was a term for a friend. The card was actually designed as a 9/4 but the development team (my first as a fresh young developer) changed it to 10/4 because we specifically thought it would be funny to refer to him as Good Buddy.
That’s how we got Magic’s only 10/4. And it also explains why CB enthusiasts like to boost a certain Dominaria creature with Arbor Armament so much.
1. Yargle, Glutton of Urborg
Yargle is memorable for its name, its flavor text, its creature type, and its stats: the first 9/3 in Magic. The Yargle madness even hit the Limited Resources community review since the joke “A+” grades drove Yargle to the top of the most controversial list.
According to Mark Rosewater, the story of Yargle’s design takes us back to 2004: “During one Champions of Kamigawa development meeting […], someone said it was impossible to design a legendary vanilla creature. I said it wasn’t and designed Isamaru, Hound of Konda on the spot to prove them wrong. Dominaria was another set with a legendary theme, so the question of a legendary vanilla creature came up again. The solution this time was to come up with a unique power/toughness combination that […] had never before been done in Magic. They ended up with a 9/3.”
I can only guess what the next novel power/toughness combination will be to see print. Maybe a 9/4? A 7/9? A 14/14? Let me know your prediction in the comment section below!