Well, well, well what do we have here? A sweet little uncommon from Rivals of Ixalan that may leave its mark on multiple formats. Will this Chupacabra live up to its horrifying reputation or fade into folklore forever?
The most immediate comparison is this card to Nekrataal, a card that has seen play at various points through Magic’s history.
Since the printing of Nekrataal over two decades ago, Ravenous Chupacabra is the newest addition to the family of 187 creatures (that have enters-the-battlefield triggers that destroy other creatures).
Clearly, some of these spells are better than others. Because creatures with these effects are nothing new, we should have an accurate barometer as to the power level of this new addition. So where does our newest beastly horror find a home?
I’ll just come out and say it. Ravenous Chupacabra deserves a spot in almost any Cube. In a powered Cube, Ravenous Chupacabra beats out Nekrataal when it comes to a side-by-side comparison. Not being able to hit black creatures (including multicolored ones) or artifact creatures is a huge drawback. Though a 2/1 first strike is slightly better than a 2/2 vanilla, that isn’t enough to compensate for that disadvantage. Nekrataal prevents regeneration, but I don’t remember the last time I saw that be relevant.
Another comparison is to Skinrender. Outside of hitting Kitchen Finks and Glen Elendra Archmage, the Chupacabra beats out the conditional removal of Skinrender. Not having the ability to kill your own creatures is a small point. Let’s not forget that Skinrender can’t be played onto an empty board in a pinch either. To find room for Ravenous Chupacabra in a powered Cube, I would suggest cutting Nekrataal or Skinrender, leaning toward Nekrataal.
In unpowered Cubes like peasant variants, Ravenous Chupacabra is an easy shoe-in. Value/removal creatures like Shriekmaw, Skinrender, and Nekrataal are at a premium, so arguably none of them should be cut for this new Beast. The lack of planeswalkers in these Cubes at all means that creatures are still king, and I would look elsewhere for a cut. Perhaps a card like Predatory Nightstalker or Dark Hatchling would suffice.
Battle Box is a format where you play without the elements of mana screw or flood. Battle boxes usually comprise cards that are strong, but not overwhelmingly so. A card like Obstinate Baloth is fine, but a card like Thrun, the Last Troll is oppressive. Similarly, planeswalkers have no place in Battle Box because the person who resolves one will often run away with the game. Check out articles by ChannelFireball’s own Brian DeMars for more information on this sweet format.
Ravenous Chupacabra is an excellent addition to Battle Box because of the 2-for-1 value it provides. The ability to destroy any creature and leave behind a 2/2 body is strong, often pivotal, but rarely game-ending. Cards like Flametongue Kavu are great in this format, and the Chupacabra should make an excellent addition as well.
Some decks are in the market for creature-based removal like Shriekmaw or Nekrataal and Ravenous Chupacabra is leagues ahead of both Nekrataal and Skinrender. This card should fit nicely into decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.
Keep in mind what your deck wants to accomplish before impulsively adding value creatures like this, though. Rarely are cards like this better than spells like Vindicate or Putrefy, but the need for them does arise. Shriekmaw is better in Meren decks because of the death trigger from evoking it, while Ravenous Chupacabra is better in Alesha, Who Smiles at Death because of the reduced power from 3 to 2 with her ability.
Sadly, the Chupacabra doesn’t quite hold a candle in formats like these. Too much mana for too little a reward is a recipe for disaster in higher powered Constructed formats.
It should be fairly obvious, but Ravenous Chupacabra is going to be a top pick in Rivals/Ixalan Limited. Though it is tribe agnostic, playing an unconditional 2-for-1 creature like this is a great way to pull ahead on the board. Ixalan is a format where the threats are often more powerful than the removal, so I can see the Chupacabra being especially valuable. This card is far better than most of the set’s rares and mythics, so don’t pass this Beast up easily.
I would be surprised if Ravenous Chupacabra saw no play in Standard. Right now, it may not be the top horror, but once Kaladesh rotates I believe that it will find a home in some decks. It is much easier to turn on and get value out of than Sand Strangler, which has already seen fringe play in Standard. Unconditional removal attached to a body is great value in a format as grindy as Standard, but it still doesn’t do much against cards like Carnage Tyrant, Hazoret the Fervent, or planeswalkers.
All this talk about our new friend from Rivals of Ixalan leaves me ravenous to draft the set. Are you hoping to open up a Ravenous Chupacabra? Maybe a foil one? Thanks so much for reading and until next time, maybe all of your targets be extra juicy.