In Green Bay, Wisconsin, “hate bears” is a credo you might find on a coat of arms passed from generation to generation. In the Magic: The Gathering world, Bears are 2/2s for 2 (or thereabouts, depending on who you ask) and hate bears are creatures roughly 2/2 in size for roughly 2 mana that disrupt an opponent’s game plan, often by making their spells more expensive or un-castable, by limiting access to graveyards, or by giving artifacts an upkeep cost, to name a few examples.

Tomik, Distinguished Advokist

Standard tends not to be the primary stomping ground (temple garden?) for hate bears. If your opponent is likely to consider “casting 4/4 creatures” to be “their thing,” then there aren’t many hate bears great at disrupting that. In non-rotating formats like Modern and Legacy, however, the opponent’s game plan is as likely to be assembling some winning combination that ignores creatures as it is to be putting large creatures into the play the honest way. You might still take 20 combat damage, but it could be Marit Lage in Legacy or Arclight Phoenixes that never got cast in Modern. Bears might have something to say about those outcomes.

In evaluating a new hate bear, the details matter. And not just the ones printed on this particular card. The strategies a bear seeks to disrupt have differing popularities, vulnerabilities, and overlaps. Tomik, Distinguished Advokist obviously hates on “land”-related strategies, but what do those look like in Legacy and Modern?

Legacy

  • Port, Ghost Quarter (opponent’s only, don’t worry) – Pretty common.
  • Life from the Loam – Linchpin of popular archetype.
  • Dark Depths – Linchpin of popular archetype, role-player in others.
  • Sinkhole – I’ve seen it.
  • Wasteland – Widespread tool and pillar of the format.
  • Creaturelands you control – Not very popular because of Wasteland, but Mishra’s Factory and Mutavault are strong cards.
  • Surgical Extraction on a key land in your graveyard – Unlikely in the context of WW-costed creature, but possible.

Modern

  • Life from the Loam – Surprisingly important card in creature matchups in popular strategies (Dredge).
  • Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, Tectonic Edge – Popular tools, but not that strong against white weenie type strategies (good thing it doesn’t cost 1G).
  • Gruul Land Destruction – Fringe deck but comically high impact.
  • Creaturelands you control – Popular cards including Celestial Colonnade, Mutavault, and Stirring Wildwood that could prove slightly more annoying if you have to kill a different creature first.
  • Surgical Extraction on a key land in your graveyard – Unlikely in the context of WW-costed creature, but possible.
  • Cryptic Command a land – I’ve seen it many times, but fringe value here.

The lists are not overwhelming, but at least the Legacy one means this card is attacking a few popular strategies in an effective way. It’s a nice tool to have in Modern, but I want to focus today on Legacy given that the impact is so much clearer there.

Is This Card Legacy Playable?

The million dollar question (note to editor: please let CFB Game Center know that the players would appreciate a $1M Legacy tourney, thanks). Death & Taxes, despite its stupid name, has been one of the three or four most popular decks in Legacy in recent years. The deck uses a variety of hate bears to shut opposing strategies down while beating down and using mana-denial lands to increase the squeeze.

Let’s look at a deck that recently made Top 8 of a Legacy Challenge on MTGO:

Death & Taxes

luinil, April 1, 2019

1 Ancient Tomb
3 Karakas
4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland
12 Plains
4 Flickerwisp
1 Hallowed Spiritkeeper
4 Mother of Runes
1 Palace Jailer
2 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Recruiter of the Guard
1 Sanctum Prelate
2 Serra Avenger
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 AEther Vial
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Umezawa's Jitte

Sideboard
1 Cataclysm
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Containment Priest
2 Council's Judgment
1 Damping Sphere
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Path to Exile
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rest in Peace
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Surgical Extraction

One thing to note/lament is that with 3 toughness, Tomik is not a valid tutor target for Recruiter of the Guard. Having said that, given where the card is needed most, it’s pretty critical that Punishing Fire does not easily kill it, so that’s nice. Notice also that the deck is forced to play a full four copies of Swords to Plowshares in no small part because of the card Dark Depths. Sure, that’s not all Swords is doing, but whenever you think of trimming or moving some to the sideboard, the prospect of being attacked for 20 does loom large.

Tomik is a legend, which makes it vulnerable to Karakas but also protected by your own. It makes it weaker in multiples as well, but there isn’t going to be room for three or four anyway.

One key thing to note is how favorably the body lines up with that of Serra Avenger, a card used exclusively for the body (not a hate bear). 2/3 flying for WW is obviously behind a 3/3 flyer with vigilance at the same cost, but it really isn’t far behind. You don’t have to wait until turn 4 to deploy it. And it provides a hate bear effect in some matchups. A swap would not change the number or nature of our Recruiter targets.

On balance, I’m sold on swapping Tomiks for Serra Avengers in lists like this. It doesn’t come “free” but it comes at low enough cost that frustrating Lands and Depths opponents, or just anyone trying to Wasteland our Ports or Karakas, to be worth it.

Revised list with the swap:

Death & Taxes

1 Ancient Tomb
3 Karakas
4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland
12 Plains
4 Flickerwisp
1 Hallowed Spiritkeeper
4 Mother of Runes
1 Palace Jailer
2 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Recruiter of the Guard
1 Sanctum Prelate
2 Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 AEther Vial
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Umezawa's Jitte

Sideboard
1 Cataclysm
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Containment Priest
2 Council's Judgment
1 Damping Sphere
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
1 Path to Exile
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rest in Peace
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Surgical Extraction

This archetype is popular enough, efficient enough, and powerful enough that a new card that slots right in is headline news for Legacy players. There are other possibilities here as well, but I expect to see an immediate and potentially significant impact right away in the Legacy Death & Taxes application of this card.

Death & Taxes players, let me know if you agree. Lands and Depths players, let me know why you’re not worried (we can tell you’re kind of worried, though).