Flametongue Kavu – Planeshift
Date Reviewed: January 5, 2023
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
People used to have a grudge against this card because of the power of its enters-the-battlefield trigger. You might be used to hearing things like that in the context of toxic forum arguments, but Flametongue Kavu was the subject of such discussions all the way back in the early to mid-2000s. Not only was it a big part of the reason Fires of Yavimaya decks were so good in Standard, some people were upset that Serra Angel was finally reprinted in the Seventh Edition and was “invalidated” by the Kavu. But I’d argue that Serra Angel’s decline was as much because of creatures with other kinds of abilities and synergies (think Goblin Lackey, Mother of Runes, or Squee, Goblin Nabob) as it was because of two-for-ones like Flametongue Kavu.
And in 2023, the Kavu’s effect is no longer even the strongest such trigger in Magic, so does it still have a place to do stuff? Absolutely – creature-heavy decks are the default in other big formats, and red needs ways to keep up with utility creatures and some of the abilities you’ll see early in games. It’s a little slow for Legacy, and you’ll see people ruling it out for their maximum power cubes, but saner designers use it with caution. It will change how you assess creatures, as four damage is close enough to Nekrataal for many creatures all the way up the mana curve.
Constructed: 3 (for current constructed formats; in Invasion Standard it was easily a 4-4.5)
Commander [EDH]: 4
Pairing a warm body with a removal spell, Flametongue Kavu is a card that punched well above its seeming weight back in Invasion-era Constructed. Four damage to any creature on entry is a good way to take out most targets, considering that four toughness is a “golden number” for its ability to dodge Lightning Bolt and Lightning Strike, and this little friend pairs that efficient removal strike with an efficient enough body. Put together, and you have an efficient 2-for-1 machine that can also threaten opponents in an open board. That said, be mindful of that Flametongue Kavu shoots something when it enters play…which includes itself, if there are no other eligible targets.
While Kavu has never returned to Standard or gotten introduced to Modern, it’s still a very powerful creature for both its time and for the present day, even sneaking into Legacy decks on occasion as a tech choice. It’s certainly not a star in the format, but it dodges a lot of the hate that would be aimed at non-creature spells and removes things all the same, both of which are valuable weapons when you’re trying to get the rest of the way across the finish line.
Constructed: 3.5 (it’d be higher if it was legal in Standard, but bit player in Legacy is still quite good for a creature that’s over two decades old by now)
Limited: 4.5 (removes most things in a pinch; just don’t play him into an empty board)
Commander [EDH]: 4
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