Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
– Modern Horizons
September 9, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It’s well established that some of the most dangerous effects – as far as the Banned and Restricted List is concerned, anyway – are those related to cost reduction and bypassing of normal game fundamentals. It turns out that’s even true when they’re placed in intentionally boundary-pushing sets like Modern Horizons. Hogaak has abilities that look like drawbacks, but turn out to be just normal gameplay under the right circumstances. Remember that Dredge archetypes have never had a problem with getting cards in their graveyard, to the point where Wizards tried to ban them out of formats at various times. While Modern has super-efficient answers like Path to Exile, sometimes even that just wasn’t enough – the Hogaak decks were almost as consistent as Tinker in its heyday, and at some point you have to consider what it’s reasonable to expect of your players.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually saw Hogaak in Vintage, even. You have basically a whole format based around bizarre plays that often involve free stuff and often operate at right angles to the rest of Magic!
In what might be a record, a card printed in a straight-to-Modern set was banned from the format in roughly three months. Talk about an expedited ban process.
Let’s talk about what makes Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis a problem, because it looks fairly interesting, albeit maybe not that mega-busted, on the surface. It’s an 8/8 with trample for 7, but an interesting proviso: you can’t spend mana to cast it. You’re instead going to use its other abilities, convoke and delve, to get it out; with two black and/or green creatures on board, you can exile 5 cards from your graveyard to get Hogaak to the board. Which means, in Modern, you can use self-mill and looting effects and a couple of cheap creatures to get Hogaak out on turn 2.
So, an 8/8 with trample that comes out on turn 2 would be bad enough, but Hogaak ups the stakes by also being able to be cast from your graveyard after it meets with an unfortunate death experience. That is one of the things that put Hogaak really over the top, especially alloyed with all of the self-mill available in Modern (such as the dredge creatures, as well as Stitcher’s Supplier); once it dies, it comes back really quickly, and you need graveyard hate or exile effects to deal with it. While there are answers, Hogaak forces a very specific subset of answers and is a very fast threat to deal with; turn 2 Hogaaks were very much a Thing while it was Modern-legal, and its dominance over the summer of Modern led to a fairly quick ban.
Hogaak is a creature with a cool premise that wound up being too much for even Modern. I think Hogaak is a creature that can still put in work in Legacy, albeit a bit less efficiently (since Legacy is a format with more speed overall to it and more answers to combo), though its Modern dominance was truly a thing to behold. The big boss monster of Dredge was a bit much, drawing at least two bans directly (itself and Bridge from Below) and leaving a trail of carnage in its wake.
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