Savannah Lions – Alpha
Date Reviewed: January 26, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 2.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It’s incredible to think Savannah Lions has only been reviewed once before on Pojo. I’d like to think that’s because it was always obvious that it’s a good card. It puts a lot of pressure on opponents when it comes down early, and sometimes that’s all you really need. Also, for a long time, its particular mana to power ratio was considered unusual, and often came with a drawback. Note that back when our then-team reviewed the card, it had been out of Standard for years, considered to no longer match Magic’s needs (and the act of writing that colors my nostalgia for 2002 – sorry, Anne-Marie).
Of course, that’s far from the case now, and many of those recent creatures come with additional abilities. I don’t think it’s quite correct to say that Savannah Lions is completely obsolete, as cards with specific abilities have a risk of those abilities being irrelevant. For example, something which can return from the graveyard (Dread Wanderer et al) is relevant in a larger number of matchups than something like Soldier of the Pantheon or Dryad Militant. On at least some occasions, the part of those cards that get you is the two power, not the abilities, and if your metagame is either unknown or lacking in things you need to hose, you’ll just want to attack as early and often as possible. And if so, there’s no shame in playing the original (and you might get tribal points or style points in the process!).
Multiplayer: 2 (they’re good at attacking 20 life, less so at attacking 40-60 life)
Commander [EDH]: 2 (see Multiplayer, but add about 20-40 life to the caveat)
I feel like Savannah Lions is incredibly instructive of how Magic‘s creatures have changed over the years. Back in the first days of the game, it was incredibly useful as a one-mana, two-power creature. I don’t believe there were many others besides it, and most of them all came with downsides, so Savannah Lions stood tall as quite the threat, a fast-ticking clock that could plow through life totals expediently. While it’s true that this is still a job Savannah Lions can do, creatures have gotten better and better over the years, reflected by the kitties going all the way from rare (in Unlimited) to a common (in Dominaria Remastered).
For the job they’re aiming to do, Savannah Lions are fine, though they’re no longer the forces they once were. They were always on the fragile side, but there are far more things that will just incidentally remove them, and there are even better Cats in the one-mana slot if you’re trying to build an awesome Cat Tribal deck. You may be able to eke some mileage out of them, but their time has largely passed by this point, sadly.
Constructed: 2 (maybe not completely unviable, but one-drops in white are far more crowded than they were 30 years ago)
Limited: 3.5 (still quite a strong early creature, but not so hot later)
Commander [EDH]: 2.25 (Cat Tribal is viable here, but Savannah Lions will have a hard time making the cut unless you really have a soft spot for them)
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