Tarmogoyf – Future Sight
Date Reviewed: April 1, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
If you don’t play Modern, you may not be familiar with Tarmogoyf or the fact that he was once the most controversial creature in Magic. People called him a blue card disguised as a green one, despite the fact that he helped force those insufferable Counterbalance decks to diversify just by being too efficient to ignore. They demanded he be banned in Standard for being stronger than five- and six-cost creatures. Well, that one is kind of thought-provoking on every end, particularly in contrast with the current philosophy about banning things for diversity reasons, and generally more readily in certain formats. There was a time when Tarmogoyf was everywhere, because he was the best creature at his mana cost in aggro, tempo, and sometimes even in control.
That may arguably have changed with the immense diversification in creature abilities we’ve seen, but there are times when you just want to hit and want to hit hard. At such times, it’s hard to look past Tarmogoyf.
Casual: 4/5 (very strong, but not truly necessary: you can get a similar effect with other cards, albeit not as efficiently)
Mark Rosewater has claimed that one of the reasons there haven’t been new lhurgoyfs recently is because people have trouble pronouncing the word. I’m not sure this explanation holds much water, considering how many different ways I’ve heard people pronounce the words “Garruk” and “Ravnica”.
At this point, the tale of Tarmogoyf’s infamy is as old as time. Originally put into Future Sight as a preview of two card types making their proper debut in Lorwyn (tribal and planeswalker, though the former did have a brief cameo in the form of Bound in Silence), Tarmogoyf was originally pulled to make room for the first planeswalkers. But they were unable to “solve” them in time, so they re-added Tarmogoyf to preview the type. In the process, though, they wound up making a monster by giving Tarmogoyf extremely efficient stats that were better than it initially was planned as; it was originally GGG for a */*, not 1G for a */1+*.
While Tarmogoyf may no longer be the “best creature in the game”, a title you could argue that it held for a good while, it was a dominant, format-warping monster from early on as a result of how quickly it gets large and how cheap it was, as well as just being hard to kill to begin with. Damage-based removal used on it works weirdly, since Tarmogoyf’s toughness is continually modified, and this means it resists a lot of it as long as it’s not terribly early. It was even seen as good enough for Vintage, quite the feat. It shone brightest whenever fetchlands were around, but it’s not impossible for some decks (like Jund builds) to have this hit the field as a 3/4 on turn 2. The dream of an 8/9 Tarmogoyf is rarely realized, even back in Time Spiral/Lorwyn Standard, but when the usual scenario is a 4/5 or larger, that’s a worthwhile use of 2 mana. It also deserves bonus points for being the last new lhurgoyf, the delightfully-named tribe with a propensity towards growing based off of graveyards.
Even in an era where it’s no longer indomitable, Tarmogoyf still has a rather undeniable legacy, thanks to the terror it wrought in its prime, and it still makes a name for itself as a powerful creature in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage. It may lack keywords, but when you’re as big as it is for little investment, who really cares about that?
Constructed: 5 (it may not realistically be a 5 in today’s game, but it’s earned this grade for being legitimately playable in the game’s strongest formats and being a barometer for how good creatures are to this day)
Multiplayer: 4.75 (it tracks all graveyards, which makes this potentially very large)
Commander: 4 (it’s just a body with no keywords; it’s still cheap and powerful, but there are probably better options than everyone’s favorite lhurgoyf for 2 mana)
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