Magic Memories: Abyssal Hunter

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I thought that I was probably going for an obscure card when I started a thread about Pursuit of Knowledge, but apparently Melkor used it. So now I'm dipping deeper into the well of obscurity! Kind of. I mean, that's not really what this is about...

    I noticed that I tend to focus on non-creature spells. It's a pattern that will continue, but I did want to give the little buggers some representation here and there. Maybe more than anyone else I know, I do tend to emphasize non-creature spells and decks that don't really focus on creatures. But it's not that I dislike creatures! Quite the opposite. I think that creatures are a great part of the game. When it comes to deck archetypes, despite my combo-preachiness, I am actually rather cosmopolitan in my tastes. I am perfectly content to throw down in some grindy control vs. control match, or to face an explosive tempo deck and try to race in and go for a faster kill with a dedicated linear aggro deck. I've met people who don't like to play control decks because they find them too plodding, or who only want to play intricate, synergy-based decks because they find simple decks too bland. I can roll with any of them, so I think I'm less fickle than most about these matters. But there is one thing that I don't care for, and that's when everyone involved is playing a deck focused entirely on creature combat, with little to nothing in the way of tricks or utility. Just want to play creatures and use them to attack and block? Fine, I'll kill them, or I'll steal them, or I'll ignore them and kill you with spells, or I'll use an engine to make huge creatures that trample over your blockers, or I'll sneak in and kill you with poison counters, or I'll block everything and mill you out, or I'll bounce everything. Anything, anything at all, besides sitting around trading attackers and blockers, playing those power and toughness numbers and seeing who wins at Battlefield: the Gathering. So I do like creatures, and I don't mind attacking with them or blocking with them, but I would like them to be doing something a little more interesting too, and so I prefer utility creatures.

    I've heard that Limited formats, especially Sealed Deck, tend to mimic the sort of gameplay that you'd get if you were playing Constructed, but everyone had only very small collections, like they were just starting out and couldn't build decks filled with flashy rares and perfectly tuned engines. That's probably right. And it's probably closer to Richard Garfield's original vision for the game. And really, I do see the appeal there too, but I think that a more developed, deeper format, such as Legacy, can be more interesting. Still, almost everyone who plays this game started with one of those small collections, with decks that play more like the ones in Limited formats. A lot of creature combat was going on for us as new players, and not a lot of extravagant, explosive, divergent gameplay.

    I couldn't possibly remember what exactly my decks looked like 20 years ago, and if I could see them, I'd probably be surprised at just how incoherent they were. But it was a learning experience, and that was the value in it. I had no idea what I was doing at first, and even when I did start to comprehend the game, I had some pretty weird notions. In 1998, I had some deck with my two copies of Barrin's Codex, and I endeavored to stall the game as long as possible so as to draw lots of cards off the Codex, but I can't remember why, as I don't think I had anything good to actually do with such a big hand. I had some bad deck that attempted to force creatures to attack into my Wall of Essence, so I could gain life from being attacked. My hazy recollection of my first couple of years makes it seem surreal. Like I had some understanding of gameplay, but nothing I was doing made sense. Still, I did get mileage out of some things. So while I haven't touched it in forever, my go-to utility creature at the time was Abyssal Hunter.


    Entirely tame by today's standards and I never normally think about the creature, but whenever I do happen to see it, I grin just like the guy in the artwork. This thing put in work in my earliest blue/black decks.
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Among casual players in my area, Royal Assassin was all the rage. Alas, I didn't own Royal Assassin, but I did own Abyssal Hunter. Now, one might think that those two creatures are dissimilar: Royal Assassin kills creatures if they are tapped and Abyssal Hunter taps creatures and damages them. But really, there's a lot of overlap. Both cards provide some measure of protection against attackers (Royal Assassin kills them because they become tapped, while Abyssal Hunter taps them so that they cannot attack). Both can potentially kill things. Both are themselves weak in combat, but have abilities that can circumvent combat entirely. Abyssal Hunter is even, in some ways, better: it can kill small creatures, lock down regenerating creatures, and scale up with auras to kill even more things. Realistically, as a four-drop that doesn't get the word "destroy" it is probably a weaker card overall than the three-drop that does. But at least it's versatile.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    This is a card that I haven't really used in a long time. I wonder how it would do these days. I mean, it's no tournament card, but just as a scrubby casual utility creature. Four mana is a bit much, but it could still work. These days, they would either make the creature bigger or provide the small creature at a lower mana cost. Except they'd never do this card anymore because it would go against the color pie nowadays. Black isn't allowed to to direct damage to creatures: that's red's thing. And black isn't allowed to tap creatures: that's white's thing. So it would be a white/red creature. Oh, wait...


    I think at some point, someone at WotC R&D had nearly the same train of thought that I had. And really, Stun Sniper is probably the better card, although you do lose out on the potential to pump it and have it deal more damage. An Abyssal Hunter with an Unholy Strength was a great fun. These days, the more practical option would be to give either creature deathtouch. However, back when I was using Abyssal Hunter, it was often the case that the biggest creatures around had some significant drawback. One mana a turn isn't a bad investment to keep an opponent's Force of Nature or Lord of the Pit locked down. But that kind of card is a lot less prevalent now.
  4. Melkor Well-Known Member

    A lone Abyssal Hunter has been in my binder for a long time and he got into some decks but was mostly a late cut in the deck building process.
    Oversoul likes this.
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Yeah, even for casual decks in a more laid-back environment, four mana is asking a lot for a 1/1 creature. I do think that the card had potential (it would probably have made more of a splash if it had been printed in Ice Age instead of Mirage). And Stun Sniper, which is in an awkward color combination for a similar, slightly inferior ability, has been more widely used.

    But hey, it did manage to sneak into 6th Edition, which says something for it.

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