Looking at a Random Card: Gang of Elk

(What am I doing here? Read here!)

Gang of Elk: Ah, a green creature this time. And definitely not a rat! An elk beast, to be precise. While elk is a seriously superfluous creature type, being a beast offers a few synergies for limited purposes. Actually, that’s really a FEW, because almost all red tribal cards for beasts are horribly bad (the exception is the pseudo-red Contested Cliffs, which is completely overpowered for limited purposes), and that leaves only green cards, of which only a handful really help the tribe, allowing beasts to be a minor feature at best. (Remarkably, even though it has not nearly as many beasts as Red, Blue might make a better secondary color for beasts, giving the tribe some variety.) There’s not exactly a lack of big green beasts, though, so the Gang is certainly not needed for that purpose.

I think we will agree that I do not have to address this card’s usability in constructed or even casual. I will say a few words about its flavor, though: It’s nice! I don’t like the tendency of Magic to eschew real world creatures (I mean, c’mon, HUMANS are real world creatures – aren’t they?), and a Gang of Elk is a concept I can imagine well and get behind (certainly better than to get in front of it!), while most of Magic’s beasts are somehow generic monsters, which are big, bad and bloodthirsty because… well, because this game is marketed mainly towards juvenile males, and those tend to like big, bad, bloodthirsty beasts, it seems. Green is the color of nature, and thus I feel there’s nothing wrong with it having a few natural animals instead of only baloths (whatever those may be). Just saying.

So, about this card in limited: It can fulfill the role of a big common creature (it is a miss as an uncommon in my book) nicely, but it doesn’t excel there. It’s a Spined Wurm costing an additional mana for getting bigger when blocked. The thing is: The whole point of Spined Wurm is that it already IS too big to be blocked in most circumstances! The extra ability, while sometimes useful, really isn’t worth the waiting – even in limited, six mana is kind of a prohibitive cost, and any such card you’d want to play needs a bit more bang to be worth it. This ability makes much more sense on the likes of Snorting Gahr.

Also, a toughness of 4 is a bit weak for such an expensive creature, and the Gang’s ability does little to help here: When the Gang blocks, or when it is targeted by Grasp of Darkness, Flame Slash or Lightning Blast, it offers no protection. On the slightly cheaper Spined Wurm, that is excusable, but in the 6-mana-slot a creature with an already higher toughness plays better.  Vastwood Gorger would be the default here. Alternatively, you’d like this creature to have some even better evasion, like Rhox does, or maybe Moss Kami (also available as a beast as Giant Warthog), which adds an extra point of toughness AND the useful trample ability. The Gang is just a little underpowered and unexciting – and even in limited, a 6-mana creature shouldn’t be too unexciting. Yes, it shines in situations where a Moss Kami would get double-blocked, but those are far and few between. The more expensive a creature is, the more reliable it should be in as many situations as possible, and the Gang doesn’t really deliver.

Still, it is servicable, doesn’t break anything and has good flavor, so there’s no reason not to give it a solid D.

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