Last updated on December 15, 2022
Eidolon of the Great Revel | Illustration by Cyril Van Der Haegen
Death & Taxes is a popular strategy that’s been around in Magic forever, mostly in Legacy. These kinds of decks run a mix of taxing effects and spells that aim to hate or slow down your opponents. The creatures that are seen in them are called hate bears.
But where the term “hate bear” comes from? Follow me to find out if you can, uh, bear it!
What Is a Hate Bear in MTG?
Blood Artist | Illustration by Johannes Voss
“Hate bear” usually refers to a creature with a static ability that changes how the game is played as long as it’s on the battlefield. Some force your opponents to pay a “tax” to cast spells or activate abilities while others “reward you” if they play some spell or trigger an effect on the battlefield.
Why Are They Called Hate Bears?
The term “bear” is slang for a 2-mana creature that has power and toughness of two. These creatures usually “hate” or tax your opponent’s plays, which is where the term “hate bear” came around.
Not every hate bear listed has power and toughness of two, but they’re close to it. Some are 1/3s or 3/1s. I’m only looking at creature cards that cost exactly two mana with bear-like stats. Sorry Yasharn, Implacable Earth.
Best White Hate Bears
#18. Exiled Doomsayer
If morph were a dominant ability then this would be a commonly used hate bear. Exiled Doomsayer is just one of those creatures that hate a particular thing and is very unlikely to see the light of the day since that’s not the case.
#17. Eidolon of Obstruction
I like the concept of this card, but Eidolon of Obstruction never really saw much play in Constructed formats because planeswalkers weren’t very good in Theros.
It can be decent against some Commander decks that run multiple planeswalkers, but most of them have built-in protection, making Eidolon of Obstruction unworthy of a hate card against planeswalkers.
#16. Deep Gnome Terramancer
Ramp strategies using cards like Cultivate are very common in Commander, so I can see Deep Gnome Terramancer being good if you’re running a deck with Plains.
#15. Ethersworn Canonist
Let’s face it: no one likes to play against someone trying to play solitaire Magic. Ethersworn Canonist prevents that from happening because it keeps things fair while it’s around.
#14. Strict Proctor
Lotus Field loves Strict Proctor. If you chose not to pay the tax then the land sac trigger is canceled. It affects every permanent, unlike other creatures.
#13. Kataki, War’s Wage
If you wanted to hate on affinity decks back in the day, Kataki, War's Wage was your guy. Nowadays other cards do the job better, at least in Modern. It’s still a staple in Legacy Death & Taxes archetypes.
#12. Archivist of Oghma
Archivist of Oghma is a new addition from Streets of New Capenna that rewards you every time your opponents shuffle their library. I’ve seen it in decks that also run Field of Ruin to force your opponents to search and shuffle their library.
#11. Samurai of the Pale Curtain
This bear has bear stats, but it’s a 3/3 in disguise thanks to bushido. Samurai of the Pale Curtain is a bear that also denies graveyard strategies that use permanents as their primary way to win the game.
#10. Drannith Magistrate
While innocent at first glance, Drannith Magistrate can negate win conditions from your opponent’s decks like Emergent Ultimatum. It’s best buddies with Spell Queller if they manage to kill the latter.
#9. Imposing Sovereign
Imposing Sovereign gives you almost half the abilities of Loxodon Gatekeeper for half the mana since it’s only creatures that your opponents control that enter the battlefield tapped.
#8. Tocatli Honor Guard
The static ability on Tocatli Honor Guard is widespread in white, and this card embodies it.
This is very similar to Tocatli Honor Guard, but what sets Hushbringer apart is that it has two essential keywords: flying and lifelink. It also negates dying effects.
#6. Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
Tomik, Distinguished Advokist isn’t your regular bear. Its stats are higher than any regular one and its hate ability is very particular. It gives hexproof to lands in play and in the graveyard while making sure that your opponents can’t play lands from graveyards.
This seems kind of random to me, but it’s perfect against decks using Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds.
#5. Leonin Arbiter
This cat knows how to terrorize some tables with its ability that delays tutors and search effects. Leonin Arbiter is commonly used in Modern where fetch lands are very prevalent.
I regularly use this along with Ghost Quarter to emulate a Wasteland effect, and have managed to steal a lot of games when my opponents couldn’t answer it.
#4. Containment Priest
Some strategies use reanimation spells like Exhume and Animate Dead to cheat giant creatures in play ahead of schedule. Containment Priest puts a big red Denied! stamp on those strategies, and those creatures are exiled instead.
#3. Lion Sash
The white Scavenging Ooze, as I like to call it, has about the same abilities as its green counterpart. The slight difference is that you can equip it onto a creature to give it a boost equal to the number of counters on Lion Sash.
While this may be very useful, the real reason why it makes it onto this list is that it messes with your opponents’ graveyards.
#2. Spirit of the Labyrinth
Spirit of the Labyrinth is one of the best beaters I’ve seen. Its stats are technically the same as a bear except it has more power than toughness. That’s good on its own, but its static ability can negate cards like Brainstorm, or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker’s second ability.
This can even shut down entire decks in some multiplayer environments.
#1. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is probably my favorite creature in Magic. Its static ability is fantastic against decks that rely on killing things on curve. Even if it’s just to slow them down, it’s awkward when Thalia is around and you have to answer other more oppressing creatures.
Imagine you’re playing against a control deck. You play your 1-drop and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on turn 2. All of a sudden your opponent probably can’t play their cards on turn 2 if they aren’t creatures. They were expecting to cast a board wipe by turn 4, but they now need to wait a turn while taking tons of damage.
That’s the power of the Cathar, and why it’s so beloved by many players like me.
Best Black Hate Bears
#2. Dauthi Voidwalker
Dauthi Voidwalker has a big body for a hate bear, but it hates your opponent’s cards and prevents them from going to the graveyard. It also lets you play any of those exiled cards at the cost of sacrificing it.
It works even better in multiples because you can cast any card exiled with a void counter.
#1. Blood Artist
Unlike Dauthi Voidwalker, Blood Artist is undersized and can only questionably be called a bear. But it only made sense to add it as the best black hate bear around given that it costs two mana and punishes your opponents for sending creatures from the battlefield to the graveyard.
Best Blue Hate Bear
#1. Ghostly Pilferer
Blue doesn’t have much for hate bears. Best, worst, (only) is Ghostly Pilferer.
I didn’t know it had a second ability at first because I was mainly using its main one to draw cards. Its second ability may not come very often, but it’s certainly something to consider against decks that want to cheat by casting spells for free.
Best Green Hate Bears
#3. Destiny Spinner
This creature doesn’t commonly hate your opponents. Instead it ensures that your enchantments can’t be countered. But Destiny Spinner can also act as a finisher in a dedicated deck.
#2. Scavenging Ooze
Like Lion Sash, Scavenging Ooze specializes in hating graveyards. While you can’t equip it like the Sash, you can still gain some life with it, a particularity from this green fellow.
#1. Collector Ouphe
The green Stony Silence is how I recognize Collector Ouphe these days. It may not seem like a lot but it has the potential to hate and shut down entire decks.
This is the kind of card that Legacy decks like Elves like to run because you can tutor for it with Green Sun's Zenith.
Best Red Hate Bears
#4. Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot
Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot hates a particular subset of cards: spirits. Unfortunately it isn’t legal in Pioneer where that tribal deck is present.
#3. Harsh Mentor
Harsh Mentor looks great for Modern where activated abilities are very prevalent, but I think two damage is insufficient to justify using it.
#2. Ash Zealot
While its static ability is powerful, players nowadays don’t tend to cast spells from the graveyard like pre-Modern Horizons II. Ash Zealot is the right card for the job if this kind of strategy rises in popularity again.
#1. Eidolon of the Great Revel
Eidolon of the Great Revel is a multiformat staple for a lot of burn decks. Its impact on the board is such that it’s used in every burn strategy where it’s legal.
Best Multicolored Hate Bears
#4. Unsettled Mariner
Unsettled Mariner may not sound great, but it’s a great addition to any tribal deck that can run it because it’s a shapeshifter.
#3. Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
I have to be honest: I’ve never played Lavinia, Azorius Renegade. I’ve seen it as part of the sideboard plan of human decks in Modern, though.
Its ability looks promising and works exceptionally well against the elemental incarnation cycle of Modern Horizons II.
#2. Gaddock Teeg
Gaddock Teeg has to be my second favorite hate bear because it shuts down almost every board wipe you can imagine. It’s also a great counter to Force of Will, but Modern Horizons II took away its opportunity to shine.
#1. Meddling Mage
If you don’t want your opponents to play a specific card, Meddling Mage ensures that it won’t happen unless the Mage is removed from the battlefield.
Best Colorless Hate Bear
#1. Phyrexian Revoker
Phyrexian Revoker is the embodiment of Pithing Needle. There isn’t much to be said here, but it can fit into any hate bear deck and is often used in Death & Taxes Legacy.
Best Hate Bears Payoffs
No specific card rewards you for playing these kinds of creatures, but overall strategies (usually aggressive) use them to gain momentum through the game.
Decks that run Winota, Joiner of Forces tend to abuse hate bears to slow other decks and protect Winota so it can take over when it enters the battlefield. What’s great about this is that a wide variety of hate bears are humans, which goes exceptionally well in these kinds of decks.
Azorius () decks tend to have a vast majority of hate bears in them. Your opponents will start hating you instead if you align them with a stax commander like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV.
Decks have started running a curve of turn 1 Selfless Savior into Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar on turn 3 more recently, especially in Pioneer. The first protects your 2-drop, and the 2-drop makes it hard for your opponent to have an answer for the board.
This play pattern when you’re on play is extremely punishing. Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, a bomb on its own, puts your opponents in a dilemma.
Hate bears are usually small and fragile to removal. Cards like Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Serra Paragon fit well in decks with them because you can get them back into play in the blink of an eye.
Creatures that search for others like Imperial Recruiter are excellent because they can search for the exact hate bear you need depending on the occasion.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben | Illustration by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Hate bears can come in all different colors and sizes. Their abilities are somewhat minimal while alone, but they can quickly become frustrating to play against when stacked together.
Do you like this kind of creature? What are your favorite hate bears? Was there one that I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments, over on Twitter, or in the official Draftsim Discord.
As always, it’s been a pleasure writing and investigating Magic cards and history, and I’ll see you in the next one!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: