Boneyard Mycodrax | Illustration by Yeong Hao Han
Graveyard mechanics add great flavor and gameplay to Magic.
Lhurgoyf was my first favorite card. My kitchen table deck of choice fueled it and allies like Mortivore with creatures discarded to Wild Mongrel, so I was instantly enthralled when I first saw the scavenge mechanic.
Scavenge isn’t quite up to par on the whole in today’s power level of Magic. But there are scavenge cards that I still play in my EDH decks, and I’ll bet you’ll join me after you read this!
How Does Scavenge Work?
Terrus Wurm | Illustration by Cliff Childs
Scavenge is an activated ability that works when the card is in the graveyard. When the scavenge cost is paid, the card is exiled and a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the creature’s power are placed on another creature you control. You can only do this as a sorcery.
The History of Scavenge in MTG
Scavenge first appeared on nine Golgari () cards in 2012’s Return to Ravnica, as well as one more card that gives scavenge to other cards in your graveyard. Two more cards were added in Dragon’s Maze.
Scavenge appeared again on one card in Commander 2020 after a long fallow period, one card in Modern Horizons 2, and one in Streets of New Capenna Commander.
This is a rarely used mechanic because it “isn’t super popular and has playability issues” according to Mark Rosewater. The problem is that there are so many more impactful things you can do with the cards in your graveyard than exile them for counters on a killable creature, especially for the relatively high scavenge cost.
That said I still run a few of these cards in my Golgari and Sultai () Commander decks because it’s nice to have one or two of these cards in the graveyard to break in case of emergency.
Is Scavenge an Activated Ability?
Yes, scavenge is an activated ability, but it can only be activated when the creature is in the graveyard.
Do You Have to Exile the Scavenge Creature?
Yes, you do. Exiling the card is part of the scavenge cost, so you can’t just deploy the counters and then Stifle the exile portion.
Gallery and List of Scavenge Cards
- Bannerhide Krushok
- Boneyard Mycodrax
- Deadbridge Goliath
- Dodgy Jalopy
- Dreg Mangler
- Drudge Beetle
- Golgari Decoy
- Korozda Monitor
- Sewer Shambler
- Sluiceway Scorpion
- Terrus Wurm
- Thrashing Mossdog
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped
- Zanikev Locust
When you look at all the cards like that, don’t they feel like names of death metal bands that Varolz, with his sweet hairstyle, is the lead singer of? How about a bonus before we get to the best scavenge cards in gameplay:
Top Five Scavenge Card Names that Could Plausibly Be the Names of Metal Bands
#5. Terrus Wurm!
#4. Dreg Mangler!!
#3. Deadbridge Goliath!!!
#2. Thrashing Mossdog!!!!
Slitherhead gets an extra bonus in that Greg Staples’ art already looks like their album cover.
Best Scavenge Cards
These cards are really niche, but there are some interesting uses for them in a variety of combos. They’re really underpowered but are so under the radar that they can serve as an interesting surprise in your Golgari or Sultai EDH deck.
#5. Deadbridge Goliath
Deadbridge Goliath can deposit five counters for four mana if you mill it, which is the best deal amongst scavenge creatures. It’s no Scute Mob, but this might be a resource worth, erm, scavenging if you have counter doublers and/or The Ozolith.
#4. Bannerhide Krushok
Bannerhide Krushok mills itself while depositing a few counters, which is convenient! So for nine mana across two activation you get… six counters.
Which isn’t great, Bob, but it’s also a 4/4 for four, which isn’t the worst fail case ever.
Scavenge for zero is wicked cool. It’s only one counter but there are a few cards that trigger from that, specifically Bloodcrazed Hoplite and especially Fathom Mage, which draws you a card.
Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier can toss scavenge counters all over the board. That requires some kind of 5-color brew, but it’s tempting.
You’d like an Arming Gala with Slitherhead! Although Alchemy‘s perpetual mechanic is only digital now, there could be a paper version of some of these effects in the future which would really elevate this card. They printed Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, so it’s possible.
#2. Boneyard Mycodrax
Boneyard Mycodrax can drop a lot of counters in a heavy self-mill deck. That might be nice in a Rakdos () Fling or Kresh the Bloodbraided deck since this card is mono-black.
Cards that trigger when creatures leave the graveyard like Syr Konrad, the Grim and Imotekh the Stormlord can make use of the triggers here.
#1. Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Varolz, the Scar-Striped is an alternate way to use big reanimator targets like Worldspine Wurm, but it’s also sneaky good with Death's Shadow. Varolz is also good with cards that have * power. That * grows or shrinks depending on the game state while it’s in the graveyard. So that can really add up.
Typical Golgari things in this space are dead creatures like Boneyard Wurm, Beanstalk Giant for lands, and there are many others for various types of cards, including strange ones like Entropic Specter for cards in an opponents’ hand. And there’s always Lord of Extinction.
Zanikev Locust | Illustration by Cliff Childs
Scavenge isn’t a great mechanic. The proliferation of other powerful graveyard abilities limits its use almost as much as the sorcery-speed limitation, but innovative recent one-off scavenge cards are reasonably powerful in spite of that, so we might see continued exploration in the future.
What do you think of this mechanic? Do you hope we see it again in the future, or are you content to let it rest in peace? Let me know in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
Until then I’ll continue to run a few of these cards in various decks, and you’ll be the first to know if I ever scavenge Slitherhead for lethal!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: