Squadron Hawk | Illustration by Martina Pilcerova
Among the vast array of cards that Magic: The Gathering has introduced over the years, some possess a unique ability that sets them apart from the rest.
Join me in the enchanting realm of cards like Squadron Hawk and Legion Conquistador, who possess a remarkable talent for summoning their kin and refilling your hand. At first glance, it may not seem that powerful, but what if I told you that one of them broke and shifted the entire Standard metagame at some point?
Intrigued to find out why? Let’s dive into it!
Avarax | Illustration by Greg Staples
To put it simply, these are cards that search for copies of themselves depending on the scenario. Most of them grab multiple copies of themselves when they enter the battlefield, and others just one at a time. Other cards, like Wretched Throng require a bit more work to get its friends.
Honorable mention to Self-Assembler because it’s often used to get more copies of it in formats like Pauper, but in reality, it’s a tutor for other assembly creatures, meaning that it’s not restricted to searching for more copies of itself.
The issue with most of these cards that were initially printed is their mana cost. Screaming Seahawk not only costs 5 mana but also it’s just a 2/2 creature. In most cases, it’s too expensive for the value it provides. Plus, you only get to tutor one of its friends at a time.
I can see how this card could have been problematic in Limited, although running 4 6-drops in a deck can be a bit overwhelming. Still, if you ramp enough and manage to resolve one before you draw the rest, this card can give you tons of raw advantage. Still, a 4/3 body for 6 mana is a bit overpriced.
Don’t let the cheap cost of this card fool you. It’s 3 mana, but it’s a hidden 5-mana creature. Most of the time, I feel bad for not playing a card for its total value.
This creature has the same issue as Screaming Seahawk regarding mana costs. However, its body is like the one Nesting Wurm has, and if it weren’t enough, it has haste. These little changes may seem not as relevant, but in fact, they make a huge difference. It’s not the same as spending 6 mana on something that’s bad at blocking to spending 5 mana on a creature that, in essence, enters the battlefield attacking.
Trustworthy Scout’s concept is attractive because it doesn’t trigger when it enters the battlefield, but rather, when it has died. Its total “value” cost can be summarized at four, but splitting it between turns can be very helpful in the long run. Its downside is that you have to wait until it’s dead, and when it comes to un-stalling the board, that’s not going to work very well in your favor. You’d often like to have multiple blockers that can deal with a single creature, rather than one body that can chump block for one turn.
First strike is a good ability, but the problem with Daru Cavalier is the mana cost, as it’s too expensive for my taste.
Embermage Goblin is a bit of improvement in these kinds of creatures. Aside from tutoring for more of the same kind, it has some relevant extra text on it that lets it start pinging opponents and creatures each turn. Alone, this creature may not be that amazing, but in multiples, it’s very strong.
I loved playing Whisper Squad in Ikoria Limited, simply because of the Steal and Sac strategies that were prevalent there. It provided a constant string of bodies that could be used as fodder to the likes of Weaponize the Monsters.
Similar to its cousin Squadron Hawk, Welkin Hawk also searches for copies of itself. The trick is that it doesn’t get many copies at once and that it only triggers when it dies. Because of this, it places far from its bird friend in this ranking.
I like that Ashiok's Forerunner, on top of having flash, has the ability to search for others in hand and from the graveyard. This can create a soft block for your opponents, and in the long term, it may even end up winning the game for you. You’ll essentially be trading your creatures with theirs for free.
Now, this is a card that has the text I like. For starters, Skyshroud Sentinel is relatively cheap for its cost. Even though its body is just a 1/1, it separates from the rest by tutoring for more than one creature. It may not be Constructed material, but it’s perfect in any Limited environment.
Howling Wolf may be a bit pricier than Skyshroud Sentinel, but the 2/2 body makes it slightly better than the latter, despite it being one mana more expensive and a bit more challenging to cast thanks to the double green mana required for it.
Gathering Throng is very similar to Battalion Foot Soldier, but most of the time, the extra power in exchange for less toughness is better to pressure your opponents, especially if you’re on the play or ahead in the game.
When it comes to creating a board presence, this card is powerful. On turn two, you have a vanilla bear, but on turn three, you get a 4/4 body that tutors for another of its kind. From turn four to five, you can keep repeating the same pattern. Very strong in a Limited environment.
Elvish Clancaller is one of the best creatures that can tutor for more of their kind. Its activation cost may be pricey at first. Still, when played in tribal decks like elves, where mana isn’t a problem, you have one of the best creatures of their kind ever printed. It has been the signature of Modern elves decks ever since its introduction.
Surprising to no one, Squadron Hawk is the best creature that can call for reinforcements when it enters the battlefield. What sets it apart from the rest, aside from its cheap in terms of mana cost, is also the fact that it has evasion. When you can combine it with other ways to buff these bird stats, it can become a problem to handle. You’re not facing one, but rather, a whole party of them. It has found its place in various MTG formats, contributing to deck consistency and providing a steady stream of creatures for aggressive and control strategies.
For those who may be a bit newer to Magic: The Gathering, way back in the day, Brian Kiber took over competitive Magic with his new take on Azorius Control, a deck called “Caw Blade.”
It involved a full set of Squadron Hawk along with Sword of Feast and Famine, and you may be wondering, okay, sure, but what’s the deal with that? In a word: Brainstorm, or to be more specific, Brainstorm effects in the form of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
For Standard at the time, this card advantage engine was massive because you get to draw three more cards from the first Squadron Hawk, put two back on top with Jace (or Brainstorm), and search for the other two Hawks when you play the second one. This engine was huge at the time. It was Squadron Hawk, but it can be exploited with pretty much any other cards from this list with similar effects to Brainstorm.
Equipment or permanents that push these cards are also excellent because, in theory, you always have attackers or at least get three more for the price of one. Another example is Basilisk Gate in Pauper because you can push damage, and if they deal with one creature, you still have more to use.
Elvish Clancaller | Illustration by Matt Stewart
As you may have noticed, cards can be of all designs and colors, and some of these reward you for playing in multiple copies on a single deck. I don’t think Squadron Hawk will ever be breaking Standard again if it’s reprinted. First, it would need support effects to be good again, along with ways to pump it. Second, and most notably, because the power creep bar has been set too high.
What do you think? Would the infamous Caw Blade that got Jace TMS banned be a good contendant to the Grixis Standard decks that currently dominate the format, or not?
Let us know in the comments! As always, Thanks for reading up until now, and remember to follow us on Twitter.
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