Part lion, part snake, and part stag, the mythical Questing Beast from the Arthurian lore is the subject of several knightly quests, most notably involving Sir Percival. In Magic: The Gathering, it’s the name of a green sensation from the Camelot-inspired and fairy-tale-themed Throne of Eldraine (October 2019).
The four-mana creature slot has long been a key element in green decks. It’s the very embodiment of the midrange notion, whereas three feels more like early game’s coda and five is already skirting late game. When you hit four mana, you’re expected to take a step that affirms your board position to an extent that requires an answer leading into the endgame – which is exactly what Questing Beast does. It’s important to note that it’s something conceptually linked to the second stage of the game, but that can be easily moved up by exploiting green’s defining knack for ramping.
Questing Beast comes from a rich history of predecessors of the same color and at the same point in the curve. Green’s original midrange beater dates all the way back to Limited Edition Alpha (August 1993), when Erhnam Djinn represented a mana-efficient threat at a time when creatures weren’t exactly the strong suit of Magic. It took seven years to get to the similarly popular Blastoderm. Then things started to improve for cards with power and toughness, as the new century gave us Obstinate Baloth, Thrun, the Last Troll, Deadbridge Goliath, and Polukranos, World Eater, among others. The Standard iteration immediately preceding Questing Beast’s release had Ripjaw Raptor and Vine Mare, while among its contemporaries we find creatures like Nullhide Ferox, Nightpack Ambusher, and Shifting Ceratops.
Those are all strong cards and some even have larger bodies than Questing Beast’s and aren't burdened by the Legendary rule. But none compares with its wordy rule text, detailing an unprecedented grand total of six separate abilities. Half of them are combat keywords: Questing Beast can attack the turn it hits the battlefield, which already works toward an accelerated midrange presence, since swinging on turn four is usually a three-drop’s job. More so, it lets its controller become invulnerable to counterattacks and its combat damage to creatures is lethal no matter what. It also makes it very difficult to set up multiple blocks, since much in the same vein as Stompy star Steel Leaf Champion, you can’t just put any small dork in front of the mighty Beast. Now this is where the novella that makes up its rule text gets really intriguing: You can't count on protection to stop it – or to stop its whole team, since that’s a universally granted ability. It essentially shuts down any kind of damage prevention while the Beast is around, which includes all Fog effects as well. It’s clearly a situational ability (not all decks run that kind of effect), but one more instance of the opponent being deprived of a way to deal with this unnerving menace. Then we arrive to the last paragraph of its text and things gets really crazy.
Since the introduction of planeswalkers in the game, Magic’s combat phase has presented aggro players with the dilemma of what to do about them, how to take them out with your creatures, or how else to attack the player in order to end the game more rapidly. In a way, a planeswalker works as a life total extension for its controller – but what if it didn’t? What if you didn’t have to choose what to attack and you could deal combat damage to both player and planeswalker at once? For most of us, its the other fancy abilities and this is the novel, unique element Questing Beast brings to the table.
Quick and easy to attack with, thanks to haste and vigilance, while hard to block due to deathtouch and its partial unblockability, Questing Beast can often successfully direct its clinical strikes to the opponent’s dome, while hitting one of their planeswalkers at the same time. These all contribute to its overall tactical prowess of reducing the required time for the feats it’s accomplishing. It swings one turn earlier than due, ignores the blockers that would slow other attackers down, and doesn’t have to wait to clean up a problematic walker before starting to erode the opposing life total. Granted, a well-timed instant removal leaves the Beast dead on the spot – but they’ll need to have it first. Most times they won’t even be able to count on their board to answer Questing Beast and its many ways to test your deck’s flexibility.