The Good, the Bad, and the Underrated: A Lhurgoyf Tribute
- Christian Tobehn
"Ach! Hans, run! It's the Lhurgoyf!" The sound of these words is smoother than any other flavor text to my ears. With this article I want to pay tribute to a creature tribe that many people know best for its poster child, the Tarmogoyf. But let us not forget about its relatives.
When I told my girlfriend about this article, her immidiate reaction was: "What the hell is a Lhurgeuch?" I told her that a Lhurgoyf is a strange, unsettling monster and at the same time a type of creature in Magic: The Gathering I really like. Lhurgoyf, drawn by the great Pete Venters, is the namesake and original specimen of the tribe. Lhurgoyfs are large, reptilian creatures with long, many-toothed mouths. The first Goyf was published in Ice Age. Other Lhurgoyfs followed in Odyssey, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight. All of them have in common that their toughness and power are directly connected with the quantity or quality of cards in the graveyard(s). What they do not have in common is their actual power level.
First appearing in Ice Age, Lhurgoyf started the whole Goyf thing in 1995 with disturbingly good art and a nerve-wrecking flavor text. But what makes this text so special? Reading the words, you directly feel the dramatic fight for survival of Saffi Eriksdotter and Hans in the wilderness of a snow-covered landscape while they're stalked by a creepy monstrosity. Since we only know this excerpt of the scene, we ask ourselves various questions: "Who are Hans and Saffi?" — "Where did they find the Lhurgoyf?" — "Did the Lhurgoyf eat Saffi?" — "What is Hans's last name?"
Looking at the card Revenant from Stronghold, it seems that Hans did survive his meeting with the Lhurgoyf because he is in trouble (not) again. Or could Hans himself be the Revenant complaining about his return? Saffi Eriksdotter on the other hand got her own legendary creature card in Time Spiral. We learn that she is a Human Scout and has got the ability to rescue another creature with her own sacrifice.
Unfortunately, the Lhurgoyf isn't as scary in actual Magic games as it was to Saffi and Hans. It can get big in the long run, but that's an investment only the ones deeply in love with the flavor would want to make. Especially in contemporary Magic, creatures are all about efficiency and value. Delver of Secrets, Gurmag Angler, Goblin Guide et cetera.
The Odyssey Lhurgoyf Cycle
I can sum this up pretty quickly: the Odyssey Lhurgoyfs are pretty bad by today's standards — the only one standing out is Terravore. I'll deal with them briefly and at times sarcastically. I hope I do not make fun of your favorite creature, but I highly doubt it. At the same time we will look at some decks from the past and will find that these beautiful creatures actually saw play!
The (underrated) Terravore looks like a gigantic hybrid between toad and rhino coming straight out of the mud. But it is actually a very decent creature. With its big stats, its trampling ability, and its fondness for classic land destruction effects such as Wasteland, Armageddon, and Cataclysm, Terravore has become some kind of poster child for Premodern. This format allows cards from Fourth Edition to Scourge while leaving "broken" cards like Brainstorm, Force of Will, Show and Tell, or Entomb aside. If you are annoyed by the constant brainstorming for a free counterspell, but still are in love with the old flavor, this could be your format. Consider it maybe a more honest and nostalgic version of Legacy. The right place for a good old beater like Terravore.
Terravore also saw play in a Legacy deck dubbed "New Horizons" sinergizing with cards like Horizon Canopy, Mox Diamond, and of course fetch lands piling up the graveyard. New Horizons also featured another Lhurgoyf and therefore is the closest thing to a Goyf tribal deck. This is how a New Horizons build could look like:
|New Horizons Sample List (Legacy)|
Here is a Loam/Terravore deck Kotaro Otsuka played to a Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Singapore:
|Aggro Loam (Extended 2007)|
Mortivore — the black version of the original Lhurgoyf with its color's signature add-on to regenerate — suffers from an excessive love of dead bodies. The continuous contact with those corpses is bad for its health, so it has 1 less toughness than its green ancestor.
The red Lhurgoyf likes sorceries and has a hasty personality. It is at a little too expensive to be playable these days, so it has to wait eternally to enter the battlefield, and when it does, it is always in a hurry.
Hall of Famer Bob Maher once piloted a Magnivore deck all the way to the semifinals at Grand Prix Madison:
|Blue-Red Wildfire (Standard 2006)|
Cognivore is always blue and a sucker for instants. He likes to fly around all the time, pretending to be Falkor from The NeverEnding Story. If you want to hardcast Cognivore, 8 mana is too much by at least 5 mana considering today's power level.
|Turbo Oath (Extended 2002)|
Cantivore is addicted to enchantments. It's a little shy about it which is also why it does not like to be tapped. Could be played with the old enchantment Seals such as Seal of Cleansing and Seal of Primordium. A strategy like that could be pretty effective against artifacts and enchantments, but even then 3 mana is one too much. Writing this, I can't help myself, it is probably not that bad in a Seal enviroment which I always liked …
The Best for Last: Planar Chaos and Future Sight
Detritivore actually features a very cool mechanic and used to be a key sideboard tool back in its day. Unfortunately, it requires a very high payment to be effective and it only counts nonbasic lands. The main selling point for this Lhurgoyf is the fact that suspend is so hard to interact with for the opponent.
That's why it saw play in some control sideboards. For example in the Pro Tour Yokohama winning deck of Guillaume Wafo-Tapa:
|Four-Color Control (Time Spiral Block Constructed 2007)|
Poor deer. This voracious mole on steroids is the most prominent and potent Lhurgoyf and was called "the best creature in Magic" for a very long time for obvious reasons. A 2-drop which often grows to be 4/5 or 5/6 as early as turn three or four is still insane. But the haunting of Fatal Push and the printing of delve cards like Gurmag Angler or Hooting Mandrills, which are immune to the Push, gave it a difficult time and changed the view on Tarmogoyf. Although it does not see as much play as it used to it remains a fixture in all of the classic formats: from Modern's Jund, to Legacy's Threshold, to Vintage's BUG Midrange.
The evolution from Lhurgoyf to Tarmogoyf also shows the change in creature efficiency: way faster growth rate for half the mana. Talking about rate: Tarmogoyf, like many other Modern cards, is in a bear market and relatively inexpensive these days. I am not sure if it's going to get much cheaper, so now might be a great opportunity to buy a classic staple at a nice price. A card like that always has the potential to go up again at any time.
The Lhurgoyf is one of Magic's most iconic creatures. If you use Cardmarket's advanced search, you will see parts of the iconic flavor text of Lhurgoyf as an example. "Ach! Hans, Run!" is also the name of a homage from Unhinged. This is how iconic it is.
Modern Horizons brought back Slivers in 2019, so maybe we will see a renaissance of Lhurgoyfs in the next supplemental or even Standard set. At least, that is what I am hoping for. Ikoria would be a perfect frame for a comeback, and there's clearly still design space left to explore. For example, we did not see a Lhurgoyf with an affinity for artifacts in the graveyard(s) yet.
At this moment in time the Lhurgoyf cycle is one of the smallest and most unbalanced but beautiful tribes in Magic history. Would you like to see a new one? Are you interested in Premodern? Leave a comment below! One last request: the next time you slam your Goyf onto the table, please do it making a loud, "Ach!"
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.