There are a lot of standards in Magic that let you know what you should expect to pay for certain abilities on cards. Perhaps the simplest one to recognize is that the minimum power for a creature that costs 1G is to be 2/2, Grizzly Bears. As the bottom line for cards that cost 1G, useful and exciting Magic cards that cost 1G need to be better than Grizzly Bears. We’ve seen plenty of these over the long history of Magic from commons that have the ability to be stronger than Grizzly Bears during certain conditions to rare cards that can go beyond normal cost restrictions.
It’s pretty easy to be stronger than bears, apparently. A lot of times the slot of the Grizzly Bear is taken to create a 2/2 that gets stronger by using the mechanic that is big in the new set. Zendikar in particular has a whole lot of these guys. It started with the Oran-Rief Survivalist. He seems like a 1/1 at first, but he gains a +1/+1 counter as soon as he enters the battlefield. The Survivalist is my favorite of these “bears” so far, gaining more +1/+1 counters for each time another ally enters the battlefield. With allies and proliferate these guys get to be an early threat in many games.
After that, Worldwake gave us the Gnarlid Pack
Gnarlid Pack. By using Multikicker it seemed like this pack added more grizzlies for each 2 mana you had to spare. These guys are pretty useful for their versatility since you can pump them up if you happen to draw them late game. Of course you also had the option to play them early and start attacking a few turns in. For a common they were pretty neat and were an easy introduction to the Multikicker mechanic.
Rise of the Eldrazi had two great Grizzly Bears to demonstrate their two biggest mechanics. We had the Beastbreaker of Bala Ged
Beastbreaker of Bala Ged, a very straightforward leveler that became a 6/6 with trample once you put a ton of mana into it. The winner of best bear for this set though was easily Nest Invader
Nest Invader. You had your 2/2 for 1G, but he also came with his own Eldrazi Spawn as a refund.
The Scars of Mirrodin Block had one typical “bear” and also a really cool rare one. Carapace Forger
Carapace Forger was a 2/2 for 2 that became a 4/4 with Metalcraft, but Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Melira, Sylvok Outcast is a card that shows what you can do with a rare Grizzly Bear. She’s a nice 2/2 that protects your creatures from infect damage and a killer combo with Phyrexian Unlife
Phyrexian Unlife can make you totally invincible.
The new Transform mechanic in Innistrad leads to yet another incarnation of Grizzly Bears. The Gatstaf Shepherd is what we’ve come to expect from bears, even though it doesn’t look like he would be able to fight them too well. Once you make use of the Transform mechanic he becomes an intimidating force to be reckoned with. He may not be able to keep getting pumped up like the Oran-Rief Survivalist, but intimidate does make sure that you will be able to attack for three, provided they don’t have green or artifact creatures. However there is a pretty strong tribal theme in Innistrad, so these Howlers will probably be pumped pretty quickly by other werewolves.
Innistrad is looking to be an exciting set. Be sure to keep an eye out for how Magic fills the usual spots like the designated Grizzly Bears. Check out our spoilers for the rest of the cards in this set as the spoilers continue.