So I want to talk about one of the more head-scratching cards in the set, Misthollow Griffin. (Available here)
At first glance you can see it’s one of this set’s Mythics- a 3/3 flying creature for 2UU, which isn’t a great body nowadays but it’s not totally irrelevant. I’m no Mike Flores, so I’ll save the spiel about how Phantom Monster was great in 1994. What I’m interested in is the following:
“You may cast Misthollow Griffin from exile.”
It’s simple, straight to the point, but evokes every Johnnies’ irrational desire to break this hard as soon as possible. If you’ve ever spent an entire week trying to brew the best Rukh Egg/Obliterate deck; yeah, I’m talking to you. I, as I assume many others, quickly jumped onto Gatherer to search for cards that could do just that. My interest lies in what ridiculous hair-brained interactions can be accomplished with this clause. This is COMPELTELY unprecedented, which tends to lead to excitement among brewers and theory crafters everywhere.
Toning it down a notch, I’d like to first talk about Misthollow Griffin in the most popular constructed format- Standard.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t expect any big splashes with the current metagame. The notable interaction Misthollow Griffin gets is with Moorland Haunt, which lets you get a token off a felled Griffin, recast said Griffin, and rinse/repeat should any problems arise. In the current U/W Delver iterations, I can definitely see this as a one or two of as a finisher. In a deck featuring Ponder and Thought Scour, Misthollow Griffin picks up some added value. Consider the following scenario:
Turn 1: Seachrome Coast, Delver of Secrets (Yeah, we run good.)
Turn 2: Assuming you don’t flip, island into Ponder seeing [Thought Scour, Misthollow Griffin, Land]
Arrange it so you draw the land, reveal the Thought Scour to flip your Delver next turn, and leave up mana to Thought Scour yourself for both Snapcaster Mage fodder and binning the Griffin to bring back later without being a nuisance in your current grip. Maybe a bit too ideal, but that sounds like some big game to me!
Granted, a 3/3 and 1/1 flyer for a combined seven lands tapped is anything but impressive, but is only a part consideration of the power level of the card itself. Any card’s total value in any given Magic deck is the sum of all its residual values. I mean a vanilla 3/3 flyer for 2UU is clearly not great, but still playable. As a reference, Dungeon Geists’s playability strongly hinges on its lockdown on top of being a 3/3 flyer for 2UU (sound familiar?) Separately, the abilities aren’t very strong and definitely wouldn’t see play if they were two separate cards, but together they are strong enough to make Dungeon Geists a popular addition to a number of competitive decks in today’s environment. How does this relate to Misthollow Griffin? The question becomes then, is the value of having an initial 3/3 flyer PAIRED with the long term value of having an infinite, albeit expensive, string of flyers worth it?
Let’s be real- the Standard format is a tad too fast and aggressive-strategy oriented for this guy to make it right now. Granted, I’m sure every player who’s played at an FNM or two the past year could describe SOME scenario in SOME game they were in that just dragged on and on that would have just loved to have this guy around. Realistically speaking, in the majority of games being played in the current environment, you will likely suffer from holding such a durdle-y card.
Could the metagame shift in such a way that COULD make this card a key player? Absolutely- I believe this card shines against very control-heavy decks in its early pressure applications combined with its inevitability. Having any relevant piece of equipment plus Misthollow Griffin and a Moorland Haunt grants a threat level and consistency late in the game that even some of the most top-heavy decks can struggle to keep up. That being said, I don’t expect control to dominate Standard any time soon with the addition of the Avacyn Restored land Cavern of [EXPLETIVE DELETED]. If all the Chicken-Littles are right about a new era of R/G Titan Ramp being the most powerful deck in the format, it’s probably best to leave the Misthollow Griffin back at the roost.
But enough about Standard, let’s get into the Intricacies this card can provide in one of Magic’s most complex and interactive formats: Legacy.
I’m going to be honest; I’m really excited about brewing with this guy here. Having access to ALL Magic cards lends to some pretty interesting playing with Misthollow Griffin. I think the most obvious is the format-frontrunner Force of Will would LOVE to pitch this guy more than any other card, as it is currently the ONLY pitch target that can give you value down the line. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Clearly if Misthollow Griffin’s body is hardly good enough for Standard, there’s no WAY it is in Legacy!” Here’s the thing- Legacy is a surprisingly slow, non-degenerate format. Sure, there are decks that can kill you turn one by Storming off, but those decks’ massive power level is dwarfed by their lack of consistency and vulnerability to hate. Decks like Maverick, a G/W creature based deck, currently hold most GP top place finishes than any other deck recently. Cards like Delver of Secrets, Nimble Mongoose, and Vendilion Clique all see plenty of play and can trade with Misthollow. Sure, he costs four instead of one, but if you think of it as no cost to have the option of playing it, it sounds a lot sweeter. Pretend you’re just playing any ‘ole Legacy deck with an avatar that says “2UU: Put a 3/3 flying creature into play. Use this only any time you could cast a sorcery, and use this only once a game.” That is essentially what you get when you pitch a Misthollow Griffin to a Force of Will. I’m not going to argue it’s worth jamming these guys into your Legacy brew just in case you get to pitch it to Force, but it’s certainly something interesting to consider. Games go long enough of the time to justify it as a powered down ‘free’ win condition. I liken it to days of old where mono blue control decks would throw in some Stalking Stones and call it a day. Six mana 3/3 creatures are clearly overcosted, but when it’s essentially free to the deck (i.e. a land spot in a single color deck pre-wasteland) it’s totally acceptable.
Wait a minute; remind me what the best go-to removal spell in the format is again. What’s that, Swords to Plowshares, you say? So, chances are, if my opponent is playing removal and needs to get rid of this guy, I can just cast him again? Awesome! The residual value keeps rolling in with this guy.
Staying true to my Johnny nature, I casually pored over hundreds of cards dealing with exiling a card of yours, hoping for little nuggets of breakability here and there. One card I constantly like try working into Legacy is Chrome Mox.
Imprinting a Misthollow Griffin operates in a similar manner as pitching to Force of Will. A Chrome Mox can be dropped early for fast mana, while being able to play the griffin off the mox later on. Once the griffin has been played off the Chrome Mox, you won’t be able to get mana out of it anymore since it is no longer imprinting anything, but I trust you’d wait to cast it when the mana boost you get with it is no longer needed. Legacy is by in large a cheap costing format due to Wastelands and Dazes running amuck, but any game lasting long enough will see enough mana sources eventually.
This is more an interaction I’m more interested in Modern than I am in Legacy, but it is interesting to note. A Misthollow Griffin put face down under one of these lands can be cast for its mana cost even in the event of your land being Wasted.
Definitely too slow for Legacy grind-em-out type decks, but cute enough to throw into a Commander deck.
And now, I present, the Coup de grace for why I love Misthollow Griffin; Food Chain.
The tl;dr version: Food Chain online with a Misthollow Griffin yields infinite mana of any color that can only be used to cast Creature spells. Well, I can’t think of any creature I’d want to cast that just wins the game, can you? Oh! Right…
Despite being cuter than a basket of Sanctuary Cats, the combo itself is relatively underpowered in the scope of competitive Legacy. What we have is essentially a three card combo to put Emrakul on the board quickly, while Show and Tell and Sneak Attack threaten to do that a turn faster typically and with only 2 cards required. If your entire game plan is to get everyone’s favorite 15/15 into play the fastest, you’re definitely barking up the wrong Ghoultree. However, if we’re trying to make a “fair” deck that just so happens to have a degenerate way to win quickly. Here’s a rough deck proposition:
Misthollow, the Aeons Torn
This deck has a shell similar to Natural Order RUG in that it’s a deck that can reasonably win off the back of powerful creatures and aggressive starts with Green Sun’s Zenith while threatening combo potency. Scavenging Ooze has recently started showing up as Legacy’s best creature for 1G, and he just so happens to work great with Misthollow Griffin to boot. Against the more aggressive creature based decks, being able to constantly play Misthollow Griffin, chump an attacking Knight of the Reliquary, and fueling your Scavenging Ooze can buy a lot of time. The deck generates a lot of mana quickly via Chrome Mox, GSZ and Noble Hierarch, so establishing the early board presence that is essential to surviving Legacy can be easily accomplished. Vendilion Clique is a great addition as it is an early beater, an instant-speed Duress to check if your combo is vulnerable or not, and a great way to cycle having 1-too many Emrakuls in your hand in a pinch. Wickerbough Elder may easily be the loosest card in the deck, but I like having a tutorable maindeck out to something like Pithing Needle or Ensnaring Bridge.
Consider this (admittedly ideal) line of play:
Turn 1: Play Chrome Mox, imprinting Misthollow Griffin. Play Brainstorm, play a fetchland, crack it EOT.
Turn 2: Play a land, play Food Chain.
Turn 3: Play a land, play Misthollow Griffin off Chrome Mox, maintain priority (so the griffin can’t be Bolted) to exile it to Food Chain producing 5 blue mana. Cast Misthollow Griffin, exile with Food Chain. Repeat for as often as you deem fit and cast Emrakul. Proceed onto the Fist-Pump phase and send that sucker in along with the griffin next turn.
An ideal scenario, but one not too far into the depths of Magical Christmas Land, and certainly not a requirement for winning with this deck.
Now before you go running off the next Legacy tournament, I won’t claim this to be particularly viable deck in the current Legacy metagame or any in the future. What I am illustrating is a how I view a card and its potential impact across the entire landscape of Magic the Gathering. While completely innocuous, Misthollow Griffin is the only card that does anything remotely close to what it does. Whether or not that ability will be competitively relevant today, next year, or years down the road is uncertain. However, I believe the opportunity cost of picking this card up at the time of its spoiling (preselling for around $5 each) is worth the chance that it could do something absolutely crazy. I don’t imagine another card will ever do what Misthollow Griffin does, and that intrigues me.
Plus, you can totally untap it with Griffin Canyon, which is pretty sweet.
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