Witch Hunter

So here we are, idling by as days turns into weeks turns into months. Can't really say I'm a fan of combining the Nordic darkness with a raging pandemic. I miss doing things. Like meeting people. Maybe even taking some new deck out for a spin. 

Sitting in my contemporary office, I flip through the binder for inspiration. And yet again I pause at this guy:

Hammer time

Witch Hunter. What a dude. When I look at him, I can't help thinking that any environment where Witch Hunter is a reasonable card is a good Magic format. The flexibility, interactions and modest power level just seem to bring about intricate and interesting games.

As I revisit the card, it dawns on me that Witch Hunter seems to be an enemy-colored "mirror card" to Goblin Wizard.

Nerd trivia: Goblin Wizard is one of a handful creatures to have the exact same name as oracle creature type. Additionally this card makes the rules for Goblin Wizard tokens a bit odd, as you can name the card Goblin Wizard for things like Runed Halo, and then the Halo will protect you against Goblin Wizard tokens (even though they are not "the named card"). #TheMoreYouKnow.

Both the Wizard and the Hunter are four-mana 1/1s with two activated abilities; one which has a simple tap requirement and one which needs extra mana to activate. I'm not sure whether or not this was an intended pair - like Sengir Vampire and Serra Angel or Flashfires and Conversion - or if it was accidental. But it looks a little too similar to simply dismiss. The amusing thing is regardless that the color wheel is almost completely flipped compared to modern design. Granting protection is extremely white, and the "vial"-ability of putting a creature into play is - while being mostly an artifact thing these days - probably most closely associated with white due to it's prevalence in e.g. Death & Taxes strategies. The abilities on Witch Hunter on the other hand are not only super red, they have even been printed on actual Goblins (Goblin Fireslinger and Stingscourger to name two). And blatant disregard of the color pie in favor of flavor is of course true old school.

Combat damage prevention may no longer be the blackest of Magic, but dammit if it isn't flavor.

But why is there a particular allure to Witch Hunter? I think it has something to do with the fact that it combines a continuous small advantage all while avoiding "flagbearer" status. A flagbearer is any creature that will be a lightning rod for removal spells; think Hypnotic Specter, Dragon Whelp or Juggernaut. One of the reasons cards like Flying Men and Sage of Lat-Nam tend to over-preform in the format is that they are not seen as important to kill.

We deal four damage to the face for one blue mana.

Witch Hunter certainly has a similar quality. An opposing Swords to Plowshares will likely be preserved in the hopes of hitting a Preacher or Serra Angel sometime down the line. All while you are gaining tempo by having Unsummon on a stick, or just keep pinging the opponent in the face.

In some ways Witch Hunter reminds me of Underworld Dreams. The default mode is dealing one damage per turn, but if the opponent tries to do something clever (like drawing more cards or summoning a proper threat), our card scales up and gets more useful as well. And regardless of the opponents board state or game plan, it always does something.

Witch Hunter is the kinda card that makes me wanna build Mono-white control. Something like 4 Witch Hunter, 3-4 Preacher, Serra Angels, a couple of Resurrections, Plows and Disenchants, a few Armageddons and in general all the removal and incremental advantage cards I can find. Maybe an Argivian Archaeologist for value. Probably Land Tax, to combo with Jalum Tome and those Resurrections. I don't really know yet, but it sounds like a fun path to explore. Even reasonably affordable, as these things go.

Hey, you could trade a Serendib Efreet for like 200 Witch Hunters! (NB: Don't trade a Serendib Efreet for 200 Witch Hunters, it seems logistically unsound).

Witch Hunter is not a particularly strong card. But when or where it works, it leads to good Magic. Much like Sindbad or Diamond Valley, it is a card that takes a certain environment and deck support to shine, and studying it gets the juices flowing. It looks like the kinda card that you'd both enjoy winning with and somehow appreciate losing against. And for that I will start brewing.


  1. 2 beers for breaking the colour pie! And Witch hunter looks mean as F.

  2. love these short ponderings of obscure cards! Your insights and writing skill is quite entertaining! keep em up!

  3. Sweet article MG. I never noticed the Goblin Wizard/Witch Hunter connection but definitely looks too close to be an accident. I was crazy busy with work the last 4 months so catching up on all things OS related today...hence the many comments lol. Rest assured I was still playing weekly with the Legionnaires. Peace.


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