Its dog week on the blog, so after considering what to write about for a while, I decided to go with one of these. The problem is, dogs or hounds haven’t actually been that big of a deal in the history of the game, although there definitely are some strong cards here, although they might not seem that way immediately.
There are 71 hounds in the game total, as of this writing. Like any more or less random creature type, many of these are going to be very bad. In this case, some of these are very, very bad. Take for example this little gem from Arabian Nights (1993).
Hurr Jackal was the very first hound printed, although at the time, its creature type was jackal. Since jackals are not dogs (although they are closely related), it would have been reasonable to keep that type, but at some point that type was retired.
The card is pretty useless, although any red one mana 1/1 was playable in the early days (as people were playing Goblins of the Flarg in the same deck with Dwarven Trader), when spells ruled and creatures whimpered in the corner.
The next hound came in Ice Age (1995). Again, quite bad, but I could see playing this in Limited, if I had some good ETB-effects, but since those didn’t quite exist in those days (first ones, like Nekrataal and Man-o’-War were printed in Visions (1996)), this is just a clunky way to protect your creatures. Granted, protecting your creatures is good, but doing so by committing another one on the table is not, when Wrath of God is around.
Homelands (1995) isn’t exactly known for playable cards, but this is still quite bad in comparison, although first strike is strong. After all, this could take down Savannah Lions if it got a chance.
Tempest (1997) was pretty big on hounds.
They have kind of powerful abilities, actually, but just seem underwhelming due to high manacosts, like most creatures from those days, but there was actually one more hound in the set:
Jackal Pup was revolutionary. Sure, it was worse than Savannah Lions in many ways, but it was better in the most important way: It was red. Red was definitely in the market for the power and in a world of control and combo decks, the drawback was miniscule.
Bonus decklist (a Pro Tour winning decklist from David Price from Pro Tour LA 1998, which was Tempest Block)
That was probably the high point of canine history in Magic, although there definitely are other local maxima.
Lava Hounds from Weatherlight (1997) aren’t really one of them, but on the other hand, it is a pretty powerful card in the right deck, especially at the time. I don’t remember seeing this in any decks, since the Sligh decks had such a low curve, but it definitely had potential. Its actually one of the very few dogs that have received a reprint in a standard legal set.
Monstrous Hound and Dauthi Jackal (from Exodus (1998)) aren’t one of those local maxima either, although in this context they aren’t exactly bad either. Vampire Hounds wasn’t really played, but had potential, which we’ll talk about later.
Neither Wild Dogs[/draft] or [card]Hollow Dogs from Urza’s Saga (1998) is a real high point, although I remember seeing Ghazbán Ogre see some play, so maybe Wild Dogs was fringe playable and I could see Hollow Dogs in a limited deck. The latter received some reprint love later in both Seventh and Ninth Editions.
Portal: Three Kingdoms (1999) had two more completely forgettable additions to the hound clan.
Plague Dogs from Urza’s Destiny (1999) is something different, at least, but quite narrow and expensive for what it does.
Two more dogs from Mercadian Masques (1999). Lightning Hounds at least seems limited playable, but Blood Hound is just way too expensive. Maybe you can punish opponents with plenty of first strikers with it every once in a while, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Mossdog is another card that’s just too cute for its own good. In what situation does this ability even matter? Sure, you can find some convoluted scenarios, but nothing that would make you actually wantto play the card.
(From Planeshift (2001)) Why do they want to put these weird abilities on dogs? Why would they want to use this ability on such a generic name, meaning they can’t ever use this name again?
Then there’s Odyssey (2001)…
Seems kind of innocuous, but again, with Madness and Threshold, this is great. Even without these abilities, the fact that it can just rumble with bigger creatures is great. The option to do so is in itself very powerful. Its pretty pushed for its day. It was reprinted in Vintage Masters, which sort of tells you how powerful it is.
In the great tradition of very narrow abilities, comes these two gems from Ravnica (2005). Although Leashling does have some minor combos… Shouldn’t really complain about Greater Mossdog either, knowing how powerful that keyword is.
For some reason, dogs took a break for a couple of years and the next one was seen in Shadowmoor (2008). Its one of those demons even I wouldn’t play, although its not actually that bad. It just doesn’t do enough for its price in the world we currently live in.
Magic 2010 (2009) had these two limited playable cards. Fiery Hellhound would go on to be reprinted in three latter core sets.
Zendikar (2009) brought us this little thing. It is pretty good late in the game, but not very. I would have thought that in this world dogs are big thing, since they are so useful in the wilderness.
Here’s an example of one from Rise of the Eldrazi (2010) that’s actually doing its job. Its not very pushed, but can swing games in a nice way.
First time we were on Mirrodin, there weren’t dogs around, but in Scars of Mirrodin (2010) we find our first one, which seems to have been brough along by Phyrexians.
Mirrodin Besieged (2011) brough three more hounds for the Mirrans to play with, although none of them seem very friendly.
New Phyrexia (2011) brough two more. Phyrexians are very fond of their dogs, aren’t they?
None of these are very good, although I’ve played Corpse Cur in Modern budget Infect decks myself.
Thraben Purebloods from Innistrad (2011) has become sort of iconic as big white creatures, you don’t want to play in limited, but sometimes you just have to. These things actually make a comeback some years later. Ashmouth Hound, on the other hand, is something you might want to play in limited, if you are trying to be aggressive.
Avacyn Restored’s (2012) Hound of Griselbrand is pretty good. I used it at the time as a sideboard card I would bring against other very aggressive red decks, as it would easily trump the whole board.
Magic 2013 (2012) brought this pretty vanilla creature. Usable, but not good.
I’ve been saving the “man’s best friend” joke for a while and I guess this Return to Ravnica (2012) card is the right place to use it.
According to Dragon’s Maze (2013), Rakdos aren’t the only ones on Ravnica who enjoy their pet dogs.
On Theros (2013), the dogs are a one dog pack. Underworld Cerberus definitely had some constructed playability promise, but never got there.
Of the three dogs in Journey Into Nyx (2014), one saw some limited constructed play (Mogis’s Warhound), but all were very playable in limited.
Scrapyard Mongrel from Magic 2015 (2014) was a pretty good, if situational card. Worked well, if you could get the ability going.
On Tarkir (first introduced in Khans of Tarkir (2014)), dogs are sentient, humanoid beings, who work with at least two clans (Abzan and Temur). I tried to make Ainok Bond-Kin work in Standard, but the environment wasn’t quite right for it, even if I was able to give my creatures plenty of counters.
Fate Reforged (2015) brought couple of pretty good limited cards.
Six more Ainoks in Dragons of Tarkir (2015). All of them pretty playable in limited, with Ainok Artillerist being the weakest. Ainok Survivalist should have probably seen some Standard play after Reclamation Sage rotated out, but since Conclave Naturalists does pretty much the same thing, its not by any means a slam dunk choice.
Magic Origins (2015) had two dogs: the aforementioned Fiery Hellhound and the new Blazing Hellhound. The latter didn’t seem like a bomb at first, but after some experience with the format, the activated ability just seemed very strong in a format, where racing was often the thing.
In Shadows Over Innistrad (2016), Pyre Hound got to be a sort of archetype defining card in limited, while Cathar’s Companion is a filler and Hound of the Farbogs is card you’d play, if you real need it.
Remember Thraben Purebloods from before? I told you they’d be back. Eldritch Moon (2016) brought this corrupted version of them back, making them very playable. You don’t even have to be down about it.
All in All
Dogs aren’t iconic or anything, but they’ve been there throughout the games history. Unlike the previous Magical Histories I’ve written, there really isn’t a strong thread to follow. Dogs have been in all colors (although blue has only one) and they have a wide array of abilities. Even their size seems to differ throughout the games history, although mostly they are on the smaller side.
Although there are plenty of white and green dogs in the game, the designers seem to tap more into the scary side of dogs, then the “man’s best friend” aspect. They are often scary and quite a few are somehow related to fire, with seven actual elemental hounds. Since human history has been so intertwined with dogs (especially since we bred them), this does seem like a lost opportunity in some ways, but I grant you the red and black dogs are generally way cooler (or hotter).
The number of dogs does seem to be on the rise, so perhaps there’s some dog lover (or hater, if you look at some of them) in the R&D now.