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Top 5 Creatures With Inexplicable Reach – Riley Ranks

In addition to symbols, icons and rules text, Magic has an incredible visual language that helps you learn how many cards work. Game mechanics are masterfully translated into incredible pieces of fantasy art – an illustration full of fire and flames will probably deal damage, for example, while a winged creature, aloft in the sky, will probably have flying. When it comes to the reach ability – the ability to block a creature with flying without having flying yourself – the visual language has always been very clear to illustrate that creatures have reach. Is the creature a spider? It is overwhelmingly likely it has reach (only two of Magic’s 59 spiders do not). Is the creature very tall, or depicted high in the air, perhaps perched on a tree or on a tower, or aiming a bow aloft? Again, your chances of the creature having reach are decent.

But even then, these rules break down. “Very tall” and “has bow” by no means guarantee a creature having reach, even when they’re combined – both Oketra and Nylea, despite having bows and being very tall, have never been printed with reach. Ridiculous, you’ll agree – but that’s just the start. It goes so much deeper. 

Sometimes, the creature doesn’t have to have a bow – it can be shot from a bow and still have reach, apparently, like Vivien’s Jaguar. It can have a bit of a long neck, like Cloudpiercer, or a kind of long tongue, like Crocanura. It can be a regular Elf that alludes to height in its name, like Highspire Artisan. Absolute madness. 

Don’t lie to me. I know your secrets – I know you’ve attacked with a flyer, confident in the damage you think you’re about to inflict, only for your opponent to block with some random creature that isn’t a Spider and doesn’t have a bow and gives you no indication it has reach whatsoever (apart from its rules text, obviously, but who’s got the time to read rules text?). I know you’ve run your flyers into bogus reach creatures, and today, we’re counting down the most bogus of those creatures.

 

 

Header - 5. Aether Membrane

Aether Membrane

 

You might think that bogus red reach creatures began relatively recently, with cards like Skyraker Giant or Turret Ogre. They’re… tall? I suppose? So they can, like, whack flyers out of the air as they go past (but still, Nylea can’t, you know, shoot them). But dumb red reach creatures go all the way back to 2007 and Planar Chaos, with the printing of Aether Membrane.

Maybe we should have sat up and taken notice. Maybe this was the forewarning we should have recognized before attacking our flyers into Flummoxed Cyclops or – for some reason – Tuktuk Rubblefort. Why does Aether Membrane have reach? Because it’s kinda balanced on a couple of weird trees, or something? Sure – why doesn’t, I don’t know, Archers’ Parapet, a wall that is as tall as a tree and filled with archers, not also have reach?

Still, it’s not so bad. Egregious flavor violations aside, attacking a flyer into a wall with reach isn’t the worst thing in the world, as they tend to have zero power – the biggest injury there is usually done to your ego, as you shamefacedly withdraw your attacking flyer and pass the turn to your smug, self-satisfied opponent. No harm done. If only that were the case with the other nonsense reach creatures on this list. 

 

Header - 4. Gemrazer

Gemrazer

 

As if Gemrazer isn’t already frustrating enough. Gemrazer is usually mutated onto a creature with +1/+1 creatures, coming in and blowing up an artifact or enchantment, and is hard to chump-block, but they also gave it reach? How!? The art seems to indicate it just yeets crystals into the sky, but it’s not even looking up to aim. How can it hope to hit, say, a Dream Thrush, when the very biggest thrush on record is only around 30cm?

We’ve accepted that archers have reach. That’s fine. The in-universe justification for a card like Turret Ogre having reach is that it chucks boulders from a high place – again, I can stomach that justification, if a little unwillingly. But if you’re telling me that Gemrazer, a quadrupedal beast that is not Very Tall and does not Have A Bow, can block flyers, I just am not buying what you’re selling. 

Also – while we’re talking about archers – why does a card like Bassara Tower Archer trade with a Wind Drake? Surely the point of using a bow is to shoot something without it hurting you? Or do archers shoot down flyers in a way that means the flyers fall from the sky on top of them, killing them instantly? It makes no sense. 

 

Header - 3. All Those Random Snakes

Death-Hood CobraFeiyi SnakeNoose Constrictor

 

There are 91 Snake creatures in Magic. Seven of them have or can gain reach. Just one of those seven, Matsu-Tribe Birdstalker, has a bow to account for its reach ability. That means the other six have a lot of explaining to do. 

If all Snakes had reach, under the “very long neck” clause (when you think about it, Snakes are just mostly neck, let’s be honest), then we wouldn’t have an issue. As it is, however, these odd-Snakes-out, these ssspecial sssix, make very little in the way of good sssense. I suppose, on a good day, I’ll let Nessian Asp get away with it, as it could be considered to be Very Tall. Stonecoil Serpent, too, especially when it’s a 6/6 or something. 

But as for the others, why? Death-Hood Cobra, Feiyi Snake and Noose Constrictor, what’s your excuse? That you live in trees? Tell that to Blight Mamba, Lorescale Coatl, Tangle Asp and all the other treebound snakes that can’t block flyers!

 

Ramunap Hydra

 

Even these Snakes, however, can be excused when we finally come to the most unbelievably inexplicable instance of reach on any snake ever: Ramunap Hydra. Look at this card. Look at it. This Snake literally lives in the ground, and it can still block flyers. I’m not having it.

 

Header - 2. Hundred-Handed One

Hundred-Handed One

 

Okay, yep, attack with my flyer, alright, you pay six for monstrosity, whatever, go to damage? What’s that? Blocks? It has flying, mate, your Hundred-Handed One can’t… wait, what!? It gains reach!? It wasn’t like that in Theros, did you write this in very carefully with a Sharpie? 

How does this creature gain reach? Does it create a great big chain with its new arms, all gripping on to each other and whip them skywards? Does it build a big pile of spare arms, like a tower, and stand astride them? Sure, the card is dripping with flavor as a reference to the mythological Greek Hecatoncheires (although they were too cowardly to also give it fifty heads), but nowhere in the Theogony of Hesiod does it mention the Hecatoncheires suddenly started plucking birds out of the air. 

Also, unrelated to the reach thing, but why is the Hundred-Handed One able to block an extra 99 creatures after getting its extra hands? Surely, if one hand equals one block (which, apparently, we’re just accepting here), then it should only get to block an additional 98 creatures? Dripping with flavor, certainly, but not with mathematical elegance. 

 

Header - 1. Every Creature in Strixhaven

Cogwork ArchivistMaster SymmetristScurrid Colony

 

They’re not even trying any more. They’ve given up. Before, it was Spiders and Archers and Very Tall creatures; before, we were at least given some clues. Now, Wizards have abandoned all pretense and have started bunging reach onto any old creature they feel like, irrespective of whether the flavor calls for it – and as a result, every single reach creature in Strixhaven makes no sense.

Cogwork Archivist? I guess it’s tall, kinda, I guess it has to reach for books on the high shelves? Master Symmetrist is just a Rhino that’s standing on its back legs – hardly tall enough to slap birds out of the air, but it somehow has reach as well. Maybe there’s a bow hidden under its robes? Who knows. 

Scurrid Colony seems to have reach under the “it lives in a tree” clause that sees Feiyi Snake gain the ability, but this doesn’t apply to Gnarled Professor, who lives in a tree the same way that you and I live in a human body.

 

 

Finally, the set wouldn’t be complete without a nonsense red reach creature: Pillardrop Warden. A half-hearted explanation as to why it has reach can be found in the flavor text: “A giant statue of a dwarf is still a giant statue.” Sure, that must be why giant statues like Colossus of Akros have reach, as well. Oh, what’s that? It doesn’t? What a shock that is

 


 

Nothing will change. We’ll all keep running flyers into nonsense reach creatures like the cloth-eared buffoons we are, and Wizards will continue to see just how much they can get away with when it comes to printing creatures that inexplicably have reach. Until then, just remember that a red creature with a picture of someone in the midst of crackling lightning might not be a burn spell – it might be Weaver of Lightning, ready to demolish your 3/1 flyer. 

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