No, I’m not talking about the Eldrazi Titans, and no I’m not talking about reprints of Primeval Titan and friends, but I might as well be, because the Gearhulks are that powerful. So far, we’ve seen 4 different Gearhulks—white, blue, black, and green, and all four look shockingly strong, which leads me to believe that the red one will be right up there with the rest of them. I’ve got some ideas for each one already, and today I’ll start with the newest bomb in white:
When you rate a card to grasp its potential, it’s easy to start by comparing it to a similar card that already exists. Since Cataclysmic Gearhulk most closely resembles Tragic Arrogance, I’ll start there.
Have you ever cast Tragic Arrogance in a creature-based matchup, namely the Collected Company mirror matchup? Anyone who has can testify to the kind of haymaker the card is. The only problem is that it’s situational in the sense that it doesn’t offer anything against decks without many creatures. Cataclysmic Gearhulk lets your opponent choose what to keep and what to sacrifice whereas Tragic Arrogance gives that power to you, which is a definite downside. But that’s the only downside, and I believe the positives outweigh it.
First off, you’re getting a 4/5 body out of the deal. Whenever you had Tragic Arrogance, you might not have had a creature on the board when you had to cast it, meaning the risk of getting attacked—or worse, killed—by what Tragic Arrogance left behind was a real problem. In those circumstances, a regular Planar Outburst was better. But the upside was way higher, and not only because you could be ahead after Tragic Arrogance, when Planar Outburst only put you on equal footing. Cataclysmic Gearhulk doesn’t force you to choose. Turn 5, the 4/5 body is likely to be the biggest creature on the battlefield regardless.
Another detail that isn’t easy to spot at first glance is the importance of Cataclysmic Gearhulk’s type. It’s an artifact creature. This means that just as you could choose to keep 2 creatures with Tragic Arrogance when you paired it with, for example, Hangarback Walker, the Hulk comes with that functionality built in. If you have another creature on the battlefield, this trick will almost always let you dominate the board.
Cataclysmic Gearhulk is a creature, meaning that it can be searched for or found by cards like Grapple with the Past, Oath of Nissa, or Vessel of Nascency, and can be reused for its effect with cards such as Eldrazi Displacer.
B/W Cataclysmic Gearhulk
The two ideas I have that fit Cataclysmic Gearhulk’s needs are reactive midrange decks, Naya or B/W. The reason why B/W Control stands out more is because of the interaction with Liliana, the Last Hope and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Liliana, the Last Hope lets you rebuy the effect, and with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet lets you net a whole lot of Zombies when casting it, making your board vastly superior to your opponent’s.
Updated BW Control
Next up will be Torrential Gearhulk, a.k.a. Snaphulk!