Because Grizzly Bears was always lame

Over on Twitter, Aaron Forsythe asked this question:
“Functional reprints: Is the problem that you have to buy new verions of random commons again, or that we said 50% new when it was 40%?”
Evan Erwin’s answer neatly summarizes most of the complaints I’ve seen about this:
“Mainly that some of them seemed silly/unnecessary. I agree with most, but, was Grizzly Bears really worth changing?”
Trust me, it is. More in the extended entry.

I first picked up Magic back in 1993-94 because I walked by a table at a local game store’s mini-convention (for reference, the game store was Game Towne, where Alan Comer and others first played). The card I saw that really drew me in was Sengir Vampire – there was this bald freaky Vampire with blood streaming down its face and a vein motif in the background.
Once I started buying packs, I was happy to get my own Sengir, as well as Serra Angel and other badass creatures. But I was never happy to pull one of these:
Grizzly Bears? Really? It was just so normal and utterly non-fantastic. I mean, I know that’s what was up with my high-school-age mind, because I happily played Grey Ogre, which is the same creature for more mana.
But it was an ogre.
I even like bears as animals. But Grizzly Bears just wrenched me from “fantastic mage duel” into “Mutual of Omaha.”
In contrast, I know I would have played this:
Runeclaw. That is a badass name. And it generates an appropriately badass picture. And it’s fantastic. If you wander through the fantasy woods and meet a grizzly, then you stand still like you’ve been taught in Boy Scouts and wait for it to leave. If you meet a Runeclaw, you better have some magic in your back pocket ready to defend you.
Cylian Elf would have been a million times better than Grizzly Bears, just because it sounds like a fantasy creature. Runeclaw sounds like an impressive fantasy creature, and that works.
Similarly, I’ve read complaints about renaming Raise Dead to Disentomb. Certainly, the first name flows better. The problem there – and again, it’s something that’s bothered me literally since I started the game – is that it doesn’t do what it says it will. If I “raise” a creature, it should be up and running around again. It shouldn’t be back in my hand. This is especially annoying when you have wonderful art like the 7th edition version that totally fits the card title, but not its mechanics:
In contrast, Disentomb actually does what it says. It gets that body back out of the grave. What you do with it then (say, cast it again, whatever) is up to you.
Much better. Much less annoying in practice. There will be fewer players doing what I did in 1994 or so and opening a pack, seeing a Raise Dead, thinking it looks cool, then reading the card and being disappointed.
I’m generally pleased with the renamed cards. I think they clearly serve a necessary purpose without forcing R&D to contort card designs unnecessarily to make the cards arbitrarily different. About the only rename I’m not fond of is Mind Control, and that’s purely because I don’t like the art. But it’s still a better core set name for that effect than Persuasion (although Persuasion is still a good name).
When I evoke my “new player” memories, I want to see Runeclaws and not Grizzlies, every time.

2 thoughts on “Because Grizzly Bears was always lame

  1. I disagree on the Runeclaw Bears. I am more disappointed when I look at a Runeclaw Bears than I am a Grizzly Bears. Why? They have a name that suggests they are more than just a plain creature. Grizzly Bears always felt fine because, well, it was just a bear. I never expected it to have some superpower. I have higher expectations for Runeclaw Bears, however, and they fall short. Which is the same thing you argue later with some cards not lining up with what you expect them to do. Yes, Grizzly Bears was a plain name. It was on a plain creature. It always worked well for me.
    Honestly, the biggest problem I have is that the iconic creature used in literally every example I explain combat with is no longer in the core set. I use Hill Giant and Grizzly Bears for every combat explanation. Why? Every player knows them because they have been around forever. Now that will not necessarily be true.
    And honestly, it is not a big deal. It is still something I dislike.

  2. I guess my counterpoint would be “nothing in Magic should be that plain.” As I said, I played Gray Ogre (which I spelled all British up there) even though it’s super-vanilla and there were explicitly better creatures in the set (Granite Gargoyle, e.g.) because it was an Ogre, and that was cool.
    Grizzly Bears disappointed me when I was cracking packs in 1993, and it had nothing to do with the vanilla nature of the card itself (I mean, even Benalish Hero was cooler).
    As for the “been around forever” idea…well, that’s not super relevant for new players, and the core set is, more than most sets, about trying to help out the new player. This time around, the core set does it by being cool, which has me excited about it as well, but it still needs to hit that mark of “getting new players involved,” and I think the old Bears just weren’t pulling their weight.

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