The strange journey of Saffi Eriksdotter

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What does this young lady have to do with anything? Full story in the extended.


Back in the day, Ice Age, the first coherent, large, non-core set for Magic came out. It would be the template for every “big” set to follow, and the model for the first set in the now-familiar structure of big-small-small in each block (finally changing to big-small, big-small in the new, two-blocks-per-year cycle that’s being introduced this year). One of the quirky, fun, and sometimes effective cards in Ice Age was the Lhurgoyf:
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These days, a green creature like this would probably be typed as Creature – Beast. But in the heady, uneven days of early Magic, the same days that gave us the incomprehensible mess that is Ice Cauldron (look at all those little words!), it was typed as “Lhurgoyf.”
Lhurgoyf also had some fairly hilarious flavor text:
“Ach! Hans, run! It’s the lhurgoyf!”
– Saffi Eriksdotter, last words

This inspired a whole generation to slap Lhurgoyf down on the table with a hearty “Ach!”
Lhurgoyf reappeared in Fifth Edition, Eighth Edition, and the special Beatdown set.
Years and many blocks later, the Odyssey set rolled around. Odyssey had as its core theme graveyard interactions. This probably seemed like a perfect match to the Lhurgoyf. Rather than just reprint the venerable green gritter (notice that Odyssey wasn’t on the list there), the design team decided to make an entire cycle of Lhurgoyfs, one in each color. Suddenly, Lhurgoyf wasn’t the only critter in its clade. The new entries were tied to the graveyard in diverse ways:
The Cantivore, being the white card in the cycle, sucked. Oh, and it was keyed to Enchantments in the graveyard.
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The Cognivore was keyed to the total number if Instants in all graveyards, which seems like a natural fit for most blue decks until you realize that it’s far, far too expensive.
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The Magnivore gets bigger as more Sorceries go to the bin. Magnivore was reprinted in Ninth edition and was the namesake card for the Vore archetype — Vore being a land-destruction-oriented red/blue deck that got double duty (disruption and big Vore) out of land destruction spells by dint of their largely being Sorceries.
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Perhaps placing the ability in an appropriate section of the color pie, the designers gave Mortivore the “get bigger as more stuff dies” ability that Lhurgoyf began with — although Mortivore gains Regeneration and loses that potentially crucial +1 Toughness, so that at least one creature must be in the graveyard, or Mortivore will volunteer for that role.
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Finally, green received Terravore in the place of Lhurgoyf. I think it lost out in that exchange.
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We move forward another few years and several blocks and find ourselves in Time Spiral. The overall theme of Time Spiral block is topsy-turviness, with the first set in the block, the eponymous Time Spiral, focusing on the past, included “Timeshifted” cards that are actually from the past, and new cards that are nostalgic callbacks to the history of Magic. Among these are several Legendary creatures representing characters spoken of and yet not seen in sets past, such as Jaya Ballard, Lim Dul the Necromancer, Dralnu, Kaervik, Ith (of Wand and Maze fame), Mishra, and so on. Among this exalted group?
Saffi Eriksdotter.
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Mark Rosewater discusses the design and development of Saffi in this column, from which I will quote two bits:
Hans is pretty well known. He even showed up on another piece of flavor text (Revenant) and got his name in a title (okay it wasn’t a legendary creature and it was an Unhinged card, but still better than Saffi). Saffi, on the other hand, was in the attribution line, and frankly, people seldom remember the attribution. Luckily, I remembered her, and she seemed like the best obscure but relevant character I could think of. Everyone knew her Last Words even if her name wasn’t all that familiar.

Meanwhile, there was another problem going on. We decided that we were going to have a cycle of allied-color legendary creatures and at least one monocolor legendary creature in each color. Most legendary creatures had a pretty defined color. Saffi’s character was defined by one thing – she had been killed by a lhurgoyf. That didn’t really force our hand as far as color definition. After some thinking I decided that it might be cool to make her the same color as the thing that killed her.
You can also read this artcle for Matt Cavotta’s appreciation of Saffi’s art.
So with Time Spiral, Saffi went from flavor text attribution to full-fledged character. She even hooked up with this guy…
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…to enable an infinite combo.
The second set of Time Spiral block, Planar Chaos, rolled around, and suddenly we had a brand-new Lhurgoyf!
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At a glance, Detritivore looks terrible. “Nonbasic lands? That’s worse than Terravore!” But as a Suspend critter, Detritivore represents uncounterable land destruction. It was crucial for control on control matchups in Time Spiral block constructed, and prompted many control players to run a copy of Pull from Eternity just to deal with it. Personally, I just dislike the art (sorry, Parente).
However, Planar Chaos was not to be the real coming-back-out party for Lhurgoyfs. That came with the final set in the block, Future Sight, and this initially innocuous little guy:
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Dismissed up front by many as a quirky little card chock full of red herrings (Tribal and Planeswalker both seemed a little fake as card types, although the original intent was to have Planeswalkers in Future Sight, with only Tribal debuting in Lorwyn), Tarmogoyf nonetheless appealed immediately to the more astute competitive players who realized that for two mana you get a creature that often comes out at 3/4, at least, and can be as big as 5/6 or 6/7 in realistic game play. As the Time Spiral block PTQ season continued, Tarmogoyf quickly graduated to become, in the words of one coverage reporter, “everyone’s favorite twenty-five dollar bill.”
Tarmogoyfs, now in nearly every deck that can manage green (see the coverage from Pro Tour Valencia for evidence of the prevalence of Tarmogoyf), most often appeared in G/W aggro decks in the block constructed season. And some players thought that it would be nice if they had a way to bring back those Tarmogoyfs, when they faced down the inevitable Slaughter Pact or Damnation. And the best way to do that?
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Indeed. In a truly quirky finale to her journey so far, Saffi, whose defining trait was sacrificing herself to save her buddy Hans from the Lhurgoyf, just spent the entire summer sacrificing herself to save, of all things, a Lhurgoyf.
So it goes.