Pattern Recognition #305 - Unstoppable

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


23 November 2023


Hello Everyone! My name is berryjon, and I welcome you all to Pattern Recognition, TappedOut.Net's longest running article series. Also the only one. I am a well deserved Old Fogey having started the game back in 1996. My experience in both Magic and Gaming is quite extensive, and I use this series to try and bring some of that to you. I dabble in deck construction, mechanics design, Magic's story and characters, as well as more abstract concepts. Or whatever happens to catch my fancy that week. Please, feel free to talk about each week's subject in the comments section at the bottom of the page, from corrections to suggested improvements or your own anecdotes. I won't bite. :) Now, on with the show!

So, today's subject is little fellow right here:


The word Juggernaut itself has an interesting history to it. It is derived from the Hindu word Jagannath which is a regional God around Bangladesh who has been associated with the Ratha Yatra, or the temple car procession. In this procession, as the first writings went in the 13th century went, a large temple cart for worship - basically a way for the god to be taken around the world like a modern limo, but with more religion - was paraded around as part of certain festivities. Odoric of Pordenone, a Christian Missionary in India wrote that he witnessed people in religious fervor, throw themselves under the moving cart as a means of sacrifice for their God. You know, the usual 'look at those bad religions, worship my God instead' type deal. More likely though was that as these events, people would press up against each other and accidents would happen as people fell and got trampled, much like they do today at sporting events and such.

Nearly 100 people died at the Hillsborough Stadium on 15 April 1989. Not a pleasant read, let me tell you.

However, these writings did gain some traction, and the word mutated into English as Juggernau(gh)t, which became associated with the description of a massive machine or impersonal force that advances without heed as to what is in front of it, destroying everything that cannot get out of its way. This started in the mid 1800's, and continues to this day, with perhaps the most famous example in our circles as gamers and other pop-culture aficionados is the character of the same name from Marvel Comics, The Juggernaut who is a sometimes-enemy of the X-Men.

But Magic, being the melting pot of reality and fiction while trying to be its own thing - at least in the beginning - incorporated the Juggernaut into the game from the start, putting it into Alpha in the form you see above you. I mean, there's something celebratory about that, right?

As a 5/3 for , this creature must attack each turn if able - so you don't have to worry if you don't have Haste - and cannot be blocked by Walls.

At the time, it was an interesting creature, able to trade with all but a handful of other creatures, like Force of Nature and Lord of the Pit. Sure, forcing an attack each turn could be a problem in some cases, but it was ahead of the curve on either of those two creatures. That meant you had one or two attacks before something bigger and scarier came down.

But the important part about that creature is that it couldn't be blocked by Walls. Now, I know a lot of you are new to this game, and you started when the year began with a 2 and not a 1, so you never really lived in the days when Walls were a big deal. In fact, with 10 of them in the Alpha, finding them as a cheap and easy defender in the early days before Defender was a keyword was pretty common in a lot of decks. This made the Juggernaut a built-in answer to more turtle-ish decks that depended on Walls to keep the bad enemies out while the player behind them went about winning the game, or at least trying to. Early Magic was weird about that.

Of course, this creature was not without its flaws. The first and most obvious is the lack of any sort of evasion or capacity to avoid just being blocked by a 1/1 Goblin. Not having Trample, Menace or some other ability to crush all beneath its mighty... looks ... spiked wheels.

Not gonna question that. It was Early Magic.

While Mishra's War Machine was the next Juggernaut (retroactively applied as a Creature type), I want to move on to Urza's Engine. This 1/5 for had two abilities that only made sense if you knew how Banding worked at the time. The first ability simply gave this creature Banding, turning it into a nice big creature that could absorb damage in combat on behalf of other creatures. Which in of itself wasn't a bad thing at all, especially on the block.

However, the second ability gave all creatures in the Band Trample. This is because unless all creatures in a Band had an ability, the sum creature didn't have the ability. Meaning that if you attacked with this creature in a Band, it could be blocked by a measly 1/1 without worry. But by activating the second ability, it gave everyone Trample, which meant that the whole Band now had Trample, and that 1/1 was quiet useless! And because it could be activated at Sorcery speed, the opponent had to gamble if you wanted to Trample or not.

Most of the time, you did. Unless you were blocking.

Let's see... skip Energizer. That's just embarrassing.

Extruder is a fun little card that I enjoy simply for the flavor text, and the reminder that no, Urza was not a Good Person at all. It had the Echo cost, which was a thing back then. Be glad you don't have to deal with that now. But the real power behind it was that when you sacrificed an artifact, that +1/+1 counter went on anyone. Not just the Extruder itself.

This card is more powerful today than it was in ages past thanks to the insane proliferation (pun intended) of artifact tokens. Treasures. Food. Clues. Maps. Blood. There are a lot of things out there now that can be converted into +1/+1 counters at instant speed now because of this creature. If you're running either of those themes in your deck, you might want to give this guy another look.

Oh, this is interesting. Keldon Battlewagon. This 0/3 for does come with a built-in Trample, neatly avoiding the problem of the first Juggernaut. But it has two other abilities that are relevant here. The first is that when you attack with it, you sacrifice it at the end of combat. So unless you have some tricks up your sleeve, you get one shot with this monster. But what a shot it will be. Just tap a creature you control, and this creature gets +X/+0 until the end of the turn, where X is that creature's power. A very early version of Enlist, without all the bells and whistles. So you could power up and throw down with a single huge creature while protecting all the rest of yours from bad side effects including death-in-combat.

Pretty nice, but in the decades since Prophecy, it's been well overshadowed.

Otarian Juggernaut is boring and requires Threshold to bring it up to being a proper Juggy. I don't even know what to say about Goblin War Wagon.

Hey, Leveler! This card was seen as a gimmick creature that was a combo-piece where you would have your opponent create a copy of it to kill their library before they draw out, or you would Fling it for that last bit of damage at someone's face. It's seen some resurgence since the printings of LabMan, Thoracle and Jace the LabMan to kill your deck allowing you to win on your (instant speed) draw. You certainly never swing with it.

Arcbound Crusher is a hilarious face-smasher in Affinity/Modular decks, and should never be underestimated when Artifact Lands exist, let along all the other artifacts that the game now has. Auriok Siege Sled exists, that's all I'll say about it.

Coldsnap gives us Phyrexian Snowcrusher, a slightly bigger Juggernaut that can be blocked by Walls, but has a Firebreathing ability tied to , which was an interesting way to express the usefulness of Snow Mana in all colours. It was fun, but I would up cutting it from my Snow decks for being not that great.

The Darksteel Juggernaut is the first Juggy to scale to the number of artifacts you control, and was indestructible to boot. Great way to get around a boardwipe with your other Indestructible Artifacts, but still lacked the ability to close out the game in the face of chump blockers.

Phyrexian Juggernaut has Infect. Don't bother playing. -1/10. Would set fire to again.

Innistrad brought up the Galvanic Juggernaut, a hilariously cute card that is cheaper, but tougher than the regular one. However, it doesn't untap as normal during your untap step, but does untap when something dies. Given that the idea was you would swing, it would block, and the blocker died, you effectively had vigilance on this creature. Too bad there are now other, more effective, ways to benefit from something dying. Like the entire Aristocrats archetype!

The Ramroller was a cute mini-Juggernaut from Magic Origins, and honestly, having a 4/3 for in Limited wasn't the worst thing that could happen to you.

Barricade Breaker from Aether Revolt's only claim to fame is having Improvise, and then being able to improvise itself, but otherwise wasn't that great a card.

The Brothers War gives us two Juggernauts that are actually interesting. The first, Mishra's Juggernaut, is a classic Juggy in power and toughness, but includes the vital Trample to go with it. And when it dies, you can Unearth it for one last smash into the opponent's face. It's a common, and I have seen it end more than one limited game for that one last hurrah.

The other BRO Juggernaut is the Third Way affiliated Terisian Mindbreaker, a creature that effectively Traumatizes the opponent when it attacks, and can be Unearthed for a fairly heavy cost to do it one more time. Heck, I've seen decks that run this guy just to Unearth it on the cheap to rip into someone's deck. It's good, and you won't regret running it until someone casts Fractured Identity on it.

And last, but not least, we have the Juggernaut Commander.

Graaz, Unstoppable Juggernaut

This bulk Rare from All Will Be One turns your entire () deck into Juggernaut Typal, with all the advantages and multitude of disadvantages of the classic. Of course, this enforced Typal deck meant that you didn't need to worry too much about the actual creature types in your deck because this guy makes them all the same. So any external synergies, like Coat of Arms become perfect fits for your deck!

Of course, you're still running with a heavy colourless focus, but I suppose someone, somewhere, has made this work.

Juggernauts are not the greatest thing in the game. Not by a long shot. They, as a subtype, have serious drawbacks that make it difficult to run them as a deck as anything over than a tongue-in-cheek meme. And if you're playing Brawl or Commander, there are better Commanders, from Traxos, Scourge of Kroog to Karn, Legacy Reforged. Not that you have many options when it comes to this, considering there are only 20 Colourless Legendaries - one of which is banned, and another is from an Unset. But if you do do it, good for you! Tell me how it went in the comments below.

Thank you all for sticking with me this week! Join me next week when I talk about something different. What it is, I don't know yet.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job (now), but more income is always better, and I can use it to buy cards! I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #304 - Leylines

berryjon says... #1

Her everyone! Due to tomorrow being Black Friday, and Christmas in 4 weeks, it's time for my annual heck Month where I am worked to the bone in my retail/logistics job. I'll try to get something written when I can, but I can't guarantee anything until January. Sorry, and I'll see you all around.

November 23, 2023 8:06 a.m.

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