The Bear Puncher: The Story Of 'Savage Punch'


Let's talk about that Magic card that features a man punching the heck out of a bear.

Trying to name the strangest or oddest Magic: The Gathering card of all time is like trying to name your favorite James Bond actor. Everyone has wildly different opinions and it's never George Lazenby.

However, one card routinely is in most people's top lists: Savage Punch from the 2014 Khans of Tarkir expansion:

First off, yes, that is Surrak Dragonclaw just plain knocking out a bear. But second of all, the art is so unlike anything else in the expansion. It had an unusually serious tone...right up until Surrak went all Lennox Lewis on plus-size Paddington. So how did this even come about?

Well, as it turned out, the card went through a bit of development hell before artist Doug Beyer had the art come up in card conception. Knocking out Winnie the Pooh's cousin was just too good to pass up, and when one of the cards named "Savage Punch" came up needing artwork, everyone was super excited for one of the Bernstein's losing the Rumble in the Jungle.

But how would it play out? Would fans be okay with this being in the cards? Sometimes cards that are too silly or outlandish get a pretty stern backlash. And while those at Wizards of the Coast loved the Yogi suckerpunch, fans might have a different take.

Thankfully that wasn't the case, as, after it was shown to panels at events like Comic-con, talk quickly went from "Talking about how cool the expansion would be" to "That dude just straight up punched a bear!".

In Mark Rosewater's own words, "I remember the first time I saw the art for Savage Punch. I didn't even realize that it was Surrak Dragonclaw, the khan of the Temur, doing the punching. It didn't even matter. During the slideshow when it was shown, it got a similar response from the audience. We included it in the San Diego Comic-Con panel because we expected the same would hold true for the players. And it did. I saw more talk about bear punching than any other single attribute we showed off at the panel."

Today, the Khans block is still remembered by many solely for this because, well, did we not tell you it was a mix between Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian and Walt Disney's Brave yet? But it was closed to not happening. Thankfully, sometimes cards are saved solely because of the sheer awesomeness of it.

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.