Green, being the coolest color in M:tG, was long overdue for a planeswalker with this kind of flavor. Lorwyn’s Garruk Wildspeaker is one of the most elegant and manly designs in all of Magic, Innistrad’s Garruk Relentless (in spite of his fittingly relentless 0-loyalty abilities) was all too easy to interact with, and you could see Magic 2012’s Garruk, Primal Hunter, musclebound and color-intensive, literally bursting against the constraints of his art frame and casting cost, trying to pack enough into a planeswalker to out-value Sphinx’s Revelation and opposing Thragtusk decks for the low, low cost of five mana.
In Magic 2014, Garruk has kicked it up a notch:
The two previous planeswalkers that cost six — Chandra Ablaze and Sorin Markov — were limited bombs that had basically no impact in Constructed (unless you count Sorin lopping thirty life off an EDH / Commander player’s life total to be Constructed, and I don’t). Wizards of the Coast has been trying to get away from these kinds of designs lately — think of how Liliana of the Veil is the nuts in Legacy and Modern, but sparsely played in Standard and very beatable in ISD-block limited, or how Liliana of the Dark Realms or Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded are stone-unplayable — so maybe Garruk will be, like those cards, a more tasteful design. Where will he fit in?
Probably not in Standard, where the mana is good enough to cast the much more powerful Primal Hunter. Let’s break down the abilities:
+1: pretty similar to the −3 mode on Primal Hunter, drawing a ton of cards in the greenest of ways.
-3: pretty similar to the +1 mode on Primal Hunter, protecting your Garruk with a guy.
-7: pretty similar to Primal Hunter’s ultimate, winning the game outside of a few corner cases.
You could also compare Garruk, Caller of Beasts to cards like Garruk Wildspeaker and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, which both had to use their ‘minus’ in order to affect the board. The differences, I hope, are clear enough: Wildspeaker (“O.G.”) and Tezz AoB cost four and only need a single turn to go ultimate, which is so, so powerful. It’s not likely that you’ll lose after untapping with the Caller of Beasts, but this is true for almost every planeswalker, a number of planeswalkers better protect themselves, and almost all other planeswalkers cost less than six mana.
So if Garruk, Caller of Beasts is totally unplayable in Standard and kind of a bomb in Limited, that makes him boring for those two formats, but puts him in an interesting spot for Cube. The “mythic that costs exactly four colorless and two green” slot has been good to Cubists, producing the interesting Primeval Titan and the underappreciated Rampaging Baloths. Green doesn’t have a lot of other options at six (at least without another color; Dragon’s Maze gave us the excellent Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, for example) — and, with many Cubists on this site and elsewhere opting these days for a light touch when it comes to ‘walkers, new Garruk’s power level might be right what a Cube with a flat power curve is looking for.
Sadly, I don’t think this is the case. Six mana is still a lot, even for a slower format. The corner cases of being able to drop in a Woodfall Primus or Terastodon are not worth the trouble, and Progenitus isn’t in most Cubes. Beyond that use, Garruk will either be a stone-cold blank that you’re ashamed to play, or something that completely takes over the game — with an emphasis on the former case. I’ve tried to cut most of those kinds of cards from my Cube — Blue Sun’s Zenith, Tinker, Progenitus himself, themes like Mill and Tribal, and the entire idea of ‘combo’ come to mind — and I’m wary of even trying Garruk. But, who knows — I’ve been wrong before!