Hell’s Caretaker has been a pretty useful creature in Magic: the Gathering over the years. Way back during the Ice Age set, there was a useful combo with Ice Age’s Enduring Renewal and Antiquities Ornithopter. Enduring Renewal was an easy way to put creatures in the graveyard. Ornithopter is free to cast. So, with the Caretaker, you could easily sacrifice the Thopter and resurrect a pretty big creature from the graveyard. With Renewal, every time Ornithopter would die, it would return to your hand. Then, you could cast it again for free.
While none of the creatures were given haste by this method, it was an easy way to put a huge creature into play that couldn’t be easily answered. The Caretaker could also always just sacrifice itself to get back something, too. There was another combo with Enduring Renewal and Ornithopter with Fallen Angel to make her infinitely big. The combo deck was fun and playable.
Later, Hell’s Caretaker was reintroduced in 9th Edition. This made it legal in the Extended format at the time and in Modern. There was a potential combo playable for a time in Extended (and technically be played in Modern, too) using Intruder Alarm and Highway Robber, plus one other creature. Every time you sacrificed a creature to use Hell’s Caretaker’s ability, and a new creature enters the battlefield, all creatures untap. You would alternate between sacrificing and reviving the Robber and another creature to drain your opponent for 2 life each time. Unfortunately, the combo wasn’t consistent enough to see regular success.
In Commander, Hell’s Caretaker has been used in a number of combinations. One includes equipping it with Thornbite Staff in a Zombie-centric deck. Every time a Zombie dies, you’ll be able to untap the Caretaker. With a creature like Vengeful Dead, which deals 1 point of damage to each opponent every time a Zombie is put in a graveyard, you have a potential infinite combo serving as a win condition. While this all has to happen during your upkeep, there’s no limit to the number of times Caretaker’s ability can be activated in the upkeep. Also with the Staff, in a Reanimator deck, you can consistently sacrifice lesser creatures to bring back bigger ones as many times as you wish.
Hell’s Caretaker’s Sudden 2016 Price Spike
In late January 2016, there was a sudden run on Hell’s Caretakers from 9th edition. Its market price went from $4 to $6 on average over a couple of days. While that’s not the biggest price spike in the world, it was somewhat unusual. There were a few more Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder decks being built in EDH due to the Legendary Creature’s reprinting in Commander 2015. Hell’s Caretaker is known as a key contributor to that Commander deck. But otherwise, there wasn’t really any obvious reason that Hell’s Caretaker would suddenly become popular.
So was the popularly surging “Old School Magic” format that uses cards only from 1993 and 1994 sets to blame? Not likely. The original Legends printing barely budged from its $10 price tag. The Chronicles version also barely moved. Additionally, it’s unlikely that Old School Magic had anything to do with it. Deck construction rules specifically state that cards used in Old School (93/94) Magic decks have to share the original card frame and artwork. The 9th edition version wouldn’t even be legal (in most cases).
Another possibility is that another Old School format that includes sets from 1995 (and Ice Age) may be responsible for the renewed interest in Hell’s Caretaker. The aforementioned combo with Enduring Renewal is definitely a possibility. But Enduring Renewal didn’t budge, either.
The most likely possibility is that there was an Enduring Renewal & Hell’s Caretaker deck being brewed in Modern. Enduring Renewal was introduced into Modern as a Timeshifted card in Time Spiral – despite not having the Modern card border, a quirk of Modern. Ornithopter is also very much legal in Modern – printed several times after Mirrodin. While there has never been any real talk about such a deck being built, the pieces do exist.
Nowadays, you could bring back Griselbrand, for example, with this combo. Angel of Despair from Guildpact could be used to machine gun away all of your opponent’s permanents. How good that would prove to be in any sort of competitive environment, though, is beyond me.
It’s also very possible that the sudden 50 percent jump in price was nothing more than a few dealers and speculators stocking up on Modern-legal cards that could be good. But it’s interesting to note that the old school combo does exist. If you want to be funny, Fallen Angel is legal in Modern, too, being printed in 8th edition. It probably wouldn’t be a deck that would win too much, as it could prove to be a bit too slow.
It’s always fun to speculate why certain cards are run on at certain points in time. In this case, it reminds us of a combo that may still work today – albeit one that’s probably too slow to be garnering any top finishes at any tournaments any time soon.