Thragtusk Revisited

ImageI wanted to start an intermittent series here for MTGYou focusing on specific cards — some old favorites of yours, perhaps, or others that you might have missed.

Today I’d like to focus on what was once, for a time, the King of Beasts in Standard, the mighty Thragtusk.

Appearing in the M13 core set, Thragtusk had a lot going for it — a 5/3 for 5 CMC, this creature also gained you 5 life once it hit the board and, when it left the battlefield, gave you a 3/3 beast token.

Not surprisingly, Thragtusk became a fixture on the Standard scene while it was still in rotation, and the card reached nearly $20 on the market in it’s time, according to TCG Player.

It was, essentially, the Tasigur or Siege Rhino of its day — If you weren’t playing Thragtusk, or playing around him, you were toast.

Indeed, a StarCity Games article from late in 2012 asked “What makes Thragtusk such a good card and something basically every other deck in Standard wants to build around?”

After rotation, however, Thragtusk suffered the fate of many cards that were powerful in their Standard meta, but simply can’t find a place in most other formats. It price plummeted; the old fellow is currently listing at between $4 and $5 online.

What killed Thragtusk? First, its 5 CMC cost basically put it out of place in much of the Modern meta, where 4 CMC is essentially the top of most decks’ mana curves. Secondly, with 3 toughness, this critter dies to Bolt very easily, as does the 3/3 beast it creates once it gets knocked off the board. Third, there are better options out there, like Kitchen Finks, that gain life and keep coming back for cheaper. Fourth, there’s a new Big Bad out there haunting Abzan Standard and Modern, that being the aforementioned Siege Rhino, which gains you life, hurts your opponents, and also is tougher to kill at 4/5 for just 4 CMC.

That doesn’t mean that ol’ Thraggy is down for the count — the fact that he’s still listing at over $4 means that others are still using him, possibly either for casual play or, I suspect, to spice up their EDH efforts.

Casual Variants of Multiplayer Magic

Magic DogsI have to admit, the Magic community is really pretty terrific.  By and large most people you meet and interact with while playing Magic are genuinely nice, helpful, and just friendly.  Let me share with a little anecdote.  Not too long ago I was trying to think up some new twist I could bring to our next Casual Magic night because we got into a bit of a rut.  We all love Multiplayer Magic, but the games take so long and if someone gets skunked on land they find themselves quickly eliminated and having to sit and watch the others play.  That really isn’t all that fun, so I was trying to come up with some way to mitigate this issue. When I was drawing a blank I turned my attention to the Magic Community and reached out on Facebook for suggestions and was rewarded in short order with tons of great suggestions.  Today I thought I would share some of those fun options so that you could use them the next time you play around a kitchen table with your friends.

Pack Wars– This is perhaps the easiest of all the Casual variants and it takes very little in the way of set up.  Essentially all you need is a booster pack and some land and you have all the ingredients for a game.  People have said for a long time that just cracking a booster pack is a waste of time.  You rarely get a solid return for you money spent, once open it is just 15 more cards, and really is a very short lived experience.  However, you can draw that experience out by opening your pack and just shuffling in some land and playing a game!  Typically you would want 3 land of each colour and then the spells are whatever you open, meaning you have little to no strategy, curve, or any other technical element to your game.  However, it does cause you to think on your feet and adapt to the situation and making due with obviously substandard cards.  The best part is, it could be any two packs…not even from the same set…and everyone is on the same respective level (unless they open some silly bomb).  I gave it try with a buddy and we laughed ourselves silly with the sheer ridiculousness of some of the cards we played…and really at the end of the day it really is all about having some fun.

Howling Mine– One of the main complaints with Multiplayer Magic is that it takes so long because everyone runs out of cards.  It’s true…I have routinely seen games grind to a halt as everyone ends up in Top-deck mode praying that they rip some awesome bomb off the top of their deck.  However, a great strategy to ensure everyone has enough cards and speed up the game is to give everyone a Howling Mine effect.  This means everyone draws 2 cards instead of the usual 1. This really speeds up matters and ensures everyone can play with the cards in their deck instead of just sitting around top decking…drawing a dud…and then passing the turn.

Archenemy– Not all that long ago Wizards had a product that essentially pitted one deck against two others.  The idea being that the one deck was super powerful and that the other two were more marginal, but could team up to beat the superior deck. So, why do you need a particular product from Wizards to play this?  The answer is…you don’t.  Playing 2 or 3 on 1 is a great way to even out the playing field, so find that buddy with the super powerful deck and have him play solo…and then the rest of you get to see if you can take him out.  It sounds really fun because if you are the solo guy, you want to see just how awesome your deck is against multiple opponents.  If YOU get the win solo…damn…you be DA MAN! For the guys teamed up on you, you get a chance to dismantle THAT guy…you know…the guy who almost wins. Even if it is in a handicapped situation, there is no better feeling than beating that guy.  A nice variation on this is to build the deck that the player who will be solo together as a group, so you all know just how awesome it is.  There is a lot of fun to be had in group deck construction.

Two-Headed Giant– This classic team games pits 2 vs 2 and each pair of 2 players take their turn at the same time.  This ends up being a wildly fun and exciting way to play.  It can be played with constructed decks if you like, but is just as much fun in a limited environment.  The ability to sit and discuss strategy with your team mate is one of the highlights of this format and helps you to explore a variety of different strategies.  This one also shows up from time to time at pre-releases and such, making it a little more mainstream and sometimes competitive, but even there is generally regarded as being a fun and friendly format.

Dice-y Free for all– One way to mix up your multi-player free-for-all game is to have each player roll a die to determine which other player they will be attacking this turn.  Sure, it takes a little longer, but in the end it usually avoids one person getting ganged up so badly that he gets blown out the game.  Remember, you are here to play Magic…not blow someone out of the water…and giving each person the chance to not get attacked and develop a bit of a board only makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Chaos Draft– For those who love to draft…why draft boosters from the same set/block?  There’s no set rules come Casual Magic night…so everyone show up with different boosters and just see what you get.  The randomness and unpredictable nature of the Draft environment makes for tons of fun as one guy brings in a pack of Modern Masters, and the next guy brings in a pack of Dark Ascension…and let the mayhem begin.

Mass-Chaos– One of the major complaints with multi-player free-for-all games is that they take a lot of time. You spend forever sitting there waiting for everyone else to finish their turn and twiddling your thumbs, all the while hoping you don’t get hated out of the game ASAP.  Well, one way to speed the game up significantly, and create all sorts of mayhem and chaos, is to have everyone at the table take their turn at the same time.  There’s no waiting for the turn to come around…you’re going at the same time as the guys sitting beside you.  Now, resolving spells, attacking, blocking and the like is pretty complicated, but between the bunch of you I’m sure you can figure out a system to make it all work for you guys.  This seems like the most insane and disgustingly fun format I have ever encountered and really want my play group to give it a try.  I can only imagine the arguments, shenanigans, and ridiculous scenarios that will get cooked up with this format…bring it on.

Awarding Points– My buddies and I have grown tired of having players sit and posture in a multiplayer game.  Anyone can durdle…heck…I’m one of the best at it.  However, to create an incentive to being more aggressive, we award points for having taken out other players at the table.  At the end of the game, the player who has the most kills is actually declared the winner, even though he’s not last man standing.  This absolutely speeds up the game and makes people play much more aggressively, but you need to watch out for the “cherry picking” as one guy does all the work to KO one player at the table, only to have his point stolen from him by an opportunist who swoops in and delivers the final blow to take the point.  In either case, there is no doubt that this gets people moving and out of their defensive posturing shells.

So, there we have a number of suggestions to help spice up your next Casual night.  These could be a breath of fresh air for your playgroup and be options that you guys opt to maintain as house rules for when you play.  Maybe you give them a try and find out that you don’t much care for some of these variants. That’s fine.  There’s no wrong way to play Magic so long as everyone is having some fun and slinging spells. In either case, give them a try and see what you think.

What do YOU guys do when you sit around your kitchen table to play?  Do you use one of the variants that I’ve listed above or do you have your own house rules?  This is a great time to share these ideas with Conspiracy here and the new Core Set just around the corner giving us an influx of great new cards to liven up casual games further. Let me know what you think. Hit me up with a tweet and let’s hear what other people are doing out there in the wide world of Magic.

Thanks for reading and remember keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

Hi, I’m Wumpus!

Hi, I’m Wumpus.

James has asked me to make some content for MTGYou, and I’m happy to write about my favorite subject. For those who don’t know me (probably somewhere between most and all of you,) I’ve been a kitchen table warrior since before the turn of the century, and my favorite way to play magic is by winning in convoluted ways. In this space, I intend to share some of my best casual brews, and advice on maximizing your fun outside of tournament play. Just don’t expect me to talk about Commander, because I’m old and crotchety and singleton formats make me uncomfortable and scared.

So, for my inaugural article, I will give a write up on a modern brew that, while it probably isn’t about to win any GPs or big money open tourneys, the idea for the deck burned a hole in my soul until I had to put it together. Also, I’ll never back away from an opportunity to use my favorite card for actual value.

11508Leveler.dec
4 Hushwing Gryff
4 Hunted Troll
4 Leveler
4 Hunted Wumpus
3 Sky Swallower
3 Hunted Phantasm
1 Hunted Lammasu
2 Eater of Days

4 Echoing Truth
4 Torpor Orb
1 End Hostilities
4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

5 Island
5 Forest
5 Plains
4 Thornwood Falls
4 Blossoming Sands
This deck could probably use some improvement to its mana base, but it has a pretty straightforward plan, especially for one of my brews. All you have to do is drop a Torpor Orb or Hushwing Gryff (casting the Gryff on End Step, of course), then profit off your discount fatties. The premier creature in the deck is Leveler, since the deal of 5 mana for a 10/10 just can’t be beat, but if the ground is clogged, you also have Sky Swallower, Eater of Days, and Hunted Phantasm which can generally get through or around any blockers your opponent might have.

Now, it does happen that sometimes you won’t find an Orb or a Hushwing. If you’re holding a Leveler or Eater of Days when this happens, I’m sorry. If you’re holding a Hunted creature though, Echoing Truth can clean up the mess they make, assuming you can’t stop the ETB effect (remember, tokens of the same type have the same name.)

With so little removal, this deck will have difficulty keeping up with the Splinter Twins and Affinities of the world, but who cares when we’re getting 10/10s for 5 with no drawback?

If you’re one of those people who loves turning big, undercosted creatures sideways, take a look. Maybe you’ll see something you like.

-Wumpus

Say Hello to Bruce!

Hello BruceMy name is Bruce and I have a problem…er…I like to play Magic.  Yes, that’s it! I like to play Magic.  I got into the game as a kid back when Revised/Fallen Empires/Ice Age (circa 1995ish?) were all the rage and loved it.  I have very fond memories of spending Saturday afternoon over at my friend’s house playing endless games, losing, but loving every second of it.  I was never very good, but the idea of Magic immediately resonated with me and I really enjoyed the time with my friends sitting around a table.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and I am the director at a residential summer camp and some of my counselors are playing Magic out in one of the lodges with some campers.  I immediately recognized the game and I was hooked all over again. Since then I have gone on a healthy mission to bring myself up to speed on Magic, the theory, the lore, and almost everything Magic related.

I would be what you call a Casual player but I am slightly different than most.  Most people figure that the term “casual” refers to playing Commander.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played Commander and enjoy the format, but it is not the only thing to play.  I typically play 60 card multiplayer casually with my buddies when we get together.  We usually try to set something up once a month and will play until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer.  We have a blast and some of the funniest things have taken place ensuring that everyone has a good time.  Now, 3 plus years later, playing in these casual multiplayer games is still my favorite way of playing magic and has me eager for each time we get together to play.

However, if I only play once a month, how do I stay involved in Magic the other 30 days of the month? In February 2014 I started to write for a website out of Montreal called Three Kings Loot and they have given me the opportunity to write and expound on virtually anything I want. I can literally right about anything from Vorthos material, to Limited, to Casual brews, to just about anything else that really catches my fancy.  They have been terrific and really helped me get started and I still have a weekly column I do for them called Casual Encounters.

In addition to my writing and some casual playing, I have have been listening to plenty of podcasts.  When I was home with my first son I found that the podcasts and ties to the larger Magic community were very helpful in helping me get through each day.  Don’t for a second think that I didn’t love spending the time with my son, but the brain craves stimulation too, and the MTG podcasts were terrific. I found MTGYOU very early on in my stay at home and listened to it weekly.  I had many lively exchanges with Daemon, Rich, James, and Blades via email  and really enjoyed the entertainment they offered.  It was largely due to them encouraging people to go out and try new things in Magic that helped me to gain up enough courage to try my hand at playing MTGO a little more seriously as a way to broaden my experience and to improve my game.  I took playing MTGO more seriously and love to Draft.  I’m no Limited expert, but I feel like I am reasonably knowledgeable and I like the experience of starting each new draft.

So, where does that leave me now?  Who am I?  I am a Casual player who enjoys Limited, and writes about just about every facet of Magic that catches my interest.  In short, I’m a jack of all trades and I’m happy to give back to the Magic community, and MTGYOU in particular, by offering whatever insights I happen to have. I intend to stick to my roots, and write about just about anything and everything ranging from Limited Crack a Packs and Sealed strategy, to Casual budget decks I’ve brewed up, to Vorthos takes on the happenings of the multiverse.  So, stay tuned because you never can be quite sure where I’m going next.

I want to offer a big thank you to guys here at MTGYOU for offering me chance to contribute to their Magic community and reach out to all of you.  I’m super excited to get started and look forward to sharing ideas, experiences, and successes with all of you as we continue to try and grow the MTGYOU community.

If you are interested in reaching out to me, the easiest way is to hit me up on Twitter at @bgray8791 or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get back to you ASAP.

Thanks and yourselves a great MTG day!

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791

Better After the Break

MTG BreakWhy is it that many people who play Magic: The Gathering take a break?  Some say they take a break due to the money involved.  Some say its due to a significant other.  As for me, it was due to my moving away from those I played with.
After about five years away from Magic, I have become a better player.  I have been back in the game for almost three years now.  I have learned more and have been able to advance my play style better then when I played before.

When I learned to play magic, over 20 years ago, my play group included my family and a few of my friends.  My older brother was by far the better player.  He had learned from co-workers and friends how to improve his game.  The rest of us just didn’t “get it” at the time.  We played to beat each other and built decks with only our few opponents in mind.  I had played at a few stores and never did well.  It was just about the fun of the game, and not the competition. I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with this, you just don’t improve.

I’m not really sure what set was out when I stopped playing.  I had to move, and my cards stayed behind with my friends.  I would stop at the local game store in my new town, but never bought any cards.  Eventually, I moved again and this time, when I stopped in at the game store, I bought me a Deckbuilder’s tool kit.  It wasn’t much, although enough, to reignite my spark.  I went to a few Friday Night Magic games, still no luck at winning.  I started listening to a few podcast, and started talking about magic with some of the people that I played with. to get ideas for better decks.

Then, out of the blue, I realized something; I saw the game in a different way.  I started to notice when to play cards and when to wait.  I started to see the synergy in the cards.  I started to see combo pieces in the cards.  I started to notice the different ways my opponents played, and how to use their play style against them.  These are thing that I never would have seen before my “Magic Break”.  If I had not taken my leave of absence from this game, I don’t think I would have ever changed the way I played.

Now, I go to FMN with a tested deck.  I go to see if I can get first place.  I have become a much better player, and I have my break to thank for it.  I have the people that helped me as I got back into the game to thank for it.  Having a new play group helped me realize my new view of the cards.  Magic has become a whole new game to me, and I found a new way to enjoy it.  I still play for fun.  I still enjoy the casual game, whether I win or lose.  But now, I am also able to enjoy the high amount of competition that Magic has to offer.

So… if you find yourself on a “Magic Break”, remember that Magic will be here for you when you return.  It will be the game you remember and it will be better.  Not only will the Game be better, but so will you.  Take the break that most players feel they need.  But don’t venture off too far, we are waiting for your return.  I hope to see you on the battlefield of a FNM, PPTQ, or Grand Prix in the future.