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.

Where Do You ‘Magic’?

Magic coffeeI think everybody has a particular favorite place to play Magic: The Gathering. And there are a lot of factors that play into the decision – the surprisingly important decision – of where you sling your spells.
Comfort. Convenience. Availability of other players. Ease of finding space.
For me, that place is the local coffeehouse. I’ve been playing there for seven years, off and on, though it hasn’t always been that way.
Before I started playing there, I played at home. At that time I didn’t know any other players, and I simply played Magic with my brothers.
I tried once playing at a gaming group at the local university, but that just wasn’t my scene. And gaming stores were just plain too far away for me to get to conveniently. Playing at conventions is hit or miss, and tends to be fairly restrictive.
But the coffeehouse worked out great – and continues to. First of all, for the local players, it’s a place they’re all familiar with and, generally, able to get to. Second of all, its one of those places where people just plain tend to gather and do what they want – read, do homework, hold meeting, and, yes, game. I’ve seen (and played) all kinds of gaming going on at the place, from in-depth board gaming to mah jong to RPGs of varying kinds. They hold a weekly chess night, for Pete’s sake. The fact that the place has it’s own board games to borrow also speaks volumes – it’s a gamer-friendly space.
But, honestly, that’s not the only factor to playing there. A lot of places in my town, honesty, are gamer-friendly. I’ve played Magic at a sandwich chain located in the downtown, for instance. More and more places nationwide seem to be eager to let games come. Another coffeehouse of my acquaintance even holds gaming days.
No, the main reason I play there is the atmosphere. The minute you walk in, you smell coffee. And its always bustling, and filled with bookshelves and racks of vintage vinyl records. It’s an eclectic place, and it suits me.
Every once in a while, someone will stop and ask us what we’re playing. Or a former player will ask what format we’re engaging in. Playing Magic at a table there, we’re like islands in a river, with the movement of the people flowing around us. It’s nice.
So, where do you play Magic?

What’s in a Name?

Abzan vs Junk     I had an interesting experience a little while ago.  I was on Facebook in a discussion about Magic, and happened to mention that I like playing “Junk” (BWG) decks.
     “Don’t you mean Abzan?” came the reply. “Or are you using the old word?”  The operative word here is “OLD.”  I unexpectedly felt myself getting a little peeved. Not because of the question, which I suppose is a valid one. But because of the separation it implies.
     “The old word.” Is Junk as a term “old”?
     With the Khans of Tarkir block, Wizards of the Coast has finally put a name to what we’ve, for years, been referring to as the “enemy color” wedges. We’ve had some rather haphazard names for these tri­color combinations.  Green/White/Black, for instance, for years has been called “Junk.” The name arose, or so the legend has it, because those colors lacked synergy, and the combination of cards in the decks ended up being…well… junky.
     Now, however, it’s been given a name – Abzan, after one of the clans of old Tarkir before the rearranged timeline – and a philosophy, that of outlasting opponents with counters and tokens.  Or take the combination of Red/Blue/White. It was, rather lovingly, referred to by some as American, Patriotism, British and French. Now, however, the combination is “Jeskai,” again after a Tarkir clan.
     This all started during the Shards of Alara block. At that time, the allied color combinations were given names like Esper, Grixis, and Naya – and, whether or not the decks adhere to the philosophies of those shards as denoted in the corresponding sets, those names have stuck for decks using those colors. Naya Zoo, for example, or Esper Control are typical deck archetypes that you’ll see in Modern.  The names have stuck less when it comes to two­color combinations, strangely.  Blue/Red is simply called Blue/Red, not Izzet; Black/White is not Orzhov – unless they are especially heavy on Ravnica flavor. Maybe because these two-­color combinations are so common, the “official” names haven’t stuck so well?
     Will the new Khans brandings of the enemy wedge colors stick for years in the future?  Only time will tell. Already “Abzan Midrange” is a popular strategy in Modern, so we’ll see.  But, in the meantime, I’m still calling G/B/W “Junk.”
     And nothing in the multiverse can stop me.

Being a GamesWalker

3003858When it comes to Magic, I’ve been around for a while. Played a lot of games, been in a lot of playgroups, entered into a good number of events. And I’ve found that amongst Magic players, there is a certain sense of fellowship, a Brotherhood of Man (and Woman) to which we all belong.

I speak, of course, of that ancient and august guild, Homo Ludens – in Latin, the Human who Plays Games.

Put another way: we’re all GamesWalkers.

Seriously, in all the years I’ve played Magic, there is not a single solitary Magic player I’ve ever encountered who isn’t a geek (in the kindest sense of the word) for games, not just Magic. Case in point: the first playgroup I was ever a part of (we met casually over coffee and mostly played preconstructed decks) included a guy who absolutely LOVED board and card games. So much so that, before work and life took him to another corner of this great country of ours, he introduced me to BASHCon, a wonderful little gaming convention in my region.

Gaming conventions are the great piazzas of the GamesWalker world. Here, you may not only play Magic in all its myriad forms, but encounter other games: D&D. Call of Cthulhu. Miniatures games. Card games of every conceivable permutation. Wargames. All coexisting cheek-by-jowl across sprawling tables and in cramped meeting rooms.

Let’s face it – by and large, for most of us, Magic is not our only gaming vocation. Certainly, it may take up a large amount of our leisure time, discretionary budget, and our closet space, but Magic lives in our lives, likely, as one out of many gaming choices to break out and roll with.

I, for instance, have always been a gamer, ever since I bought my first Milton Bradley Game Master board game, Samurai Swords, nearly 20 years ago. (Yes, I’m that old. Deal with it.) My brothers and I played annual pre-Christmas games of Risk and Axis & Allies. In grad school, I discovered HeroScape. When I was 25, I discovered the joys and pleasures of Dungeons & Dragons. And then Magic. And then from there the great universe of “alternative gaming” was opened. [Note: By “alternative gaming,” I largely mean games that you’re likely to find only in specialty stores, not in the toy aisle of your local Target or WalMart.] Indeed, I now find myself enjoying an online round of Lords of Waterdeep on my iPad, amongst my other gaming loves.

I’m sure a lot of you have similar tales. I know that our friends on the MTGYou podcast themselves are not only devoted to Magic, but also dabble across the great Multiverse of gaming.

What is it, exactly, that drives our desire to roll the dice or play a hand of cards? Anthropologists at one point thought that the fact of human game-playing set us apart from the lower orders of animals (until zoologists, of course, discovered that other species engage in game-like activity as well). Whether it’s an interest in healthy competition, or a proxy for battle and training for war, games have been with us almost as long as we’ve walked upright.

So Magic players, embrace your GamesWalker spark. Walk the planes of the gaming world with me.

MTGYou #63 – Welcome Back Walker


In Our Main Phase:

We’re back after a six month break!  We talk about what we’ve been up to and talk about what the future might hold for us here at MTGYou.

Then we do a breakdown of Magic Subscription Boxes. We talk about what they are and why you might want to look into subscribing to one of them.

Read moreMTGYou #63 – Welcome Back Walker