Thragtusk a 5/3 beast from Magic 2013.
So, a few weeks back Thragtusk was spoiled and he made ripples. A week or so after that, he made waves as people began comparing him to Thrun and announcing the ascendancy of Thragtusk to Thruns old throne. (Not as the last troll but as a cornerstone of the current green stragety.) While one can certainly make the comparison, there’s just something about Thragtusk that makes him more… or a lot less depending on how you are using your green.
Right now I feel like the relic, piloting Wolf Run without Huntmaster of the Fells in favor of more titans, but personal choice aside, like many others I cut Thrun from my list a while back. His primary ability (disregarding hexproof) is now more of a frill if I don’t hit one of my Cavern of Souls and his regeneration is a minor benefit which I’ve chosen to overlook and still don’t regret. He can’t block a flipped Delver of Secrets and with 6 board wipes in the main, his regeneration isn’t necessary as a defensive ability like it used to. He’s not creating the stalemates or board presence he once used to in the list. In this case, audibling to Thragtusk becomes a non-necessity in the deck and represents no additional gain over the troll. I lose him to my Slagstorm, like my Huntmaster of the Fells, and he leaves me with a 3/3 and 5 life which hardly seems worth the mana investment, considering the deck goes from 0 to 6 and can drop larger and more threatening creatures that fetch land that gain me more life. (Which is subsequently why I dropped Huntmaster of the Fells.) I could easily go back to running Garruk, Primal Hunter for a theoretical endless stream of 3/3s. Thragtusk also sits in the 5 drop slot which is home to, in my opinion, one of the best green utility creatures, Acidic Slime and you shouldn’t cut his numbers. So in the case of Wolf Run Ramp, Thragtusk seems best left on the side lines.
Another likely place to house Thragtusk would be in a Birthing Pod list and like Solemn Simulacrum, in the past, and Huntmaster of the Fells now in the 4 drop slot, Thragtusk provides you double value in the 5 drop slot, so he looks good on the surface. Though we have to split the Birthing Pod lists in two which are essentially Naya and non-Naya and while their goal is similar, their methods are different and thus have to be treated as such, however the conclusion on Thragtusk is similar.
Naya Pods current 5 drop slot houses Geist-Honored Monk which initially seems like a poor choice when matched up to Thragtusk, but once paired with Mikaeus, the Lunarch the value of her tokens shine over the value of Thragtusk. Evasion is a wonderful thing. The draw back to this strategy is that you need to cast the Mikaeus, the Lunarch for value, you can never “pod” into him making this more “cute” than efficient. If you cut the Geist-Honored Monk you can almost cut the Mikaeus, the Lunarch as well and run the next suite of cards we’ll be looking at.
Non-Naya Pod usually stuffs their 5 drop slots with Zealous Conscripts and Wolfir Silverheart (or just one or the other) and here you have the coexistence of two amazing creatures. In no case have I seen Zealous Conscripts be bad as a pod choice in the 5 drop slot, allowing you to swing games just by podding into them be it to steal an important creature for the swing back or even to just Twiddle your Birthing Pod. The story of Alex Binek Conscripting Sam Blacks Karn Liberated to restart the game is the stuff of legends. Wolfir Silverheart can win you games just by soulbonding after a Birthing Pod activation, so where or even why would you make the change? The answer seems to be, “Only when already maxed on Zealous Conscripts and Wolfir Silverhearts would Thragtusk make an appearance.” He may however be a nice sideboard slot if mono-Red or R/x begin to make a run at things, but that seems like a worse choice than just siding in Tree of Redemption which has the bonus of being able to chain into Zealous Conscripts or Wolfir Silverheart.
The last major list we have to look at placement for Thragtusk is in G/R aggro, which would seem to be his most fitting home. As it stands G/R aggro is still an evolving archetype. No one knows how many swords to play, which ones are best, the exact numbers on the Wolfir Silverheart/Zealous Conscripts split, etc. It’s still a metagame call. There’s also no way you can cram the necessary amount of Cavern of Souls into the deck and expect value from them as most of the creatures are of various types, though a large percent are human, and you’d find yourself stumbling more often than not. This opens the door for Thrun to take a solid slot as a guaranteed board presence against decks that pack counters and also makes him a large threat when bonded to Wolfir Silverheart or holding a sword. What Thragtusk does provide this deck though, is assurance that it will still have threats at the top of the curve come the rotation in October. If a replacement can be found for the equipment, Thragtusk can replace Thrun and you’re pretty much set.
With this being said, there is hope for Thragtusk in the immediate metagame but not in an established archetype, we’re dusting off an idea from late 2011: Mono Green aggro. Personally I’d splash a bit of red to take advantage of Kessig Wolf Run to give the deck some more inevitability but this isn’t a terrible home for him. No, he’s not a key player right now, but he is in your 75 and with 8 mana dorks and 23 land you can probably find room to squeeze at least 2 into your main. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him crop up in Modern next season as he seems like something worth testing in a Jund list at the top of your curve maybe as a 2 of, max but I wouldn’t expect to run into him in Standard for a long time.