After getting to preview Bonfire of the Damned, a high bar was set when it came to preview cards. Living up to that standard was not going to be easy, yet somehow I think we got there. Our M13 preview card might actually be more relevant to Standard than Bonfire currently is, though things might change once Mana Leak (and Vapor Snag, which you will soon see is quite relevant) rotate.
I love me a Loxodon Hierarch, so imagine my pleasant surprise at seeing this Beast (both literally and figuratively):
What do you get for the extra mana over the soon-to-extinct Obstinate Baloth?
An extra point of life. Hmm, not bad.
Slightly different stats. 5/3 vs 4/4 is kind of a push right now.
A loss of the discard protection clause. This basically never came up, so no big deal (though ask Tom Martell about this in Modern if you want a good laugh).
An extra 3/3 when he leaves play for any reason. And we have a winner!!!
Getting a replacement beast when Thragtusk dies is one thing, and would already be quite good. Getting such a beast when he leaves play at all is huge, and exactly why I mentioned a certain card earlier.
Vapor Snag might be the premiere removal spell in the format now, and it's downright terrible against Thragtusk. Not only do you get a 3/3, defeating the purpose of the Snag almost entirely, you get another five life when you do replay him. That's insane, and as long as you remember to name Beast with Cavern of Souls, Mana Leak won't be able to stop you either.
Moving past specific anti-Delver applications, this is a pretty huge card in its own right, and even combos really well with a ton of other action. It sacrifices to Birthing Pod extremely well, leaving behind 3-5 life and a 3/3, all while fitting into a casting cost that needed a bit of a boost defensively (with Zealous Conscripts and Wolfir Silverheart handling the part of the aggro 5-drop).
Thragtusk also triggers twice off of any Blink effect, which means Cloudshift, Ghostly Flicker, and of course, Restoration Angel. If you think blinking a Blade Splicer is sweet, you aren't thinking big enough.
I like this card a lot, and not only because I have a soft spot in my heart for Baloths of all shapes and sizes, but because it will certainly help promote diversity in Standard. I'm not saying it topples Delver by itself, or anything like that, but that it is definitely a boost to non-Delver decks in the battle against Delver, which can only be a good thing.
Extra Bonus Tristan Shaun Gregson Action
Who doesn't want extra TSG, after all? Since we didn't have the opportunity to film a Magic TV about ol' Thraggy, I asked TSG what he thought about the card, specifically in the context of Cube, TSG's wheelhouse.
The first thing I do, as I’m sure most of you do when you look at a new card, is compare it as closely as you can to the previous cards you’ve played with.
Most notably in terms of the keywords on the card, ‘enters the battlefield’ and ‘leaves the battlefield’ show up, which means for Cube all sorts of fun tricks like ninjitsu, Momentary Blink and maybe even Cloudshift could be in play. Sure, five power, five mana, that’s all well and good, but we’re talking Cube here, so the bar is higher in terms of card quality. We’ll need to compare the Thragtusk up against your usual suspects for green five drops in Cube.
Thragtusk is bringing something different to the table from these cards, but if I had to compare it head to head with a single card on this list it would have to be Vorapede. The leaves play trigger isn’t quite the undying trigger, but that’s not what I want to focus on here. I’m a big fan of finding those interactions just under the surface in Cube. The simplest example is a good one here: red deals lots of direct damage, and it’s nice to have cards that just happen to have life gain built in. Scavenging Ooze, Elderwood Scion and others make me fall in love with Thragtusk. Against the red deck in Cube more often than not it’s all about stopping the bleeding, landing a threat, and finally using your own attack phase. There just aren’t enough Obstinate Baloths to go around, so while Thragtusk does do so much more than that, it’s what first sold me on including it in my M:13 Cube update. While I don’t personally run cards like Cloudshift yet more creatures like this one printed in the future could be changing my mind.
Thumbs up, will cast in Cube in the near future.