Gatecrash: Thrive and Thrash Review (Part 2 of 2)
Now that we’ve had a chance to review both decks, it’s time to see how the fare against one another. Joining me to take the role of the Boros is- who else- Jimi, ready to champion her guild. Can my three-colour ‘Simic’ stand a chance?
I’m on the play for our opener, having been thoroughly trounced in the pre-game friendly. I open with an Island, while Jimi plays a Boros Guildgate. Next turn I add a Forest, then find a Mountain off of a Farseek. Jimi, meanwhile, adds a Mountain of her own, then a Champion of the Parish. That’s trouble.
Now turn 3, I play an Island, then go find a Forest off of a Borderland Ranger. Jimi summons a Doomed Traveler and Firefist Striker, adding a pair of +1/+1 counters to the Champion before turning it sideways for 3. Down to 17, I look to try and marshal some defense behind a Fog Bank after playing the Forest. Jimi adds a Truefire Paladin to her board, giving the Champion another counter. She then attacks in with it, alongside the Traveler and Striker, with the Striker’s battalion taking my Wall out of the equation. This invites a trade between my Ranger and her Striker, but Jimi seems happy enough just to keep me creature-light. Just like that, I’m down to 12 life.
Still, I’m hopeful on turn 5 as I deploy a Deadeye Navigator after playing an Island, thinking the substantial 5/5 body could buy me some time. Indeed it does, as Jimi drops a land and passes. Back to me, I spring the trap, summoning a Sphinx of Uthuun and soulbonding it to the Navigator. The top five cards of my library are revealed, and Jimi separates them into two piles. On my left is a Verdant Haven alongside three Forests. On my right is a Gruul Ragebeast. This one’s a no-brainer, and the larger pile heads off to my graveyard. Sadly for Jimi, her next turn is a blank as well.
Now turn 7, I summon the Ragebeast to fight Jimi’s Champion of the Parish, looking to kill her best creature. It would have, too, were it not for the answering Boros Charm to save it by giving it indestructibility. I wait for the Searing Spear to even the score, but it never comes, and it proves to be Jimi’s undoing. I attack in with the Sphinx for 5, taking her to 15. Back to Jimi, she summons a Sunhome Guildmage (giving the Champion another counter), then passes. I then kill off the Champion altogether with a massive Ground Assault, then attack for 5 more in the air with the Sphinx. Next I add a Borderland Ranger, grabbing a Forest even as it and Jimi’s Guildmage fight one another to the death. Finally, I use the Navigator to flicker my Sphinx. This sets off a delightful chain of events, starting with another free Fact or Fiction (I keep a Ground Assault at the expense of three lands and an Urban Evolution). Next is the fight trigger from the Ragebeast, which lets me kill off Jimi’s Paladin. Finally, the untapped Sphinx- repaired with the Navigator, of course- is ready to defend if needed. It’s a ridiculous amount of value, and shows what the deck is capable of. All Jimi can manage is another Doomed Traveler. With my ample manabase, I flicker the Sphinx two more times, fighting and drawing cards all the while. Though Jimi does manage to get me to 6 thanks to a Boros Charm and Pillar of Flame, it’s a gesture of defiance and no more.
Jimi begins with a Mountain, while I fetch one of my own off an Evolving Wilds. Next turn Jimi finds the game’s first creature in a Truefire Paladin, while I ramp courtesy of a Farkseek. Next turn Jimi adds a Skyknight Legionnaire, attacking across the red zone for 4. I play more land and pass.
Now turn 4, JImi plays a second Legionnaire, swinging for 6. I drop an Island, then play a Simic Guildgate after casting Urban Evolution for some extra cards. A next-turn Lightning Mauler, soulbonding with the Paladin, sees me smashed for 8 points of dagame, down to 2. Back to me, I’m able to stabilise with a Fog Bank, Strangleroot Geist, and Verdant Haven on a Forest for a couple extra life.
For all the good it does me, anyway. Jimi simply kills me with a Boros Charm.
On the play, I again use an Evolving Wilds to grab a Mountain, while Jimi deploys a Champion of the Parish off a Plains. Next turn, I simply kill it outright with a Ground Assault, while Jimi replaces it with a Truefire Paladin.
Now turn 3, I stick a Verdant Haven on my Forest, going up to 22 life. Jimi plays a Lightning Mauler, soulbonding it to her Paladin and attacking in for 4 with the pair. Thanks to the ramp, I’m able to summon Thragtusk next turn, going up to 23. Jimi attacks in fearlessly, and I let her creatures through for 4. She then adds a Doomed Traveler and ends the turn.
Now turn 5, I attack with the Thragtusk, compelling Jimi to block with the Traveler. It dies, and she replaces her loss with a 1/1 Spirit token. I then play an Arbor Elf, before Bramblecrushing Jimi’s only Plains in an attempt to slow her down. It closes out White, but when she topdecks a Plains to replace it it’s business as usual. She then attacks with the Paladin for 2, ending her turn with me down to 17.
When Thragtusk attacks in on turn 6, Jimi roasts it with a Searing Spear. It heads to the graveyard, leaving behind a 3/3 Beast token. I then tap my Forest with the Haven attached to it for two mana, then use the Arbor Elf to untap it for another use- wringing eight mana out of my six lands. I use it for a Borderland Ranger (fetching an Island) and Urban Evolution (playing that Island), before ending my turn. For her part, Jimi summons a Skyknight Legionnaire, attacking in for 3 with it and the Spirit token.
Now turn 7, I kill her Paladin when I bring out the Gruul Ragebeast, then Farseek for a Forest and send in the Beast to score my first points of damage. Jimi then Gathers the Townsfolk, giving her a pair of 1/1 tokens. After attacking for 3 more in the air, she ends her turn. Back to me, I swing for 9 with the Beast and Ragebeast. Jimi chumps the 6/6 with a 1/1 token, gang-blocks the 3/3 with her Mauler and other Human token for a trade- then snaps off a Boros Charm for indestructibility. My Beast dies, though, and all I have left is to Farseek for an Island. Over to Jimi, she adds another Legionnaire and counterattacks for 5 in the sky, leaving me at 6.
A turn 9 Borderland Ranger kills off one of Jimi’s Legionnaires, thanks to the Ragebeast’s encouraging presence. An attack with the Ragebeast isn’t as successful, though, as it gets chumped by a 1/1 Human. Back to Jimi, she cuts me in half with her Legionnaire and Spirit, then adds a Doomed Traveler. Drawing nothing, I scoop. Impressively, Jimi played the entire game with only four lands.
Thoughts & Analysis
I wasn’t sure what quite to expect from Thrive and Thrash, considering the pelters it seems to have taken from the community. It seems almost inevitable now that one Event Deck is rated far higher than the other, a factor that has been put forth as an explanation for why the product line will be shrinking down to one deck per set beginning with Dragon’s Maze. Sure it had Thragtusk, but from there public opinion didn’t seem to rate it very highly.
By the same token, the results from today’s match don’t exactly cover the deck in glory, either. Of the four we played, including the customary pregame friendly, Thrive and Thrash won precisely one of them. Given the calibre of the opposition it faced in the rapidly-deploying Rally and Rout, that may not be surprising, but it’s not as if Thrive and Thrash was entirely unprepared, either. There’s the Thragtusk, of course, but other cards seemed custom-tailored to counteract an aggressive attacking strategy. Fog Bank stops any attacker cold, and demands a burn spell to solve it. Strangleroot Geist’s undying makes it a wonderful defensive threat, with the potential to take two cards with it to its final rest. Even the lifegain of Verdant Haven could help top up an emptying tank.
By the end of the match, it certainly didn’t feel like a blowout, which is what we were wary of. Indeed, it felt at times like they could go either way in this often-seen matchup: one deck looking to win early, the other to weather the early storm and win late. If the Boros were able to more consistently hit their targets than the Simic this time around, it was somewhere between unfortunate and unlucky. The playset of Flames of the Firebrand in the sideboard certainly beckoned here, but as per our custom we duel with maindecks only.
So the fundamentals of the deck are sound, if perhaps slightly less sound than Rally and Rout. The manabase development package seemed to pay off as much in consistency (hitting a drop each turn) as in acceleration (hitting multiple drops a turn early), and I never really felt that my cards were uncastable, even at the premium cost some of them command. This was the deck’s strongest consistent characteristic.
Beyond that, it was up to the deck’s large closers to set the tone of the match. The Gruul Ragebeast was a killer, though it did feel that by the time it turned up, a lot of the creatures in your hand were already on the board. The Deadeye Navigator is an inspired choice, not least because of its massive size but also due to the number of combos it could enable, as seen in the first game. Although I would have liked to have a little more say in what went on on the other side of the table, I can’t slate the deck too harshly considering the recourse in the sideboard.
Finally, the entertainment factor of the deck was definitely here. The ramp-to-win strategy served the deck well, and I always felt that I had at least a chance against Jimi, and with the right cards perhaps more than a chance. The combo shenanigans I pulled off with the Navigator in our opener were an absolute joy, and I can imagine flickering an Acidic Slime to erode her manabase would have been every bit as satisfying. I remain skeptical of how well this would do in a competitive Friday Night Magic situation, seeing it as decidedly lower-tier, but there may well be some potential for greatness here. There’s certainly potential for fun.
Hits: Ramping strategy works- I never wanted for land; Deadeye Navigator a wonderful choice, setting up some wicked combo plays amonsgt cards that otherwise would share little synergy
Misses: Risks building a “bridge to nowhere” with a ton of ramp, if your opponent kills off the fat you’d spent all that energy getting to; deck can be vulnerable to the early rush
OVERALL SCORE: 4.25/5.00