“Thrive and Thrash” was one of two Event Decks that Wizards of the Coasts released for Gatecrash, the second set in the Return to Ravnica block. Its counterpart, the red/white “Rally and Rout” was far more popular, as it had a bit more “value” in it. Boros was a far more popular guild, and the Simic (green/blue) event deck was pretty much destined not to sell as well. Wizards reprinted Thragtusk, making it the third time that the once Standard staple had been included in an Event Deck.
Overall, however, this deck was not quite as easily playable out of the box as “Rally and Rout.” As with many blue/green decks, the strategy to playing the deck well was far more complex than the straightforward aggressive red/white strategy. definitely the trickier of the two to play.
Let’s take a look at the list:
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Simic Guildgate
At the time, the inclusion of the blue/green Innistrad “buddy” land Hinterland Harbor, would have been a nice sight. A Breeding Pool would’ve been even better, and would have sold plenty of copies of this deck on its own. There is, however, a purpose to that singleton Mountain.
2 Acidic Slime
4 Arbor Elf
3 Borderland Ranger
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Dungeon Geists
2 Fog Bank
1 Gruul Ragebeast
2 Mist Raven
1 Sphinx of Uthuun
3 Strangleroot Geist
1 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Yeva, Nature’s Herald
At the time, Wolfir Silverheart was a pretty valuable rare, as was of course Thragtusk. The rest of the rares were interesting, but fringe playable cards at that point in Standard. However, there were methods to the madness in these card selections. Gruul Ragebeast does have the ability to finish a game off, with his automatic fight trigger that works with a good number of creatures in the deck. Dungeon Geists was a useful creature, as well, keeping problem creatures tapped down for good as long as the Spirit stuck around. Yeva, Nature’s Herald gives all of your green creatures Flash and has flash on her own; there are enough green creatures in the deck to warrant her inclusion.
For those that played during that Standard format when Thragtusk was around, you would remember the power that he had. He gained you 5 life upon entering the battlefield, and whenever he’s removed from the field, you get a 3/3 beast token. The pure value for 5 mana, requiring only a single Green mana, meant that he rounded out the mana curve of many decks in the format, helping you stabilize a tough situation and get a 3/3 creature if Thragtusk is somehow removed. This was the money card in the deck, by far.
Three Strangleroot Geists made perfect sense as a green creature staple. Arbor Elves and Borderland Rangers helped mana fix in different ways. Mist Raven could be a handy little control card, while Fog Bank is a highly useful Defender that is difficult to get through.
The inclusion of Deadeye Navigator was interesting. He had nice interactions with Thragtusk, Dungeon Geists, and perhaps Mist Raven and Borderland Ranger. Lastly, you had Sphinx of Uthuun. Often called “The Sphinx of Unfun,” he basically acts as a Fact or Fiction on an enter the battlefield ability: “reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.” It was a fringe-playable Standard card at the time, but used effectively could help you out.
2 Ground Assault
3 Urban Evolution
4 Verdant Haven
As you can see, there was plenty of mana acceleration available for the high mana cost creatures. Bramblecrush could destroy any problem permanent: planeswalker, enchantment, or even a land. Farseek could grab Islands or the singleton Mountain. Ground Assault was a little removal card that requires Red mana, and was the purpose of that one Mountain. Urban Evolution looks pricey. but it was worth the cost in a deck like this: draw three cards and gain the ability to play an additional land card during that turn.
Verdant Haven was a nice little enchantment that gains you 2 life and made the land that it enchants give you an extra mana of any color when you tap it. It would then be possible to cast an Acidic Slime on perhaps even turn 4. This mana acceleration made the deck somewhat work.
Those two copies of Ground Assault, though, honestly, barely seemed worth having the single copy of the Mountain. Having Ground Assault be a dead draw or having that Mountain be the wrong color you need at the wrong time perhaps isn’t the biggest issue in this deck. It’s more of a head-scratching brewing decision. That’s what the deck felt like, a fairly solid, if not tricky to pilot, passive-aggressive control deck brew. It didn’t feel like something you’d want to take to an event without extreme tweaking.
4 Flames of the Firebrand
The sideboard had quite the control package: Dissipate, Naturalize, and Negate. Three copies of Rancor and a play-set of Flames of the Firebrand allowed for a more aggressive strategy. Flames of the Firebrand really can only deal with early threats, however, but Wizards has long been in love with including that card in Event Deck sideboards.
Overall, for it’s original MRSP of $25, it was worth picking up considering the value of the deck’s individual parts at that time. This was clearly quite a brew, with Wizards trying to introduce something different. But it felt like the deck tried to do too much. Some of the card slots seemed a bit misused. Simic Charm over Mist Raven seemed a better option. Experiment One was a great one-drop that you could flash in with Yeva, but the deck really focused on the late-game so its exclusion made sense. The deck was built to ramp up to land big creatures early before an opponent could set up. But losing Arbor Elves and Fog Banks early on, and not being able to land the mana acceleration could cost the deck serious tempo. The more aggressive decks would rip this list to shreds.
At the time, I felt that this deck was trying to focus on board presence and control at the same time, and while it seems to work in theory, in practice it seemed clunky. There were cards that could make a solid fountain for a “RUG” (red/blue/green) list at the time. In any case, out of the box, it wasn’t viable in the then-current Standard meta-game, and didn’t quite give you the “bang for your buck” you would look for in an Event deck product.
Stay tuned for more Throwback Thursday Product and Card Reviews!
~ Elspeth for the Win