As it turns out, I'm an absolute sucker for a theme deck. It doesn't have to be overpowered and it doesn't need to win all its matches. It just needs to have a fun, playable theme, and be able to win games on occasion. This week, I'd like to look at an amalgam of two decks that I fancied assembling, and how I ended up putting together Flickertusk. If you're keeping up with product announcements, this deck is vaguely reminiscent of the Repeat Performance event deck from M13, announced yesterday, though mine is certainly a bit more all-in on the flicker theme.
Originally, I wanted something to do with Conjurer's Closet and, having seen some very interesting interactions at the Avacyn Restored pre-release, I settled on a Red White deck featuring Zealous Conscripts, Cloudshift, and Conjurer's Closet. The idea was to simply steal the opponent's creature, flicker it, and keep it forever. The concept was straightforward enough, but it required my opponent to have creatures worth spending cards to acquire, which I found to present problems pretty regularly. In order to play out well, the opponent had to play a single creature which dwarfed the rest of the field, rather than a half dozen 2/2 weenies. Unfortunately, short of the occasional Ramp match, which often didn't go my way anyways, since they were typically at least two turns ahead of me mana-wise, I just didn't see a lot of creatures worth stealing. I'd tend to get Overrun with little guys while trying to set up my 'combo.' I shelved the idea after a while, and went back to playing RGW Angel Ramp, using Somberwald Sage to resolve turn three angels like Sigarda, Host of Herons and Gisela, Blade of Goldnight.
Once Thragtusk got spoiled, I got to thinking back on the steal-flicker-keep deck design, and how the new beast could be incorporated. Naturally, Green would give access to better mana, and I immediately started concocting another Naya (RGW) brew to abuse the flicker mechanic with Thragtusk and Zealous Conscripts. I ended up with a very interesting concept, using Green mana accelerants to get me to a Thragtusk or Zealous Conscripts on turn 4, with Cloudshift backup to either flicker the stolen creature to keep it forever, or to protect Thragtusk and generate some extra life and a Beast token. On testing the deck, however, I found that it was weak in the same ways that the original Red/White deck was weak, in that it tended to get overrun in the early game. If my opponent was just trying to outclass my threats with one of their own, I could usually take the match by overwhelming them or stealing their bomb, but the majority of the games I played ended up with me facing down several creatures on the other side of the board. Even gaining 10 life from Thragtusk didn't save me as often as I'd hoped, since that typically just bought me a turn or two at best. On top of this, the mana could be pretty rough, given that I was splashing into three colors in a predominantly Green deck. So I decided to simplify a bit.
After much contemplation, I decided that the deck was a bit too scattered in its design. The flicker effects were the only consistency in the deck, and the rest was a mixed bag of stealing creatures, life gain, and token production. I opted to cut Red entirely, losing the Threaten effects of cards like Zealous Conscripts, in favor of some simpler inclusions for the Thragtusk plan, like Green Sun's Zenith. In dropping Red, I also lost Bonfire of the Damned which had proven invaluable for the early game, clearing the opposing board whenever I started to get overrun, without risking my own mana producers. I tested a bit more in just GW, but the performance still left a bit to be desired. The early game was invariably brutal without even the chance of pulling a Bonfire, and if I failed to find Thragtusk in time, I just lost. I considered Day of Judgment for a while, but I didn't want to lose my precious mana acceleration to my own sweeper if it could be helped. Instead of clearing the board, I decided to simply clog it up. Enter Blade Splicer.
A strong start now clutters up the board en route to a Thragtusk, allowing me plenty of breathing room, unless the opponent is packing a Bonfire of the Damned of their own. Turn one Avacyn's Pilgrim into a turn two Blade Splicer, followed by a turn three Restoration Angel flickering Splicer gives you 11 power spread across five creatures on turn three. That's plenty to keep virtually any aggressive deck at bay. With that addition, cutting my beloved Birds of Paradise to make room, I found that my aggro matchup was quite presentable now. I still expect control decks to give me a hard time, but Thragtusk is resilient against Day of Judgment and Terminus alike, leaving behind his 3/3 token, so I like to think that a decent hand will still be winnable. I'll be testing further against control, of course, just to see what falls out performance wise. For the time being, suffice to say that I'm pretty pleased with how the deck plays out, even though it does still strike me as something of a gimmick, especially with my Conjurer's Closets in there.
If you were looking to abuse Thragtusk would you do it with Cloudshift and Restoration Angel, or would you get your value coming and going with Birthing Pod? Given the shifting Standard meta, do you see Thragtusk as a staple-to-be, or just a 1-of inclusion in toolbox decks?