Dude, Thallids?

Dude, Thallids?
Seriously? Dude.
Thallids. Seriously.

I'd like to start this article by pointing out something most of you probably aren't aware of, and that's that Thallid has the fastest goldfish of any one drop in Standard right now. In fact, if you only count to 20 life, it's

Respect my Authoritah!
got the second fastest goldfish of any one drop in the history of magic. I'm sure most of you are thinking Savannah Lions or Kird Ape beat it. They don't. The damage curve for any two power one-drop looks like this: 2222222222 = dead (20), turn 11. For Thallid, it goes like this: 1112223334 = dead (22), turn 11. Yes, I know both unsupported lead to a turn 11 kill, but the difference is that the Lions' curve is a flat line, while the Thallid's is a parabolic curve. I'm not here to make an argument about which card is better; I'm just using this as an example to point out that Thallid is much, much better than you're probably used to thinking of it as. And in case you were wondering, the quickest one drop kill in magic is Rogue Elephant, 3333333 = dead (21), turn 8. Of course, if you're looking to deal more than 20 damage, Thallid outpaces Rogue Elephant on turn eighteen, 57 to 54.

Generic Sci-Fi Plot Exploitation

Thallids were created by the Elves of Havenwood in an attempt to supply their people with food during the coming Ice Age. In what I'm sure is no surprise to anyone, their semi-intelligent, self-replicating food source decided it DIDN'T want to be dinner for its creators. The "Thallidian war" helped to hasten the fall of the elves from Dominaria. No one cared because back during Fallen Empires, elves sucked - they were the second worst tribe behind goblins. (Goblins as an unviable tribe, imagine that.) The ghallids sucked too though, so again, no one really cared. Its not that the ghallids were inherently bad; it's just that they were exceptionally slow, and had absolutely no playable support (sorry Fungal Bloom).

This has all changed in the thallids' second trip through Magic-card-land. They've got acceleration, multiple colors, and some seriously powered up support. Sporesower and Thelon himself make your guys big and give them lots of little support troops to help out. Then there's the whole Selesnya/Golgari thing from the last expansion block, who just coincidentally happened to use lots and lots of saprolings while being in the same colors as thallids. As the Church Lady might put it, "How Conveeenient." Also, in case you missed it, green has been granted haste, removal, counters, and pure card draw, officially making green the new blue, i.e. the color that does everything, and does it better than the color that theoretically does it for real.

We draw cards now. Why? Because
we're green. Duh.
Actually, now that I think about it, the only abilities green doesn't have right now are instant targeted burn, fog, discard, and good big flyers. Abilities green does have: card draw, counters, mana acceleration, land destruction, haste, trample, tapping, good small flyers, graveyard recursion and hate, mass removal (flyers only), tapping stuff, and regeneration. Nice. Anyway, back to thallids, which are just really happy to have been brought back into green while it's high on the power curve.

Didn't you get the memo? Creatures are dead. Also, your TPS reports are late.

Ok, so the thallids have gotten a lot of help, and some pretty good critters of their own, they're a good casual tribe thing, okay? Leave it at that. Well, maybe, but then again, maybe not. What are thallids really good at? Making lots and lots and lots of dudes. What card is good at using lots and lots of dudes? Glare of Subdual. “Wait, Glare's a semi-competitive deck, are you really suggesting I mess up my teched-out Loxodon Hierarched Glare deck with a bunch of stupid worthless slow Saproling-making guys?” Yep, sure am. “But didn't you hear? Planar Chaos has a new Black Wrath of God. And Drop of Honey in white. And a Tabernacle variant. Creatures are like totally, totally dead dude.” Not Thallids. Thallids are remarkably resistant to removal. Mass removal? Use Psychotrope Thallid to put down all your saprolings and draw a bunch of cards. Replay new threats on your turn. Pinpoint removal? Pull all the counters off and leave some kids behind. Thallids really take the concept of playing from the board and elevate it to a whole new level. Your saprolings become, in essence, little mini charms that can be Twiddles (Glare), Darkblasts (Deathspore), Death Wards (Savage), Battlegrowths (Germinator), Roar of the Khas (Pallid) or Reach Through Mists (Psychotrope).

“Ok, that’s cool and all, but the only way I can get saprolings is to keep a thallid alive for a few turns, why won't my opponent just Putrefy or Repeal it when its got two counters on it?” Well, they will. Your opponent will totally kill your dude, or bounce it with two counters on it a lot. But seriously, who cares? Its not like you had any resources invested into that little guy, did you? Nope, didn't think so. Besides, its not like Thallids are your only source of saprolings, Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree, Thelonite Hermit, and Selesnya Guildmage all produce Saproling tokens. So does Sarpadian Empires Vol. III.

The deck is extremely strong against any creature based strategy, but it does have some weak points.

#1. Magus of the Tabernacle. This guy alone is the reason black is included in the deck. There simply is not a worse card for you to run into than the Magus. There are two ways to deal with the Magus: either splash another color for removal (the choice made here) or run some big beats, cards like Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Weatherseed Totem, Mystic Enforcer, and Spectral Force. Force is a particularly intriguing option as the deck is fully capable of going off with a turn three Force, turn four Muse.

#2. Wramnation. Given all the signets and Coldsteel Hearts in the environment right now, you should honestly expect to see a Wramnation on turn three any time you're not playing against aggro, and even then you should still expect to run into it sometimes. Just remember that you have a lot of ways around Wramnation and don't overextend. Most of your guys can produce an army on their own given enough time, so it's generally not too hard to force the big kill spell down.

Your angry god killed all my friends.
That’s okay, I'll just grow more.
Again, there are multiple options for dealing with the power of Wramnation, such as: Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree, Weatherseed Totem, and Loxodon Warhammer. These all excellent choices when working to avoid the big sweep.

#3. Magnivore. Wildfire is just a disaster for you, as is Pyroclasm. And land destruction/theft in general. So yeah, not the best matchup. On the upside, if you get a Glare down it becomes almost impossible for them to kill you, but still, even with Ground out on the board, this isn't a good matchup for you.

#4. Desert. Desert sucks, but Pendelhaven solves this problem for most of your creatures that it's a problem for, the one exception being Yavimaya Dryad, but even with her weakness, a Shock or a land for three mana ain't a bad deal.

We Do More with Activated Abilities Before 9AM Than You Do All Day

But hey, enough with the bad news and onto the good. Seedborn Muse is absolutely sick in this deck, she lets you do some truly degenerate things given how many ways you have to spend mana. She even lets all of your creatures play both defense (Glare) and offense at the same time. Under the Muse you can double up on Vitu-Ghazi production, double up on Guildmage token production, or store two counters a turn on the Saltcrusted Steppe. All that token production really helps push the thallids' abilities over the top, allowing you massive card draw or creature removal. With Nullmage Shepherd it also allows you to completely eradicate any and all artifacts and enchantments your opponent is playing. If some sort of burn deck became popular enough to make lifegain an issue, then Gutless Ghoul from Coldsnap is around to kick your life total into Martyrtron range. Speaking of Martyrtron, that deck really isn't the issue you'd think it is since once this deck gets going, it can easily deal 40+ damage a turn, which is more than enough to deal with the non-infinite but disgustingly large lifegain of the 'tron.

Think that sounds a bit high? Not when you think about just how many saprolings you'll be generating with Vitu-Ghazi and all the pump power the deck can generate between Hermits and Guildmages. In fact, there are 21 cards in the deck which produce saprolings, so you'll generally have some sort of supply of them running around. There's only one Flagstones of Trokair to allow you to run a Plains and prevent someone from using a Ghost Quarter to cut off your white mana; if you don't care about that, or are more concerned about Magnivore, then by all means, cut the Plains for a second Flagstones. Definitely the weakest spot in the deck is the Weatherseed Totems. These can be profitably exchanged for any number of other cards, most of which have already been mentioned, but the main contenders are: Spectral Force, Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Adarkar Valkyrie, Gaea's Anthem, Scatter the Seeds, Loxodon Warhammer, Paladin of Prahv, and Proclamation of Rebirth. I will note that these used to be Call of the Herds, but Weatherseed did more to diversify the deck, as well as kicking the number of mana sources up to 34 and giving you yet another way to hit a turn three Muse. Another strong candidate for replacement are the Defense Grids in the sideboard. With only five non-creature, non-land cards in the maindeck, Leyline of Lifeforce basically reads "your deck is uncounterable", but if it doesn't start out in play, it probably won't ever get there, also, Leyline does little to stop instant-creature Teferi tricks. Worship in the board could be Angel's Grace, but since the only combo decks in Standard right now win with damage and generally don't include enchantment removal, the permanence of the effect seems like more of a bonus than its surprise value. Mortify is also an "up for grabs" slot. Its main function is to protect you from Magus of the Tabernacle. Putrefy is much easier to cast but has the added bonus of also taking out The Rack while missing Porphyry Nodes. In general however, enchantments are far more common and dangerous than artifacts right now, which makes Mortify the stronger spell, but the fact that it requires both of your off-colors to cast has kept other cards in the running in my testing so far, although if Pyrohemia shows up in the metagame at all, Mortify becomes a near auto-include.

The deck plays about like you'd expect: beats with long-term support from activated abilities, token generation and dominance in any creature-on-creature fight thanks to Glare. Card advantage comes from both virtual sources (token generation) and pure draw sources (Psychotrope). Since the majority of your creatures are their own army in a box, you generally won't need to overcommit to the board. Against a control deck, you've got 34 mana sources, so they definitely can't outmana you. You've got 33 creatures and 21 token producers, so they definitely can't have more answers than you have threats.

Yeah, I make saprolings, you
got a problem with that?
Against other creature decks, you've got more creatures and better combat tricks, the only threats are untargetable creatures with evasion, which in the current format basically boils down to Simic Sky Swallower, Akroma, Angel of Fury (since Glare is white), and Silhana Ledgewalker. There are three solutions if the fliers get big in your area, and they all have their own advantages and disadvantages.

#1. Squall Line. Clears the skies, and acts as an additional win condition. As a bonus, it's an instant. Downside? Won't stop Silhana Ledgewalkers.

#2. Silklash Spider. Permanently ends the threat of being attacked by stuff with flying, as well as permanently clearing the skies while it's in play. Downside? Five mana for two power isn't so hot.

#3. Penumbra Spider. Pretty impossible to kill off completely, this also provides additional protection for the deck against Wramnation. Downside? Doesn't kill most of the attackers, and doesn't survive blocking them either.

There are so many different options and ways to take the deck listed because just like everyone else, I'm not exactly sure yet what direction the metagame will go once Planar Chaos is released. I think due to the insanely high number of token producers this deck has and the number of ways to exploit those tokens that it will be the premier creature based deck once we hit the eight-Wrath benchmark in Standard that Planar Chaos has given us. The fact that it dominates all other creature based strategies and is fast enough to race combo means that there are very few strategies this cannot compete against.

A few random notes on particular matchups: Against Dragonstorm, remember that Glare taps artifacts as well, meaning that you can tap down their Lotus Bloom during their upkeep. Against Rack Attack!, remember that Smallpox causes life loss, not damage, so they can still kill you even if you have Worship out.

Extended Bonus Section

Thallids work nicely with Glare, but they also have a place in Extended with a deck that's really gained quite a bit lately, but that I haven't heard anyone really talking about. That deck is U/G Opposition. Thallids provide creatures, while the addition of Frozen Aether means that the decks lock just got significantly harder to break out of. While I'm so unsure of what such a deck would look like that I won't even attempt to post a decklist, some combination of Frozen Aether, Teferi, Static Orb, Opposition, Trinisphere, mana acceleration, and Thallids certainly seems like a winning combination of disruption and lockdown.

Block Bonus Section

In full Time Spiral block play, which noone yet understands since we have yet to see anything from Future Sight, a lot of people are focused on the power of the slivers, and while those little one-armed bandits are a pretty souped up group, they lack some of the advantages of the fungal ones. Slivers get dramatically worse the more of them you kill off, and are extremely vulnerable to Wrath effects. Thallids just kind of build in place, then rebuild immediately. Both have their strong points, but Thelon of Havenwood provides a much, much bigger boost to his guys than any of the slivers provide to theirs. Also, thallid abilities generally don't cost any mana. Sliver abilities in Time Spiral block so far generally have. Finally, where the thallids have Sarpadian Empires Vol. VII, slivers have Hivestone. Thallids can board in Hivestone and steal all the bonuses, or use the "negative" slivers, like Plague Sliver and Dormant Sliver, where the slivers have no such easy antithallid answer. I'm not saying the thallids are better, or will be better once Future Sight comes out. I'm just noting that the thallids do posses some significant advantages over their slivery mass army opponents. Oh, and on one last, easily ignored, but very important point, thallids have an excessively stable green-based mana base. Slivers... don't.


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