Cautiously Whelmed by Thrun, the Last Troll

Concerning:

Thrun, the Last Troll :: Sun Titan :: The Rock
Young Justice :: Tom Martell :: … and Thrun, the Last Troll

If you watched the first couple of episodes of the new “Young Justice” cartoon, you know that Dick Grayson is wondering why no one is just whelmed. First Mr. Freeze is underwhelmed at Robin coming after him; then the future Young Justice kiddies are overwhelmed at the majesty of entering the Hall of Justice and seeing the gigantic statues of the League founders. Underwhelmed… overwhelmed… surely you grok at this point.

But as for Thrun, the Last Troll… I think I may fulfill Robin’s requested measure of whelmed-ness.

Thrun, the Last Troll

First, let me tell you a story.

Pro Tour LA (Antoine’s)… I am 1-0 after a haymaker-after-haymaker-exchanging brawl with Dragonstorm.

Second round Feature Match against Hall of Famer-to-be Raphael Levy. Raph was on B/G beatdown and I was playing B/W cycling. Sadly, the format was Extended. I felt like I had a heavy absolute advantage in the matchup with lots of creatures elimination and sweepers, but Raph had the edge in speed and skill, so I had relatively little margin for error. We split the first two games and were deep in the third.

Unsurprisingly, Levy has the early lead but I battle back with a lot of cycling… Undead Gladiator helping me hit my land drops and relevant removal spells; Eternal Dragon fueling Undead Gladiator (and obviously helping me hit my land drops). I get Raph to no cards in hand and tap for an Eternal Dragon to hold off his squad (headlined by a Troll Ascetic).

He topdecks Putrefy and smashes.

Raph’s mid-game topdecks are pretty lame, as he can basically draw Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves… and does.

I manage my life total and figure out how I am going to win. I need to get a little bit up in cards (Eternal Dragon for that), then use the bonus to bring back Undead Gladiator (cheaper to play), and chump his Troll for a couple of turns until I can play two Eternal Dragons and start attacking with one of them. Three turn clock, max, once those paps are online.

My plan is to just cycle up lands and pitch them into Gladiators. I have 10+ lands in play but I still need a couple more to be able to re-buy, chump, other re-buy, and hit double Dragons; I should have just enough cards to keep chumping, provided Levy doesn’t play another relevant threats (that is, something big enough to knock over a Dragon) in the next couple of turns. Over the course, Raph draws another Putrefy to get damage in through a Dragon, but I think I am okay (if armed with relatively little margin for error).

Then tragedy strikes.

I draw Haunting Echoes.

“Ooh,” I think. “New plan!”

I mean “maybe” new plan, right? New-ish. I can pitch a Haunting Echoes for an Undead Gladiator as easily as I can discard a Plains. Plus, if I topdeck a Wrath of God I can just go for the throat and win on the spot. So I hold Haunting Echoes as my card for the turn upon starting to set up my game plan.

Remember how Raph was topdecking irrelevant Birds of Paradise? Amazingly you can convert one of those into the Flashback on a Cabal Therapy. Sure, Raph missed the front side (I mean who else in this tournament was playing Eternal Dragon, Undead Gladiator, and Skeletal Scrying)… But the second time around?

Goodbye Haunting Echoes.

So now I no longer have the card I need for next turn’s Gladiator re-buy as I set up another Eternal Dragon. Had I held a Plains instead, he wouldn’t have been able to strip me of the required Gladiator re-buy. Plus, Raph has a Sword of Fire and Ice on his Troll Ascetic, so when I have to block with my Eternal Dragon, he flaps his wings sloppily into ye olde graveyard.

Uh-oh about that new plan.

Now I really have to mise up a new plan.

I vigorously cycle on my upkeep, needing Wrath of God. Then, with six maan remaining, Undead Gladiator answers my call.

Akroma’s Vengeance!

I have just enough to take out Levy’s Sword, plus sweep all his irrelevant little dudes alongside his Troll Ascetic.

I sit back in my chair, thanking God and library manipulation for my luck.

“Um… Regenerate?”

Regenerate!

No! Stupid Troll Ascetic!

Raph swings in for the kill.

The real story here is how I should have played with focus and follow through, but the immediate issue for the present case is that Trolls regenerate.

Thrun, the Last Troll is Troll Ascetic, ostensibly improved.

If the match were taking place in the present, I wouldn’t even have been able to cycle into Wrath of God for the win; because now Wrath of God — that is Day of Judgment — lets Trolls regenerate out.

The fact is, there are relatively few answers given our current Standard framework for Thrun. You can’t point a Mana Leak at it, and — at least the turn after the turn it hits — Thrun is difficult to remove with spells. Earlier this week I expressed underwhelmed-ness to some friends RE: Thrun… Sure, you can’t target him — but I kept forgetting that on top of all that other text, on top of the pretty resilient body, the last Troll also regenerates.

Aesthetics
Thrun, the Last Troll is reminiscent of Troll Ascetic, with an additional layer of defense against Blue permission spells. It costs one additional mana but gains hugely in power and toughness; a 4/4 for four mana considered highly efficient given the presence of three relevant abilities. The second one is in particular worth a mention given that Thrun should be a heck of a swordsman. If you improve it just a little bit via equipment, Thrun jumps the power curve more than most any other creature in Standard, combining superior size with essentially extraordinary resilience. Answering Thrun will often be a test balancing patience and timing.

I think Thrun is exactly as good as a creature has to be to be seriously considered at four. Its perceived over-the-top-ness in terms of power level relative to curve point is essentially necessary considering it is actually competing with cards like Oracle of Mul Daya or Garruk Wildspeaker, rather than combat creatures for space (given the marketplace).

My question, though, aesthetically… What is Tom Martell going to do in a world with no more Trolls?

Where can I see Thrun, the Last Troll fitting in?
I think that Thrun, the Last Troll will be very Tarmogoyf-ish… Played heavily by decks that capable of casting it, but not played everywhere. For example, Tarmogoyf was often passed over in more controlling versions of The Rock; it was more desirable for them to play Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kokusho the Evening Star, rather than the uber-two. Great card, cross-deck Staple… But not everywhere-played.

Now obviously the decks that can — or are willing to — pay 2GG for a creature are far less common than those that can pay 1G for probably a larger creature. That will cut into Thrun’s market share, but it will still probably be everywhere-played. I don’t know that Eldrazi Ramp decks would play Thrun, even though they can; same reason Death Cloud The Rock didn’t play Tarmogoyf. Eldrazi Green, though? Probably. Aggressive two-color decks with GG capabilities will likely make room in the curve, though it is unclear whether Thun gets played over, say, a Vengevine. My intuition is that decks that want a Vengevine will still want a Vengevine, but that there can be decks that want both; say… six fours.

The biggest question mark around Thrun (I mean other than what Tom is going to do with his time) is around its cost. It’s a bit of a sell, especially given its initial non-invulnerability. Is Thrun better than Vengevine? Do you play more fours? How does it intersect relative to Baneslayer Angel? A Titan? The answers are not obvious and I don’t know that the right deck yet exists.

Snap Judgment Rating – Staple (low, Standard; Role Player – low elsewhere)

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People

PS For more somewhat conflicted thoughts on mid-range-ness, consider Terrified of Sun Titan

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4 comments ↓

#1 MTGBattlefield on 01.23.11 at 7:28 pm

Cautiously Whelmed by Thrun, the Last Troll…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#2 ibanez on 01.30.11 at 5:24 am

I just got one yesterday from the prerelease…sadly I couldn’t play it since green is very bad if you don’t go infect. Some observations from yesterday’s event: red is the best colour for mirran players and black for phyrexians.
About Thrun, I think he’ll be played with some kind of equipment to boost him up to 6 power to fight titans, maybe some GW fauna shaman, vengevine, stoneforge?

#3 João Enomoto on 02.02.11 at 11:05 pm

I believe the most important issue regarding Thrun is its resilience upon blue decks in Standard. It can’t be countered, it can’t be bounced by Jace TMS and puts a lot of pressure on control decks. Indeed, I can’t see a deck for this guy either, despite the fact he’s truly awesome. Maybe upon rotation of Titans (assuming they won’t appear in M12) he might get a shot as a solid 4-drop.

#4 You Make the Play – Phantasmal Image is Hero’s Demise — Five With Flores on 10.21.11 at 1:37 pm

[…] that you can Hero’s Demise someone with it (TM Brian Kibler)… Phantasmal Image kills Thrun, the Last Troll and Geist of St. Traft dead as […]

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