Thrasios, Triton Hero in 2023
I started playing cEDH in early 2020, around the release of Theros Beyond Death (not to mention a certain non-Magic global phenomenon). At that time, Thrasios-Tymna Flash Hulk was all the rage. The deck could win quickly or grind to its heart’s content and win at instant speed on top of someone else’s win attempt. Mana dorks worked well to generate card advantage with both commanders, either to pay for Thrasios activations or to attack creatureless opponents for Tymna triggers. Thassa’s Oracle greatly simplified the Protean Hulk lines that had previously existed, allowing this already good deck to replace otherwise dead Hulk combo pieces with more interaction and fast mana. This turned it into the de facto best deck in cEDH, if indeed it wasn’t already, and ultimately led to its banning later that year. But before the Flash ban, Thrasios was the king of cEDH.
Thrasios can still grind, but…
Real talk time. The grind potential of Thrasios is simultaneously the most obvious aspect of the commander and, in my opinion, one of the least relevant in today’s metagame.
I’ve stopped counting the number of games I’ve lost with an active Thrasios and Seedborn Muse in play over the last year. cEDH is a faster format today than it was at the end of Flash’s reign of terror. Sitting around with open mana and activating Thrasios once or twice a turn cycle is not a good primary gameplan in most pods in today’s metagame. Four mana to draw one card is a lot. And perhaps the biggest kicker of all, Thrasios reveals the card drawn to the entire table.
Opponents are much savvier about passing to the person with open mana and/or revealed interaction, with the finals of the Mox Masters May 2023 tournament throwing this phenomenon into the limelight. A savvy Thrasios player can sometimes politic their way into letting the table keep their Seedborn Muse engine around to play table police, but far too often people see this cosplaying as law enforcement as the half-truth it usually is and are reluctant to accept such an offer. Frankly, it’s hard to blame them.
The King is Dead…
Or is it? A quick analysis of tournament results at edhtop16.com shows that Thrasios is holding its own quite well at the moment, especially when paired with Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder, or Dargo, the Shipwrecker. At the time of article submission, Thrasios-Bruse has the fourth highest top 16 conversion rate among decks with 50 or more appearances in the data set with 64 or more players, behind Tivit, Rograkh-Silas, and Najeela but better than juggernauts like Tymna-Kraum and Kinnan.
Importantly, multiple pilots have found tournament success with this pairing which must be contrasted with the fact that it has no actual tournament wins in the data. Thrasios-Dargo boasts an even higher conversion rate and 2 tournament wins with a smaller sample size, but this comes with the caveat of most of this success coming from two specific pilots.
There is not enough tournament data to draw firm conclusions about exactly how good Thrasios is right now. Nonetheless, it appears to be a relatively popular choice that is enjoying some success. Long live the king (sort of).
The King and I
I have played a lot of Thrasios-Bruse over the past 15 months and have recently picked up Thrasios-Dargo. In my experience but admittedly biased opinion, there are three main reasons why this commander is very much alive and kicking, and it is the combination of these that makes it a compelling piece of cardboard.
1. Thrasios enables early-game “commander-specific” cards and fast mana pieces.
Rograkh-Silas is (arguably) the current king of Grixis decks largely because Rograkh enables very powerful cards like Mox Amber, Fierce Guardianship, Jeska’s Will, Culling the Weak, and Diabolic Intent from the command zone starting on turn 1 for literally zero cost. If fast mana and free interaction are the pieces de resistance in cEDH at the moment, it is hard to find a better commander than Rograkh to enable these right from your opening turn.
In this regard, Thrasios does a passable, albeit much weaker, impression of Rograkh. While the effects that sacrifice a creature for mana are largely a non-starter with Thrasios, the two-mana Merfolk Wizard functions just fine with things like Mox Amber. When paired with Dargo, you also get a cheap enabler for Relic of Legends, a card that continues to impress me even on non-combo turns. Grating access to more free interaction and fast mana available in the early turns is a nice perk and one that can be game-winning.
2. Thrasios is a cheap mana outlet in the command zone.
There’s not much to say here beyond this. Making infinite mana is one of green’s strengths, and Thrasios easily turns that mana into a winning line. Fast creature combos are in a good place in the metagame right now since they dodge a lot of the current stack interaction. Neoform and its ilk turn one mana dorks into the best card in cEDH, Dockside Extortionist, allowing for wins out of nowhere or an explosive setup for a win attempt on the following turns. The lack of black tutors hurts a lot less when you have so many redundant creature tutors that can turn into wins on the spot.
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy bears special mention as one of the strongest cards you can have in the 98 of your Thrasios piles. Easily findable with green’s suite of creature tutors, his ability to add extra mana from all of your rocks/dorks/Treasure tokens and giving you access to an A + B combo with Basalt Monolith is well worth the small investment of two deck slots.
3. Thrasios can grind when the situation calls for it.
I’m outing myself as a bit of a hypocrite here. Yes, I did just call the card’s grind potential bad. Your memory is intact. But more precisely, what I said is that it’s a bad primary game plan. Plenty of games still devolve into grindfests, and Thrasios can thrive in these types of games. I may have lost a lot of games with Thrasios-Seedborn in play, but I’ve also won plenty. When you’re grinding, what you need is a way to turn the corner quickly and convert the extra cards into a win, something which red as a color does well with access to Dockside and Underworld Breach. The grind potential is still there, it’s just less relevant than it was in previous metagames. While this aspect is far less important than the other two points I made above, it is still an important piece of the puzzle.
The Boorish Herder vs The Shipwrecker
Comparing and contrasting Thrasios’ two best pals, Bruse gives access to white and its powerful silence effects, Enlightened Tutor, Esper Sentinel, stax pieces like Drannith Magistrate, and combo pieces like Emiel, the Blessed, and Swift Reconfiguration. This naturally leads to a build that is more comfortable playing in the mid-to-late game while being capable of winning quickly if the table composition calls for it. Dargo, on the other hand, is a truly busted combo engine in the command zone that looks to win quickly.
As if Dockside wasn’t good enough already, try cracking three Treasures while casting Dargo for one mana while still having the other two treasure mana left for whatever other nefarious purposes you have planned. It is a commander that can be hard to appreciate until you either play it or see it in action.
At the moment, I am having a blast playing Thrasios-Dargo. I think it is better positioned in the current tournament metagame, as it can consistently present wins by turn 3 while still having a decent grind backup plan if the original plan goes south. Thrasios-Bruse is still quite a formidable deck and may have a better overall game plan if your local metagame is grindy.
Hail to the King
OK, Thrasios is most definitely not the king of cEDH anymore. That doesn’t stop it from being a potent commander that can pay you off handsomely if you play to its strengths. And seriously, play red with it. Tymna has moved on to less green pastures over the years, but fortunately, you have two potent red-aligned partners that are ready to fill the hole in Thrasios’ heart left by her departure. Don’t be afraid to play Thrasios in 2023, just prioritize doing something other than drawing revealed cards at a bad rate.