Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
– Dark Ascension
Date Reviewed: November 18, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 3.33
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
You may or may not have seen my Instagram posts about how much I like Thalia – and that doesn’t all have to do with her art, either. Every part of her text is designed to hurt opponents as much as possible. A 2/1 with first strike might not look like much next to the Craterhoof Behemoths of the world, but you have to consider what else is going on if and when you cast her on turn 2. Those stats will often dominate on both offense and defense – and that’s before you even consider the way she makes common countermeasures often come a turn too late. And in a format with spell-based combo decks, she very often turns their cards off entirely. If you can fit older formats’ equipment around her cost-increasing ability, she can even hit as hard as the aforementioned behemoths, too.
And as such, I personally think Thalia is a very legitimate answer to the allegation that “white has always been bad”. The lady really does do it all.
with a competitive pedigree that includes every possible format (yes, even Vintage), the original outing of Thalia is comfortably one of the most played cards of the modern era and easily Dark Ascension‘s most-played. As is always the case with symmetrical effects, you most benefit from breaking the symmetry of them, and a creature-heavy deck doesn’t mind other spells costing 1 more to cast. With as tight as a lot of decks are, taxing them can throw them off completely, and it doesn’t hurt that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a vicious early body. 2 power with first strike is an obstacle for most decks to kill in combat without suboptimal math coming into play somewhere, and while she only has 1 toughness, making burn spells cost more to even target her isn’t a bad place to be.
Thalia’s a potent early creature that throws a lot of decks off kilter to some degree, and the confluence of a low mana cost and effective body on top of that taxing effect has proven sought-after for years, especially in decks that like her being a cheap Human. Returning to Standard in Crimson Vow, time will tell if Thalia will take Standard by storm like she did 9 years ago, but I’d bet on it; she does a lot for as innocuous as she seems, and the sole downside to her is that her legendary supertype makes stacking the Stax harder with her alone. (Thorn of Amethyst is her same passive effect, but it is an artifact and a hard one to track down at times.)
Constructed: 5 (for both her historical contributions and her present contributions to Legacy, Modern, and Vintage; she’ll almost definitely see Standard play)
Limited: 4.5 (great early, weaker late)
Commander: 3 (a turn 1 or 2 Thalia will make you lots of friends, but she’s a spurious top-deck in late game scenarios)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Easily one of the best white creatures ever printed, very little argument can be had here. The only thing holding this card back is that it is legendary but even then it sees play in multiple formats without being a broken card. The 1W for a 2/1 first strike is your typical french vanilla creature but the real reason this card is amazing is the “noncreature spells cost 1 more to cast”. It makes most decks running blue just worse right off the bat, those cheap cantrips? Now you need two mana to cast them. Counterspell is legal in modern now? Well it is as good as a Cancel when Thalia is out. Death and Taxes is the famous Legacy and Modern deck that is very creature focused so Thalia’s ability doesn’t impact most of your plays and it runs multiple copies of this card in the deck. There are a few decks that run this card and it just impacts your opponent in so many ways and they’ll have to use extra resources to just try and draw a card with a cantrip. There isn’t much left to say about how good this card is, it honestly speaks for itself. Throw a few in a deck and take a look on your opponent’s face when you cast it, then you’ll see what I mean.
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