Thalia, Heretic Cathar: A Retrospective

I’ve spent the last few weeks playtesting Thalia, Heretic Cathar (henceforth THC), and as a whole, I must say that I am quite impressed. When the card was first spoiled, I thought it was quite good, but that it would require real testing to see how many copies would be appropriate. I initially started with two copies, and very quickly bumped up to a third. I’m pretty sure that the card is here to stay. Vryn Wingmare was almost right for the deck, but quickly fell out of favor once the metagame shifted and once players started to realized how devastating -1/-1 hate was against those builds.

THC shines in 3-color matchups or any fetchland/non-basic heavy deck as an additional way to deny your opponent mana. RUG Delver, BUG Delver, Shardless BUG, and any other deck of that nature are going to have fits if this card is unanswered. A turn one Mom that survives followed by a THC on turn three might just be enough to end the game on its own against many decks in the format. The tempo loss is absolutely absurd, and if you couple that with any other meaningful plays, your opponent falls behind very quickly. It also puts your opponent in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation when it comes to fetching: Should I fetch my basic to play around Wasteland, or should I leave my basic in the deck so that I can fetch it if THC hits play? I’m all about giving my opponent chances to mess up, and THC is great at doing that.

I really underestimated how good the first strike on THC was when I initially evaluated her. When paired with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Mirran Crusader, you can create a wall that stops Tarmogoyf or Reality Smasher from doing anything productive. Creatures entering the battlefield tapped is a minor inconvenience most of the time, but a major annoyance for creatures with haste or token producers like Young Pyromancer.

So which matchups get noticeably better with THC in the deck? As mentioned above, THC helps against the Eldrazi and fetchland-heavy decks of the format. Tin Fins and Sneak and Show are better, as THC makes it so that those decks have to cheat in a fatty during your end step so that they can attack on their turn. Miracles is a bit better, as we now have another threat that can be protected with Karakas. Elves has gone from a nearly unwinnable matchup to just an unfavorable matchup; THC reduces the impact of a Natural Order while also making Glimpse of Nature chains much more difficult. Elves also usually only has two forests, meaning that THC might buy you two fulls turns of mana denial, which is just enough time to get a Jitte online and start eating elves.

Well, that all sounds great, so what’s the downside of having THC in the deck? The mirror is much harder if you are playing THC and your opponent is not. Opposing Karakas can wreck you in game one if you have seven targets to your opponent’s four; you can lose a ton of tempo trying to get equipment on a THC, only to have it bounced on their turn. On that note, any deck with multiple Karakas or the ability to tutor one up gets slightly worse. Since THC is often coming in at the cost of Serra Avenger, you will have fewer cards that can live through a Punishing Fire or Massacre. If you are instead cutting Mirran Crusader for THC, you lose a little bit of ability to wall Tarmogoyf or push damage through a wall of Shardless BUG’s creatures.

I believe that the positives of THC far outweigh the negatives, and I encourage you to start playtesting the card if you have not already. She is the real deal. Oddly enough, I don’t think D&T is the best deck for her. She is significantly stronger in decks that can play her on turn two via some sort of acceleration. Accordingly, I can see this card finding a home in either a White Eldrazi list or a Maverick style deck of some nature.

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Phil Gallagher

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