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Here We Go Again: Tibalt Edition

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Oh, Tibalt, Tibalt, Tibalt.

Never in Magic's history has there been a better "started at the bottom, now we here" moment than Tibalt's ascent in Kaldheim. Tibalt went from being the biggest joke of a planeswalker, to having two cards in the most recent set that are warping multiple formats.

Do we have another problem that needs to be solved with a banning? Have two more cards that provide free mana worth of value gone too far?

Today we're going to talk about both of those cards and the decks they're contained in.

Tibalt's Trickery

I got my first whiff of this card doing degenerate things in Historic on MTGA. The pioneers of breaking the card submitted simple decks to take advantage in a way Wizards likely never thought players would. Seriously, you can tell by how this card is being used that this interaction likely never crossed their minds. The initial deck I saw looked something like this:

Tibalt's Trickery Prototype | Historic


That was it.

Seriously.

The deck basically wants to mulligan to a hand with Stonecoil Serpent and Tibalt's Trickery, which isn't difficult to do with the London Mulligan rule. Once you have those two, the rest is gravy, and since the rest of your deck is mostly Mountains, you likely won't have any problem hitting land drops. You're going to cast a Tibalt's Trickery to counter your own Stonecoil Serpent for 0 mana, and at that point, one of two things is going to happen: you're either going to hit another Tibalt's Trickery, or you're going to hit an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Ideally the latter. Considering this all happens on turn two, you usually end up with a turn-two Ulamog in play. Needless to say, it's definitely a glass cannon, but it's also a difficult strategy to combat if you aren't prepared to do so, especially when it takes place so early in the game.

But this isn't the only format or deck configuration that's utilizing the card in degenerate ways. Check out this sweet list that actually put some work in.


Now, despite the fact that Tibalt's Trickery enables some really gratuitous things that shouldn't be allowed in the game, this list does seem like fun, and it's significantly less mindless than the original version of the deck. Additionally, you can actually just cast a lot of the cards in the deck (eventually), while still being really good hits for the two-mana "counterspell." This time, instead of hitting a single Ulamog, we have the following set of threats:

That's a much higher density of threats, and I don't think you're going to be upset at hitting any of them on turn two.

The problem, of course, as with most combo decks that go this big, is that you're super reliant on hitting the Trickery and one of the cheap artifacts in your opening hand. And if the opponent counters, or otherwise has a way to stop the Trickery, you're kind of done for. The cheapest card in the deck after Tibalt's Trickery is 3 mana, and the next cheapest card is 6 mana, so unless you're casting those Stonecoil Serpents for value, you may be doing a lot of draw-go'ing.

Modern has also been hit by the Trickery bug.


Again, you're trying to hit big threats or Ultimatums that cast big threats. This is similar to the Standard list, except in all of the older formats, you have cascade cards that let you cast Trickery, effectively giving you several more copies of Trickery. In this case, with Ardent Plea and Violent Outburst, we have 12 copies of Tibalt's Trickery, which is a lot.

The threats we're trying to hit here are:

Again, this is significantly more threats than the original four copies of Ulamog the deck was running in its infancy, which is good, because each version of the deck has liabilities it can hit, so keeping your threat level high is where you want to be.

As you likely knew, Tibalt's Trickery isn't the only Tibalt-based card causing problems in multiple formats. Let's take a look at the other.

Valki, God of Lies

Unlike Trickery, this was a card I loved from the beginning. I loved that it was a great creature early, and I loved that it was a powerful planeswalker later. But, of course, nothing gold can stay. Except Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter. That's something gold that can stay. And be cheated into play on turn two with cascade cards! Here's that exact thing happening in Modern.


This deck is kind of doing it all, and I wish I hated it more. Not only does it have the same cascade package present in the previous list, but this time it's cascading into Valki, God of Lies instead of Tibalt's Trickery. Notice a trend? Couple of two-mana Tibalt-based cards, getting players 7+ mana of value out of them when using another broken mechanic like cascade. Ha!

This deck is a who's who of hits and broken nonsense from the past couple years, including Omnath, Locus of Creation, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, and Teferi, Time Raveler. We even have the Cryptic Command/Mystic Sanctuary combo in here for good measure.

One thing that's kind of cool here is that we have the same suite of eight cascade cards (four Ardent Plea and four Violent Outburst), but this time the only card we can hit is Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter! Nothing else costs less than three mana.

Another thing to notice is that both Modern decks are running the full suite of Simian Spirit Guides to get that turn two Tibalt action. Seems totally healthy, right?

The Legacy version of the deck is doing basically the same thing.


This nonsense went 6-0. Again, we not only have all the Simian Spirit Guides, but the Elvish ones as well. We've replaced the Ardent Plea with the much more useful Shardless Agent. We also have four copies of Force of Will, four copies of Misdirection, two copies of Mystical Dispute, and two copies of Force of Negation to make sure that our combo isn't disrupted. That's 12 counterspells that you can either play for free or for one mana against opposing counterspells.

The deck also has other bangers, like Uro, and the Hullbreacher/Day's Undoing combo. Another version of the deck was running four copies of Oko, Thief of Crowns. I mean, it seems pretty obvious why the deck went 6-0. This is very much a traditional combo deck, consisting of combo pieces and ways to protect those combo pieces. It reminds me a lot of Hulk Flash, in fact.

All of these lists beg the question, are Tibalt's Trickery and Valki, God of Lies fair and balanced Magic cards? I'm not sure. I really love what they do. I love being able to cascade into two-mana Valki and put seven-mana Tibalt into play. That's cool to me and requires a good deal of deck finagling. I also think Valki is less of a problem because the main cards that enable him are cascade cards, which are only legal in older formats. Those formats all have ways of dealing with expensive planeswalkers, and putting a seven-mana card into play off of three lands is old hat.

When it comes to Tibalt's Trickery, however, I'm 100% sure this card is not being used as intended, and its disruption to the Standard and Historic formats, which have fewer ways to deal with the combo, is worth keeping an eye on. I'm not sure anything needs to be done right now, but there's a certain irony to having two Tibalt cards be questionable in the latest set. Tibalt, guys.

What do you all think? Do they need to be banned? Are these cards working as intended? Do the formats have enough answers for the cards? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! As always, I love you guys, thanks for reading, and stay safe! I'll be back next week, and I hope to see you all then!

Frank Lepore

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