Kaldheim Spotlight: Tibalt's Trickery
- Tobi Henke
The upcoming set's red cards are full of combo potential of the best kind. There's a lot of wacky stuff that may ultimately prove too tough to pull off but, oh, so satisfying when successful. If you like to make your cards jump through hoops in hopes of a big pay day, this article is for you!
Kaldheim's combo cards look refreshingly fair so far. Combining Maskwood Nexus with Deathbellow War Cry might make for a cool clip but won't break Standard anytime soon. Combining Toralf, God of Fury with Blasphemous Act is eminently memeable but not quite on par with other stuff in Modern. Adding Dual Strike to Historic's Neoform deck may not even end up an improvement. War Cry and company are all a far cry from what Underworld Breach did to Constructed formats around this time last year.
Tibalt's Trickery's first effect of countering a spell is mostly worthless, often less than worthless. If you negate your opponent's spell this way, there's no telling what could happen. Chances are they'll hit something that's just as bad for you, or worse. One notable exception is Teferi, Time Raveler. When you're running a Trickery deck and have a spare Trickery, you should probably use it to stop the Raveler from unraveling all your plans. If you're playing against some version of White-Blue Control, you might even get lucky and have them hit a Mana Leak without a target, or similar.
Teferi makes for such bad news because combo enthusiasts are much more interested in the Trickery's second effect (which Teferi prevents). We want to counter a cheap expendable spell of our own and cast something else for free. We're willing to suffer the consequence of the upside to reap the benefits of the drawback. It's a topsy-turvy situation, one in which this Tibalt character would feel right at home. He's always been a chaotic fellow—some people just want to watch the world burn!—and it shows in Tibalt's Trickery too.
First exiling either one, two, or three cards, we require extensive library manipulation to hit something worthwhile with certainty. We need to ensure …
- that the second, third, and fourth card of our library are payoffs,
- or that the top cards of our library are all lands, followed next by our payoff,
- or that the top cards all share a name with the countered spell, again followed by payoff,
- or some combination of the above.
Indexing: Contingency Plan and Taigam's Scheming are both legal in Pioneer. In Modern, you'd also get Index and Sage of Epityr and Halimar Depths. Even with all of these in one deck, getting Tibalt's Trickery and a spell to counter into your hand and one random card followed by two lands and your payoff onto the top of your library seems utopian. Once you move to Legacy and gain access to Ancestral Knowledge—and Scroll Rack!—you're probably better off doing something else. I don't think it's going to be Lodestone Bauble's time to shine either.
Recruiting: Goblin Recruiter can easily set up a library that guarantees Trickery hitting Muxus and Muxus hitting lethal. Sadly, there are other, better reasons why Goblin Recruiter is banned in all formats sans Vintage. Dwarven Recruiter gained a lot of attention recently, by Dwarven Recruiter standards, but there's no Muxus-level payoff yet. The most interesting result of my look at all Dwarves was learning that Irini Sengir is a Vampire Dwarf.
Lucking out: Various Twitterfolk have suggested builds that leave the outcome of the Trickery up to some degree of chance. For example, I saw proposed a Standard deck made up of four Stonecoil Serpent, four Tibalt's Trickery, four Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and 48 Mountain. People originally assumed that you could mulligan, heavily, into Serpent plus Trickery, and then you'd get a turn two Ugin. The thing is, if your Trickery encounters another Trickery instead of Ugin, then there's no target for that Trickery, and you're done (for). The other thing is, without other permanents to ultimate into, Ugin may not even be the best hit. Not to mention that the odds of successfully mulliganing into Serpent plus Trickery can't be much higher than 60% to begin with. If you believe you can do it, maybe try the following.
Emergent Ultimatum mostly acts as a double-up of the chances for Kiora Bests the Sea God here. You have to pick three different monocolored cards, meaning the enchantment, Cragplate Baloth, and another Trickery. If they give you the enchantment and Baloth, which they shouldn't, you cast both. If they give you the enchantment and Trickery, then you only cast the former. If they give you Baloth and Trickery, you cast both, get another spin of the wheel with Trickery, and still resolve the uncounterable Baloth. The Pathway, in case you're wondering, is included just in case you do any of this after reaching five mana. (Casting a spell without paying its mana cost still allows you to pay kicker.)
Of course, Pathways have no discernable drawback whereas all the other nonbasic land options do. It might be correct to run some Temples or Triomes anyway, but I wanted to maintain the ability to mulligan down to two cards and topdeck any two lands. Likewise, the selection of payoffs, and especially their number, may not be fully optimized either. With the setup above, Trickery has a shot of up to thirteen in sixteen not to hit another copy of itself. It's possible that number should be higher or lower, to the detriment or benefit, respectively, of opening-hand consistency.
Apostolating: A subsection of "lucking out," the plan here is to fill a deck with Shadowborn Apostles, counter one of them, and have Tibalt's Trickery bypass all of the co-Clerics on its way to your big, bad something. Such a deck might need fewer mulligans because you only have to find Trickery and not the target for it to counter. Unfortunately, you still have to cross your fingers and hope not to hit another Trickery—unless you cast your Apostle via Cavern of Souls.
Companioning: Similar to "apostolating," companions can provide a target for Tibalt's Trickery so that you only have to mulligan into the latter. For example, in Standard, you could grab Zirda, the Dawnwaker from your sideboard on turn three and try to convert it into Ugin on turn five. Once again, the problem of going Trickery into Trickery into concession persists.
Mulliganing without additional randomness: If you want to avoid the Trickery-into-Trickery fail case, you can try your hand at a mostly land-filled deck with four Mistcutter Hydra, four Trickery, and some number of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in Modern, or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in Pioneer. For Historic, replace Hydra with Allosaurus Shepherd. Because Trickery can't counter the one-drop, hitting another Trickery will allow you to keep going until you get your Eldrazi. Alas, you'll have to wait until turn three to make your move and will lose to any discard or counterspell.
Ominous Option #1: Cascade
|Modern Cascade Trickery|
With this list you basically just need to find Violent Outburst. The chance for success after looking at seven opening hands of seven cards each should be upward of 97% and already over 95% on a mulligan to two. Who needs Serum Powder when we have the London mulligan, right? But wait, we also need to throw away every hand that contains Tibalt's Trickery and every hand that contains all the Emrakuls.
Nevertheless, I believe the odds of seeing a "playable" opening "hand" of at least one card, that is one Outburst, remain at a "healthy" 95%. (More Emrakuls may be able to improve this by half a percent.) It's debatable whether taking an automatic loss in one out of every twenty games is indeed healthy. A normal/"real" deck may feel different, but if you honestly consider all the games you lose because of mulligans elsewhere, the calculus might not be far off.
So now we have Outburst and we hopefully draw nothing but lands for the first three turns. I've even included five Temples in the list in an attempt to ensure you don't randomly topdeck the lone Trickery or all of the Emrakuls and to give you an outside shot at seeing another Outburst should your opponent discard the first. However, tapped lands are of course a liability too. I'm similarly uncertain about the inclusion and number of Gemstone Caverns, Blast Zone, and Forest. The Caverns obviously make it so that chances for a turn two Emrakul skyrocket. Blast Zone can take care of problematic permanents, and Forest means you're not dead to Blood Moon. It's quite likely some of these would be better off in the sideboard; I just wanted to highlight all the reasonable options.
So then we cast Outburst. Cascade will trigger and resolve while Outburst is still on the stack. So we find Trickery and conveniently have a spell already waiting to be countered. After moving lots of cards around, we cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, take our extra turn, eat the opponent's board, and finally them. This plan loses horribly to most interference, for example notably to Force of Negation. But you can probably beat up on a lot of red decks this way. Note that Grafdigger's Cage stops neither cascade nor Trickery as both allow you to cast spells from exile.
If your opponent is slow enough and relies exclusively on discard and/or Blood Moon for disruption, Throes of Chaos can come in from the sideboard as a neat solution. Either one of the Ulamogs can replace Emrakul against decks with Ensnaring Bridge. If their own game plan focuses heavily on the graveyard, you can bring in lots of lands that remove it. Otherwise, sideboard options are naturally limited.
Ominous Option #2: Recross
The previous deck was almost all lands, so what could be more obvious than a second build with none? Consider the following sequence.
- Turn one: Valakut Stoneforge (land)
- Turn two: Turntimber (land), exile Simian Spirit Guide, Recross the Paths revealing no land
- Turn three: Shatterskull (land), Spikefield Hazard (spell), Tibalt's Trickery. Because Recross revealed no land, you just got to put your library back, albeit in the perfect order. So when you resolve Trickery, you hit one of the three Emrakuls you left near the top.
There's some redundancy already built into the framework here. For example, you can replace the first two land drops with some other MDFCs as long as one's mythic. Instead of Spikefield Hazard, Vastwood Fortification may work. If you have another mythic land drop, Wild Cantor can take the place of the Spirit Guide to get you to three mana on turn two, and it can always stand in for Hazard/Fortification. Not least, since you've sorted your library, your third turn's draw step will already yield one missing piece, whether that's Trickery, land drop, or one-mana spell.
Some other combinations of Pentad Prism, Vessel of Volatility, Desperate Ritual, and/or Manamorphose could provide the six mana total to cast Recross, spell, and Trickery either by or even just on turn three itself. Valakut Awakening may be able to hunt down missing pieces, and Bala Ged Recovery picks up lost pieces, although both at the cost of a turn. If you're worried about drawing too many of your Emrakuls, you can add a copy of Omniscience to your line-up. Cheap protection exists in the form of Veil of Summer …
The linchpin remains Recross the Paths itself, which you absolutely need for everything else to work. I haven't yet found a way to fit further library manipulation into such a deck. Another possibility might be to run upward of 36 of Zendikar Rising's backside lands and once again rely mainly on mulligans to find Recross. Though this is demonstrably worse than the cascade deck, except maybe for the inclusion of Veil. In any case, it's far worse than the old Goblin Charbelcher version of the deck, and even that's been summarily superseded by Oops now.
In fact, the old Belcher stock list already did feature a one-card combo as a follow-up to recrossing. When your deck is sorted, a miraculous Reforge the Soul—into Spirit Guides/rituals, Irencrag Feat, and Charbelcher—will do. Why should Tibalt's Trickery be any better when it requires more useless cards to idle in the deck and doesn't come with a built-in alternative to Recross the Paths? Why should it be better to cast Recross than to summon Balustrade Spy or Undercity Informer and win on the same turn?
I believe this path is actually a dead end. Though I may recross it later. A couple of notable experts have voiced interest in exploring the idea, and I look forward to seeing their builds. Do you have any clue how to make the Recross/Trickery deck work? Leave a comment below and tell us!
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