Today we are celebrating the comeback of arguably one of Magic's most hated characters of all time. The original Tibalt from Avacyn Restored commonly ranks among the worst planeswalkers ever created. The redemption arc started with War of the Spark's three-mana version, which saw a fair amount of play in Standard, even as a main-deck option for monored decks against life gain.
Now Kaldheim gives us the third incarnation of the character as the first modal double-faced card that's creature in front, planeswalker on the back side. Let's see what Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor has to offer!
Let's kick things off with Valki, God of Lies, which is the official front face of the card: a two-mana 2/1 with an enter-the-battlefield ability that looks at and temporarily exiles a creature card from each opponent's hand (which obviously gets better in multiplayer games). The most obvious comparison to this side of the card is Tidehollow Sculler or Kitesail Freebooter but only aiming at creatures. The fact that it can later turn into that creature also reminds us a bit of Lazav, the Multifarious, but aimed at a creature in an opponent's hand rather than one of your own in the graveyard. Just like Lazav, turning into Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is among the best things this two-drop can do.
Alternatively, you can cast the other side, which tells a completely different story: Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor is a seven-mana black and red planeswalker that immediately comes with an emblem, something we rarely see. Usually, aside from Chandra, Awakened Inferno's +2, emblems are created with planeswalkers' ultimate abilities. Tibalt's first ability then feels almost like drawing two extra cards each turn (again improving in multiplayer game) as you can play them thanks to the emblem, even lands, basically a Chandra, Torch of Defiance on steroids. It also immediately puts Tibalt at 7 loyalty, which is hard to take down through conventional means.
Next comes the regular minus ability to protect itself from opposing threats, just like other high-cost planeswalkers such as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or more specifically Vraska, Relic Seeker, although only targeting creatures and artifacts. The big upside here is you exile them, which allows you to cast them yourself or to get rid of escape artists like Uro or Kroxa. It's also important to note that the ability can deal with problematic artifacts even Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is normally powerless against, for example The Great Henge.
The ultimate ability feels reminiscent of Mnemonic Betrayal and Yawgmoth's Will, basically allowing you to play any card that's currently in any graveyard, albeit for the rest of the game and even if Tibalt dies. Plus you get some extra mana to do so, and the best thing is you can achieve all of this just two turns after Tibalt hits the battlefield.
The issue with highly costed planeswalkers is, they don't usually fit into aggressive decks since they get stuck in your hand for so long. Tibalt, however, is much more affordable since you can always play him as a creature in the early game. My general impression is that, if we only got this as a planeswalker card, it would be marginally playable at best. But being two cards in one allows it to be included in a ton of aggressive and midrange shells, and if you ever get to seven mana, suddenly you have a top-end threat in the slot of a two-mana creature. Such flexibility almost cannot be overstated.
Moving on to Valki/Tibalt's immediate impact, I am a little hesitant with regard to Standard. Rakdos, which had sat near the very top of the format just three months ago, hasn't seen much success for a while. Of course this might change with the rest of Kaldheim now.
There are two possible candidates that may be willing to add Valki to their team. One is Dimir Rogues splashing red with some help from Fabled Passage and the completed Pathway cycle. The card works well with Lurrus of the Dream-Den as the companion only cares about the front face. Therefore Valki allows you to sneak a big late-game bomb into any Lurrus archetype.
The second idea is to revive the Kroxa shell that became popular during the early stages of Zendikar Rising Standard. I had worked on that for several weeks, and it might have a second chance now that Tibalt can support the strategy. Let's take a peek at how the deck could look like:
|Tibalt Midrange by Rone, Standard|
This is just a first draft. You could also take this into a Lurrus companion direction by removing all three-mana permanents and go lower to the ground with Archfiend's Vessel, Call of the Death-Dweller, and Skyclave Shade for a more aggressive concept. In that context, Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire might work as a cheap way to save Valki from opposing removal.
Although it might not be its best moment, Rakdos Pyromancer is a fine choice in both Pioneer and Historic. Powered up by the Dreadhorde Arcanist/Young Pyromancer duo alongside cheap efficient spells, this Lurrus build could take advantage of Valki/ Tibalt in its ranks too.
|Rakdos Pyromancer by Rone, Pioneer|
The Historic counterpart lacks a couple of key spells like Dreadbore and Kolaghan's Command. One is easily replaced with Bedevil, but the Command is a pretty nice way to bring back Valki from the graveyard to then play it as Tibalt in long games. Within this shell, Valki dying to opposing removal is not a big deal since it can be brought back thanks to Claim // Fame, and the thing that appeals to me the most is the fact that Pioneer and Historic are the formats where Uro reigns supreme. Just imagine an uncontested Valki on turn two that exiles and transforms into an attacking Uro on turn three, triggering its ability. That sounds simply amazing.
Additionally, I could see a singleton of Valki show up in Jund Sacrifice in Historic, maybe in the sideboard for grindy games where you can ramp into Tibalt thanks to Priest of Forgotten Gods. Maintaining the ratio of possible hits for Collected Company is a consideration with some builds too.
Our last stop brings us to Modern, where several Rakdos archetypes are quite dominant at the moment: One variant uses Death's Shadow and showcases the recent addition of Scourge of the Skyclaves and Lurrus as companion; another veers more into midrange territory and employs four copies of Blood Moon main in order to fight all the Field of the Dead shenanigans and Primeval Titan decks as well.
Both could try a copy or two of Valki/Tibalt, protected by turn one discard. But the deck I am most excited about is none of them, rather an all-time favorite of Modern players:
|Jund Valki by Rone, Modern|
When Bloodbraid Elf cascades into Valki, you get to cast the card and you can choose either side. This means a seven-drop planeswalker on turn four. Although the list here will only achieve the feat every so often, such an amazing interaction might put Jund back onto Modern's menu. Alternatively, Witch's Cottage could set up the winning cascade if needed, and if the game goes long, Wrenn and Six can get up to seven mana to cast Tibalt by recurring fetch lands.
It's also possible that a Living End deck may be interested in Tibalt as a sideboard option, to cascade into when opponents make graveyard access hopeless.
Vintage and Legacy are beyond the scope of this card. Though a four-color pile might want to try Shardless Agent plus Valki to achieve the cascade trick one turn earlier than Bloodbraid Elf.
In Commander the card is an immediate all-star since you can play it as a creature early on and later as a planeswalker with no drawback, thus getting two types of cards as your commander like you do with all the other Gods from Kaldheim. Both sides' effects improve in multiplayer games as well.
All in all, I am really excited to try out Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor across formats and shells. It feels good to finally get a big impressive version of Tibalt after all these years. Kudos to Wizards for redeeming the character once and for all.
Before we go, please let us know in the comments sections below which is your favorite art among the three versions available (regular, borderless, and showcase)? Which one are you looking to purchase? Personally I will stick with the borderless one. As usual, thank you so much for reading and enjoy the rest of the preview season. Until next time!
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