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Against the Odds: Burning Tibalt

Hello everyone and welcome to episode twelve of Against the Odds. First off, thank you all for voting in last week's poll. After nearly six thousand votes cast, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded ended up the winner by just two percent of the vote!

The biggest surprise from last week's poll was the demise of Zada, Hedron Grinder. After coming in second multiple weeks in a row, sometimes narrowly missing first, Zada drops all the way down to fourth and off the ballot. Meanwhile Retreats in Standard and Eater of Days for Modern come in second and third, respectively. They will be back on this week's poll, while our Legacy option, Didgeridoo, drops off the ballot altogether. 

Anyway, we'll talk more about Burning Tibalt in a minute. First let's get to the videos. Just a quick reminder. If you enjoy Against the Odds and other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Burning Tibalt Intro

Against the Odds: Burning Tibalt Games

The Deck

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In building a Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded deck, the most important thing was to take advantage of his +1 ability. The problem is taking advantage of random looting is much more difficult than normal looting. While I was working on the deck I was struck by just how much better Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded would be if he was printed with the new Red card draw mechanic of discard a card, draw a card, rather than this odd, frustrating randomness. 

Really, there aren't many ways to take advantage of random discard, at least not many that have a reasonable chance of being effective. One possibility is to play Gravecrawlers and Bloodghasts. While this shell could work, it's hard to find other pieces to fit in the deck. The second path, which ended up being the one I chose, was to get spicy with flashback, retrace, and other graveyard spells. 

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Burning Vengeance is such a sweet card, but it's never been quite good enough for constructed. Once it's on the battlefield it offers a free and easy way to take advantage of cards in the graveyard . . . like cards we randomly discard with Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. The difficulty is most flashback cards cost at least three mana to flashback. Winning with some combination of Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded's -4 ability and Burning Vengeance is a long, slow process. Probably too long to be effective in Modern. As such, we need to cheat a bit. 

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At first the idea of including Blood Moon in the deck felt like cheating. After all, you can win some percentage of games off the back of Blood Moon itself. However, after thinking about it for a while, I was able to justify its inclusion. One thing Blood Moon is very good at is keeping opponents from casting spells. One thing Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded wants is an opponent's hand to be full of cards to maximize the damage from his -4 ability. We play four main deck copies of Blood Moon to make Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded better. At least that's my justification. 

In all honesty, Blood Moon slows down the game long enough that our plan of discarding random flashback cards with Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded and flashing them back to do damage with Burning Vengeance has some chance of being effective. If we are lucky we may even win a game every now and then.

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These cards are basically replaceable. While they all provide some sort of advantage, their main purpose is to be discarded by Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Desperate Ravings, Faithless Looting, and Think Twice help us dig through our deck to find copies of Tibalt, Burning Vengeance, or whatever else we might need. It's not so much the impact these cards have when cast, but instead the fact that they are the best options for the discard + flashback plan.

Typically we try to throw as many Burning Vengeance triggers as possible at our opponent's face. In a pinch we can also take down a creature or two. Maybe the best thing about the deck is Flame Jab offers some inevitability. Barring something like Grafdigger's Cage or Relic of Progenitus, we will draw into a Jab and ping our opponent to death. With a Burning Vengeance on the battlefield, Flame Jab becomes a sorcery speed Lightning Bolt, which is an extremely powerful effect that closes out the game much faster that you would think.

The Matchups

Obviously, any deck that scoops to Blood Moon is favorable. This exploit includes a surprising number of Modern decks, from Tron to Amulet Bloom to Slivers. In matches where we don't draw a Blood Moon, our best hope is to run into slow control decks where we can resolve a Burning Vengence or Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded and ride the incremental advantage to victory. Remember, Burning Vengeance triggers when a spell is cast from the graveyard, not when it resolves, offering a uncounterable way to kill things at instant speed. On the other hand, we will probably never beat Mono-Red or Burn. They are simply too fast and Blood Moon doesn't slow them down. Decks that can resolve an early Tarmogoyf or other big threat are problematic. 

The Odds

Amazingly we came up only one game short of winning 50% of the time and actually took down two of the five matches we played. While it's true some of this success is more attributable to Blood Moon than Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded, we did manage to get there with our horrible planeswalker. In one match we dealt 13 damage with his -4 ability. In another match we looted 10 times to find every single copy of Vandalblast to beat Affinity. All in all, I think the odds of winning with this deck is somewhere in the 40% range. However, I would expect that number to fall if we removed Blood Moon

Vote For Next Week's Deck

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Burning Tibalt Poll Closed


Anyway, that's all for today. What other ways are there to build Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded in Modern? Is there any possibility that Burning Vengeance could be a playable card in the format? As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.

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