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Much Abrew: Is Tibalt's Trickery Broken in Modern?

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Tibalt's Trickery has been a major topic of conversation over the past few days, but it has mostly focused on the Standard format, even though Tibalt's Trickery has potential to be even more broken in Modern. If you build your deck in the right way, you can come very close to guaranteeing an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on turn two or three, assuming your opponent doesn't have disruption. Well, today we're going to take Tibalt's Trickery out for a spin in the format and see just how broken it really is. Are more bannings on the horizon, or can cards like Thoughtseize and Force of Negation relegate the combo to third-tier meme status? Let's play a league and find out, then we'll talk more about the deck! 

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Much Abrew: Trickery

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The Deck

All in all, we finished our league 3-2 with Tibalt's Trickery, earning a Treasure Chest and giving the kids a little snack. 

While the record in our league today was fine, in reality Tibalt's Trickery mostly feels like playing matchup roulette. We didn't really play a single traditional game of Magic in our entire league. Every single one of our matchups (with the possible exception of Jeskai Ascendancy Combo) felt over on turn one. Either our opponent was playing a deck that had disruption like Thoughtseize or Force of Negation and we basically have zero chance of winning, or our opponent was playing a deck without those cards and there was almost no way to lose. Yes, in theory, we can lose by mulliganing to zero in search of Violent Outburst, but in reality, we're well over 90% to find Violent Outburst if we are willing to mulligan all the way to one (which we are), so losing to ourselves is pretty unlikely. 

In case you didn't pick it up from the video, this build of Tibalt's Trickery is very much like Zombie Hunt. The gameplan is to mulligan all the way for one to find Violent Outburst (and also to make sure that we don't have our one Tibalt's Trickery in hand, which fizzles the combo). We then cast Violent Outburst which hits Tibalt's Trickery 100% of the time and then Tibalt's Trickery counters Violent Outburst (which is still on the stack) to spin us into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 100% of the time. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn wins us the game very close to 100% of the time when it is cast on turn two or three. 

Of course, the drawback of our plan is that if our opponent does have interaction, we basically lose our only shot at winning with the combo since we only have one Tibalt's Trickery in the deck. In theory, if our opponent has discard-based disruption to take a Violent Outburst, we can use cycling lands to find another copy, but a counterspell on Tibalt's Trickery itself stops the combo for the rest of the game. 

While we kind of have a backup plan of making Zombies with Field of the Dead and/or beating down with our companion Jegantha, the Wellspring, these plans almost never work. We don't have any ramp for Field of the Dead so our first Zombie would come on turn seven at the earliest, which is way too slow to actually matter, and Jegantha, the Wellspring dies to whatever removal is left over in our opponent's hand. While it gets a little better after sideboarding (we can bring in Mutavault and try to attack our opponent to death), winning a game without Trickery into Emrakul is highly unlikely.

As far as other cards in our deck that actually matter to some extent, the two biggest are Gemstone Caverns and Nephalia Academy. If we are on the draw, Gemstone Caverns potentially lets us combo off on turn two (if we are on the play, we can take it out for something like Mutavault or Blast Zone). Meanwhile, Nephalia Academy can protect our Violent Outburst from discard like Thoughtseize, assuming we can get it on the battlefield quickly enough. 

The deck also has a ton of cycling and scry lands, which are mostly an attempt to reassemble the combo through disruption. Oddly, in the early game, we often use scrylands to keep lands on the top of our deck to make sure that we don't accidentally draw Tibalt's Trickery before we cascade into it.

If we do draw Tibalt's Trickery, it isn't the end of the world, but it does slow us down significantly. The plan is to wait until we get to five mana, cast Violent Outburst, and counter it naturally with Tibalt's Trickery to find Emrakul. 

As for the sideboard, I'm not sold on the plan. Mutavault is good for attacking down Teferi, Time Raveler (which stops cascade and thereby the combo) and Blast Zone can potentially answer hate cards like Deafening Silence. As for the two Eldrazi, I have no idea when I would ever sideboard them in. It might be that a build of Tibalt's Trickery with a transformational sideboard plan designed to be good against discard and counters (even if it means sideboarding out the combo) could be better. 

To wrap back around to our original question: is Tibalt's Trickery broken in Modern? The honest answer is I'm still not really sure. As we saw in our league, there are some matches where we are close to 0% to win. On the other hand, there are other matchups where we are very close to 100% to win. In theory, this should mean that the metagame can adjust. Everyone can play Thoughtseize and Force of Negation and Tibalt's Trickery will become bad (or have to try to adapt with a transformational sideboard plan). At the same time, do we really want decks to have to play Thoughtseize and/or Force of Negation (or similar answers) to be able to compete with a polarizing, turn two/three one-card combo deck? I'm not sure. The best-case scenario is that Tibalt's Trickery follows the Gyruda, Doom of Depths path to tier 3.5 meme status. If you play against it 1% of the time, it's fine. On the other hand, if the deck evolves and improves and becomes a legitimate tier 2 (or, god forbid, tier 1) option, then it will probably end up being banned. 

So, should you play Trickery in Modern? I think it's fun and funny for the moment, similar to how Momir or Zombie Hunt are fun in small doses, but it's going to get old really fast whether you are playing the deck or playing against it. Thanks to the matchup roulette nature and polarized matchups, it's super possible that you go 5-0 through a league in about 30 minutes if you hit the good matchups, but it's just as possible that you go 0-5 if you hit the bad ones. While I wouldn't want to spend a bunch of money on the deck because there are only two possible outcomes (the deck is bad, or the deck is good and then it gets banned), if you do the loan program thing on MTGO, it's worth borrowing and taking out for a spin just to experience the absurdity.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinons, and suggestions in the comments, or you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at

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