When it was revealed that the planeswalker Tibalt would be featured in Magic the Gathering’s Kaldheim set, I’m not sure many people expected him to be featured on a modal double faced card. Not only is this the best Tibalt planeswalker card by far, but he even masquerades as a two mana black Legendary God creature. Considering that Tibalt, Fiend Blooded is considered one of the worst planeswalker cards in Magic, and his appearance in War of the Spark showed up as a sideboard card, the Cosmic Imposter doesn’t have to be brilliant to be the best of the three.
First, we’ll look at his legendary creature side. Valki has a very good ability straightaway: when he enters the battlefield, each opponent reveals their hand. You then exile a creature card from each opponent’s hand until Valki leaves the battlefield. That’s powerful enough, but Valki has a second ability allowing you to pay X where X is the converted mana cost of a creature exiled with Valki. If you do, Valki becomes a copy of that creature. As a method of early hand disruption it’s good enough, but this means Valki is relevant as the game progresses, as well.
Magic players generally seemed excited about this side of the card being good, but the Tibalt planeswalker side of the card is where people get much more mixed feelings. Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor costs a whopping seven mana to cast (5 generic, one Black, and one Red). The argument is that he doesn’t affect the board immediately, besides putting an Emblem into play. However, are people selling him short?
The Emblem that Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor puts into play says that “You may play cards exiled with Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, and you may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to cast those spells.” Considering that all three of the Cosmic Impostor’s abilities exile cards, that’s pretty solid. Keep that emblem in mind as we examine each of Tibalt’s abilities.
The first ability adds two loyalty counters and exiles a card from the top of each player’s library. The second ability costs three loyalty counters to exile a target artifact or creature. Considering that Tibalt comes into play with five loyalty counters, that’s not too bad. Then, his “ultimate” ability costs eight loyalty counters, which exiles all cards from all graveyards then gives you three Red mana.
It’s fairly unlikely we will ever see that third loyalty ability ever come into play, since he will become a target as soon as he comes into play. If he does survive long enough for you to activate it, though, you could get a lot of interesting cards to play. In fact, it’s quite possible for this ultimate to activate if he’s played in a Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider deck that’s built around doubling the loyalty counters on planeswalkers when they come into play. So, even considering the potential of that ultimate ability, the general consensus of this Tibalt planeswalker seems fair: he’s fun and can do interesting things, but since his abilities entirely depend on what your opponents have, they’re extremely high-variance.
The trouble I see with Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor is his floor. Seven mana to exile a creature or artifact isn’t what you want to invest seven mana to do, especially as it then makes Tibalt extremely easy to kill. The plus-two ability is pretty good, as you’re essentially drawing two cards, one from your library and one from your opponent’s. What really needs to be the focus for this Tibalt is the emblem. Notice that it doesn’t say anything about Tibalt needing to be in play and there’s no time limit on when those cards can be cast or played.
Now, I’m not saying that Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor is a great planeswalker. In your typical one-on-one game, he doesn’t at all seem worth the mana investment, especially if you’re hitting lands with his plus ability. However, that’s the beauty of MDFC’s (Modal Double-Faced Cards). Valki, God of Lies seems good enough to play already. Even if you very rarely take advantage of Tibalt’s planeswalker side, the option is there.
Valki, God of Lies & Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor in Competitive Play
There are a couple things that need to happen for Valki to see much competitive play, however. First off, there need to be creatures that Valki would want to become a copy of at all. Depriving your opponent of their best creature is probably good enough, but it’s not going to be good in every matchup. Still, permanently becoming a copy of that card seems good enough, especially in the later turns of the game.
The second thing has to do with his planeswalker mode. Personally, I thought Tibalt, Cosmic was simply too much mana for what he does, and while what he does is extremely cool, it’s extremely dependent on what you manage to hit with his ability. On paper, it seems an extremely inefficient way to deal with problem creatures and artifacts. But, in practice, the Cosmic Impostor has turned out to be well worth the seven-mana investment.
For a time, there was also the fact that double-faced cards had an interesting interaction with the Cascade mechanic. Cascade sees Valki, God of Lies as a two-mana card, of course, but previously the ruling was that when he’s cast without paying his mana cost, you get to choose either side. This means with a deck like Jund, which plays Bloodbraid Elf, the four-mana Elf can essentially cast a seven-mana planeswalker. With Living End decks, which plays two Cascade cards in Violent Outburst and Demonic Dread to Cascade the deck’s namesake card, you get a second option to Cascade into which is probably worth it in some matchups.
Unfortunately for Valki/Tibalt, Wizards quickly realized that being able to Cascade into the planeswalker side was a bit too powerful. All over Modern, the Cosmic Impostor’s true power began to shine. So, the Cascade ruling was changed to only allow the front side of a double faced card to be played.
Still, Valki/Tibalt has become fairly good in Standard, where Cascade didn’t exist anyway. Even Valki proved that his ability to turn into a Bonecrusher Giant, Questing Beast, Lovestruck Beast or other aggressively costed big body can be rather useful. It’s also neat to have an opponent spend their turn putting their Companion (such as the popular Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Yorion, Sky Nomad) into their hand, just to watch Valki nab it. Then, his planeswalker side offers a serious card advantage engine in the late game. Being able to potentially steal your opponent’s best threat or an important card from the top of their deck can’t be understated.
Valki / Tibalt in Commander
There’s somewhere that Valki/Tibalt will always find a home, and that is in Commander decks. Right away, Valki allows you to build a Red/Black deck of his own, thanks to his color identity being decided by Tibalt. You then have the option of casting not only Valki, but potentially Tibalt when the time is right. The true power of Valki and Tibalt are both realized when there’s more than one opponent. If you’re hitting three opponents at once, Valki suddenly offers a great deal more value for just two mana to start. You can really slow down a table if you’re hitting your opponents’ best early creatures on turn two.
Then, as the game progresses, you can pick your spot to drop your Commander on his planeswalker side. In your typical Commander game, Tibalt is exiling four cards at once, and not two. Suddenly, you’re dealing with a far more potent card. You’re essentially drawing four cards, rather than two. Seven mana to draw four cards in red and black is not bad at all, especially as you gain access to cards you wouldn’t otherwise be able to cast.
So, it’s fair to speculate if Valki slash Tibalt was designed towards being more friendly to Commander than your standard Magic formats. Wizards of the Coast does design cards with Commander in mind, of course, as it’s become the most popular way to play Magic. It’s also fair to recognize that Valki slash Tibalt will be a bomb in Limited. Even the planeswalker side becomes more relevant when you’re playing only 40 or so cards in your deck rather than 60.
Valki, God of Lies could be a sneaky good card, especially as a tempo play punishing your opponent for keeping a hand they probably shouldn’t have. Also, Valki continues to be good even later in the game, unlike many two-drops. I don’t know that you ever really cast him as Tibalt unless the situation calls for it, such as one creature beating you down or there’s a key artifact propping up your opponent’s strategy. The option to have him as a planeswalker is probably enough to warrant his mythic rare status, even if the individual sides don’t appear to be mythic worthy in and of themselves.
Is Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor a good planeswalker by himself? He’s very inefficient and while he has a way to essentially draw you cards, it’s extremely dependent on what you end up hitting. But, Valki, God of Lies offers enough potential value in disrupting an opponent’s hand in all phases of the game that even having the option of that planeswalker is just a nice bonus. Still, your best bet for this card is playing him in a deck that can use his ultimate ability right away (Doubling Season or Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider) or can Cascade into him for amazing value.
How would you play Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor?
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