Largely since the release of Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, Modern has seen a select few decks dominate the format over that span. Unsurprisingly, at the top of that list, is Rakdos Scam. For as long as the combination of Grief and Fury alongside effects like Not Dead After All continue to be around, this deck will almost certainly be an excellent choice.
Shortly after the release of Lord of the Rings, Cascade decks built around Up the Beanstalk began emerging thanks to the release of Wilds of Eldraine. For the past month or so, these two decks have seemed like the best performing decks in the format. Of course, there were still plenty of other decks players chose to play instead. Even if they weren’t quite as dominant, decks like Amulet Titan, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo, mono-green Tron, and Crashing Footfalls Cascade still played a significant role in the metagame.
Speaking of Crashing Footfalls, though, since the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, the archetype appears to be making a bit of a resurgence. Part of the reason for this is because of the introduction of a very powerful Merfolk Wizard into the mix. Tishana’s Tidebinder has spiked from roughly $4 to $16 over the last five days, largely due to its impact in Modern. Primarily, it’s helping Crashing Footfalls players shore up some weaknesses that the deck traditionally faces.
Why Tishana’s Tidebinder Shines in Crashing Footfalls
What’s rather interesting about this addition is that, back when Tidebinder was initially spoiled, the card saw a lot of hype. However, many players, including myself, primarily focused on the card’s potential to give rise to Modern Merfolk or Izzet Wizard control. For Izzet Wizards, Tidebinder was another powerful Wizard threat with Flash that could help maximize the power of Flame of Anor. In Merfolk, Tidebinder works exceptionally well with Aether Vial, which can let you put Tidebinder into play for free at some point.
At least for the time being, though, the shell that Tidebinder is making the biggest impact in is Crashing Footfalls. Part of the reason, for sure, is that Crashing Footfalls was already a better performing deck than Merfolk or Wizards, regardless of whether Tidebinder was a natural fit for Crashing Footfalls decks or not. The reality is, though, that Tidebinder plays exceptionally well specifically in the Crashing Footfalls deck.
As we will see later, there are a ton of good cards to blank with Tidebinder’s abilities. However, this doesn’t mean that Tidebinder is necessarily going to shine in just any blue deck. Izzet Murktide Regent decks are rarely playing the card anyway. What makes Tidebinder good in Rhinos is that it naturally matches the deck’s play patterns super well.
First, the deck is restricted to playing interaction with mana value three or greater to not mess with Cascading into Crashing Footfalls. Second, this deck plays a ton at Instant speed on turn three with Violent Outburst. Because of the threat of Violent Outburst, many opponents will feel pressured to play cards to the board, giving you the option to either cast Tidebinder if it’s disruptive or Violent Outburst to add extra pressure to the board.
Finally, the fact that Tidebinder is a blue card to pitch to Force of Negation or Subtlety out of the Crashing Footfalls deck is a big bonus. In matchups where Tidebinder isn’t super impactful, it still has this added utility, allowing you to essentially free roll Tidebinder in your maindeck.
Countering Activated or Triggered Abilities
The reality is, though, that Tidebinder is excellent against a lot of the top strategies out there. First, it is extremely strong against Cascade variants, including the mirror. Tidebinder can counter any activated or triggered ability that isn’t a mana ability. So, if your opponent casts Shardless Agent, you can respond with Tidebinder and completely shut off their ability to Cascade into something powerful.
Against Colossus Hammer decks, if your opponent goes to cast Colossus Hammer with Sigarda’s Aid in play, you can completely blow them out by countering the triggered ability from Sigarda’s Aid that allows Colossus Hammer to become attached to a Creature for free. Additionally, because chapters associated with Sagas are also triggered abilities, you can respond and essentially shut off one of the chapters of Urza’s Saga.
Notably, if you respond to Urza’s Saga’s second chapter ability that enables the Saga to make Constructs, Urza’s Saga will not be able to make Constructs the next turn either. Of course, you can also respond to the third chapter and prevent your opponent from searching for something problematic.
When playing against Tidebinder, you need to be careful about sequencing your Fetchlands. Because they require an activation to search for Lands from your deck, countering this ability with Tidebinder can do a solid Stone Rain impression. In some instances, too, Tidebinder can be used to make you own cards better.
For example, let’s say you Evoke Fury as the Crashing Footfalls player. You now can stack your Evoke trigger and trigger to deal four damage to opposing Creatures in a way to let the four damage ability resolve first. From there, you can respond to Fury’s Evoke trigger with Tidebinder, countering the trigger and leaving you with a free 3/3 in play. It won’t have Double Strike while Tidebinder is in play, but this is still a nice option to have.
Removing Abilities Long-Term
Obviously, all of the options described earlier make Tidebinder very strong in a handful of situations. What really sets it over the top, though, is that it can remove abilities from permanents long-term. As long as you counter the ability of an Artifact, Creature, or Planeswalker, that permanent loses all abilities for as long as Tidebinder remains on the battlefield. This helps shore up the Amulet Titan matchup dramatically.
Against Amulet of Vigor, once your opponent plays a Land that enters the battlefield tapped, you can counter Amulet’s ability that would untap that Land. From then on, that copy of Amulet of Vigor has no abilities, rendering the card relatively useless. Against Primeval Titan, you can counter its enters-the-battlefield effect. For as long as Tidebinder is in play, your opponent’s scary Primeval Titan is now just a vanilla 6/6, which isn’t too threatening.
If the opponent plays The One Ring, you can counter the “Protection from everything” ability, thereby shutting off your opponent’s chances to draw extra cards with it. This comes up a lot against mono-green Tron, which is another matchup that Tidebinder helps with immensely. Any Planeswalker that the Tron player plays will be rather ineffective in the face of Tidebinder. For instance, if the opponent casts Karn, the Great Creator and uses its -2 ability, you can prevent your opponent from grabbing a payoff from their sideboard. With Tidebinder in play, your opponent can’t activate loyalty abilities of Karn on future turns.
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Helping Your Core Gameplan
Tidebinder even stops a handful of cards that would otherwise get rid of your Rhinos in play from Crashing Footfalls to slow you down immensely. Cards like Oblivion Stone and Engineered Explosives could normally deal with your board of Rhino tokens. However, if your opponent goes to sacrifice either of those cards while you have three mana available, you can cast Tidebinder and keep your board around.
Earlier, we mentioned the fact that, because Tidebinder is a Wizard, it works nicely with Flame of Anor. Well, Flame of Anor was already a nice piece of interaction that helped this deck beat the likes of Chalice of the Void or Drannith Magistrate. With Tidebinder in the mix, the card gets even better, letting you choose a second mode, such as drawing two cards, at little cost.
The fact that all this utility comes stapled to a three-power Creature with Flash is extremely powerful. It’s no wonder the card has spiked so significantly in price. It’s amazing how much this small addition to the deck helps improve a wide variety of matchups for the Crashing Footfalls deck.