As The Lost Caverns of Ixalan spoilers continue to be revealed, there are a few cards in particular that have caught our attention. Recently, we talked about a cool Exploring Vampire that had the ability to combo with Wildgrowth Walker. From intriguing combo pieces to strange win conditions, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has certainly showcased some fascinating cards.
While these combo pieces and alternate win conditions may act as a brewer’s paradise, they may not be as impactful in the competitive scene as some other spoilers. So far, there doesn’t appear to be too many cards with major implications in non-rotating Constructed formats. That being said, there are a few worth keeping an eye out for.
One of these cards is a unique Merfolk Wizard that has massive multi-format potential. It interacts quite favorably with a number of Modern’s most powerful cards. The card in question is Tishana’s Tidebinder. Does this powerful Creature have what it takes to revitalize the Merfolk archetype in Modern? Could it help keep overpowered cards like The One Ring in check? Let’s take a closer look at exactly what Tishana’s Tidebinder does and in what situations it shines brightest.
Nimble Obstructionist 2.0
For three mana, you get access to a 3/2 with Flash that can counter an activated or triggered ability at minimum. On rate, this is already quite strong. Compare this to a card like Nimble Obstructionist. Nimble Obstructionist has popped up from time to time in Modern, but generally isn’t quite good enough by today’s standards. This is especially true as power creep has transformed the landscape of the Modern format.
It’s not like there aren’t solid activated or triggered abilities to counter, either. Given how popular Evoke Elementals from Modern Horizons Two (like Fury, for example), Primeval Titan, and Cascade spells like Shardless Agent are, this effect can definitely be powerful. Yet, three mana is a lot to pay, and there are generally better options. So why would Tishana’s Tidebinder be a lot more appealing?
First of all, in order to counter an activated or triggered ability with Nimble Obstructionist, you have to Cycle it for three mana. While you do get to draw a card, you aren’t directly impacting the board in a proactive manner. If you play Nimble Obstructionist proactively, then you don’t get the benefits of countering an ability.
Tishana’s Tidebinder gives you the best of both worlds. Not only do you get a solid piece of interaction, but you also advance your presence on the battlefield. For decks like Modern Merfolk, this is extremely important. However, the biggest reason Tishana’s Tidebinder is in the spotlight is because there is more to the card than that.
Beating Modern’s Best Cards
Unlike Nimble Obstructionist, Tishana’s Tidebinder does much more than just counter one activated or triggered ability. Once you successfully counter an ability of a Creature, Artifact or Planeswalker, that permanent loses all abilities for as long as Tishana’s Tidebinder remains in play. In the current Modern metagame, this is simply unbelievable. Take the example of preventing Primeval Titan for searching for Lands when Tidebinder enters the battlefield. Well, now you take away Primeval Titan’s attack ability as well, leaving the opponent with a vanilla 6/6 in play.
Tidebinder is exceptional in a variety of combo matchups that Nimble Obstructionist wouldn’t be. One of the biggest examples is when playing against Yawgmoth combo. Let’s say your opponent sacrifices one of two copies of Young Wolf in play to Yawgmoth with the intention of drawing a bunch of cards. You can respond by countering the ability that puts a -1/-1 counter on a Creature and draws your opponent a card. Then, as long as this ability resolves with Tishana in play, Yawgmoth is no longer a concern.
As Modern Merfolk aficionado Nikachu points out, Tidebinder also interacts very favorably against The One Ring. Not only do you prevent your opponent from gaining Protection from everything for a turn cycle, allowing you to attack freely with your squad, but the ability to draw cards with it gets shut off.
The advantage of shutting off other abilities of permanents is extremely strong, and Tidebinder even gets to shut off Planeswalkers! When your opponent casts Wrenn and Six or Karn, the Great Creator, you get to counter the first activation, effectively blanking the Planeswalker for as long as Tidebinder remains in play. Between Planeswalkers, Yawgmoth, The One Ring, Cascade variants, and Fury decks like Rakdos Scam, it’s incredible how many top decks in the format Tidebinder successfully interacts with. It’s clear that Tidebinder is strong, but what decks will best utilize the card?
Shells for Tishana’s Tidebinder
The most obvious shell for Tishana’s Tidebinder is Modern Merfolk. As a Creature-centric, proactive yet still interactive strategy, Tidebinder is a perfect addition to the deck. It also works exceptionally well with Aether Vial, which allows you to put Tidebinder into play for free. Cards like Vodalian Hexcatcher and Force of Negation can help protect Tidebinder against opposing removal spells outside of Solitude when necessary.
Merfolk isn’t the only place where Tidebinder can shine, though. In Izzet Wizards in Modern, Tidebinder seems like a great addition. This deck primarily acts at Instant speed, playing like a control deck built to maximize Flame of Anor. Tidebinder is a Wizard in addition to a Merfolk, meaning it synergizes nicely with Flame of Anor, too. It also answers problematic permanents, including Planeswalkers, that would otherwise be difficult to beat once resolved.
Outside of Modern, there’s still potential for this card to see play. In Pioneer, getting to blank Esika’s Chariot or shut down Greasefang, Okiba Boss is powerful. Tidebinder also works well at turning off Storm triggers in Legacy. The key is finding a home for Tidebinder. Perhaps The Lost Caverns of Ixalan will give rise to a decent Merfolk deck in Pioneer with the additions of Cavern of Souls and efficient Creatures like Cenote Scout. One thing is for certain, though, and that is that Tishana’s Tidebinder is an elite piece of interaction worth consideration in multiple Constructed formats.