I was playing in the Finnish Championships of MtG this last weekend. Didn’t go too well, but first of the two drafts did go swimmingly. Being at 1-2 after the first three standard rounds, I knew I probably need to spike this thing to have any hope and a middling draft wouldn’t do anything for me, I went for a very greedy plan. I first-picked Anguished Unmaking, then got passed a Drogskol Cavalry (an excellent card, even if it doesn’t look like it in the beginning), and then a Triskaidekaphobia, twice.
So, the people I talked to about this card had wildly differing opinions on this card. Some thought I was crazy, others thought it was great. I didn’t actually know, but my plan was to take a risk here, so I went with it and recorded a double-Triskaidekaphobia on the decklist.
Well, sometimes it was very good, at other times, not so much. Sometimes it was a dead card in my hand, other times it would win the game for me, but not in the way you’d think.
Besides the four cards mentioned above, my deck was just a good curve of mostly white creatures and a pretty good selection of removal, plus one True-Faith Censer to go with my all my humans, especially my triple Militant Inquisitor (I think the key to this format is playing a bunch of synergies in the deck). So, putting someone at or near 13 fast wasn’t a problem.
However, the true value of the ‘Phobia was forcing my opponents to play in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.
One opponent had to play out of curve to play a Graf Mole and get a clue, but since I had plenty of removal, he was just able to buy one more turn with it. Next he had to sac his Briarbridge Patrol to an Angelic Purge in order to destroy the ‘Phobia, leaving him open to my attacks… only to be able to raise his defenses again at three life, only to see me play another ‘Phobia.
Actually, his reactions were pretty funny, because first his shoulders slumped, then he was elated when he saw he was at so low a lifetotal and the ‘Phobia couldn’t possibly get him to 13, but when I told him he’d still die in three turns max, his shoulders slumped again.
Of course, here’s another fun part. When I saw he had at least two answers in the main deck and would probably bring in more from the sideboard, I sided the ‘Phobias out. He could have metagamed me and not do it, but that wouldn’t have been a big problem for me, as I was able to bring pretty good cards in from the sideboard anyhow. However, I could see that he wasn’t going to take chance with it and just didn’t want to lose to the ‘Phobia, so he might very well be sitting there with a Root Out or something similar, with no real targets (well, except for the True-Faith Censer, but you don’t necessarily want to use your answer to your greatest fear on a random equipment card).
Besides that match, the ‘Phobia would make people do quite poor attacks when trying to force me to 13 or close to it in desperation. I would side the ‘Phobias out quite often. If the opponent was playing red, for example, I didn’t want to risk being burned to 13, but all in all it was a fun experiment. It performed pretty well on average, but the ceiling and the floor were very far apart. I’m not even sure I’d ever play it again, but we’ll see. It is a rare, so getting double of it ever again seems pretty unlikely.
… and now on to the side event…
I wanted to bring this up quickly, because this is why I love SOI limited. Not this card, precisely, but how these seemingly innocuous cards overperform if in the right deck.
In the second draft I was playing a much weaker green-black delirium deck (I went 1-2, pretty much forcing me out of the tournament). I did have some bombs, like The Gitrog Monster and a Soul Swallower, but I felt my creature quality was on the low side and I didn’t have much removal.
However, Shamble Back definitely overperformed. In one game, I was getting behind on board, with my opponent gaining a bunch of counters from Thalia’s Lieutenant, putting me on back foot. He had attacked the previous turn and dealt me 11 damage, putting me to 9. That wasn’t good. However, I hadn’t made any chump blocks and I still had Watcher in the Web to buy me time and both Kindly Stranger and Soul Swallower just waiting there for Delirium.
… and then I top-decked the Shamble Back. Not only did it give me Delirium, it provided me with two extra points of life and a 2/2 blocker, changing the situation completely. Suddenly, I wasn’t on the backfoot, but this one mana sorcery suddenly made the game into a race, when my Soul Swallower began to grow.
So, don’t discount these cards. You never know how well they might work in a very specific deck. (Okay, you can freely discount Chaplain’s Blessing.)