In Ravnica Allegiance we have what looks to be a hybrid between Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Voice of Resurgence. Like Voice of Resurgence, Tithe Taker incentivizes opponents to cast spells on their own turn instead of on your turn and it leaves behind a body when it dies. Like Thalia, it forces opposing spells to cost more mana (and additionally causes their non-mana abilities to cost more mana) as long as it is your turn. Tithe Taker is also not legendary, which means unlike Thalia you can have multiples on the battlefield simultaneously. Today we're going to look at some possible homes for this powerful new creature in Modern, but first let's add it to the most obvious home in Standard.
There is really one clear home in Standard for Tithe Taker. Fortunately, it is a very good one. One of the big questions when a new set comes out is whether the best deck gets anything to make it better or whether it stays the same while everything else gets better. Fortunately for the white aggro decks, Tithe Taker definitely improves the deck, especially against its control nemesis.
I would play it over Skymarch Aspirant main and over Shalai in the sideboard. It is especially good against Settle the Wreckage, serving essentially the same function as Shalai but for half the mana investment. Cast it the turn the opponent passes with four mana untapped and they will lose the game with Settle the Wreckage stuck in hand. It also is a fine second-turn play because then the opponent won't be able to counter your third-turn History of Benalia. And if the opponent uses a board sweeper, we get a Spirit Token to continue the dirty work. Overall this is a big improvement against a control-heavy metagame or a removal-heavy metagame in general.
Okay, I just wanted to briefly mention some important functions Tithe Taker serves in Standard. Now let's talk about its applications in Modern.
Modern is a much bigger format with many more options than Standard. Tithe Taker definitely fits in a one or two decks and there is a decent chance it also fits into a few other. Let's take a look at what I consider to be the frontrunner decks that stand to gain the most from the inclusion of Tithe Taker.
I would play it over Smuggler's Copter in this deck. Tithe Taker has some nice synergy with Leonin Arbiter and Thalia. Opponents won't be able to ever do anything on your turn, which forces all the action on the opponent's turn. This plays perfectly into our Aether Vial plan. It will allow us to protect our creatures with Flickerwisp or Restoration Angel at opportune times, get opponents with a surprise Leonin Arbiter when they go to crack a fetch, or simply getting our spells to resolve when we need them to resolve (by playing them on our own turn).
It also gives us an extra bit of Staying Power. One of the strategies people employ against D&T is to kill all our creatures with a flurry of targeted removal spells. If we have an active Aether Vial we can often pull ahead by saving our creatures with Flickerwisp. Restoration Angel can also do this even without a Vial. Thraben Inspector and Horizon Canopy all us to keep the action coming, but now with Tithe Taker we have a creature that fits very well into our deck that also continues the pressure even after being hit by a Fatal Push or Lightning Bolt or whatever. The 1/1 token might not seem like much, but D&T is all about getting in chip shot damage while disrupting the opponent. Whether that damage comes from the Human or the Spirit, it's exactly the type of thing this deck wants to do.
Lingering Souls is the one card that is sort of out of place in this style of deck. It costs extra from Thalia on both sides and doesn't really synergize with anything. It's in there mostly just to improve our percentages against grindy decks. Fortunately now we have Tithe Taker, which is also great against most of the those same matchups but this one synergizes better with what the rest of our cards are doing.
Once we get the Eldrazi Displacer going, we want to protect it as best we can. Tithe Taker provides some extra protection, especially in the early stages. It then allows us to target our creatures with the blink ability without threat of having our creature get killed in response. One mana might not seem like much of a tax, but it adds up quickly in conjunction with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and the additional mana people are having to pay with Leonin Arbiter just to crack their fetches. In practice I suspect Tithe Taker will function a lot more like Voice of Resurgence or Grand Abolisher than people realize.
I would play this over Curious Obsession in this build. The two cards serve different functions, but that is okay. We will take the deck in a bit different direction. Tithe Taker makes the deck more proactive and forces the interaction on the opponent's turn, which plays perfectly into our flash mechanic that so many of our spirits have. And if the opponent kills our Tithe Taker, that Spirit Token gets some big bonuses from Drogskol Captain. I think this deck benefits the most from Tithe Taker because it utilizes both abilities of the card so well.
I would play it over Militia Bugler. Instead of trying to play the value game with the Bugler, I think it is better to get more aggro with the Tithe Taker. The difference between a two-drop and a three-drop is huge in this archetype as you will often get stuck on two mana or want to deploy two threats in the same turn. Also the Game Plan of this deck is to apply early pressure on the ground while disrupting the opponent and then finish them off in the air with Kitesail Freebooter and Mantis Rider. The Spirit Token is a welcome addition to this aerial assault and the tax ability of Tithe Taker also ensures that Mantis Rider gets in those first three points of haste damage instead of getting removed immediately.
In this deck I would play it over Knight of the White Orchid. Knight was the weakest card in my testing of this deck, and by increasing the land count to include Horizon Canopy, I don't think we need the Knight anymore. Tithe Taker seems much better for this deck. It is a Human, so it synergizes with Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant. And the tax ability, especially combined with that of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, means that we will know that our Brave the Elements is going to be lethal and that we can therefore go for it instead of having to determine whether it is worth risking getting blown out by a removal spell and left a couple points short of lethal.
It also gives us a bit more reach to finish the game. The token is white (and black), so it gets the bonus from Honor of the Pure. Doomed Traveler wasn't quite good enough in this deck because the front side 1/1 ground body just didn't do enough. Tithe Taker, on the other hand, does plenty for us on the front side. So although the Spirit Token can be utilized quite effectively by this deck, the body of Tithe Taker is much more relevant than that of Doomed Traveler here.
The tax ability when combined with that from Thalia, Guardian of Thraben will likely function very similarly to Grand Abolisher in the sense that opponents just won't be able to do anything on your turn. This I suspect will open up a lot of play patterns for white creature decks in Modern that they previously didn't have access to, given that Grand Abolisher is just not quite powerful enough whereas Tithe Taker is (because of the Spirit Token making it great against removal).
In Green-White Hatebears I think Voice of Resurgence is better overall, so I wouldn't play it in that deck. But in any of these other decks mentioned, I think Tithe Taker earns a spot. It is especially good in Spooky Taxes as that deck really capitalizes on the token due to Drogskol Captain and also really capitalizes on forcing the opponent to interact on their own turn due to all the instant speed interaction of Spooky Taxes. That is probably the best home for Tithe Taker, but I would be surprised if it didn't show up in some of these other lists as well. The card is definitely powerful enough for Standard and very likely powerful enough for Modern.