Blog Elemental – Standard Tribal Wars: Azorius Spirits

With Standard Tribal Wars now up and running, JMS takes a look at the Kamigawa-centric Spirit tribe, with particular reference to the Blue and White monsters. The Spirit pool is huge – touching U/W is merely one avenue of attack – but Jay shares his decklist and runs through a bevy of matchups in this new and exciting casual format.

I honestly didn’t know how folks would respond to my last article about Standard Tribal Wars. I feared that maybe people who were still mad at Tribal moving to Standard would shout me down, or that Tribal diehards would tell me how little I understood the format, or – worst of all – there would be no response whatsoever.

Instead, I got a nice groundswell of people as geeked as me over the revamped Tribal. Chris Millar is among those interested, and has reportedly made over twenty decks so far. At this moment, I have hope that there will actually be people to play and that I’ll see an interesting, diverse set of decks based on creature type. The trick will be if interest stays high, especially after a few sanctioned events in which people port decks like Heartbeat, Ghost Dad, and Ghost Husk into Tribal. So far, though, let’s say that I’m cautiously optimistic.

Now it’s time to turn that cautious optimism into a deck or two.

Last time, I broke all of the tribes available in Standard into eight categories:

The Big Two (Spirits and Humans, the most populous tribes)
Tribal Nations (big tribes with lots of options)
Tribes For Hire (medium-sized tribes)
Wildcards (small, but still respectably-sized tribes)
Underdogs (small tribes with few options)
Tribes Of Five (tribes with the minimum number of creatures available to make a deck)
The Endangered List (almost-but-not-quite-legal tribes)
The Extinct List (far from legal)

I don’t expect these categories to catch on as common parlance, but for me they break up the overall tribes list into groups that I can both get my mind around and which inspire me to build decks. For that reason, I’m sure to use these labels in future articles.

My intention, of course, is to eventually make decks from all six of the legal categories, bouncing around from category to category for variety’s sake. The problem as I sat down to write this article was that I was flummoxed on how to begin. I mean, look at all of those untouched deck possibilities… It was like standing before the gate to the Playboy Mansion; I wanted to rush in and start the fun, but I also felt the need to appreciate this precious, anticipatory moment.

Okay, moment over. I gotta get in there.

After much angst and hand-wringing, I decided that I would start symbolically with an ode to the biggest tribe: Spirits.

As I said last time, Spirits are everywhere in today’s Standard, spanning all five colors and providing a near limitless supply of possible decks. At this moment in time, you might say that kami are winning the Kami War. It’s freaky to think about this world, in which Humans are common but ghosts and weird netherworldly beings are more common. Because Ghost Husk, Ghost Dad, and Heartbeat can pretty easily move from tournament powerhouse to Spirit Tribal deck, I’m guessing that Spirit decks will be rampant for quite awhile.

(Of course, I won’t be making those tourney-turned-Tribal decks, today or ever. For me, a deck isn’t worth playing if I haven’t handcrafted it.)

When confronted with a tribe that spans all five colors and which contains a plethora of options, it would be my natural instinct to make monocolored Spirit decks in all five colors to see what I learn. I often take this same approach when building around a single card: building five decks with a base in each of the five colors in order to find out what each color has to offer my chosen card. The principle is the same in Tribal: if I have the luxury of a large tribe, it’s worth trying several decks to see which style I most enjoy.

Ravnica Block has messed up this approach. Standard is swimming with gold cards, so monocolored approaches are unnecessarily limiting and don’t really test each color’s strengths and weaknesses. Now, instead of five different decks, it makes more sense to make ten decks representing each of the two-color pairs. That’s crazy talk, though: I’m going to make ten different Spirits decks just as a way of exploring the tribe?

You bet your bippy I am.

Spirits in White and Blue

Today I’m starting with Azorius, or White/Blue, Spirits. Why Azorius? Honestly, a lot has to do with the fact that it’s first alphabetically of the guilds and in Dissension, Magic Online’s newest expansion. Lame but true. I also happen to like White/Blue creature decks for some reason. The Solution, for example, is still one of my all-time favorite decks that someone else built.

So, how do I make a Tribal Wars deck? First step is picking the tribe (and in this case, colors). Check. Second step is figuring out what twenty creatures of that tribe will make up the nucleus of the deck.

Here are the Spirits from which to choose in pre-Coldsnap Standard for a White/Blue deck. To make the list a bit easier to peruse, I’ve italicized the cards I would probably consider first, either because they’re awesome or because they make me happy. This isn’t to say that the non-italicized cards won’t have a place in many different decks, but they would probably make the cut because of deck synergies rather than their own innate goodness. Also note that this is a list specific for White/Blue Spirit decks. Azorius Herald is pretty awful in a, for example, Boros Spirit deck.

One-mana Spirits: Dreamcatcher; Drowned Rusalka; Teardrop Kami; Wandering Ones; Ghost-Lit Redeemer; Kami of False Hope; Lantern Kami; Martyred Rusalka.

Two-mana Spirits: Floating-Dream Zubera; Ghost-Lit Warder; Guardian of Solitude; Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch; Ghost Warden; Kami of Ancient Law; Kami of the Crescent Moon; Kataki, War’s Wage; Shape Stealer; Silent-Chant Zubera; Tallowisp.

Three-mana Spirits: Azorius Herald; Benevolent Ancestor; Callous Deceiver; Drift of Phantasms; Hunted Phantasm; Kabuto Moth; Kami of Twisted Reflection; Kira, Great Glass-Spinner; Nikko-Onna; River Kaijin; Shinen of Stars’ Light; Soulsworn Jury; Stoic Ephemera; Twilight Drover; Waxmane Baku.

Four-mana Spirits: Aurora Eidolon; Blinking Spirit; Celestial Kirin; Chisei, Heart of Oceans; Dancing Scimitar; Enigma Eidolon; Guardian of the Guildpact; Harsh Deceiver; Hokori, Dust Drinker; Kami of Old Stone; Moonlit Strider; Rushing-Tide Zubera; Sandsower; Secretkeeper; Shimmering Glasskite.

Five-mana Spirits: Belfry Spirit; Cloudhoof Kirin; Hikari, Twilight Guardian; Horizon Seed; Hundred-Talon Kami; Innocence Kami; Kami of Tattered Shoji; Kami of the Painted Road; Kiri-Onna; Kiyomaro, First to Stand; Quillmane Baku; Shinen of Flight’s Wings; Teller of Tales; Torii Watchward.

Six-mana Spirits: Ethereal Usher; Jetting Glasskite; Kami of the Palace Fields; Keiga, the Tide Star; Patron of the Kitsune; Sire of the Storm; Soramaro, First to Dream; Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar; Yosei, the Morning Star; Zephyr Spirit.

High-cost Spirits: Ghosts of the Innocent; Kami of the Honored Dead; Myoijin of Cleansing Fire; Myoijin of Seeing Winds; Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens; Patron of the Moon; The Unspeakable; Yomiji, Who Bars the Way.

In addition, here are a batch of White/Blue cards that either make Spirit tokens or somehow work well in a Spirit deck: Aether Shockwave; Baku Altar; Callous Jushi; Faithful Squire; Genju of the Falls; Genju of the Fields; Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Rekei; Jade Idol; Long-Forgotten Gohei; Promise of Bunrei; Ribbons of the Rekei; Slumbering Tora; Spiritual Visit; Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang.

To me, there are two Spirits that go into every White/Blue deck no matter what strategy I pursue:

Kami of Ancient Law

It’s efficient in terms of what stats you get for your mana, and it has a highly useful effect. Few people, I think, would question why Kami of Ancient Law should go in a deck. The question is whether it’s as useful in Tribal Wars as basic Standard, and my guess is that it’s even more useful thanks to Auras like Blanchwood Armor and annoying anti-attack cards like Ghostly Prison and Glare of Subdual.

Azorius Herald

Three mana for a 2/1 isn’t very impressive, but the fact that it’s unblockable in a creature-based format is huge, plus the four life cushion is an incredibly good deal. White/Blue decks have a lot of defensive options, so Azorius Herald makes a solid win condition. Essentially, whether I’m behind on the board or ahead, I’ll probably be very glad to draw a Herald.

Now, scanning the rest of the list, I see at least four decks that sound cool but that I won’t be making today. The first is a White/Blue weenie deck using Lantern Kami, a bunch of two-cost Spirits, Ninja of the Deep Hours, and Glorious Anthem. To me, this is the most obvious Spirit deck in White/Blue, so of course it’s the one I least want to make.

A second option is to go the other extreme and focus on high-quality fatties. Yosei, Keiga, and Patron of the Kitsune can take over games, especially when coupled with ways of slowing the game down like Ghostly Prison and Wrath of God. I’m not really in the mood to play a control deck my first foray into Standard Tribal, unfortunately.

There’s a milling deck to be made in White/Blue Spirits, using Cloudhoof Kirin, Enigma Eidolon, Dampen Thought, Candles’ Glow, Kami of False Hope, and other defensive Spirit and/or Arcane cards. This deck is interesting and unique, but it sort of makes me nauseous to consider.

Finally, the deck that I’m not making that sounds fun is an Aura-based deck using Auratouched Mage, Tallowisp, Flight of Fancy, lots of Spirits, and I’m not sure what else. I’m guessing that this deck would turn out challenging to build, but the payoff would be huge if I ever found the right collection of cards. I may come back to this idea if there’s a killer White or Blue Aura in Coldsnap.

Today, though, I’m going for a more staid approach, somewhere between the weenie and fattie strategies. I know that eight of my twenty Spirits will be Kami of Ancient Law and Azorius Herald. The other Spirit that seems too solid not to use is Waxmane Baku. Even if I don’t include Arcane cards, the Baku should collect enough counters to massively frustrate any deck that’s trying to use the combat phase to win.

With Azorius Herald and Waxmane Baku, I’m guessing that my games may take awhile to finish. In this case, I want to include some of those juicy high-end Spirits in my deck. As a starting point, I’ll throw in two Yosei, the Morning Star and two Keiga, the Tide Star. My deck looks to be based in White, so the casting cost of these two fellows is perfect (Keiga being more splashable).

Since I’m using Dragons, I’m now invested in my games going long. Of the remaining options, I really like Soulsworn Jury to give me defense and help control the game. The Jury is a great example of a card that probably never makes it into a Standard deck yet looks solid in Tribal. I know that all of my opponents will use at least twenty creatures, so it’s unlikely that a defender will be a dead card. And, since the Jury has a built-in Remove Soul ability, I know it will never be dead against my opponent’s deck. Like Azorius Herald, it’s also one of those cards that is uniquely Azorius, so I’m excited to give it a try.

I may add more Spirits later, but here is the nucleus of my first Standard Tribal deck:

4 Kami of Ancient Law
4 Azorius Herald
4 Soulsworn Jury
4 Waxmane Baku
2 Keiga, the Tide Star
2 Yosei, the Morning Star

What would be your first twenty Azorius Spirits? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Speak up in the Forums, please. I’m obviously not writing this article to win you any tournaments, so it’s more of a case study, a window into one (casual, but experienced) deckbuilder’s point of view. Part of the benefit of reading this article is to see that point of view, but an equally – and perhaps greater – benefit comes in the Forums where we can all discuss the various choices available to White/Blue Spirits. You’ll see that in all of my Tribal articles, I’ll be essentially pleading with you to discuss my choices in the Forums.

Support Cards in White and Blue

Let’s assume, as a starting point, that I’ll have twenty-four land in my deck (I often start with twenty-four land initially and adjust through playtesting, unless it’s clearly a control or beatdown deck). That leaves me roughly sixteen cards for my deck.

The first question I have to answer at this point is how much I want to support Waxmane Baku. Right now every card will put a counter on him, but to continue this trend I’m either using sixteen additional Spirits or dipping into Arcane cards. The problem is that the non-Spirit, non-Arcane support cards in White and Blue appear to be a lot stronger than their counterparts. I think Waxmane Baku is terrific, but I’m not willing to dilute the rest of my deck for him. If I see opportunities to help him out I will, but I’m not going to go out of my way to do so.

Given the midgame-ness of my deck, I think Faith’s Fetters is a no-brainer. It shuts down scary attackers; it gives me a solution to most Artifacts and cards like Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree; and it pads my life for a longer game. I see absolutely no reason to use less than four copies in my deck.

The other really powerful card for the style of deck I’m using is Azorius Guildmage. It’s not a Spirit, sure, but its tapping ability complements Waxmane Baku, and its Blue ability turns out to be relevant in all sort of surprising situations. In addition, it’s another Grizzly Bear, which means I should be able to apply some pressure and win a game even if my Dragons never show up.

The only problem at this point is how mana-intensive my deck is looking. The cards themselves don’t cost much, but it looks like I always want to be holding back two mana for Soulsworn Jury, one for Waxmane Baku, three or more for Azorius Guildmage, or all of the above. I need to keep an eye on my first several games to see how problematic these requirements are.

With so much mana swimming around, it would be nice to have a low-cost spell or two in there. Condemn is a card whose value is huge in Tribal Wars and will help me keep mana open for my activation costs, so it fits right into the deck.

That leaves me with this deck so far…

4 Kami of Ancient Law
4 Azorius Guildmage
4 Azorius Herald
4 Soulsworn Jury
4 Waxmane Baku
2 Keiga, the Tide Star
2 Yosei, the Morning Star

4 Condemn
4 Faith’s Fetters

I feel pretty good about these choices, but I need four cards to round out the deck before adding land.

Here is where my brain starts to implode. As I pour over cardlists, I see no less than fifteen cards vying for that final slot. I’ll list these options below and why I think they fit my deck. If you have additional ideas of cards that you believe would make this deck fun and/or effective – or if you think I’ve taken a wrong turn at this point – please speak up in the Forums. Yes, I’m going to keep saying that.

Which to use, which to use?

Azorius First-Wing

It doesn’t do much except attack and block, but it’s efficient, fits my colors, has evasion, and can eat into my opponent while I’m tapping would-be attackers, blockers, and gaining life. Azorius First-Wing makes the deck feel a little less like midrange deck and a little more like an aggro-control deck. I like both strategies, so I’m fine going either way. The thing that bugs me about the First-Wing is that it isn’t a Spirit and is just sort of a “meh” choice.

Counsel of the Soratami

On one hand, Counsel of the Soratami is a filler card, neither directly helping me win, nor directly keeping me from losing. That said, my deck has no card-drawing built into it, and Counsel would help me keep pace with whatever my opponent is doing. If it was Arcane, I would definitely use it, but since it isn’t I’m a lot more hesitant.

Ghostly Prison

It. Slows. My. Opponents. Down. A. Lot. That’s a good thing, and helps me set up the rest of my deck. It also adds another Enchantment to the deck with Faith’s Fetters, making it difficult for my opponent to have answers for them all. Ghostly Prison is obviously wonderful in Tribal format, helping to shut down large swarms of Snakes, Goblins, and opposing Spirits.

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV

Remember how I said that my mana requirements were tough? Well, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV helps ease the burden of my casting costs so that I can spend more mana on activation costs. Like Ghostly Prison, it slows down my opponent, although not as significantly. Probably Augustin’s most important feature is that it helps me drop a Dragon on the fifth turn. I like the 2/3 body, too, since as it stands now my deck is pretty vulnerable to Pyroclasm and Hideous Laughter.

Isperia the Inscrutable

Isperia accomplishes a few things for my deck. First, she is a beefy flying defender who can block Dragons. Second, she is a potential attacker with evasion. Third, she lets me look at my opponent’s hand. Fourth, on her second attack she likely tutors for a Dragon. The casting cost is a bit of a bummer, and I can’t see using four copies, but since the Sphinx tribe is currently on the Endangered List, it would be nice to give Isperia some love.

Mana Leak/Remand

Remove Soul, Mana Leak, and Remand are all solid counterspells for two mana in Tribal Wars. I’m least interested in Remove Soul because I already have several ways to handle creatures and not a lot of ways to handle non-creatures. Remand is a delay tactic that fits my deck’s style, and Mana Leak is great early defense. A lot of people, I’m guessing, consider a dash of countermagic a no-brainer for White/Blue.

Minister of Impediments

Minister of Impediments is fun to consider because it essentially makes my deck a tap fiesta. I’ve never had a tap fiesta deck, so the idea makes me happy. The problems are twofold. First, I think there might be a “too much of a good thing” when it comes to creature-tapping. I’m not sure I need twelve cards that all share this effect, and both Waxmane Baku and Azorius Guildmage are better threats and overall more useful. Second, my deck starts to look really vulnerable to small-creature hate with Minister of Impediments, Azorius Herald, Kami of Ancient Law, and Waxmane Baku. Somehow this feels more acceptable with Azorius First-Wing because I’m adding offensive firepower.

Promise of Bunrei

Here’s a defense against the aforementioned Pyroclasm, Hideous Laughter, and Wrath of God effects. Promise of Bunrei gives me an immediate counterattack, and they’re even Spirit tokens for thematic appeal. My one hesitation is that I don’t feel like my deck gets full use out of Promise, because except for Kami of Ancient Law I don’t have a way to sacrifice my creatures at instant speed and because I don’t really have a way to make use of the tokens other than combat. If I were making a Green/White token deck with Twilight Drover and Sandsower, Promise of Bunrei would be an easy choice. I’m less convinced it’s a good choice here.


Repeal slows the game for my opponent, digs an extra card deep into my deck, saves my creatures from harm, and can replay Faith’s Fetters or Azorius Herald for me to gain life in a pinch. That’s a long list of benefits for a seemingly innocuous card. I guess the downside is that it isn’t a splashy choice, especially compared with many of the other cards on this list.

Soul Warden

Soul Warden seems like a ridiculously good one-mana creature in Tribal Wars. It’s not a Spirit, sure, but I’m looking to gain a lot of life with it on the table. It also provides some good early offense and a chump-blocker in a pinch. Soul Warden probably most shines in the White/Blue weenie deck I described earlier, but it frankly sounds juicy in any White-based Tribal deck.

Story Circle

Story Circle plays the same role as Ghostly Prison. The benefit of the Circle over the Prison is that it can completely shut down some Tribal decks. The downside of the Circle is that it adds yet another activation cost to my deck and an activation cost that can only be paid with White mana.

Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang

I don’t think I would ever use four copies of Tatsumasa in this deck, but I definitely like the idea of handing one to an unblockable Azorius Herald. Like Promise of Bunrei, Tatsumasa is also a guard against creature-sweeper spells. I don’t really like adding an Artifact at the eleventh hour when otherwise my opponent’s artifact hate it useless, and I also don’t like the idea of loading up the top of my deck’s mana curve. Still, it’s tempting.

Torii Watchward

Just seeing if you’re still awake out there and paying attention.

Trial / Error

Honestly, I don’t know if Trial is in any way better than Repeal for my deck. It’s new and an Azorius card, though, and thus intrigues me. I wish I had more comes-into-play creatures, but Azorius Herald and Waxmane Baku are decent for an effect like Trial. Unlike Repeal, it also only costs two mana (versus seven) to return any Dragon I want to keep alive.

Veteran Armorer

Even though I don’t have a strict weenie deck, making my guys 2/3 or my Dragons 5/6 guards against a lot of bad situations. The problem is that I’m actually trying to avoid blocking (with all of my tappers, Condemn, and Faith’s Fetters) rather than embrace it. Even still, the extra point of toughness to my guys is a nice boon.

More Yosei and Keiga

Of course, the other temptation is to add my two extra copies of Yosei, the Morning Star and Keiga, the Tide Star, arguably the most game-dominating cards in my deck. It feels like this move would necessitate me tweaking the other cards, either with Azorius Signet or Augustin IV, but it might just be worth it.

Quite a dizzying array of choices, eh? Here are the three ways I’m most thinking to use my last four cards:

4 Ghostly Prison

– or –

4 Repeal

– or –

2 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Yosei, the Morning Star

I’ll drop this last one from consideration, partly because it involves adding four rares but mostly because I don’t think my two copies of Augustin IV would show up enough to matter.

That leaves Ghostly Prison or Repeal, both of which I can see in my deck.

I’m choosing Ghostly Prison for one big reason and one small reason. The big reason is that I fear Snakes. I’ve watched a few Standard Tribal games over the past week and Green/Blue Snakes seem both popular and powerful. Repeal helps almost not at all against Snakes, whereas Ghostly Prison can severely hamper their gameplan. Remember that Tribal Wars doesn’t employ sideboards, so my maindeck needs to be as tricked out as I can make it. The small reason for choosing Ghostly Prison over Repeal is that this is a Spirits deck, and using a card called “Ghostly Prison” in a Spirits deck gets me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Would you make a different choice? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the Forums.

For now, here is my first Standard Tribal deck:

Playing the Deck

A theoretical, untested deck is fun and exciting. It is also, unfortunately, theoretical and untested. I’ve gotten better at first-draft decklists over the past several years, but I still learn a surprising amount of things by actually playing against live opponents wielding unpredictable decks. Card combos I thought would work don’t, cards I thought would be game-winners sit uselessly in my hand, or my deck shows a fatal flaw against a popular strategy. Sometimes an opponent will see what I’m trying to do and make a critical suggestion, or I’ll play against a card that is perfect for my deck. Land mixes change or I see a flaw in my mana curve. This is all to say that there is no substitute for playtesting.

I’m writing this article before June 22, unfortunately, and thus before the “new” Tribal Wars format has kicked off. Still, I can advertise Standard Tribal decks in the Casual Decks room of Magic Online and hope my opponent reads the game description. Pickings are still slim, but let’s see what an entire evening of Tribal Wars gets me…

Game 1: Black/White/Red Ogres

He confused and intrigued me when he went Mountain, Orzhov Basilica, but it made a lot more sense on the third turn when he dropped a Takenuma Bleeder (although I wasn’t sure if it was an Ogre, Shaman, or Demon deck at that point). I had a Azorius Guildmage, Waxmane Baku, and Soulsworn Jury by turn 4, but his Ghostly Prison was frustrating my attack. For two turns, I attacked with my Baku and tapped his guy. Dark Banishing killed my Guildmage, then my Jury countered his Ogre Recluse (aha! Ogres!). I dropped another Baku to double-block his Bleeder, and he played a second one. Finally I hit a land glut in my library, allowing me to play another Guildmage and tap his guy while I attacked with my Baku. My opponent tried Loxodon Warhammer, but I saddled it with Faith’s Fetters. Yosei, the Morning Star then showed up to win me the game.

Game 2: Black/Green Assassins

Ironically, it wasn’t an Assassin that killed me this game. I was bopping along nicely with a pair of Waxmane Baku and a Soulsworn Jury whilst my opponent was completely mana-flooded. He finally got Kiku, Night’s Flower, which I enchanted with Faith’s Fetters. After two turns, he played Orzhov Euthanist and I let it through. A second one made me nervous, though, so I sacrificed my Jury to counter it. Wrong move. My opponent drew and played Helldozer. On the next turn, two Adarkar Wastes and a Hallowed Fountain blew up, pretty much crippling me. A Persecute wiped out my hand, then Nekrataal just added insult to injury. I conceded at eighteen life with one land on the table and two Dragons in hand.

Game 3: Black/Green/Blue Zombies

His first five land were Overgrown Tomb, Underground River, Watery Grave, Llanowar Wastes, Waterveil Cavern. Whoa… He should play the Helldozer guy. Anyway, this one went according to plan. I had Kami of Ancient Law and Azorius Herald attacking, while Soulsworn Jury made him hesitant to cast creatures. He finally got a Shambling Shell equipped with Loxodon Warhammer, but I had Condemn (and he didn’t think to sacrifice his guy). Last Gasp killed my Kami while the Herald kept attacking. My Jury countered Lord of the Undead, then Keiga, the Tide Star mopped up what was left of my opponent.

Game 4: White/Red/Green Samurai

He started out with Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo, but luckily I had Faith’s Fetters for it to allow my Azorius Guildmage the room the attack. Fumiko the Lowblood showed up, then killed my Guildmage. I played Azorius Herald and took hits from Fumiko, Devoted Retainer, and Ronin Houndmaster. Waxmane Baku blocked and killed his Retainer. I hit six mana, dropped Keiga, the Tide Star and Yosei, the Morning Star on consecutive turns, and won the game at four life. Whew.

Game 5: White/Red Soldiers

He came out swinging with Boros Recruit and Boros Swiftblade to my Kami of Ancient Law. My Kami blocked his Recruit, and on the next turn traded with his Swiftblade. He dropped Nightguard Patrol while I countered with Azorius Herald and Soulsworn Jury. The Jury blocked his Patrol and died to Shock, and he played another Swiftblade. I drew a pair of Waxmane Baku and plenty of land, then Kami of Ancient Law. I tapped down his guys, attacked, then sat behind two Ghostly Prisons while my Herald did the work. A second Herald showed up, and that was game. The combination of unblockability and lifegain was way too much for his military planning.

Game 6: Mono-Red Warriors

His deck was cool, using pingers like Viashino Fangtail and Kumano, Master Yamabushi with Neko-Te and Akki Lavamancer. I was able to corral the first Neko-Te with Faith’s Fetters, but that meant Kumano slipped through my Soulsworn Jury (he already had a Fangtail on the board). Kumano systematically killed all my two toughness guys, then a second Neko-Te locked my two Juries down. I drew two Azorius Heralds – which helped me not at all – while he drew Furnace of Rath. Yeah, I lost that one.

Game 7: Mono-Green Spirits

He had an Elder Pine of Jukai and Petalmane Baku, while I had Azorius Guildmage and Soulsworn Jury. I tapped down his Elder Pine and attacked a few times, then played Azorius Herald. We traded, his Elder Pine for my Guildmage, and my Jury countered a Kodama of the South Tree. I played Keiga, the Tide Star and he played Jugan, the Rising Star. He put Serpent Skin on Jugan and attacked with it and his Baku. Our legendary Dragons clashed, then he used Unchecked Growth to knock me down to fourteen life. Keiga died, I took his 6/6 Dragon, and on the next turn dropped him to four life. He attacked with Petalmane Baku and used both Strength of Cedars and Unchecked Growth on it. Thankfully, I had Condemn, gaining him two life, fizzling his creature pumpers, and winning me the game.

Game 8: White/Blue Knights

A Leonin Skyhunter and a Lionheart Maverick wielding a Manriki-Gusari faced off against my Azorius Guildmage, Waxmane Baku, and Kami of Ancient Law. I double-blocked to kill his Maverick, with my Guildmage dying. I then played Ghostly Prison, slowing his attack as he found his own Azorius Guildmage. Another Guildmage showed up on my side, but whereas my opponent had to decide whether to attack or tap my guys, I could do both. A Soulsworn Jury kept my opponent down as my small army swarmed in for the win.

Game 9: Five-Color Wizards

As far as I can tell, his deck used lots of multilands, lots of Signets, and lots of Guildmages. It’s a neat idea, but his deck had to worry so much about mana that he ended up pretty creature-light. His first Wizard was Dimir Guildmage suited up with Moldervine Cloak, but I put Faith’s Fetters on it. His second was Golgari Guildmage, which needed to block my Waxmane Baku as it, Azorius Herald, and Azorius Guildmage attacked. His final Wizard was Orzhov Guildmage, but I tapped it and countered his attempts at lifegain so that my two creatures cruised in for the win. I ended the game at twenty-eight life.

Game 10: Mono-Black Rats

It’s the end of the night, and I think I misplayed this one. My opponent had two Swarm of Rats, a Nezumi Graverobber, and Nezumi Cutthroat. I had Soulsworn Jury, Azorius Guildmage, and Kami of Ancient Law. Most importantly, I had two Ghostly Prisons or else I’m pretty sure I would have died quickly. As it was, I played a nifty Condemn on his Cutthroat to make a Swarm of Rats 3/1 and thus blockable by my Jury. I also played Faith’s Fetters on his Graverobber, so we sat at a standstill for awhile. Nezumi Shortfang flipped into Stabwhisker the Odious right when I played Keiga, the Tide Star. I made some ill-advised attacks with Keiga and died to Stabwhisker damage with my opponent at two life. I kept thinking I would draw either a Fetters or Herald to make me win the race, or a Condemn to end his threat. Oh well.

Okay, an evening of play and my Azorius Spirits deck is 7-3. The next night I play again and go 8-2 with the same decklist. 15-5 over two evenings is nice, but for me the important thing is that I had a blast.

Here are a few observations after twenty games:

  • People are actually playing Standard Tribal! I didn’t have to wait a huge amount of time for each game, and I only got saddled with about four opponents showing up with non-Standard decks (no, I didn’t log those games). That means that people had decks at the ready, which is great to see.
  • The diversity of decks was wonderful. Notice those ten games above; no two decks are in the least bit similar, and the ten decks span ten different tribes in all five colors. There’s creativity there, too, from Assassins, to Neko-Te wielding Warriors, to five-color Wizards. I love it!
  • It may be a dumb thing to say, but those Dragons in my deck are game-changing and usually game-winning. They are so devastating that I really think I should add one more copy of each. The problem is…
  • All of the my cards have been fantastic. Faith’s Fetters, Condemn, and Azorius Guildmage are as good as I thought they’d be. Ghostly Prison has saved my butt and has proven it deserves its place. I haven’t changed my mind about Kami of Ancient Law and Azorius Guildmage. Waxmane Baku draws removal from my opponents again and again.
  • I suppose if I had to find one card that has been good but not great, it’s Soulsworn Jury. Oh, don’t get me wrong: the Jury has changed the way my opponents play, but it is fairly easy to play around and is sometimes the weakest card on the table. Could I get away with two? That doesn’t seem quite right. Three or none sounds better.
  • My deck really doesn’t do anything on turn 4. I have Hallowed Fountain to play turn 1, eight turn 2 creatures, plenty of turn 3 plays, and on turn 5 I have either Soulsworn Jury or Azorius Guildmage with activation mana open. The fourth turn feels a bit like filler.

Putting these conclusions together, is there a solution you see? If so, post it in the Forums. I’m all ears (or eyes, or… you know what I’m saying). In the absence of a solution I like better, here is what I’m thinking as a slight tweak:

As you see, I dropped a single Jury for a third copy of Keiga. Why Keiga? Because I thought that a non-White source of damage was probably a good idea, and because its ability seems particularly good in Tribal. That said, I’d love to fit in another Yosei if I could. Should I drop Soulsworn Jury altogether for Yosei and two copies of something like Kami of Old Stone? I’m hoping you’ll help me in the Forums.

If I haven’t made it perfectly clear: Let’s discuss Tribal in the Forums! Yeehaw!

Next week: I’ll sum up my thoughts after the Forums discussion, and launch into another deck. “Crackle” has just wrapped up names and flavor text, so I have at least a few weeks of free time. Expect regular articles from me in this time, especially as Tribal shows its new face to the world.

Think hard and have fun,