Deep Analysis – Extended Morningtide Set Review: The Tribal Goodies

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Last week’s Deep Analysis saw Richard Feldman breaking down the Extended goodies from Morningtide. Today’s article moves away from the color and card analysis and tackles the tribal goodies that could spawn new and exciting strategies. Goblins, of course, always make an impression… but is today the day of the Rogues? The Soldiers? The Wizards? Let Richard reveal all!

As last week’s article focused on the non-tribal elements of Morningtide, I’ll be finishing off my two-part set review with a look at the tribal side of things. As I mentioned in the other article, I’ll be using Mike Flores excellent Flagship — Role Player — Staple — Unplayable ratings system, and I’ll be applying those labels to these cards under the assumption that the tribe they belong to will form a playable deck. For example, although there is currently no Rogues deck in Extended, the cards in the Rogues section will be reviewed under the assumption that the playable ones will come together to form one.

In many cases, I’m omitting entire tribes as unplayable. It’s cool that Leaf-Crowned Elder can yield free Treefolks and Shamans (starting on turn 3 or 4) if you pack your deck full of them, but – well, to be honest, that means your deck is full of Treefolk and Shamans. Only a select few members of each of those tribes has ever made the cut in Extended, meaning that you’ll be stuck with a largely underpowered deck if you want to get anything more out of him than a 3/5 for 2GG. Remember that this is Extended, not Standard; for a tribe to make a splash in this format where it has never made the cut before, it needs to pick up some seriously broken cards in Morningtide to get there. Of the tribes in Morningtide, only Goblins and Wizards have posted multiple PTQ Top 8s since the most recent Extended rotation, and the bar is set pretty high for the tribes without a track record to make the list.

Having said all that – as Jamie Wakefield says – Onward!


Earwig Squad
Creature – Goblin Rogue
Prowl 2B
When Earwig Squad comes into play, if its prowl cost was paid, search target opponent’s library for three cards and remove them from the game. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

Let’s start with the big fella, shall we? By far the largest of the Rogues, a Prowled-out Earwig Squad might well be the product of Mike Flores nightmares, a card capable of gutting a deck’s entire inevitability in one gruesome swipe, as early as the third turn of the game… and where better to put him than a deck full of Rogues? (Don’t answer that. The Goblins section is later.)

Given that a Rogues deck will be one of the only tribal decks to sport an evasive contingent, I can’t expect that Earwig Squad will come out for more than 2B in this deck except in the strangest of circumstances (or if all your creatures are dead). The Jester’s Cap is just the icing on the cake, as a 5/3 that consistently comes out for 2B is fantastic.

Verdict: Playable — Staple in Rogues

Grimoire Thief

Creature – Merfolk Rogue
Whenever Grimoire Thief becomes tapped, remove the top three cards of target opponent’s library from the game face down.
You may look at cards removed from the game with Grimoire Thief.
U, Sacrifice Grimoire Thief: Turn all cards removed from the game with Grimoire Thief face up. Counter all spells with those names.

While merely a difficult-to-cast Grizzly Bears in any kind of beatdown mirror, the Thief’s ability is admittedly relevant. Unless you hit a Storm card – which are headed the way of the Dodo this Extended Season – I don’t see the Thief ever countering more than one spell in exchange for his sacrifice, and there’s a reasonable chance he’ll either die before countering anything or never counter anything of import. However, the upside that this half of the ability provides probably outweighs the downside that comes with the other relevant part of his ability: by milling cards from the top of the opponent’s deck, you make his Sensei’s Divining Tops better.

So he’s a Grizzly Bears that is kinda-sorta-maybe a one-time Counterspell if you pay extra mana? Not even Goblin tribal boosts can make up for that.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Tribal Enchantment – Faerie
At the beginning of your upkeep, lose 1 life and put a 1/1 black Faerie Rogue creature token with flying into play.

As a 1/1 flyer for Suspend 1 — 1B, which costs you an extra life, this card is not off to a good start. The fact that it charges you another life point for another 1/1 Flyer on the next upkeep makes it more interesting, but only the fact that you might actually get three or four 1/1 flying Rogues for 1B and three or four life is what gives the card potential. Think of it as a slower version of a Flashbacked Deep Analysis.

Obviously this cannot possibly make a Rogues maindeck as long as there are aggro decks in the world. Investing two mana in a permanent that does not immediately affect the board, dings you life every turn, and offers no way to recoup that loss of life, is arguably worse in the grand scheme of things than just tapping both your lands on turn two and mana burning.

Regardless, in an attrition fight – like against, I dunno, say, Doran or Vedalken Shackles – it is a card of great potential. People have been trading life for protracted card advantage long before Dark Confidant was printed, and this card advantage comes with the added bonus of being in the form of free creatures that trigger Prowl. I would almost go as far as to say this will be a sideboard staple if a Rogues deck emerges, but I’m not quite certain it will be an auto-include even though I would hardly be surprised to see it.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player in Rogues

Dewdrop Spy
Creature – Faerie Rogue
When Dewdrop Spy comes into play, look at the top card of target player’s library.

Three for a 2/2 flying is awful in Extended, and neither Flash nor the Bauble effect makes up for it. Does the fact that it’s a Rogue push it into the playable camp? I guess the follow-up question is what a Rogue deck’s three-drop slot would look like. Certainly this guy is competing with Earwig Squad, and probably with Vedalken Shackles and Thirst for Knowledge as well.

Well – that’s enough negatives for me, thanks.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Knowledge Exploitation
Tribal Sorcery – Rogue
Prowl 3U
Search target opponent’s library for an instant or sorcery card. You may play this card without paying its mana cost. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

Although immediately noteworthy in Vintage due to Yawgmoth’s Will, there aren’t any “I win” Instants or Sorceries in Extended that jump out as reasons to pay four mana. Sure, Enduring Ideal and Tooth and Nail are “I win” spells when the opponent casts them, but going Epic in a deck that is maybe playing Threads of Disloyalty is a patently awful idea, and paying four mana to Tooth and Nail out a pair of Rogues is hardly broken enough to include the card just for that matchup. As for draw spells, like Thirst for Knowledge and Fact or Fiction, Knowledge Exploitation is consistently more expensive, slower (at Sorcery speed), and more matchup-dependent. No thanks.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Thieves’ Fortune
Tribal Instant – Rogue
Prowl U (You may play this card for its prowl cost if you dealt combat damage to a player this turn with a Rogue.)
Look at the top four cards of your library. Put one of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library.

Impulse for U that you can only use in your second main phase? Fascinating!

In many ways, Prowl-speed is worse than Sorcery-speed; while you can use a Prowled Instant in response to an opponent’s spell in your second main or own end-of-turn step (which will very rarely come up), you can’t use it in your pre-combat main phase. Given that, the obvious question is whether or not this is better than Ponder?

Well, while Ponder lets you shuffle away a bad set of three cards, Thieves’ Fortune just puts three bad cards on the bottom of your library. That has upsides and downsides; it’s bad when you bury a one-of you were hoping to topdeck in the late game on the bottom of your deck, but it’s good when you get to bury a card you don’t want to topdeck at all in the current matchup. Overall, though, the two cards are roughly comparable in that regard.

The other difference is that Thieves’ Fortune throws away the three cards you didn’t want and gives you only the one you did want, whereas Ponder keeps two cards you just saw on top of your library. Point for Ponder because you get to rearrange them, whereas the next card you draw after a Fortune will be random, but point for Fortune because the process of selecting the best card and throwing the others away improves the overall quality of your draws.

I think what it comes down to is whether or not you’re running a Rogues build with numerous situational cards (one that includes, say, a Trinket Mage or Counterbalance package; drawing inappropriate Trinket Mage Targets or redundant Counterbalances is generally bad times) or not. If you aren’t, then the value you get from being able to Ponder into, say, an Earwig Squad in your pre-combat main phase outweighs the digging power of Fortune, whereas Fortune’s ability to bury situational cards makes it more valuable in those builds.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player in Rogues

Noggin Whack

Tribal Sorcery – Rogue
Prowl 1B (You may play this card for its prowl cost if you dealt combat damage to a player this turn with a Rogue.)
Target player reveals three cards from his or her hand. Choose two of them. That player discards those cards.

For one Black mana, Duress lets you see the opponent’s entire hand, and choose one card to knock out. Noggin Whack culls the viewable area to three cards, but it lets you pick two. Gerrard’s Verdict culls the “viewable area” (if you can call it that in this case) to two cards, and has the added bonus of giving you life if the opponent pitches land.

Gerrard’s Verdict has seen plenty of play in Extended when it has been legal, ranging from a Staple in some historical archetypes to a rarely-seen role player these days. If Rogues were a B/W deck, would it play Gerrard’s Verdict? Would it still play it if it traded the life gain for a more disruptive discard effect?

The problem, as I see it, is that Rogues wouldn’t want to play Gerrard’s Verdict in the first place – even if it were slightly more disruptive. Rogues isn’t really interested in a “good stuff” card advantage grabber; it wants ways to enable Prowl and highly mana-efficient disruption for the opponent. While an augmented Gerrard’s Verdict might be right for some decks, I don’t think this is the kind of effect a Rogues deck is looking for at all.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Oona’s Blackguard
Creature – Faerie Rogue
Each other Rogue creature you control comes into play with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.
Whenever a creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it deals combat damage to a player, that player discards a card.

Everyone’s an Abyssal Specter! Great.

While this card might make a splash in Standard, making the opponent discard cards of his or her choice is relevant in precious few matchups. As a beater, the Blackguard is a 1/1 Flying for 1B, which compares unfavorably with basically everything in Extended. There exist Rogues with identical stats for one mana, which do just as good a job at enabling Prowl; if a Rogues deck is to succeed in Extended, I don’t see Oona’s Blackguard being a part of it.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable


Sage’s Dousing

Tribal Instant – Wizard
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 3. If you control a Wizard, draw a card.

The effect of countering a spell and drawing a card is most often accomplished in Extended via Cryptic Command. For an additional mana, Command offers guaranteed counterspelling (over this card’s Mana Leaking) and a crazy amount of flexibility. Control decks in days past used to devote slots to cards that just bounced problem permanents; the fact that Cryptic Command allows them to incorporate these safeguards without the risk of card-disadvantageous dead draws is probably the main reason to play the card – not its capability to function as Dismiss.

So if you were to take Cryptic Command’s price tag down a point in exchange for losing the bounce effect, the tapping effect, and the guarantee of countering the spell, would it be worth it? Conversely, would you pay an extra colorless for Mana Leak if it were a cantrip? Would you play Complicate if you could draw the card and make them pay 3?

Sadly, I can’t imagine the answer to any of the above questions being “yes.” The difference between two mana and three is massive in Extended, especially in a Wizard deck that will often want to play a two-mana Wizard and a two-mana counter in the same turn. I just don’t see this one happening; the downside of an additional mana doesn’t outweigh the upside of a mere cantrip in a format where mana cost is so critical.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Vendilion Clique
Legendary Creature – Faerie Wizard
When Vendilion Clique comes into play, look at target player’s hand. You may choose a nonland card from it. If you do, that player reveals the chosen card, puts it on the bottom of his or her library, then draws a card.

As I’m sure other set reviewers will be quick to note, while the comes-into-play ability on this card is not technically card advantage, it subverts the opponent’s game plan in more or less the opposite way that Vampiric Tutor sets it up. Instead of putting a random card into your hand the next time you draw (like normal), Vampiric Tutor makes sure the topdeck is a good one, while the Clique’s ability replaces a good card the opponent already had in hand with a random one from the top of his deck.

On one hand, three for a 3/1 flying is a pretty awful deal in Extended. Mogg Fanatics and Grim Lavamancers around the globe are lining up to shoot this guy down, and 5/5 Dorans that cost the same amount (and 4/5 or 5/6 Tarmogoyfs that cost less) are yawning as they put on their racing shoes.

On the other hand, a 3/1 Flying Wizard in a tribal Wizards aggro-control deck with Flash and a disruptive ability is quite a ways off from a vanilla 3/1 flying. The body doesn’t impress me, but the tribal affiliation and the abilities do; this guy should make a fine addition to Wizards, should Patron Wizard & Friends make a comeback this season.

Verdict: Playable — Staple in Wizards

Sigil Tracer
Creature – Merfolk Wizard
1U, Tap two untapped Wizards you control: Copy target instant or sorcery spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.

A 3/1 Flying for 1UU is one thing. An actual Gray Ogre in Extended, though, is going to need an ability of Trinket Mage proportions to make the cut. Is Sigil Tracer’s ability that powerful?

Naturally, the answer to that question depends on what kinds of Instants and Sorceries are being played. Copying Enduring Ideal or Wrath of God obviously won’t do any good, but things like Thirst for Knowledge, Cryptic Command, and Counterspell are quite solid targets. Against Next Level Blue, for example, an active Tracer will make it nearly impossible for the opponent to ever counter anything you play, and unprofitable to cast Thirst for Knowledge or Ponder. At the same time, you can Fork your own Thirst for Knowledges and Smothers (should you be playing them) on the opponent’s end step.

The problem is, Next Level Blue is probably the matchup where this guy shines the most – and in most other matchups, he doesn’t shine at all. I can’t imagine him doing anything productive against a beatdown deck (nor any of the format’s combo decks), much less a midrange deck like Doran that will present maybe one target per game for his ability.

The final question, then: is he going to be worth sideboard space for the Next Level Blue matchup? I doubt it. There are better cards the Wizard deck could be bringing in there, which pushes this guy all the way off the bench and into the street.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable


Preeminent Captain
Creature – Kithkin Soldier
First strike
Whenever Preeminent Captain attacks, you may put a Soldier creature card from your hand into play tapped and attacking.

Okay, so we’re not exactly talking Goblin Lackey here. However, we are mentioning Goblin Lackey in the same sentence as Preeminent Captain without the reference being completely inappropriate, which means the card – and, yes, perhaps even the Soldiers deck – is worth investigating.

Obviously the three-mana price tag is an enormous obstacle to overcome, but getting a free, hasted Soldier when you attack (even if you don’t connect) has a truly explosive effect on your board position. As to the obvious question: Jotun Grunt, Whipcorder, Longbow Archer, Descendant of Kiyomaro, Intrepid Hero, and Commander Eesha, that’s who. What’s sad is that I get less and less excited about Captaining in each of the aforementioned Solders… even though they are in order of increasing mana cost savings.

Still, since this whole Soldiers section assumes there will actually be a playable Soldier deck, I have to assume this guy will be played in it.

Verdict: Playable — Staple in Soldiers

Ballyrush Banneret
Creature – Kithkin Soldier
Kithkin spells and Soldier spells you play cost 1 less to play.

A cheaper Goblin Warchief without the Haste bit? Not bad. The fact that Ballyrush confers the bonus while being aggressively costed himself makes him one of two cards that make the Soldier tribe worth a second look – though they remain underdogs in the tribal contest by a large margin.

It’s unfortunate that one-drops, Whipcorder, and Longbow Archer don’t benefit from Ballyrush Banneret, but the rest all get enough of a discount that any playable Soldier deck would have to have a very good excuse for excluding him.

Verdict: Playable — Staple in Soldiers

T: Add to your mana pool.
T: Mutavault becomes a 2/2 creature with all creature types until end of turn. It’s still a land.

It’s basically just Mishra’s Factory in a Soldier deck, give or take Catapult Squad, Daru Encampment, and Mobilization. But man is it ever Mishra’s Factory! Unless Soldiers go heavy into a second color, or are absolutely desperate for WW on turn 2 (Whipcorder and Longbow Archers come to mind), I can’t see excluding this from what will almost certainly be a mono-color (or at least nearly so) archetype – even if they do only play a couple of copies due to colored mana requirements.

Verdict: Playable — Staple in Soldiers


Frogtosser Banneret
Creature – Goblin Rogue
Goblin spells and Rogue Spells you play cost 1 less to play.

Too bad he doesn’t give all your Goblins Haste, right? I mean, mise well have Warchiefs five through eight cost two mana. Still, his personal haste – even though he’s too greedy to spread it around to the other Goblins – makes him a valuable counterpart to Goblin Piledriver. Play him on turn 3, drop a second Piledriver (or Frogtosser, or Mogg War Marshal) into play for one mana, and swing in with the Piledriver you already played on turn 2 for an extra three damage. Solid deal.

It’s possible that with four Warchiefs in the deck, an overload of low-power cost-reducing creatures would be detrimental to the Goblin deck as a whole – the guy is half the size of Grizzly Bears at the same price, after all – and in such a case, I could see playing fewer than four of this guy. Still, I would be very surprised to learn that any Goblins deck that splashes Black would run zero copies in the main.

Verdict: Playable — Staple in R/b Goblins

T: Add to your mana pool.
T: Mutavault becomes a 2/2 creature with all creature types until end of turn. It’s still a land.

Man, does this ever put Ghitu Encampment to shame. Comes into play untapped, costs one to activate, has two toughness, and it’s a Goblin? Forget about First Strike; this sucker pumps Piledriver, gets tossed by Siege-Gang Commander, gets Hasty with Warchief… really, there’s very little not to like about a land that does all this in a beatdown deck that needs quite a few mana sources as it is.

Verdict: Playable — Staple in Goblins

Auntie’s Snitch
Creature – Goblin Rogue
Auntie’s Snitch can’t block.
Prowl 1B
Whenever a Goblin or Rogue you control deals combat damage to a player, if Auntie’s Snitch is in your graveyard, you may return Auntie’s Snitch to your hand.

This is not in the Rogues section because I seriously doubt any successful Rogues deck would play it. Even a recurring 3/1 that can’t block is criminally poor except in the most protracted of attrition wars (where, as one of the Rogue deck’s few non-evasive attackers, it will push in little damage).

Recurring Goblin, though? Now we’re talking. With Warchief (or Frogtosser Banneret) out, any Goblin that pushes through damage will return Auntie’s Snitch and allow her to be re-played for a mere Black mana in your second main phase. A recurring 3/1 for B (that pumps Piledriver and gets tossed by Siege-Gang and works with Ringleader) beats the hell out of Savannah Lions in a beatdown deck, even if it can’t block.

To me, the only thing stopping Auntie’s Snitch from being a staple in Goblins is that it’s fairly inefficient as a regular attacker. When you don’t have Warchief, it’s a Spined Basher with a drawback (which, okay, pumps Piledriver), and that’s unacceptable in a deck that aspires to dish out as much damage as Goblins does. When you’re talking about an attrition war, Auntie me up – but in a race, I’m not excited. I could see relegating her to the sideboard, with the possibility of including one in the maindeck for purposes of Matron, but I certainly don’t see her taking up a significant chunk of Goblin maindecks this PTQ season.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player in R/b Goblins

Taurean Mauler
Creature – Shapeshifter
Changeling (This card is every creature type at all times)
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Taurean Mauler.

Although technically a Gray Ogre to begin with, you can expect him to be a 3/3 for three the turn after you summon him. Why is this relevant? Unless he quickly draws a Smother or Terminate, leaving this guy on the board for a turn or two will yield a Goblin that can actually do battle with Tarmogoyf, at a discount (and arguably smaller drawback) compared to Goblin Goon.

If he does draw a Smother? Rest assured, that Smother would have otherwise hit up your Warchief or Piledriver. There’s some value in that, so I could see people at least trying this guy in Goblin sideboards, though I’m far from sold on him as an auto-include.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player in Goblins

Earwig Squad 3BB
Creature – Goblin Rogue

Prowl 2B
When Earwig Squad comes into play, if its prowl cost was paid, search target opponent’s library for three cards and remove them from the game. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

The thought of Prowling out a 5/3 for 1B off a Warchief discount makes me all mooshy inside, but let’s table that for a second and look at him as a retail card. How valuable is the Squad at 3BB? Siege-Gang Commander is doable as a one-of or two-of, but he’s 3RR; that double-Black could be trouble when you want to be playing Mutavaults as it is. Worse, he’s literally a vanilla 5/3 when you pay retail for him – no Capping unless you Prowl – so his only saving grace as a five-mana creature is that he’s a Goblin that can actually fight with Tarmogoyf. That’s not much, but I’ll take an overcosted fatty over a complete blank any day.

Clearly, though, we want to be Prowling him out nearly every time. How reasonably can we expect to connect with a Goblin on turn 3? Pretty much every time, so there are only two questions remaining before a verdict can be reached: how relevant is his ability, and how relevant is the 5/3 body for 3?

The body seems like a very big deal. Sure, it will “only” trade with Goyf – which is cheaper – but if you take a look around Extended, you don’t see many actual three-power critters anymore. There’s Goyf and Doran for trades, the occasional Troll Ascetic, and… crickets. That means unless the opponent deploys Troll Ascetic in defense mode, you can expect this guy to either trade for Tarmogoyf, to get a two-for-one (at least one of which will be two power), or to dome the opponent for five. All of these are fine things to do with three mana.

And the ability? Hell, if it just said “no more topdecked Engineered Plagues for you,” and stopped there, I’d be happy. As it is, the ability is a whole lot better than that. You can take out Plagues, Deeds, Vindicates, Goyfs, Shackles, Enduring Ideals – you name it.

Yeah, okay, I’m sold.

Verdict: Staple in R/b Goblins

Sensation Gorger
Creature – Goblin Shaman
Kinship – At the beginning of your upkeep, you may look at the top card of your library. If it shares a creature type with Sensation Gorger you may reveal it. If you do, each player discards his or her hand and draws four cards.

Sensation Gorger should successfully trigger at least once every third turn in a Goblin deck, and the effect seems quite explosive. That said, it’s also a very weird effect, one that doesn’t see a whole lot of play in Extended outside Tolarian Winds, so I’m not exactly sure how to value the card. If the effect turns out to be incredibly strong, the fact that it only triggers once every third turn is probably not a big deal; if the effect turns out to be not terribly exciting, the card might not be worth playing.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and suggest testing him out.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player in Goblins

Creature – Elemental
At end of turn, if you don’t control a Goblin, sacrifice Stenchskipper.

3B for a 6/5 Flying? In a beatdown deck? Where have I heard that before…ah yes, Fledgling Dragon – which is Red, attacks for more, and doesn’t care if all your Goblins are dead. However, what this guy does have over Fledgling Dragon is the lack of a Threshold requirement. Threshold takes a good bit longer to come by in a Goblin deck compared to Red Deck Wins, where nearly every spell costs one or two mana. That said, in a Red Deck mirror match – the most likely place for either Fledgling Dragon or Stenchskipper to come in – plenty of stuff will be dying; by the time you make your fourth land drop, Threshold should be close at hand if not already achieved.

In short, Goblin decks that want to play a big flyer (which are few and far between these days anyway) should probably stick to Fledgling Dragon.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable


Unfortunately for Lorwyn block, which focuses on boring interactions, the bar is set pretty high in Extended. Only the cream of the crop of the boring interactions in Extended meet with any kind of success these days, and since Goblins has faded from prominence, the only truly playable (pre-Morningtide) boring decks in the format have been Affinity and Dredge.

What’s that? They’re calling them what these days? Okay, fine. Note to Craig: please find/replace “boring” with “linear” in the previous paragraph. Thanks, –RF

Anyway, since Lorwyn Block focuses on these linear mechanics, an awfully large chunk of Morningtide is disqualified from playability. There won’t be a Giant deck, nor a Treefolk deck, nor Kithkin deck, nor a Merfolk deck. In fact, let’s be honest – there won’t be a Soldier deck or a Rogue deck either; the only reason they merited a closer examination was that Soldiers are getting modified versions of Goblin Lackey and Goblin Warchief, both of which are so stupid broken they make any card that even resembles them automatically worth examining, and Rogues are getting a stack of Rogue-only cards so high it makes Goblins turn an even darker shade of green with envy.

Still, the tribal cards give new hope to struggling archetypes like Wizards and Goblins – especially the latter, which got a real shot in the arm – and introduce the possibility that a new archetype like Rogues or Soldiers could at least make a showing (perhaps as a second-tier contender, if it were tuned enough) this season. Besides, you never know – maybe I’m just too cynical to see it, and Preeminent Captains will be summoning free Jotun Grunts straight into the red zone this time next month. Time will tell.

See you next week!

Richard Feldman
Team :S
[email protected]