Multiplayer Is An Art, Part 8: Giant Spider

Stijn finally answers the question all of us are waiting for: Is it possible to create a fun multiplayer format? The answer is yes… But only if it’s TRIBES, which Tom van de Logt and Kamiel Cornelissen play…

You are probably the only person reading this — or did you think anybody else in the world would want to read about a deck based on Giant Spider? Well, I’ll tell you one thing: you can now email all your friends and tell them to read this. And while you’re at it, send one to the StarCityMTG mailing list as well. For though this installment won’t tell you all the ins and outs of Giant Spider, it will tell you of one of the best tournament formats ever.

(Well, it will tell you all the facts you need to know about Giant Spider —both of them. It’s not like there’s a whole lot of things to say about such a creature.)

What are you expecting now? An insight on Invasion Block Constructed? Don’t you remember — this was going to be about a fun format! So is it going to be some Sealed Deck format? Or Type One (in my opinion, the best official format ever)? No, it is going to be about a casual multiplayer format known as Tribes.

Almost every Dutchman who has ever been in our store (The Labyrinth) will break into a smile when hearing of the Tribes tournament. It is held three times a year, and eleven tournaments have been organized now. People from everywhere in the country come and play — and to show it is a serious tournament, I am going to show you last time’s top eight:

1. Tom van de Logt – 198 – Drake

2. Casper Hoyng- 173 – Insect

3. Tjalling Spaans - 167 – Beast

4. Stijn van Dongen – 156 – Wolves

4. Kamiel Cornelissen – 156 – Cleric

6. Viktor Van den Broek – 152 – Griffin

7. Stijn Cornelissen – 147 – Minotaur

8. Willem Baskaljon – 145 – Druid

Yes, Tom won my multiplayer tournament (the Raad van Wijze Mannen organizes Tribes). But I myself ended higher than the current European Champion, the current Dutch runner-up, and Kamiel’s brother, who has the same name as I do.

It should be obvious that the number next to the player’s name is the amount of points won after four grueling rounds of multiplayer Magic… But let it be known that the word after the number is the only creature type that was allowed in the contestant’s deck. Well, not exactly, but it comes close. Let me just give you a translation of the rules, as invented by Herman Jacobs and worded and revised by Stijn van Dongen and Sander Jacobs (so it is still authentic writing by my hand: I helped write the rules instead of merely translating them). Bite through this part, for as soon as you have read it you’ll most probably love the concept and will start organizing Tribe tournaments yourself.

I’ll try and include some jokes in the dry rule part to spice things up… But I won’t guarantee that the jokes will be funny. Here goes:


The Tribes tournament is a casual tournament being played in the multiplayer format. A Tribe is a race of creatures, like Apes or Giants or Clerics. Each deck has to be of a single tribe and may therefore only contain creatures of the chosen tribe. All other cards may only be included once, except when the name of the tribe appears on the card.

So a Vampire tribe may play with four Vampiric Tutors and with four Sengir Vampires, but only with one Terror and with no Hypnotic Specters at all.

But sometimes a creature is of a certain tribe, while its creature type isn’t. To stay in the Vampiric mood, let’s consider Baron Sengir. He is very definitely a Vampire, yet his creature type is Legend. Here’s the rule covering this: The name of a tribe has to be an existing creature type, but a tribe creature doesn’t have to be of that type. As soon as the name of the tribe appears on the card, it is a tribe card. So Baron Sengir is a Vampire, because he is able to regenerate Vampires. (If the baron didn’t have that cool ability, it would have been a terrible waste. He wouldn’t have been allowed in a Vampire deck. God praise R&D for the regeneration ability!) Now, of course, only the English wording of cards is accepted. Otherwise, Vampiric Tutor wouldn’t be allowed in a Vampire deck: It is called Blutsaugender Lehrmeister in German!

This deck also allows cool spells to be of a certain tribe. I reckon the Death tribe wouldn’t be much more than a hassle if Living Death been a card of its tribe. So for example, the Shade tribe is allowed to play with four Frozen Shades, four Ihsan’s Shades, four Scents of Nightshade, and four Nightshade Seers. Only one Vampiric Tutor is allowed, and Sengir Vampire is forbidden.

There will always be the misanthrope who tries and bend these rules: He will say”Ants” are his tribe, then stuff his deck full of ANTS, instANTS, enchANTments, giANTS and plANTS. This has to be foiled, and that is done by this rule: The name of your tribe that appears on the card has to include the the meaning of the name of your tribe. For example: the ant in enchantment doesn’t mean”tiny little insect that steals the show in A Bug’s Life.” And the monk in Crimson Kobolds doesn’t mean ‘inhabitant of a monastery,’ either.

(Still searching for the monk? It’s in ‘summon kobold.’)

Now to get all the other rules concerning the tribeness of a card out of the way: The name of the tribe may be mentioned in any way. So an Elf tribe may, of course, play with Elves. It may also play with Elvish stuff. Or Elven stuff. Or anything else, so long as the word links back to Elf.

Now for some shadier stuff: the Brother tribe may use up to four copies of Sisters of the Flame. Or of Mother of Runes. Or of Uncle Istvan. Grandmother Sengir. Child of Gaea.

The King tribe could consist of four copies of each of King Suleiman, Sorceress Queen, Sliver Queen, Kingfisher, King Crab, Pixie Queen, King Cheetah, and, last but not least (but certainly most unexpected), Royal Assassin. Or did you have another adjective in mind for King?

The only weird declination that is not allowed is the denial of a tribe or the name of a tribe that is also a game rule. Examples of both rules: Juggernaut, with its ability not to be able to be blocked by walls, isn’t a Wall card — and neither is Unnatural Selection, which mentions non-wall somewhere. And where Nether Shadow is a viable Shadow tribe card, Soltari Lancer isn’t, as the Shadow word on that card is the name of a game rule.

Now to disenchant the hopes of all Greevil fans out there: A Greevil tribe cannot be made. For a tribe deck to be legal, at least thirty tribe cards have to be included in your ninety-card thick deck, twenty-five of which have to be tribe creatures. This means that at least eight different tribe cards have to exist. A tribe doesn’t need to use all of its legal cards. This is to keep the Goblin tribe viable, and to allow for some decent deck construction.

But what if your beloved tribe only has seven different cards? This way a legal deck can never be made — and we were so close! Only two cards short of the minimum…But never fear, a legend may be recruited in those special occasions. Just think of a legend that could conceivably be of your tribe and ask one of the members of team RVWM for permission to use it as a tribe card. Or, which is probably more convenient, ask the Tourney Official for his approval.

So let’s say seven different hippos existed and a twisted mind would want to build a hippo tribe deck. He would have to ask permission to use a legend as a hippo. When he approaches me to ask if Rith, the Awakener is a viable hippo, I’d slap him in response. Or maybe I’d tell some one to slap him. (Or maybe I’d just tell him I wouldn’t allow it.) But would he ask me permission to use Phelddagrif, I’d pat him on the back and wish him luck with his deck in the next tournament.

Cards that become creatures, like Opal Archangel, count towards the twenty-five card minimum. The same goes for token generators like Sacred Mesa: That is a valid Pegasus creature in tribes.

Nota Bene: There is no creature card that has the creature type ‘saproling.’ Hence, a saproling tribe cannot be made. Should a Saproling ever be made, I think I’ll run away in fear — since a deck with four Verdant Forces right next to four Aura Mutations, living in harmony with four Elvish Farmers, scares the hell out of me. (Note: Artifact and Aura Mutation are both saproling tribe creatures. They, can therefore, not be used by other tribes. A Master of the Hunt on the other hand, is a valid Master creature, a valid Hunter creature, and a valid Wolf creature.)

The basic rules in a nutshell:

  • Play with at least ninety cards in your deck, and with at least 30 tribe cards.

  • A minimum of 25 tribe creatures must be in your deck.

  • Each non-basic land card may only be played once, except for tribe cards.

  • Creatures that are not of your tribe are banned.

Now whenever multiplayer is played, there is always the risk of a single game lasting longer than the Roman empire. This might sometimes be caused by excessive life gaining. So when organizing a multiplayer tournament, the following rules are recommended by the RVWM:

1. Anytime an amount of life is gained, this cannot be more than five life. Exempla Gratia: A Stream of Life cast for eight will don it’s caster only five life.

2. Life gaining spells cannot be cast with buyback. For example, Worthy Cause now sucks.

3. A permanent with the ability to grant life will only do so when the life granted isn’t given to its controller. So an Ivory Tower basically does nothing, and a Spirit Link does nothing as well. A Grollub, on the other hand, still has all of its abilities, since the life-effect is only beneficial to opponents. Sol’Kanar the Swamp King is still a savage facesmasher that lays tight beats, but you won’t mise any life from him anymore.

There are a few more rules that are occupied with making multiplayer tournaments more fun. They are:

1. Color hosers are out of the question. The definition of a color hoser used for this rule is: A card that benefits from the existence of more than one other card of a certain color or type. Good examples of hosers are Flashfires, Perish, Crackdown, and Compost. Hosing abilities imbued in creatures or lands just cannot be activated. So a Northern Paladin looks to the North, my son, and only finds himself to be an overcosted Hill Giant.

Nota Bene: A Red Elemental Blast is no hoser, since it doesn’t profit from the existence of multiple blue cards. It only takes down one of them. (Hey, I played with two Red and two Blue Elemental Blasts while playing with my Elemental tribe; they proved quite useful.)

2. Tribe hosers are out of the question. You thought Tivadar’s Crusade would be the nuts? You thought Spike Cannibal would be les noisettes? You thought Suleiman’s Legacy would be die Nüssen? That Extinction would be de nootjes? That Tsabo’s Decree would be przypis? Well, you can take your tasty crunchy snacks somewhere else, for those kind of cards are all banned, as is the following list of cards:

Ashnod’s Altar


Celestial Convergence


Chaos Orb

Coat of Arms


Demonic Tutor


Divine Intervention


Falling Star

Goblin Bombardment

Limited Resources

Mind Over Matter

Mind Twist

Memory Jar

Phyrexian Altar


Planar Portal

Price of Progress

Primal Order


Reins of Power


Strip Mine

Thieves’ Auction

Time Walk

Unnatural Selection

And remember: Outbreak and Engineered Plague are already banned by the rules.

Now those are the tribe rules. The rest of the tournament structure I leave to your imagination, but games of four or five players per table are recommended. We usually play three rounds, after which the top five will commence the finale, which is played without time limit and will make the last one standing the winner of the tribe tournament. We have had a whole big lot of different winners — and by that, I mean different kinds of people won. My baby brother only plays Magic thrice a year, and that is when he plays tribes… But he won once. Tom van de Logt won once, too. I participate every time and have always made the finals, yet never won it. Once a person who heard about the tribe tournament came to play, and while he knew no one except for the buddies he brought, he won. But everybody had a good time, and that’s the purpose.

Are you curious about the Giant Spider deck yet? It was the deck my brother piloted to victory (I build all his decks, since he doesn’t own more than two hundred cards.) And it was of the Giant Tribe. How does a Giant deck start? Yes — with good giants.

4x Craw Giant

4x Bloodshot Cyclops

4x Bloodfire Colossus

Now, that seems like a solid core of huge beefy creatures. But since we need at least thirty Giant cards, we need some more. With an eye on the mana curve, we start exploring the world of the small giants — or, more appropriately, the world of the giant Insects. Of course Giant Spider got included. He blocks a good deal of stuff for his casting cost, and therefore is some solid defensive play on turn four. But I had discovered an even cheaper Giant that was able to beat even the mightiest of foes: the Giant Trap Door Spider.

Giant Trap Door Spider


Creature – Spider

1GR, T: Remove from the game target creature without flying attacking you and Giant Trap Door



Oh man, he once even ate a Thorn Elemental. He also saved my life by eating the one attacker that had the Lure on it, leaving the rest of the attackers delivered to the mercy of my blocking Giants. But most of the time this hungry little crawler just eats annoying shadow creatures, or stuff like Amrou Kithkin with Empyreal Armor on it that the other blockers just can’t deal with.

A weakness of this deck soon shows itself: Flyers. Only Giant Spider and Giant Mantis can block them, and there are no Giant fliers out there. Now this could be solved by using Giant Oyster to suck all the life out of enemy fliers, but that method doesn’t help against Serra Angel or Tempest Drake. And that method will make you the laughing stock of the table. But then again, maybe people will cease attacking you out of pity, as soon as you play this powerful 0/3 for 2UU. Yes, it is from Homelands.

No, I was thinking more along the lines of having some fliers ourselves. And which Giant flies? The Butterfly that emerges from the cocoon of the Giant Caterpillar does! Now, don’t start pointing at me and calling me funny names. A 1/1 flyer can seriously fend off any attacker with toughness up to four… Or haven’t you ever heard of Giant Growth? Play four of them. They often deal double their damage when you play them on an unblocked creature, for you can afterwards also sacrifice the grown creature to Chuck, the Cyclops. Play four of them and watch your opponents try to play around them. And also play four Caterpillars, for when we know that His name is the Lord and he lays His vengeance upon us, we can pay G in response and be the only one with a creature at the end of the turn… For the butterfly token that pops out of the Caterpillar only enters play at end of turn. Rule the skies with your 1/1 green token!

4x Giant Spider

4x Giant Trap Door Spider

4x Giant Caterpillar

4x Giant Growth

Now we have huge monsters and small early defenders (We won’t need defense in the late game; as soon as you reach the late game and no Wrath or Disk is played, you win.) We are now looking for the coolest Giants to fill the rest of our deck with. At best, they cost five or six mana.

But the first one that caught my eye cost seven mana….

Karplusan Giant


Creature – Giant

Tap an untapped snow-covered land you control: Karplusan Giant gets +1/+1 until end of turn.


Can you imagine that anybody is willing to pay seven mana for a 3/3 creature? Yes you can — just as soon as you realize that the deck this Giant will be starring in will only pack snow-covered lands. This thing is only 3/3 when cast, but the following turn can attack as an 11/11 menace, provided you didn’t miss the land drop. Now is that fun or is that fun? And just look at the picture! That goofy snowman is the largest tread on the board? You may now laugh at your opponent’s faces.


Did you hear that? That was the Moat Alarm. What do Giants do when a Moat is dug? Launch an aerial assault with Butterflies? The chances of success are then lower than attempting to watch Fawlty Towers without laughing. No, Giants are good at dealing damage, so direct damage might be a strong point of them too.

Which Giant, save John Travolta (the Disco Inferno on a stick that is Bloodfire Colossus), deals direct damage? Chuck does, but that would cost us a Giant per turn. We’d rather just lose a forest per turn. And that’s why we play with Heartwood Giant. He throws away trees like they were matchsticks and flings two points to the dome each turn. Besides, he is reasonably costed: A 4/4 for 3GG… And that is how we solve the Moat alarm.

And now, our final Giant: Frost Giant. Not because he’s good. A 4/4 with rampage 2 for the price of 3RRR can hardly be called good. No, he’s there because he is a really cool giant. Look at that picture! He has a club! One with spikes in it! That is just nostalgia to the max. And besides, it is cool to include four Legends rares in your deck. Be they Mana Drain or Arboria, Legends remains a cool set to play with. So our final list of Giants and Giant spells is:

4x Craw Giant

4x Karplusan Giant

4x Frost Giant

4x Heartwood Giant

4x Bloodfire Colossus

4x Bloodshot Cyclops

4x Giant Spider

4x Giant Caterpillar

4x Giant Trap Door Spider

2x Giant Growth (Don’t tell anybody we’re only playing two Giant Growths. As soon as anybody has seen one, they will fear the remaining three, and it is a waste to spoil this advantage.)

Those are 38 cards. I always crave hundred-card tribes decks. So we have sixty-two slots left. Forty of them are going to be lands, and those are easily given to you since lands usually need no explanation:

1x Thawing Glaciers

1x Hammerheim

1x Pendelhaven (Go Butterfly!)

1x Sol Ring (Counts as a land because it is so cheap.)

18x Snow-covered Forest

18x Snow-covered Mountain

Easy enough, right? Now for the remaining twenty-two slots. What does Craw Giant scream?

“Ho ho, midgets — did you really think you could stand in my way?”

“You’d better stand in my way, for I have a Lure!”

A Lure on a Craw Giant is very very good. All creatures able to block him must do so, and the Giant gets bigger and bigger. Very often, the Giant even survives this onslaught and beats a lot of trample damage to the defending player’s dome to boot, after having killed all the rest of the defending players.

Mana acceleration is not a luxury either, with a deck so filled up with expensive creatures. So we add Mana Flare and Thran Dynamo.

Utility is dispensed in the form of Desert Twister and Creeping Mold.

What do the last fifteen cards do? They deal damage or improve damage. I’ll just give you the complete list without further ado.

1x Lure

1x Mana Flare

1x Thran Dynamo

1x Creeping Mold

1x Desert Twister

1x Shiv’s Embrace

1x Gaea’s Embrace

1x Furnace of Rath

1x Fanning the Flames

1x Stormbind

1x Fireball

1x Earthquake

1x Hurricane

1x Pyroclasm

1x Steamblast

1x Hammer of Bogardan

1x Kaervek’s Torch

1x Rolling Thunder

1x Fireball

1x Incinerate

1x Lightning Bolt

1x Goblin War Drums

The last card deserves special mention: He improves your Giants beyond belief, especially those with Rampage. This card kills all attempts at a chump block in the womb. And this card rocks in combination with any of the Embraces. Wanna try and block a large trampling rampaging firebreathing flying giant with more than one creature?

I thought not. And now please take the full fifteen damage I’m dealing to you. You are now in Inferno Range — and behold, I have an ‘emergency mountain’ laid on top of my Bloodfire Colossus! So as soon as you attempt anything, you will be burnt to cinders. These are the only politics you have to learn with the Giant deck. It is so easy that even my baby brother can do it.

And he did it — he won with this deck, where I only placed third with it once. I have to hear that each and every day. He keeps on reminding me of it. Luckily, I now live on my own (for the past week or two, anyway) so I won’t have to hear the cries of victory every day. Nonetheless, I still miss my brother. (How my mother loves to read this! But don’t worry mom, my aim is improving. I practice every day…)

Now that you are all familiar with the rules of the tribes, a whole new world will open for you. And when that won’t be because of possible tribes tournaments being organized in your neighborhood, it will be because of me writing more articles on tribe decks. For I have a pet deck I have sworn to win with: I won’t quit playing with it until it has won. Up until now, it has always made the finale, but the Wolves always bit the dust just before the end. Next time, I will share the deck’s secrets with you. Or I will tell you of my Shade tribe deck, which is pretty cool, too.

Emperial Regards,

Stijn van Dongen,