The Kitchen Table #196 — Tribals on the Loose

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Now that we know that Lorwyn has a tribal theme, it seems like a solid idea to actually explore some tribal ideas and make some decks in homage to the new set. If Lorwyn really changes the nature of Tribal decks, then these might be the last old school tribal decks I will build for a while.

Hello all. This should be the last normal article before my 200-card, four-article extravaganza. It’s difficult to figure out what to write when my energy is being focused on this upcoming series.

I’m just going to skip the normal introduction, and write the Abe in London piece, then I can begin the article proper.

Abe in London, part III

I received my student visa, so I resigned from my job, and I will be leaving it on September 14th. That gives me three weekends left before I head eastward to London.

This weekend is our move in, so I have to focus on that. The following two weekends are my final two here. I’ll be hosting my last two Magic nights, and going to my last HeroClix tournament.

Once I get to London, who knows what hobbies I’ll keep up with. When I go, I have no job lined up, no people I know, no flat lined up yet, and I’ll be leaving behind my country, my family, my continent, every place I’ve ever lived, and most of my possessions, and I’ll be jumping across the pond. There is a lot of faith involved, and when I think of it I’m sometimes very eager, and other times I’m full of trepidation.

I’ve never resigned from anything before, and it feels odd. I’ve never quit a job; I’ve never even left a girlfriend. Quitting things really isn’t part of who I am, at least normally. It feels like I failed somehow, even though I didn’t.

Also, leaving without another job lined up also feels hinky. In a year, when I get my second Masters, where will I work? Am I coming back to housing, or working elsewhere? Will higher education continue to be a calling or am I leaving the field for good?

If I do the normal thing, which is to line up another job while I am still at the first, then I have total control over where I end up. By doing this, I am relinquishing control. There it is, all gone.

There’s another part too. If I go to England, spend a year there getting my Masters in Contemporary Critical Theory, and then come back and get a job virtually identical to the one I already have, won’t I have wasted a year? Some people might feel comfortable spending a year abroad for no reason other than sheer joy, but a year is more precious to me than it is to most. When you have less of something, it becomes more valuable — pure supply and demand theory, applied to time.

As you can tell, the introspection, and virtual angst, continues.

Before I leave this section, allow me to impart one final thought. Last week, everything in my life appeared identical to things in the past six years in SE Michigan. However, after getting my student visa and resigning, it all became final. Since then, the grass has been greener, the sun shinier, the ground was warmer and harder. I spent 30 minutes yesterday walking around campus, sitting on benches I have never sat on, and saying goodbye. Everything appears acute, almost penetratingly so. Before, when there was still a chance I wouldn’t be going, albeit a small one, my mind didn’t register any changes. Now my senses are opened, and I am noticing things I never have before.

Acuteness is a great word for this phenomenon. Several of its definitions fit my experiences:

1) Sharp or severe in effect; intense
2) Sharp or penetrating in intellect, insight, or perception
3) Extremely sensitive even to slight details or impressions
4) Sharp at the end; ending in a point

That last definition is more symbolic than anything else, but it may fit the best.

Acuteness is the harbinger of finality.

Begin the Article

Now that we know that Lorwyn has a tribal theme, it seems like a solid idea to actually explore some tribal ideas and make some decks in homage to the new set. If Lorwyn really changes the nature of Tribal decks, then these might be the last old school tribal decks I will build for a while.

Many tribal decks are merely limited Block Constructed decks. Kamigawa Block, for instance, has a lot of spirit helpers, allowing you to run spirit decks; or snake helpers for your Green snake deck; and helpers for a samurai deck, and so forth. Invasion Block brought Kavu and some leaders for them to the table. Odyssey block brought Cephalids. Onslaught brought Wizards. Mirrodin even had Myr decks if you wanted to run them (with an indestructible artifact that pumped Myr).

It seems like just about every set introduces a tribal element somehow, from rebels to Lovisa Coldeyes, from Eladamri, Lord of Leaves, to Priest of Titania. Even Visions has chimera, The Dark has Goblin Shrine and Goblin Caves, and Legends has Kobolds.

I want to build tribal decks that are not your normal “Look, goblins!” or other standard decks. No frozen fish, no goblin burn, and no elf-ball.

Let’s see what I can do.

Welcome to the nightstalker roast. Today we have nightstalkers from Portal 2: Second Age, Legends/Chronicles, and Mirage. The goal of this deck is twofold, and the cards meander between the two goals.

The first goal is to get a bunch of nightstalkers down, and as they die over time, you prepare for the prophesized Return of the Nightstalkers. When the Nightstalkers return, they use up the energy of their home, thus causing all Swamps that their controller has to disappear. However, the resultant surge of Nightstalkers is usually enough to defeat the opponents.

Note that this deck prepares for the Return by refusing to play any Swamps. The good news is that the lands are not killed by a Return. The bad news is that many of these lands come into play tapped, so you may be giving the table a Time Walk in order to not lose your Swamps to a Return.

There are several lands that do not come into play tapped — Urborg, Shizo, and the Vault of Whispers. That gives you eight chances to draw a land and play it on the crucial turn you want to play a spell, in order to prevent you getting hit by a tempo loss.

The deck’s versatility lies, in part, in the lands. Spawning Pool gives you a ground regenerator and a creature post-Wrath. Barren Moor and Polluted Mire give you cycling cards in order to dig deeper into your deck once you are full of land. The Ebon Stronghold can be used to accelerate into a Return or Spirit of the Night if you need to cast either one. Even the Dakmor Salvage helps out by coming back if your lands are popped and the Dredge can make a Return even bigger.

The second plan is to get out a Panther, Breathstealer, and Shadow, and then sac all three for the dreaded Spirit of the Night. There are no cards to ensure this happens, as it is merely a backup plan. I could run Dimir Machinations in order to find the right nightstalker and then sac all three for a Spirit. However, the mere threat of a Spirit of the Night will scare the pants off your opponents.

You can also bring back all three nightstalkers in a Return, and then sac immediately for a Spirit and swing with it. That’s pretty powerful for a janky deck like this.

Note that the Urborg Panther plays well with the Return of the Nightstalkers on its own, so I upped it to a four-of. While the Feral Shadow is your only flying nightstalker, it’s not so powerful that I felt the need to bring it from three or four.

Shimian Night Stalker is just a neat trick you can toss at opponents. Note that it is the largest nightstalker in the deck, so after a Return, it could be your beater. Plus, its ability can save you from damage of a flying nature.

Predatory Nightstalker and Brutal Nightstalker have nice come into play abilities, and each will trigger when being played, and later if they are Returned.

Just in case you have need, a pair of Zombifies has been added to the deck. Maybe a Spirit will die or be discarded, and you’ll want to get it back. Maybe the third creature of the Breathstealer/Panther/Shadow triad will be in the yard, and your Zombify essentially becomes a tutor for said Spirit and puts it directly into play. Maybe you want another trigger off a Predatory Nightstalker.

Rend Flesh rounds out the deck, so that you will have access to an instant removal source for emergencies. The result is a deck with enough creatures to get you to an extended game, a few tricks, and a large enough creature that can duke it out with some of the best of the best around the table.

This is not a bad deck at all for your multiplayer nights, and I’m pretty proud of it.

Nightstalkers are such a flavorful creature type, that I’d like to see a few more get printed.

I was actually looking at a Mistmoon Griffin a couple of weeks ago while sorting through my cards in preparation for my move to London. I realized how strong it could be, and pulled out a few. It’s nice to get a chance to use it in a decklist so soon, even if I haven’t found a real home for it yet.

Griffins are not the top tribe ever conceived by man. They are very flavortastic, however. Griffins have some hate of Black and Red stuff, so I made sure to include Unyaro and Daraja Griffins for the love.

Diving Griffin is the only early Griffin, and its pretty solid. The four-drop slot is pretty packed with Griffins, but that’s the way the tribe looks, so I gotta go with it. There could be a 1/1 flying griffin with an ability for 1W, but no, they’ve never made it.

Both the Mtenda and Mistmoon Griffins have some reanimation potential. Later in the game, Mtenda Griffin will own, and early, the Mistmoon will keep your flying tempo up. I say tempo despite the higher casting costs, because although other decks at the multiplayer table may play some earlier creatures, the griffin deck will play all of the flyers and swing over the decks with the early drops. Mistmoon will always get at least a 2/2 flyer back when it dies, and since it is a 2/2 flyer itself, its no loss of tempo (or pressure) on your opponent.

The deck has three sources of pumping. Despite its legendary status, Zuberi is included in foursies so that you can draw one reliably and have backups for when they ultimately will die. They are target number one against most decks, so I suspect you will need backups.

Serra Aviary pumps up flyers, which, let me check… yes, they’re the only creatures in the deck. It makes all of your flyers feel like they’ve leveled up. Griffin Canyon is also pretty good. This is not one of those combo decks with Griffin Canyon, and using it in order to make a creature of an arbitrarily large size. Instead, this deck is focused on making griffins and making them bigger. The Canyon can untap a Griffin as well as pump it. An untapped Canyon is like giving all griffins a +1/+1 bump, because your opponent will have to treat them as such.

Note that She of the Golden Feather is a griffin herself. As such, Griffin Canyon works on her just as well as everyone else. Further note that she is already a 3/3, so it is like she already gives herself her own +1/+1. She is also a flyer, so the Aviary works on her as well.

The Teremko Griffin is great against people who fall into one of two classes:

1) They’ve never really played against banding, or
2) They haven’t played against banding in so long they’ve forgotten how to play against it.

Each year as Magic passes, each of these two groups grows in proportion to the number of players who have played against banding and remember it well. Teremko Griffin takes advantage of the fact that groups one and two are already so large that banding is now a great ability. I always take banders when I can in drafting from Abedraft (or Abe’s Big Box if you prefer). I remember thrashing opponents with Battering Ram. Teremko Griffin is a lot better than Battering Ram.

Divebomber Griffin can swing for three in the air, and then you can threaten to untap it with a Canyon to op an attacker. Good stuff. It is also the only non-legendary natural three-power griffin in the deck.

Note that like the Nightstalkin’ Love, this deck also has four instant creature removal spells, for those emergencies that call for a Swords to Plowshares.

I don’t even know if many people realize that there is a tribal element to guardians. Therefore I simply must build a deck around them! This deck focuses on the very defensive tribe of guardians. Ivory Guardians can pump guardians, including themselves, under the right circumstances.

I added Blue to the deck so that the right circumstance will be as soon as you can draw an Alter Reality. Change an Ivory Guardian to work against any color you might face. Alter Reality was my choice because it can flashback, allowing you to use it again and again as you face different situations and opponents at a multiplayer table.

Starting with three-drop Hydromorph Guardians, this deck plays an increasing amount of critters that mug up the ground. The Hydromorph Gull is the only natural flyer in the deck, and at 3/3, it has enough of a size to be dangerous. It can be a winning condition for you if need be. One Ivory Guardian set to something owned by an opponent turns the Gull into a 4/4 flyer, and that’s about the size it needs to be to fend off Serra Angels, Sengir Vampires and other denizens of the sky of medium size and common sight. Sure, Mahamoti Djinn and Shivan Dragons and Akromas, and even the rarer Spirit of the Night, can still force through a 4/4 Gull, but what about a Gull backed by an Armored Guardian?

If Type 4 is any indication, you will come to love the Armored Guardian. Its ability to guard your creatures with Shroud or Protection is very helpful. It can allow a creature to hold it sown in combat, or it can be used to sneak a creature through a defense. Note that Ivory Guardian’s Pro Red combined with the Alter Reality might also do the same thing, especially against decks with just one color of blocking creature.

Just like the other tribe decks, this deck gets a little help from its color. It packs four Swords for that emergency kill that just won’t quit, and four Counterspells to stop unsightly spells that ruin your plans. Wrath of God is your enemy. Note that the Hydromorphs can protect your team with countermagic tricks. Be especially willing to sac a Hydromorph Guardian for the cause. I’d rather lose my 2/2 creature than a 3/3 Ivory Guardian, for example.

This deck has fewer creatures than the previous two tribal decks, but it feels like it should, since it is guardians, and not griffins or nightstalkers. The deck’s flavor follows the creatures’.

Even though they are a Portal rare, you’ll note that the price tag on a Spiritual Guardian is pretty tame. You can certainly afford to grab a few for your decks and deck-stock.

That brings us to the end of yet another article, and another seven pages of Word. I hoped that you enjoyed this trek through the wilder, uncivilized areas of Tribal Land. It’s fun to come out here on a day trip. Who knows, some of you might even build cabins out here, smell the fresh air far from goblins and elves, and set up a new life in the virtually pristine vales of Tribal Land where the Griffin and the Nightstalker and the Guardian fight in an ever-challenging triad.

Remember that next week I intend to begin the countdown to article 200, with the first fifty of the 200 cards that you should be playing.

Until later,

Abe Sargent