[Tribal Bible is a series maintained by Rivien Swanson. Tribal Bible covers a format known either as Tribal Standard, or Standard Tribal, depending on whom you ask. The rules are as they are for Standard, except at least one-third of your deck must consist of creatures that share a type and there are no sideboards.]
Alright, ladies and germs, let’s rock. Time Spiral’s here, you’re here, I’m here, and we’re ready to TRIIIIIIBAAAAAAAAL! Okay, it’s not quite the same as being ready to rumble, but what is? Some news updates first, though:
*I have once again come to find Tribal Standard games difficult to find. I suspect part of this is the ongoing “new shiny” effect of Time Spiral, and another being people who simply played the format to avoid Jitte going back to their regularly scheduled routines.
*There are rumors, I’m told, of an effort on Wizards’ behalf in the near future to consolidate creature types. I’m not sure if this excites or terrifies me. On one hand, silliness like Viper, Asp, and Snake being different creature types would be reduced or eliminated. On the other hand, I’m worried some niche but fun tribes will simply be obliterated. Of course, I can hope they finally split Insect and Arachnid into separate types too. Is it the biggest difference in the world? No, but you certainly couldn’t print a Scorpion as an Insect, could you?
*In light of several recent events, I have become a more competitive player in general. This lessens the time I have for some other formats and activities. I’m going to say now to save face later that while I intend to keep TB articles coming and getting in three decks per article, I won’t guarantee those articles will be weekly. There will be some times I’m just busy, and others where I simply want to write about something else for awhile, but have no fear, I am not vanishing. Nothing shuts me up that easily.
“Get on with it!”
“Yes, get on with it!”
One day, I’m going to do an article with all budget decks. Today is not that day, I fear. Here’s a tribe that looks somewhat familiar, if greatly weakened: Snakes. Now, without their ridiculously good Summons and Lords, they’re a bit more palatable. Or are they? The answer may shock you. Not quite to the point of taking two damage, but hey, talk to the special effects guy, okay?
The key card here is Cloudstone Curio, which abuses the fact that much of the remaining Snake tribe has comes-into-play effects. Coiling Oracle, Mystic Snake, and Patagia Viper all like making return trips to the hand. With that in mind, Plaxmanta and Thelonite Hermit also made their way into the deck. A key play here to make note of is Patagia Viper plus Cloudstone Curio; you can use the tokens created by the Viper to return itself to your hand; voila, Sosuke’s Summons with Buyback U. Difference is this time, instead of getting hosed by graveyard hate, you get hosed by discard or instant speed removal, so it’s a bit more vulnerable overall. Note that while Coat of Arms is legal, and would do a fine job of replacing the old Lords, I simply never use it in Tribal formats. For one, it can backfire badly. Two, even when it does work, it feels like a crutch. My tribe ought to be able to find a path to victory, no matter how miserable they are (except maybe some of the goons from TB #5) without having to rely on that kind of bonus.
That said, I didn’t even originally consider Mystic Snake’s interaction with Curio. Needless to say, it’s fairly nutty against removal-light opponents on its own, but backed by Plaxmanta it can be a nightmare – made untargetable in response to targeted removal, or returned to hand against mass removal – possibly to counter said mass removal. But aside from various bounce tricks, other cards in the deck include Remand for gaining tempo without spending a card, hosing Suspend, or for saving your spells from opposing countermagic. Moldervine Cloak exists to make something into a big threat, typically a Patagia or Ohran Viper, or Anaconda versus Swamp-tapping opponents.
The good news: You’ve got an engine, if a somewhat fragile engine, of draw, token creation, countering spells, and/or countering targeted threats versus creatures. You’ve got one of the best auras in the format, countermagic, and a potentially limitless supply of creatures. You have draw, limited evasion, and possible creature destruction effects. All in all, things look pretty good for you. With a bit of luck, you should be able to wear out most opponents and slowly slither your way to the win.
The bad news: Curios are more bothersome than helpful in multiples, so there’s only three in the deck. Prior to getting it, you have no engines, and at any game point, your biggest au natural dude is a 3/3. Your mana requirements are steep and I’m not certain if they’re entirely doable on a wholly budget manabase (this one was actually toned done from one with many more rares – it is the one I used for testing, though). Your capacity to deal with either fliers or tramplers is minimal, and anything that hits your opponent’s side of the board is probably going to stay there.
Your win condition here is probably whatever you can get to wear a Cloak well without dying. Chances are, this will be Anaconda or one of the Viper Twins, or possibly a token. There’s also the token-induced “death of a thousand papercuts” which is a fine backup plan barring mass removal. Thelonite Hermit and his Saproling army can seal the deal, but it typically takes a very long game to pull that off (at least two mana to trigger Curio, three to replay Hermit, five to re-flip). Could I have put the Shapeshifter in here? Yes. I didn’t, because there’s a certain cheese factor to the deck I’m trying to limit, but I can’t force anyone else to not include it, so go wild. I’d say it would probably be best replacing the Cloaks if you absolutely had to.
As for the next deck, I hinted at it in “Murder Most Foul” I quote:
“However, if you want to try something along the lines, I might suggest Seedborn Muse plus critters that tap to do things. Heidar is one example, Slivers another so long as you include at least one Sliver that shares a tap ability (Screeching, Gemhide, Telekinetic, and Psionic look like good starting places). I actually have plans for a Tribal deck along those lines, except it both will and won’t have twenty Slivers. I’ll explain later. As in “a different article”. Probably November.”
You may cry, “Where are the Slivers?” Well, if you do, I hand you a tissue for your tears and tell you they’re there, hiding in the Hivestone. The game plan here revolves around Telekinetic Sliver. As many know, his ability is tied into his stalwart Opposition of the foe, a card typically combined with Squirrel Nest. Well, see, Slivers in Standard don’t have much in the way of that kind of token production, barring tricks with Conspiracy and Endrek Sahr (possibly another deck…) so I decided on the next best thing; Thallids. Thallids + Slivers = Thlivers. Or maybe it’s someone saying Slivers with a lisp, I can’t be sure. Here’s the Magic of the deck;
Get some combination of Thallids into play. Preferably, any two or three plus a Sporesower will do. Next, play (or Chord) Telekinetic Sliver whenever you feel it’s safe to do so. “Safe” can be very relative depending on if you have a Plaxmanta (or Chord) or Muddle the Mixture in hand. When you’re ready, we get tricky; you either draw or transmute a Muddle for Hivestone and play it.
Now here’s where we get clever; we exploit a key difference between Conspiracy and Hivestone. Conspiracy replaces all existing creature types with the new one – if you choose Sliver, everything in your deck is a Sliver and nothing else. Hivestone adds the type “Sliver”, making most of your creatures into Fungus Slivers – since they still have their Fungus type, they still benefit from Sporesower Thallid! At this point you start cranking out tokens, locking your opponent out of the game, and dominating the table. Or suck a Quickened Demonfire. Damn, that sucked. Heh.
The good news: You have no want of ways to stall the ground. From two mana 0/5s to four mana 4/4s and approximately a million little token dudes which, depending on the table, can be sacrificed to regenerate fungi or give critters +1/+1 boosts. Your game plan involves basically locking your opponent out of non-Instant speed actions. Yes, that means putting Teferi in this deck would make grown men cry. Which is why he’s totally absent. After all, who actually wants to see a grown man cry? You cruel, sick people you. Shame on you!
The bad news: Said 4/4 and 0/5 are your only native survivors of Pyroclasm, barring Thallid Germinator tricks. You have no actual removal, no combat tricks, no artifact or enchantment removal or even countering. You uh…well, you’re pretty much a one trick pony. But what a trick it is, no doubt.
Your win condition is setting up your Opposition engine and using it to lock your opponent out of the majority of the game until you either accumulate or draw into enough Thallids to accumulate an army large enough to lock them out of the game and have some dudes left over to swing. Chances are most opponents will understandably concede if this point is not in the near future. Normally I’d feel bad about dishing up such a cruel deck, but it’s so startlingly fragile as is that I think it’s more a “wow, it actually worked” moment when it goes off rather than “relentlessly crushing my opponent yet again”.
And for my last deck this wee… hey, where’d it go? Huh. I could have sworn there was a decklist here somewhere.
Oh, there it is, right next to that reeking, horrible corpse of a joke. Of course, we’ve all thought of the Illusion deck as soon as we saw Krovikan Mist, but I haven’t heard word one about it since Time Spiral’s release, which surprised me after gaining at least five new, playable Illusions; Draining Whelk, Dream Stalker, Errant Ephemeron, Fathom Seer, and Riftwing Cloudskate (whom I’ve nicknamed Steve – confused? — check here).
What’s that? All these decks include Blue? What can I say? Blue is stupidly deep in Time Spiral. Much as I might not like all the happy shinies Blue got in Time Spiral, I have to play with the cards they give me. Don’t worry, I’ll use less Blue in the future. Insofar as your crew, this deck is a lot less cohesive than the last two. There’s no real grand plan here, just a midrange Illusion deck with some counter backup. Dream Stalker is probably your “worst” guy, and he still manages to be a 1/5 for two mana. I won’t say turn 2, because he’s more intended to get extra uses out of Willbenders, Draining Whelks, Fathom Seers, or Steves. Willbender (a.k.a. Slick Willy) is a pimp. He steals Auras, deflects removal, hoses Demonfire, reflects discard, and gets every woman in the room. Sadly, he has “issues” when it comes to “performing”, and when he shows his shriveled little 1/2 body, it’s best you aid his sudden shyness by having Dream Stalker cover his retreat. Fathom Seer joins Stalker in the “pseudo-wall” club after it draws you a pair of cards, and both Seer and Slick Willy like hanging around Vesuvan Shapeshifter, who becomes Granddaddy Pimp-a-la-mode if he teams up with a Willbender. It’s like a mini-Gleemax! Steve and Errant Ephemeron (man, I hate spelling that… he needs a nickname too. How about EE? Kinda like e e cummings but with capital letters…) are both fine men to Suspend on turn 2, if you’re going first. If not, I suggest holding the counter mana – chances are, if you don’t have one, you have a Think Twice, which you can use to bluff a counter. If your opponent casts something, pause briefly before continuing and casting the end of turn Think Twice. This way, you’ve given the impression that you could have countered their spell, but decided drawing a card was more important. Doing this is even more fun in decks that don’t have counterspells, since your opponent will likely spend at least a few turns assuming you do and possibly hold back a big play because of it.
Don’t drop Krovikan Mist early. I prefer to lay him as at least a 3/3 or 4/4. This at least keeps him out of (Sudden) Shock range. I typically only even play it out if I’m not drawing into a Whelk, since Whelk is less prone to sudden shrinkage due removal.
The good news: You have many large and angry guys on your side: EE, Whelk, and Mist can all get fairly ginormous, Shapeshifter can become the most ridiculous thing on the board (or kill a Legend… like, say, Akroma) on a whim, and you have a fair bit of counter and draw, with a side of bounce. All in all, you’re prepared for a little bit of everything. It’s sort of like playing a five-color deck, except you’re mono-Blue. I mean, I’d say the deck is lacking removal, but we all know I could full well put Psionic Blast in the list if I wanted to. Oh, and all the guys you actually want to swing with have evasion. That’s generally a good thing.
The bad news: You’re not quite prepared for everything as is. There is no Blast, and you’ve got a limited tolerance for what you can do about stuff that hits the table. Your bag of actual counters is limited; Remand only fakes it, the first Rune Snag can have a tendency to “not work,” and some things Slick Willy just doesn’t stop. You’ve got to fight hard to get the better board position and keep it, because once you start to lose it, it can be difficult to recover. Suffers much when going second.
Your victory conditions range from Whelk to EE to Mist in general, with the occasional strong showing from Steve. He’s a good man. But as stated before, tempo is what you need. Getting one or two guys out and/or Suspended and protecting them can win you the game in ways making a 6/6 Mist just won’t sometimes, so be prepared to play that way if needed. Against aggressive decks you can probably just raw dog out every Illusion you draw (not bothering to put Seers face down, for example) in hopes of getting a gigantic Mist or a mess of 1/3 and 1/5 ground stallers, and that’s when the Mists shine. Against control you’re looking more for Whelk or EE to bring it home, or to draw so many cards via Shapeshifter/Seer as to just bury the opponent.
And with that, you might think we were done, but no! As promised in the forums, a breakdown of the Tribes of Standard!
The Big Kahuna
Interesting how far a formerly non-existent tribe has come. I honestly never figured there were quite so many Humans in the Magic multiverse. When they were announced as a creature type, I didn’t figure we’d see them any more than say, Goblins or Elves. Instead, they currently have over double the members of the next largest tribe, and nearly quadruple the third largest. Considering the main strategy of many enemies in the novels is to overrun the Humans with superior numbers, I can see why they keep failing.
On a side note, it’s a shame Phyrexian was never a creature type or supertype. I wonder if they could go back in time, if they’d have done this.
The Little Kahunas
I’m kind of curious to see where Spirits end up gravitating towards on the color pie in the next couple of years, as they diminish to a more obscure creature type. Lovisa makes me a bit confused; Warriors are all over the place, but Berserkers and Barbarians are barely even around. I wonder if this was intentional. Wizards show up in surprisingly large numbers, as do Elementals. Elves, Shamen, Soldiers, and Zombies all bring in enough recruits that you’re likely to spend more time cutting such critters from decks than looking for more to add.
I think this may well be the smallest crop of Goblins we’ve had in years. I wonder if this was a conscious decision by Wizards to keep there from being a strong Blood Moon/Goblins deck in the metagame so as not to punish people for shelling out for Shocklands. Slivers, of course, have returned, Knights swelled to huge proportion in Haakon’s wake, and both Beasts and Clerics, staples since Onslaught Block, all produce decent numbers.
Now we start to get to the tribes that are difficult to build around, due to either a lack of quality or quantity of members. Rogues, for example, have many members, but all of them are decidedly lacking. Only four of them exceed two toughness, and seven exceed two power. Only three manage to do both at once. With the lack of much in the way of useful equipment, such a tribe is probably doomed until at least Planar Chaos. Druids have it even worse, but at least they tend to make up for it a bit in the way of really good abilities. Even so, these two are probably the worst-case scenarios. Angels and Insects, for example, seem like they could do just fine.
Boy, have I covered a lot of these before. Some of them, like Plant, look like they may even bear revisiting in the not-too-distant future. Spellshapers make a large return here, and oh how the mighty have fallen – Snakes have been practically decimated by the rotation, going from twenty-five to a lousy eight. Demons and Ogres were also wounded by the rotation. Right about now you also ought to be noticing some numerical oddities. All will be explained later.
Well, okay, right now. Thanks to Mistform Ultimus, these tribes are… well, buildable. I’m not entirely certain about playable, since I’m pretty sure at least one representative of each of these tribes is fairly awful. Heh. I mean, I could do three color Bears, but…why? If I’m going into three colors, I want results on par with Angels or Slivers, not… Bears. Or Thrulls. I’ve been down roads like that before.
These are the kinds of critters that just need a slight push to become legal. I think several of these stand a good chance to become legal before the next rotation: Barbarian, Monk, Pegasus, and Shapeshifter all seem very likely, and neither Gorgon nor Specter would surprise me if they made it.
(Almost) Sole Survivors
I Couldn’t Help Myself
As you may or may not quite be able to tell, this list does, in fact, consider Mistform Ultimus. In fact, almost all these types exist in Standard solely because he does, Triskelavite being the most glaring exception. I’m not entirely certain, but eyeballing it, this list looks to approximate the size of all the other lists above it combined. As many of the above types are obviously (Ali-from-Cairo) or likely (Townsfolk) to be obsoleted or unsupported at this point, it looks as though the current Standard environment may be host to as many as half or more of Magic’s currently supported creature types. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before types like Viper or Asp receive errata, shortening this list greatly.
And that, as they say, is that. Well, I hear tell they say it. I’ve never actually heard them say it, although that may be because I don’t know who “they” are. Or maybe I’ve heard them say it, but I didn’t know it, because it was “they”, but I didn’t know it was “them”. Er… well. Okay, sod all that. This that and that’s that, got that?
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