[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, there are no sideboards, and Umezawa’s Jitte is banned from the format.]
This week continues the journey on the path of the many styles of Human decks available to the mono-color world, and a sojourn into a surprise deck celebrating all that is Human. Well, within the world of Magic, anyhow. Real humans are much more boring and less worthy of discussion. Plus, they say their own piece every week in the forums, for better or worse, while exposing themselves to my raucous japes and smarmy witticisms. Although admittedly, the lot of you come of with good ideas fairly regularly.
That said, I’ve been looking forward to this article for some time now, because two of the three decks presented this week have been absolutely ace to play with, to the point where I often use them in non-Tribal related Standard games, because they’re just that much fun. Plus, they’ve got exactly twenty humans, so many people don’t even notice they’re tribal decks (although, if they read this, I suppose that the cat’s out of the bag, no?)
Before we begin, I’d like to give a heads-up that my next article may or may not include decks. At the request of Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, I’m going to do a "State of the Format" article – not unlike the American State of the Union address – where I’m going to discuss my observations on the popularity of the format, as well as give my opinion of what Wizards needs to do in order to keep the format healthy in the future. It’s fairly likely that I will include at least one deck for the sake of formality, but it depends how long the article is without a decklist. I have yet to actually organize my thoughts on the matter in such a way that I can measure the length of the article mentally, so not even I know yet.
Also, I’d like to take a moment here to congratulate The Ferrett on his position working with MagictheGathering.com and wish him the best of luck in his endeavors there. Good show, man!
With that out of the way, let’s begin with something I’m certain that people will suggest I acquire after next week’s article.
- 4 Balduvian Barbarians
- 4 Sandstone Warrior
- 4 Frenzied Goblin
- 4 Balduvian Warlord
- 4 Goblin Rimerunner
- 4 Lovisa Coldeyes
- 4 Martyr of Ashes
RAWR! Can you feel the rage? Well, okay, maybe not, it’s just a deck list after all. I have to admit being proud of this deck simply because it gives Red a lot more cleverness than most people would give it credit for. There are three creatures in the deck that can all screw with blocking assignments, and Threaten as well to even out the odds as your critters will likely eventually be outmatched by larger men than themselves. Regrettably, there’s very little this deck can do about untargetable creatures, so you want to stay on the offence whenever possible so that you can force untargetables into blocking.
Starting with the Humans, we have Martyr of Ashes to recover a lost board position, and it works well at that, since if you can see yourself beginning to lose control of the board, you have double the incentive to start holding creatures back. Not only will that keep them out of harm’s way when the Martyr goes kablooie, but of course they will help the kablooie itself be that much bigger. This is one of your potential outs against an untargetable, but as the key one is Simic Sky Swallower, that may be a bit of a stretch.
Balduvian Barbarians? Yes, they’re a mirror of Hurloon Minotaur, that powerhouse cards that will one day be reprinted by Wizards as a Power Creature worth $50 on the secondary market. So why would I trouble myself to use them in this deck, before those dark times undoubtedly ahead of us? Well, we’ll come back to that later.
Balduvian Warlord is one of your blocker-stoppers, and a fine example of the kinds of creatures I like; he’s got respectable, if not incredible, stats for his mana cost, but if he’s not going to be useful in combat, he has an ability that still excuses his presence in the deck. It made me a fan of Cackling Imp in MDF limited, and it makes me appreciate this guy. For those not in the know, his ability basically forces one blocking creature to unblock one creature, and instead block another creature of your choice. While it’s good for arranging unfavorable trades, perhaps the more important aspect is that if your opponent wants to block any one creature in particular, they have to double block it to guarantee that it stays blocked.
Sandstone Warrior… before making this deck, I had always assumed this creature was an Elemental, based on the name. No, luckily enough, he happens to be Human, and as such he’s fantastic in this deck, where it’s not unreasonable that he may be a 6/3 or 7/3 First Strike man. As such, he works awfully well alongside the Balduvian Warlord, where you can ship creatures over to block the Sandstone Warrior they have no hope of even harming barring a combat trick. I may even go so far as to say that he’s probably the deck’s all-star.
And now we come to Lovisa Coldeyes, a creature I was waiting for ever since I saw her spoiled, and not just because I’d like a pin-up of her in a furry bikini. Call it my inner Vorthos, if you will. Lovisa makes her presence as four of the deck’s six rares worthwhile, as she gives a steroid injection to every creature in the deck save herself, Martyr of Ashes (who has no real interest in combat after turn 2 anyhow), and Sandstone Warrior. While it is a sad occasion that she doesn’t pump the Warrior, he’s the one critter in the deck who least needs it. She is, in a way, like Goblin Warchief. She doesn’t make your guys any cheaper… however, the Haste and the steroid injections are usually good enough. She ties together the deck’s theme, and pretty much by her lonesome manages to win this deck the flavor award of the week, because after you untap with her and lay your next angry, boosted, hasted man, you can feel how inspiring she is to her troops. It’s a very noticeable effect, enough so that I’m not ashamed to include a card like Balduvian Barbarians (told you I’d cover that base).
As for the off-tribals, we have Frenzied Goblin and Goblin Rimerunner, or as I like to call them, "the interference," because they mostly exist to make sure your other, larger creatures get through unblocked. The fact that they turn sideways for respectable damage around Lovisa is not lost on me either, and is especially nice in the case of Our Man of Frenzy because his ability is triggered on turning sideways anyhow. Note Rimerunner itself is a Snow creature and thusly capable of being put in hand via Scrying Sheets, so if you have six or more mana available, it may not be a bad idea to main phase Sheets.
And that leaves us with the most fair card in the deck, Skred. Skred is an incredibly fair and balanced card, and you will know and appreciate that every time to pop off some six or seven mana rare monstrosity with a one-mana common. Skred and Scrying Sheets are enough reason for any base-Red deck to run a Snow-Covered manabase whenever possible, because it’s just that fair.
The good news: With no two drops, this deck will probably get off to a slow start. That said, it’s probably also perfectly reasonable to make room for Wheel of Fate in this deck once it is available, because it can be aggressive enough to possibly empty its had by turn 6, while not having anything better to do for exactly two mana (barring unusual situations and draws).
Further, this deck can generally be very difficult to defend against with creatures, which makes it perfectly equipped to deal with other decks that are assured to be running at least twenty of them on their own. Ever since False Orders, I’ve always loved effects (other than Sorrow’s Path) that allow me to screw with blocking. One of the most powerful abilities in Magic has never been printed on a card, and that ability is the one defending players have when it comes to combat math, with advantages like gang-blocking and originally Banding. Obviously, anything that can negate that advantage has the potential to be extremely powerful, even more so when the ability allows you to reassign a block and thus give the potential for card advantage, which is probably why we see these abilities so rarely.
The bad news: Well, you’re in mono-Red, and as such have no way of removing enchantments, which is expected. Humans lack any particular way of removing artifacts, although that’s vastly less relevant in the current environment. Your creatures are small, as Humans are wont to be, but they do have some pseudo-evasive capabilities, almost always a necessity to a Human Tribal deck.
Luckily, your removal suite doesn’t leave much room for complaint, although some of your creatures are lackluster without the presence of Lovisa to guide them, and you have no real way of protecting her from much of anything at all. Also, as you have no ability to draw outside of your draw step, it can be difficult to make a big Martyr on short notice, so in general it’s a good idea to hold back a couple of cards if you’re not being forced to commit to the board due to Faith’s Fetters or somesuch. Ideally, some combination of Sandstone Warrior and a block-mucker or two will be enough. However, this is Magic and ideal situations come up less often than is, well, ideal.
Your win condition is generally your gang of dudes, sometimes backed by one of your opponent’s dudes, due to Threaten. You have no direct burn, so keep that in mind as you play – barring your chance to steal something that has a burn ability, you are forced to win through combat, which is atypical of a Red deck. Luckily, as I’ve pointed out along the way, your gang of dudes can usually be pretty persuasive about making sure they get inside the enemy camp to smash some teeth in.
This next deck I’ve been looking forward to covering for quite some time now (in general, I assemble decks two to four weeks prior to writing about them, to give sufficient time for testing) because of several things. First off, it is by accident also Tribal Cleric legal; second, it plays way outside of the usual bounds of a Tribal deck; and third, it’s just plain silly fun, and most opponents I’ve faced are impressed by the deck’s functionality even if they’re losing horribly. Despite this deck being probably at least as annoying to play against as last week’s Tap Dancing deck (Blue), I don’t recall anyone ever conceding to this deck. I hesitate to call it a combo deck, because it doesn’t actually "go off" during one big turn, but nonetheless you’re looking to assemble the pieces of a machine to get through.
Goodness, but I can’t express my total love for this deck. This is probably the single most fun deck I’ve done for this series thus far, and I encourage anyone who can afford it to give it at least a few whirls.
Originally, this deck started off with Weathered Wayfarer and Martyr of Sands (all the Martyrs being Human made me examine the potential for each for the last two articles – as you can see, most of them made the cut) and as I continued to look over the other available Humans, I kept being entranced by how many one-drops were available. Remembering the interaction between Martyr of Sands and Proclamation of Rebirth, I wondered if this wouldn’t be the deck to test it in. As it turns out, it was the right deck in my opinion, and as such it ended up being built as shown – although I also originally had Wall of Shards instead of Wrath. While the Wall was interesting and often even good, it just doesn’t compare to Wrath.
Enough of that, let’s look at the roster of one-drop weenies we have here. Haazda Exonerator is our weakest link, really doing nothing of use most of the time, but as its non-Kamigawa block competition includes such all-stars as Caregiver, Eager Cadet, Honor Guard, Infantry Veteran, Kjeldoran Javelineer, and Lionheart Maverick, useless 85% of the time beats out useless 99% of the time. It can, of course, be sacrificed to get rid of a Fetters on your Millstones, though, so that earns it a spot. Generally, though, I just keep it in hand unless I specifically need it, for the sake of powering up the Martyr.
Martyr of Sands is the deck’s workhorse. In a way, it’s indirectly your win condition; you want to use it to gain so much life that you are basically unassailable by way of damage. The main part of the engine you want to assemble is Urzatron plus Proclamation of Rebirth (forecasted) plus Martyr of Sands. Barring a board full of really large men and no Wrath for them, this should gain you enough life as to be all but invincible. Generally you’ll be gaining between twelve and twenty-four life a turn off of its ability once you get the engine going.
Order of the Stars can be a flat-out lifesaver in a deck like this one, which I suppose is Fate’s way of laughing at me after I slammed this critter relentlessly in the Guildpact review I did for another major Magic site. But, in all fairness, this deck is pretty much utterly unorthodox for any "real" format, so I never considered its place in something like this. Plus Proclamation had not yet been printed, so that’s my excuse. Just don’t play this thing turn 1; make sure you have some idea of what color you’ll want to protect against, since you want to be able to be resistant to both the biggest non-evasive critter on the board and removal the opposing deck is packing. In general, Red or Black is top pick, followed by Green, then White, then Blue. And really, unless you’re playing against mono-Blue, you’ll probably never want to name Blue, since most of its removal is just bounce anyhow and all its real threats fly. White’s slightly low on the list because Fetters and Devouring Light are generally the only removal Protection from White will stop (note Protection from Black stops Pillory), and White is not known for large ground-pounders.
Soul Warden is in just because it’s better than the other options, but the synergy it has with your lifegain strategy is a welcome addition nonetheless. Weathered Wayfarer is why you probably always want to draw first with this deck, as barring a manascrewed opponent or a lot of Karoos, it will generally assemble your Urzatron for your single-handedly while simultaneously thinning out your deck so you can get to your engine faster.
As for the non-dudes, we’ve got Wrath to recover a lost board position (pretty likely, since your largest critters are bloody 1/1s), Howling Mine to find our "combo" as it were, as well as contributing to the "win via milling" strategy, and Millstone brings the actual bacon home.
My advice for Proclamation is that you always Forecast it when possible (nice synergy with Martyr of Sands, not just on the level of retrieving it but also powering it up), and hardcast it only if you feel that you absolutely must in order to survive, which in my experience has been very rarely. I only recall hard-casting it twice, and both those times were before Wrath was in.
The good news: You’ve got surprise value out of your yin-yang, wazoo, or whatever other cute euphemism you use to refer to your colon. No one sees this deck coming, and the inherent amount of lifegain in the deck is an incredibly difficult barrier for any typical Tribal deck to overcome. I would go so far as to say that if one were to drop some of the more lackluster Human Clerics from the deck, there’s a potential seed for a Mono-White Control deck here for Standard, non-Tribal. Barring that, this may be competitive in Standard Tribal, I may even try a Premier Event with it. Many, if not most decks do not bring enough artifact destruction/neutering to stop you from winning, although I imagine Magus of the Disk may well change that in the future.
So, in short, you’re prepared to deal with most anything this format is going to throw at you, and the grand majority, if any at all, are not the least bit prepared to deal with what you’re bringing to the table. That’s historically been a formula for success.
The bad news: Your creatures, barring a properly set Order of the Stars, die to more things than even Thrulls do, and if you read Tribal Bible #5, you know that’s a lot of things. A permission deck need only counter your Howling Mines and Millstones to virtually guaranteed a victory, barring themselves getting careless with their own draw spells. Keep in mind that by going second, you’re first to draw, and so unless you can resolve two Howling Mines, or one Millstone and keep it long enough to get at least one activation, you are by default in a losing position since any game involving this deck is very, very likely to come down to one person or the other running out of cards.
Also, as the deck stands, you have no way of dealing with artifacts, but again, I find that to be a minor thing in a format without Umezawa’s Jitte running around. I’d say that fact alone would probably nullify this deck from ever being competitive in a non-Tribal based Standard environment, except that then you’re playing a format with sideboards allowed and that can be accounted for.
Your win condition is decking, plain and simple. Whether it’s because of Millstone or Howling Mine, you just want the other guy to run out of cards before you do. I mean, I suppose it’s technically possible to win through damage, but if you want to try that, I wish you luck. I’ve never done it, or even desired to do it, because it takes much less effort to win through milling.
[All the lifegain, the mana, and the card drawing… and not one copy of Storm Herd?! Ninety-seven 1/1 fliers for ten mana seems quite the value. – Craig.]
Knowing that Magic only has five colors, and that I do three decks a week, I knew right off that if I wanted to do two weeks of mono-colored Humans, I was going to have to produce something extra to fill up both weeks. Looking over the various mono-color Humans, none of them struck me as extremely synergystic with other colors, barring Green with its Enchantresses. Having just done the Enchantress deck in Green (and having seen JMS’s G/W Human deck at the time, and its use of Enchantresses), I wanted to do something more interesting.
As such, I ended up looking at multicolor Humans and my eye was quickly caught by one card I’d been wanting to do something with anyhow, which eventually led to me being well, positively enchanted by this card’s charisma and ability to say "Build around me!" Needless to say, since then I’ve been…
- 4 Orzhov Pontiff
- 4 Freewind Equenaut
- 3 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
- 1 Haazda Shield Mate
- 4 Minister of Impediments
- 4 Zur the Enchanter
Holy Hell, that’s a long deck list. That does look more like one of my typical wacky manabases though. And yes, the deck’s title is a bastardization of "tripping the light fantastic". Moreover, it’s a reference to Primeval Light, a card that of course wrecks this deck by such degrees that I cannot describe them on a family site, which is precisely why you shun the card when playing this.
No, I’m not reviewing every card in the deck. You’re welcome.
As for the Humans, though, I will discuss them. Freewind Equenaut is a natural inclusion in a deck with so many Aura – Enchant Creatures, and it gives you some measure of toying with combat math. Haazda Shield Mate will often lack the mana to pay for his upkeep and use his ability, which is why he’s alone in the deck, but when you can use him, he can be an utter house. Honestly, I’d prefer to cut him for Story Circle, but I don’t want to run four Augustins, and I’m running bare minimum Humans in this as is.
Minister of Impediments once again makes it to one of my decks, simply because he’s very brilliant in a format defined by creatures, but moreover he also has synergy with Plumes of Peace, making him a little extra special in this concoction. Orzhov Pontiff is primarily there to keep token creatures in check, since you don’t have any other form of mass removal for reasons of your own safety. He can technically be used to make your own guys bigger, but that is generally irrelevant.
The Big Boys are Augustin and, of course, Zur himself. Augustin serves to make a few of your spells cheaper (primarily said Minister, who becomes a one-drop), but more importantly he helps with this deck’s philosophy of keeping the opponent off-balance so you can peck away at their life total. Zur serves as your evasive beater.
Generally speaking, when using Zur, you want to first fetch Shielding Plax for him, followed by either Rime Transfusion or Necromancer’s Magemark, depending on how many Zurs you have in hand and/or how likely you think your opponent can handle him with untargeted removal. After that, it’s a matter of deciding how to best use the toolbox of enchantments I included to assist the deck. Note that I’m still done with Kamigawa Block, so Threads of Disloyalty and Ghostly Prison are absent from slots they might otherwise fill.
After the first couple of Zur fetches, the third is usually Counterbalance; your deck is stuffed to the gills with 1-4 drops, and thus can provide semi-reliable counters for most cheap spells, even without library manipulation. Rime Transfusion makes Zur practically impossible to block, barring twelve creatures in all of Magic, not to mention making him a 3/5 and ergo a much faster clock than his normal stats provide. Copy Enchantment is excellent at giving you more of whatever’s working out well for you at the moment, and is particularly fun/irritating (dependant on your side of the table) with Mark of Eviction.
The good news: Your toolbox is pretty comprehensive, so once you’ve got Zur active, you’re usually in pretty good shape. There’s a very tiny number of situations your toolbox cannot deal with, primarily a mass of token creatures, which doubles back to why Pontiff is in the deck in the first place.
On top of that, between Minister of Impediments, Gelid Shackles, Pillory of the Sleepless, Seal of Doom, Plumes of Peace, and Mark of Eviction, you’re pretty capable of fending off opposing creatures yourself. Halcyon Glaze makes itself available as a difficult-to-remove flying beatstick (you didn’t think I’d let a Human deck not have its large evasive dude, did you?) and Freewind Equenaut is capable of both control and serving a hot plate of beats to the other side of the table.
The bad news: Legends aside, your guys are fairly small, you have no reliable counterspells, and you do have to actually draw Zur. I wanted room for Supply/Demand, but I just couldn’t find it and still have a comprehensive toolbox. I’m open to suggestions on this one. Your manabase is somewhat wonky, but nothing fatal most of the time. I’m afraid I really can’t recommend a budget manabase for this one. Your ability to actually remove a critter from the board is a bit limited, mostly to Seal of Doom, Mark of Eviction, and Mouth of Ronom, so make sure you’re using the right enchantments for the right threats. Typically, you want to use Pillory on things that just beat, Gelid Shackles for a critter primarily irritating because of blocking or an ability (or it can function as a straight Pacifism for one Snow mana per turn), Mark of Eviction for things with comes-into-play drawbacks or tokens, Seal of Doom for a non-Black creature who can’t be stopped any other way (ones with static or triggered abilities like Lovisa Coldeyes or Primordial Sage, for example), and Plumes of Peace for a critter that has a tap ability.
Your win condition is generally Halcyon Glaze, Freewind Equenaut, and Zur himself flying through to get the last lethal points of damage, although sometimes Augustin can join in the fun. Other than that, you’re just trying to control the board so that you don’t lose. This is the other deck I’m majorly proud of this week along with The Daily Grind, so I’m looking forward to hearing comments on both.
Next week: State of the Format.
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