Tribal Knowledge: Thawed And Ready For War

I’m throwing a curve ball at you today. I had expected to provide another in-depth discussion of a smaller tribe on my way to a new deck. Instead, I got excited to give a Tribal-focused look at Coldsnap. Surprise!

Howdy howdy ho. I’m throwing a curve ball at you today (you know, more than just starting my article with “Howdy howdy ho”). I had expected to provide another in-depth discussion of a smaller tribe on my way to a new deck. Instead, I got excited to give a Tribal-focused look at Coldsnap. Surprise!

Before we get to the new set, though, I have several thoughts based on the Forums discussion to my last article.

Folks seemed to like my focus on three tribes simultaneously, which is good since it took me twice as long to write as my previous articles. All three tribes received equal feedback, and suggestions for each peppered the Forums. Specifically…

For my Goblin deck, the ever-reliable Bazaar of Baghdad suggested two changes. One was to drop a Blood Moon for a third Threaten, his reasoning that Blood Moon is useless in multiples. The second was to consider utility lands like Ghost Quarter and Quicksand, which at worst are Mountains under Blood Moon and at best can disrupt an opponent. Someone also pointed me to Toby Horner’s Top 8 Regionals deck, which focuses on land destruction and a very different suite of Goblins.

I think of Toby’s deck as another interesting and viable path for Goblins, but I’m not tempted to start bending my deck towards his (kudos on the use of Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reiki with Thoughts of Ruin, though). Meanwhile, Bazaar of Baghdad’s suggestions sounded good enough for me to try out. They were terrific additions and sent me into this decklist:

This deck is brutal. I like it, in a sadistic sort of way. If I were to enter a Premiere Event this weekend, it would be with Bloody Goblins.

(Don’t expect me to ever enter a Premiere Event, though. Just so we’re clear.)

Bazaar of Baghdad also argued that Hand of Honor, perhaps the best Samurai in Tribal Wars, should be in my Godless Samurai deck over Kitsune Blademaster. As I said in the Forums, I disagree simply because of the mana headaches involved in using both Hands within the same deck. Suggestions of his I liked more were Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo, and Darkblast to replace Call to Glory (or Naturalize in the Samurai Gone Wild! deck).

For half a dozen games, I dropped a single Blademaster for Opal-Eye and tried out Darkblast. Opal-Eye was great, but Darkblast wasn’t making much of a difference in my games until I played Flawed Paradigm and his quirky-cool Thrull deck. Guess what? Thrulls die to Darkblast. So does Toby’s Goblins deck, which I played twice in a row after that. Okay, Darkblast stays.

The suggestion from the Forums I didn’t try was using Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho or Konda’s Banner to beef up my Samurai. These juicy pieces of equipment might work for many Samurai decks, but keep in mind that my deck was built specifically with Toshiro Umezawa in mind. Given the restriction of using twenty Samurai, I need all of my remaining slots for instants to rationalize Toshiro at all. There’s simply no room for artifacts.

As for my last deck, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that people are actively trying Blue/Red Wizards decks. The good news is that I wasn’t completely crazy by making a deck to focus on Niv-Mizzet instead of goofing around with Izzet Chronarch. Also, no one threatened to throttle me for dropping the number of Meloku the Clouded Mirrors in my deck.

Which is not to say that folks thought my deck was perfect. Both Bazaar and MyFeetStink fully stood behind Tibor and Lumia and Jushi Apprentice, with Azorius Guildmage, Goblin Flectomancer, and Izzet Signet also suggestions. Of these, Tibor and Lumia seemed like a no-brainer. Unbelievably, I dropped Meloku completely from the deck for Tibor and Lumia, along with one copy each of Pyroclasm and Repeal. I tried various configurations of the other cards, too, but was never convinced they added significantly to my games. As a result, I landed here:

It’s crazy, but I actually think this is a perfectly acceptable build even though it uses four copies each of three different legendary Wizards not named Meloku. Once I dropped his bounce-my-own-land nonsense, the deck started running much more smoothly. Tibor and Lumia were as solid as advertised, sweeping away Snake and Spirit tokens the entire evening I played it. This isn’t truly my style of deck, but it’s been a fun diversion all the same.

What should you take away from these three revised decks? Your first lesson should be that I am open and interested to Forum feedback. Make a well-reasoned suggestion and I will try it out. Bazaar of Baghdad, MyFeetStink, and Flawed Paradigm are wonderful additions to the discussion (indeed, they should all be writing Tribal articles, along with Winged-Weasel), but don’t let them hog all the glory. Jump on in and let’s make a community out of this Standard Tribal thing.

Second, you obviously shouldn’t take any of my decks as gospel. At most, I’m playing these decks about fifty times, which is far too few to really understand the intricacies of card interactions or the sorts of decks I’m likely to face. My decklists are meant to be inspirational, and possibly to give you a foundation with which to tinker. Spread your creative wings, and try out your own take on a particular tribe. And, when you do, post your revelations in the Forums!

No, I’m not going to stop saying that.

Coldsnap: A Tribal View

I have to admit, Coldsnap snuck up on me. I was working on my next “small tribe” article, struggling between whether to focus on Illusions, Insects, or both, when suddenly the Pre-Release tournaments hit, the official spoiler was available online, and Coldsnap review articles were everywhere. Although Coldsnap won’t be available online until August, it feels important to ride people’s collective enthusiasm and see what this newfangled set has brought to the world of Tribal Wars. My apologies to those of you who were geeked to see a small-tribe deck; it’ll be here in my next article.

For now, we have ninety-two new creatures to fill up our Tribal decks – and perhaps spawn new ones – in about a month. This is a particularly fascinating set for me because it’s the only legal set since Fifth Dawn that I didn’t contribute to by way of card names and flavor text. I had a choice of working on Coldsnap, Time Spiral, or both, and at the time my life wouldn’t allow me both. I chose the new Block and let Coldsnap drift by, unaware of a single new mechanic or card. I find myself looking at the set like some alien artifact. What is this thing? And, more importantly, where’s the “on” button?

By my count, here is how Coldsnap breaks down from a creature-type standpoint:

Angel 1
Ape 1
Artificer 1
Assassin 1
Aurochs 3
Avatar 1
Barbarian 1
Bear 1
Beast 3
Bird 2
Cat 1
Centaur 1
Cleric 2
Construct 2
Dragon 1
Druid 1
Elemental 5
Elf 2
Faerie 1
Gargoyle 1
Giant 2
Goblin 1
Griffin 1
Horror 1
Human 24
Illusion 3
Juggernaut 1
Knight 5
Leviathan 1
Lizard 1
Lord 2
Minotaur 1
Mutant 1
Ooze 1
Orc 2
Rogue 1
Serpent 2
Shade 1
Shaman 4
Skeleton 1
Slug 1
Snake 1
Soldier 5
Specter 1
Sphinx 1
Spider 2
Spirit 3
Treefolk 1
Vampire 1
Wall 1
Warrior 7
Wizard 8
Wurm 1
Yeti 4
Zombie 7

A few observations about this list:

  • Humans are the big winners in Coldsnap. There are three times as many Humans as Wizards, the second most populous tribe in the set.
  • On a related note, that’s a lot of different tribes for one small set. The bad news is that, except for Humans, no tribe gets a big boost from Coldsnap. The good news is that a bunch of tribes get a small boost. When it comes to Coldsnap’s Tribal contribution, think quality over quantity. This will become painfully clear when I modify my previous decks to accommodate the new set.
  • Welcome back, Walls! Six tribes are new to Standard with the coming of Coldsnap: Artificer, Aurochs, Juggernaut, Slug, Treefolk, and Wall. Unfortunately, none are currently big enough for a Tribal Wars deck. I think this most disappoints me with Aurochs, since we’re unlikely to enjoy more Aurochs in the future (seeing as how they’re very setting-specific), whereas the others are fair game. Also, Aurochs Herd is such a Tribal-friendly card that it hurts not to use it.
  • Meanwhile, sixty different tribes that were already in Standard got absolutely no help from the new set. This was probably most painful for Dryads, Elephants, Hounds, and Mercenaries, who only needed one card to be legal for a deck. I think I’m most surprised not to see Wolf, Berserker, Scout, and Lhurgoyf cards, since I associate these tribes (rightly or wrongly) with the Ice Age setting. Also, no Berserkers strikes me as bizarre given that Lovisa Coldeyes is in the set.
  • Seven tribes are off the Endangered List and will be legal once Coldsnap hits online. Get ready, because you can now build Ape, Faerie, Gargoyle, Griffin, Spider, Vampire, and Yeti decks to your heart’s content. Yetis in particular went from one Standard-legal card (Karplusan Yeti) to five, jumping right from Extinct to legal status.

As I glance through the spoiler, a couple of other things stand out. For example, several cards are begging for Tribal Wars decks to be built around them. Barbarians, Warriors, and Berserkers will party with Lovisa Coldeyes. Soldiers have a new general in Field Marshall, and possibly Darien, King of Kjeldor. Knights now come in Black flavor, thanks in particular to Haakon, Stromgald Scourge. Even Illusions now sound intriguing a la Krovikan Mist. Indeed, I’ve put off my Illusion deck from next week until after Coldsnap. Anyway, my guess is that these cards will spawn entirely new decks and have people looking at old tribes in new ways.

One more observation: Why oh why is Ohran Viper a Snake? Snakes are arguably the most powerful tribe in Standard, and they just got handed arguably the most powerful creature in Coldsnap. Couldn’t it have been Ohran Scorpion, Ohran Troll, Ohran Fox, Ohran Ouphie, or something? Anthony Alongi might love Snakes, but I’m beginning to hate the squirmy little buggers.

I’m only just beginning to get my mind around Coldsnap as it relates to Tribal Wars. For me, it’s hard to really pick apart the possibilities in a tribe unless I dissect every card available in that tribe. I’m sure that I’ve missed a few obvious Coldsnap gems in addition to the less obvious ones. Thankfully, I have over a month to ponder the ramifications of Magic’s newest set, and I’m hoping that you’ll help push my thinking along. Feel free to post in the Forums about ways you think Coldsnap will affect my new favorite format. I’m listening, and taking notes too.

The Post-Coldsnap Tribal Cheat Sheet

One of the big reasons I like Tribal Wars using a dynamic, Standard cardpool instead of a static, Classic one is the waxing and waning of tribes with each new set and each Block’s rotation. Coldsnap is a small set, sure, but it single-handedly makes some tribes viable and allows others to compete with powerhouses like Snakes and Spirits. There’s also the excitement as Time Spiral waxes and Kamigawa Block wanes, promising complete reorganization of Tribal’s landscape. For me, these tectonic shifts keep the format fun and keep my deckbuilding creativity high.

With this spirit in mind, here is how Tribal Wars will break down once Coldsnap is online. I’ve kept the same categories as last time because these categories have worked well for me as a way of breaking up the big list of tribes into digestible pieces. I won’t be defining these categories today since I’ve done so recently. If you need to be grounded in how I think about, say, a Tribal Nation versus a Tribe For Hire, check out my earlier Tribal cheat sheet.

Here we go!

The Big Two

Spirit 205
Human 199

The two biggest tribes in Standard Tribal are still the two biggest tribes in Standard Tribal. It’s not even close, actually.

What’s interesting is how much ground Humans made up on Spirits in only a small set. I think we can all predict that the Spirit population is going to drastically shrink when Kamigawa Block rotates out of Standard. The question is: Who competes with Humans, then? Since I imagine that every future Magic set is going to use a foundation of Humans, I can easily see there being a “Human problem” in Tribal, in which no tribe can even begin to compete with Human diversity or power. I’m also guessing that after Kamigawa Block that most of the powerhouse Standard decks ported over to Tribal Wars will be Human in flavor. I hope I’m wrong, but Humans look as viral in Tribal Wars as they are in real life. I’m starting to worry about overpopulation.

Tribal Nations

Wizard 78
Warrior 70
Shaman 54
Soldier 39
Goblin 38
Samurai 35

The six Tribal Nations all stand pat. No new tribe has yet gained enough cards for nation status, although Elementals crept close (let’s be honest, though: the boundaries around each category are completely arbitrary and made up by me. I don’t think Elementals are crying in their beer). Wizards and Warriors, already the two most populous tribes after Spirits and Humans, also received the second- and third-most number of cards in Coldsnap. Predictably, Samurai was the only nation to receive zero cards; Spirits aren’t the only ones who should worry about Kamigawa Block rotation.

Tribes For Hire

Elemental 29
Cleric 28
Zombie 28
Elf 26
Ogre 26
Snake 25
Beast 23
Rat 20

Again, these are the same eight tribes from my first Tribal Cheat Sheet, so on the surface not much has changed other than rank order. Elementals and Zombies received big injections with Coldsnap, whereas Ogres and Rats received nothing. As I mentioned before, Snakes – a powerhouse tribe already – received only one card, but it happens to be Ohran Viper.

I must have adopted some of my son’s love of Dinosaurs, because against all logic I am queerly attracted to Allosaurus Rider. There is an Elf deck in my future. I can already smell it.


Rogue 18
Fox 17
Monk 17
Druid 15
Demon 14
Knight 14
Moonfolk 14
Mutant 14
Bird 13
Berserker 11
Dragon 11
Horror 11

Knights are the big winner here, having moved from nine total cards in Standard to fourteen, including Haakon, Stromgald Scourge and the new pump-knights. It’s nice to see Black Knights back where they belong, and it’s also nice to see Knights finally span all five colors.

Most of the other Wildcard tribes received from zero to one cards. There are two Coldsnap Birds, both of whom rely on snow permanents and so would necessitate an entirely new and interesting Bird deck (thus far I have yet to see a Bird deck that is anything more than a weenie deck with Glorious Anthem). Remember too that although Berserkers didn’t receive any of their own kind, they have Lovisa, Barbarian Lust Object.


Giant 10
Wurm 10
Advisor 9
Illusion 9
Golem 8
Insect 8
Ninja 8
Plant 8
Angel 7
Archer 7
Cat 7
Lord 7
Scout 7
Vedalken 7
Viashino 7
Zubera 7
Assassin 6
Avatar 6
Centaur 6
Drake 6
Lizard 6
Skeleton 6
Spider 6

This list has gotten long with the addition of Lords, Assassins, Avatars, Centaurs, Lizards, Skeletons, and Spiders to it. At a cursory glance, Giants, Illusions, Spiders, and Angels seem to have the juiciest new toys, but that’s a pretty cursory glance. This is the category from which my next deck will come, so stay tuned next article.

Tribes Of Five

Ape 5
Faerie 5
Gargoyle 5
Griffin 5
Imp 5
Kirin 5
Nephilim 5
Thrull 5
Vampire 5
Yeti 5

It’s funny, the total number of tribes on this list (ten) is the same, but half of the previous list moved into Underdog category and the other half is new. Already I can’t wait to see what sort of decks Chris Millar makes with these fellows. Heck, I want to get my hands on Ape, Faerie, Gargoyle, Griffin, Vampire, and Yeti decks. Every time I pick one to mentally ponder, I immediately feel regret for not picking a different one on the list. Surely this will translate into a whole crop of new decks from me, even if most of my experiments won’t pan out.

The Endangered List

Barbarian 4
Dryad 4
Elephant 4
Hound 4
Leviathan 4
Mercenary 4
Ooze 4
Shade 4
Shpinx 4
Aurochs 3
Bear 3
Construct 3
Djinn 3
Hydra 3
Minotaur 3
Orc 3
Serpent 3
Shapeshifter 3
Troll 3
Weird 3

Alas, these tribes still aren’t quite ripe. The more I think about it, the more wrong it seems that Barbarians weren’t given a boost to five members with Coldsnap. Bears, Constructs, Minotaurs, Orcs, and Serpents went from Extinct to Endangered, and none of these tribes will be hit by the Kamigawa Block rotation. Several of the other “four-of” tribes feel on the brink as well. Keep your fingers crossed when Time Spiral arrives, all you Dryad, Ooze, and Sphinx lovers.

The Extinct List

Crocodile 2
Frog 2
Kavu 2
Lhurgoyf 2
Pegasus 2
Phoenix 2
Specter 2
Wolf 2
Archon 1
Artificer 1
Basilisk 1
Bat 1
Cyclops 1
Devil 1
Drone 1
Eel 1
Egg 1
Gnome 1
Gorgon 1
Juggernaut 1
Kraken 1
Lammasu 1
Nightmare 1
Nomad 1
Octopus 1
Rebel 1
Slug 1
Thopter 1
Thundermare 1
Treefolk 1
Turtle 1
Wall 1
Worm 1
Wraith 1

It’s a long, sad list. Only Specters went from one member (Hypnotic Specter) to two (Blizzard Specter) with the addition of Coldsnap. The rest are either new additions or were left out in the (sorry, sorry… I waited as long as I could) cold.

Poor Frogs… They may have been given false confidence by Dissension.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Although I’m sure to do this again once Coldsnap is closer to its online release, looking over the set has me thinking about how, if at all, my existing Tribal decks change with Coldsnap. Again, these are early thoughts without really knowing which cards I’ll love from the set, but here are some ideas about how the decks I’ve already made port over to a new Standard Tribal.

Azorius Spirits v.1.2

First of all, I am completely underwhelmed by Coldsnap’s crop of Spirits. I’m pretty sure this was intentional on the part of Coldsnap’s designers. This is fine, since Spirits needed no help, but it leaves my Azorius Spirits deck a little wanting. Ursine Fylgja will make a great addition to some Green/White Bear deck someday, but I can’t quite see taking Yosei, the Morning Star out for it.

I’m intrigued by Jotun Owlkeeper, but again I’m not sure it is better than any of the existing cards in my deck. In fact, right now I feel like my deck is using many of the best cards available to it in White and Blue, so the threshold for how good a card would have to be is pretty high. Vanish Into Memory sounds like a cool trick, but not cool enough to replace Faith’s Fetters, for example.

I suppose the only way I can see changing my Azorius Spirits deck would be to add four copies of Boreal Shelf. Since the deck is weighted heavily towards White, I would probably drop three Islands and a Plains for it. This gives my deck something to do on the first turn other than play Hallowed Fountain and allows for more diverse uses of Azorius Guildmage. It will be interesting to see how Dissension’s karoo lands interact with Coldsnap’s taplands, forcing deckbuilders to choose between them. Right now I’m only using two copies of Azorius Chancery, but four Boreal Shelf might still end up being too many.

Campfire Druids v.1.2

There are essentially three types of cards to examine when thinking about my Green/Red Druid deck. The first is, clearly, Druids. Boreal Druid is the only Druid in Coldsnap, but the good news is that he’s both decent and Green. Who would he replace, though? None of the Enchantresses, certainly. Not the functionally-superior Llanowar Elves. Civic Wayfinder? I would rather have the land-thinning and bigger body. I definitely think that Boreal Druid belongs in some Druid deck somewhere (probably the Druid-Ball decks discussed in the Forums), but not in an Enchantress-focused one.

The second type of card to consider is enchantments in Green and Red. Frayalise’s Radiance isn’t going to make the cut unless I’m drastically underestimating Coldsnap’s influence on Tribal. Surging Might is cool, but not cooler than Moldervine Cloak. Shape of the Wiitigo seems expensive, like overkill, and unnecessary since my Enchantresses get big all by their lonesome. Magmatic Core is neat, but I think it’s worse than both Seal of Fire and Galvanic Arc for my deck. Maybe I’m misjudging these cards, but none seem to fit into Campfire Druids.

Two Coldsnap enchantments make me scratch my chin. The first is Braid of Fire, which is both inexpensive to cast and produces an ever-increasing supply of mana. Those are two interesting traits for a deck using Verduran Enchantress. I don’t think I would be able to use the Red mana as effectively as some (read: Dragon) decks, but I might try it out and see. Braid of Fire might actually belong in a combo Enchantress / Druid-Ball deck.

The second card that tempts me is Hibernation’s End. Let’s play this out, mentally…

The first turn gets me Llanowar Elves.

The second turn gets me Gatherer of Graces.

The third turn gets me Verduran Enchantress, Yavimaya Enchantress, or Civic Wayfinder.

Fourth turn, let my hibernation end.

That sounds pretty good to me, albeit slightly underwhelming for five mana plus six mana of cumulative upkeep. Another question is whether my opponent would let me keep it around for three turns or not. I’m guessing not, and I’m also guessing that by the time my deck hits five mana I should have all of the pieces I need without tutoring for creatures. Still, it’s an idea worth trying in the place of, say, Fists of Ironwood.

The final type of card to consider is anything that might replace Indrik Stomphowler. Recall that the Stomphowler is there to handle cards like Worship, Faith’s Fetters, Glare of Subdual, or anything else that could shut down my rampaging Druids. Mystic Melting is the only option, and although I love me my cantrips, I would rather have a 4/4 body for one additional mana. I had hoped for a good anti-enchantment card that would have good utility against a non-enchantment deck, but Coldsnap isn’t offering it to me.

Finally, there’s Highland Weald. I’m less interested in using a tapland in my Druid deck because, a) I want to ideally play Llanowar Elves or Utopia Sprawl on the first turn to enable a three-mana Druid on the second turn, and b) With Verduran Enchantress, every mana is important every turn.

Where does all of this leave me? Not anywhere special. I’d like to try Hibernation’s End in the deck for Fists of Ironwood, but I don’t hold a lot of hope that this experiment will pan out since it hurts my mana curve so severely. Otherwise, the deck stands pat.

Bloody Goblins v.3.3

Ah, now we’re talking. As I said last article, the one card in my Goblins deck that bugs me is Goblin Brigand. I had been looking for a one- or two-mana Goblin who was aggressive (meaning it had two power or haste). After much trial and error I’ve settled on Goblin Brigand, which has surprised me in how few times it flings itself to its own death, mostly because my deck is very good at removing blockers. Still, the Brigand always feels like the weak spot in the deck when I’m playing.

I may be underestimating the number of snow creatures in Standard Tribal, but Goblin Furrier looks absolutely perfect as a replacement for the Brigand. It can hold off on an attack if that’s what’s needed. It can block in a pinch. And my deck is still good at removing blockers even if those blockers happen to be snow creatures. If there’s a downside to using the Furrier in my deck, I don’t see it.

After that, my interest falls off completely. The only other Coldsnap Goblin, Goblin Rimerunner, is inferior to my other choices. Earthen Goo, Surging Flame, and Lightning Spirit look like they could be scary-fun, but also don’t seem to replace any of my non-Goblin cards in sheer power. Icefall? Fury of the Horde? Balduvian Rage? Nope, nope, and nope. I like these cards, but not in a deck solely focused on reducing my opponent’s life as quickly as possible.

So my Goblin deck gets one card, but that card is exactly what it needed. Yay Bloody Goblins!

Godless Samurai v.1.1

There are no Samurai in Coldsnap, so all I’m really perusing are the instants. Kjeldon War Cry is usually going to be worse than Call to Glory, and I just dropped the Call for Darkblast. Luminescence, Chill to the Bone, Sun’s Bounty, Krovikan Rot, and Swift Maneuver aren’t anywhere near as useful as Mortify, Last Gasp, Cremate, and Darkblast, either because they cost too much or because their effect is weak.

Two Black instants catch my eye. The first is Soul Spike, since there is a definite chance of me holding extra copies of Toshiro Umezawa in hand. Some people have fallen in love with Soul Spike and others have spurned it. I’m not sure what to make of it, but the reason I don’t think it will work in my Samurai deck is that its actual cost is too high to reasonably expect to play from my graveyard via Toshiro.

Then there’s Grim Harvest, and now I’m really getting interested. Toshiro Umezawa usually has a big target on his forehead when he enters play. If I can keep him alive, my deck hums. If I can’t, I’m playing off the top of my deck with a slow weenie deck. Grim Harvest is about as close to instant-speed Raise Dead as I can get in today’s Standard, and Recover is a nice bonus ability that will probably be relevant, Toshiro or no. What would come out for Grim Harvest? Probably a copy or two of Nagao, since thanks to the Harvest I can afford for him to die without panicking (keep in mind, too, that my deck is currently running twenty-two Samurai so there’s give in the creature base).

Samurai Gone Wild! v.1.1

Neither Mystic Melting nor Resize interest me, so my Black/Green Samurai deck is in the same boat as my Black/White one. The difference is that I’m only working with twenty creatures, so if Grim Harvest is going to make an appearance it means swapping out for other instants. Naturalize is the obvious candidate, but dropping it from the deck makes me nervous. More likely is that I would replace a single Cremate and see if I could handle twenty-two land for two copies of Grim Harvest. That change would take some playtesting to figure out, though.

Izzards v.1.7

Coldsnap contains eight Wizards, so that’s where to start when updating my Blue/Red Wizard deck. Remember that my deck is built almost exclusively around Niv-Mizzet, so the other Wizards either need to a) play defense (sometimes in the form of creature removal), so that I have time to find and cast my big Dragon, or b) draw me cards, to both find Niv-Mizzet and fuel him once he’s in play. Protecting my own mana is also key, which is the reason Meloku ended up dropping off of the decklist. Finally, if my Wizards can survive either Tibor and Lumia or Pyroclasm, I’m even happier.

Scanning Coldsnap’s Wizards, only two seem worthy of contemplation. The first is Rimewind Taskmage, who is vulnerable but useful both as defense and for getting extra mileage out of Azami, Lady of Scrolls. The clause about snow permanents kills my interest, however, as I think forcing four snow permanents onto the table dilutes what my deck is trying to do. The second interesting Izzard Wizard is Survivor of the Unseen, who is a card-drawing machine. The problem here is that he’s a temporary card-drawing machine, and I want my Wizards to stick around to draw me cards and keep Niv-Mizzet happy. The cumulative upkeep bums me out as well, since my deck has proven to want as much mana as I can squeeze out of each land. I think I’ve struck out on Coldsnap’s Wizards.

Unfortunately, I don’t see any Red cards at all in Coldsnap that help my Wizard deck, especially since Balduvian Rage is the set’s only cantrip. Blue offers more possibilities, thankfully. Perilous Research intrigues me even though it seems… perilous. When I remind myself how desperate my deck is for mana, though, I can’t see sacrificing a permanent as fair trade for two cards when my deck is already stuffed full of ways to draw cards. Thermal Flux is a spell I can actually see using as a “Gotcha!” trick if Coldsnap has a large influence on Standard Tribal. Until then, though, I’m keeping it on the sidelines.

Since I’m drawing so many cards and playing so many Blue legends, Commandeer might belong in my deck. Since Repeal has been hit or miss, I could easily see dropping my two copies of it for Commandeer. Again, testing would bear out whether this is a good decision or not.

The last Coldsnap card that might fit into my deck is Vexing Sphinx. The upkeep cost is something I could probably keep up for quite awhile, especially with Azami on the table. I can also see letting it die to burn out an opponent thanks to Niv-Mizzet. In fact, the more I look at Vexing Sphinx the more it looks like a tiny Wizard might be sitting astride that furry, white back. I’m interested to see if my deck can handle one less Tibor and Lumia and Wee Dragonauts for two Vexing Sphinx (Izzards is also currently running on twenty-two creatures). Hmmm.

What have I learned from all of this pondering?

First, that my earlier comment of “quality versus quantity” is apt. It’s a small set with no large tribe other than Humans, so the goal is to find the very small handful of cards that might address your existing deck’s needs. Either that, or…

Second, I think the key to making Coldsnap matter in Tribal is to build with it as a base. The emphasis on snow permanents and odd mechanics like Ripple need deck infrastructure in order to be successful. It’s no wonder that my existing decks could find little of worth in Coldsnap. Existing Birds deck won’t have any interest in Rimefeather Owl, but a Rimefeather Birds deck sounds like an interesting approach. The key word here is “approach,” though. Coldsnap feels more like a starting point for deckbuilding than an afterthought. As a result, I imagine current Tribal Standard decks to look pretty much the same after Coldsnap, but there also to be some entirely new decks alongside the old.

If you have other thoughts about Coldsnap or disagree with what cards could or couldn’t work in my existing decks, speak up in the Forums. Especially if you played at the pre-release, you probably have a much better grasp on the set at this point than me.

I’ve promised myself (and you) ten Tribal Wars articles to see if the format will hold my interest and capture yours. At the end of my ten pieces, I’ll decide whether to keep writing about Tribal or move on to other pursuits. Right now I can make an argument for either one. Standard Tribal still holds all of the necessary elements to keep me happy for the foreseeable future, but I’m still not convinced it will be popular enough to invest time in playing.

This is the end of article number five, so I’m halfway home. Please speak up in the Forums to give me a temperature reading on your interest in the format, as well as what you’ve liked and not liked about these articles. I’d like to think that one of my strengths as a writer is my responsiveness to reader input. I can only respond, though, if there’s something to respond to. Wave your arms around and speak your mind. I’m listening.

Think hard and have fun,

(currently StudentDriver on Magic Online)