Tribal Thriftiness #11 – Equipped To The Hilt

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Thursday, February 21st – Morningtide offered a great tweak on the Tribal cards from Lorwyn – the Tribal Equipment. After having fun with Veteran’s Armaments two weeks ago in his Soldier article, Dave continues his run through the new Equipment by looking at the two with the least press – Thornbite Staff and Diviner’s Wand.

Let me begin this week by saying that that is one sweet little graphic I have for my column now. Makes me want to run out and get tattooed. Fortunately, I’m not my mother-in-law, so I’m able to repress that urge.

Don’t ask.

So on to the topic at hand. When Lorwyn came out, and the Tribal card type got added into the mainstream Magic continuity, I was fairly impressed with where they added it in. Tribal enchantments, sorceries, and instants all made sense – they were localized magicks practiced solely by one creature type. It made sense for Kithkin to employee Militia’s Pride, or for Elves to be prepared by learning Eyeblight’s Ending. It was a flavorful and largely magnanimous. So once we learned that Morningtide would be class-based instead of race-based, I was curious what would happen with the Tribal card type.

I mean, you could do Wizard Tribal Instants or Sorceries, but Warrior Sorceries? That just don’t make sense.

Thankfully, Wizards also made the same connection, and instead gave us the Tribal Equipment.

Starting out with the Soldier article two weeks ago, I’d like to go take a look at all of the Tribal Equipment. This article will delve into two more of the five weapons, do a little “pros and cons,” and present deck ideas for each one.

Stepping Out For a Thornbite

I remember, back in the Onslaught days, when I was playing FNM and losing 80 DCI points trying to play Twiddle-Desire, that there was a kid around the area who always played Goblins. And I played him. Often. I played him with Desire, Affinity, Astral Slide… it didn’t matter what deck I played, I don’t think – he had my number.

I remember one particularly devastating match against him which involved Goblin Sharpshooter. Combined with the other “sacrifice-and-do-damage” Goblins (or just “sacrifice” Goblins, in the case of Goblin Sledder and Skirk Prospector), he was able to use a single Goblin Sharpshooter to mow down my entire army.

I was pretty impressed by that. The ability to use one guy with an untap effect and a damage-dealing ability to mow down any blockers was very powerful. So when I saw Thornbite Staff in the Morningtide spoiler, I figured it was certainly going to be the “hotness” of the new tribal equipment.

Turns out, it was Obsidian Battle-Axe.

The Upside: In a Standard environment full of creatures (and, in the case of Rogues / Faeries / Elves, not even big creatures), a reusable source of creature removal has potential for exploitation.

The Downside: There are two big differences between Thornbite Staff and Goblin Sharpshooter. The abilities, while functionally the same, have a big difference: the mana cost. Goblin Sharpshooter had only the tapping as a cost; Thornbite Staff will cost you another two mana. This is detrimental to the desired action of mowing down the opposition, Rambo-style – you run out of bullets a lot quicker. The other downside is that, in order for Thornbite Staff to be anything more than an equipment with an expensive ability cost and an expensive equip cost, it requires you to build a deck around it. The Sharpshooter, while a Goblin, didn’t require other Goblins – he could have been fine in any deck that could have figured out a way to untap him regularly.

So, ideally, a deck with Thornbite Staff would be able to generate enough mana to keep using the ability, meanwhile surrounding itself with various Shamans to make sure it can get a free equip.

My best idea involves Thermopod. Yes, I’m aware it’s not a Shaman – but it does give you a way to untap the user of the Thornbite Staff at will, while cutting down on the inevitable mana cost of using it again. Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper ($1.25) comes in as not only a secondary win condition when partnered with the Thermopod, but is also a Shaman to take advantage of the free equip.

Rare Cost Summary:
Lightning Crafter ($1.25 x 4 = $5.00)
Fendeep Summoner ($1.00 x 2 = $2.00)
Kaervek the Merciless ($1.25 x 1 = $1.25)

The user of Thornbite Staff need not have become tapped while using the Staff’s first power, in order to take advantage of the second ability – therefore guys like Lightning Crafter are much more effective in mowing down the opposition, and Fendeep Summoner’s ability can be used more than once in a turn to give you a semblance of an alpha strike.

Rares You Might Add, If You Got ‘Em: The guy I really wanted to try abusing with Thornbite Staff’s untap ability was Elvish Piper, who is (conveniently) also a Shaman. Seems like it could be fun to put a number of creatures into play at the end of your opponent’s turn. Another guy that works similarly is Incandescent Soulstoke, who not only benefits from the untap ability, but also comes with a built-in way to make sure he untaps before your opponent’s turn.


Those of you outside the States might not have seen the cell phone company ad that sees four guys summon a wizard off the side of a van. Every time it comes on, I start shouting “Wiiiiizard!” and frightening my cat and wife. At least, that’s what I think that look is on her face, where her eyes roll up and around her eyelids.

The Wizard equipment, Diviner’s Wand, seems counterintuitive on the surface. Sure, it gives you an evasive attacker every turn (and a bigger one to boot!), but with the recent neutering of Blue’s card-drawing into sorcery form, it seems like a one-trick pony. You draw your card for the turn, maybe play another card-drawer, and then send over your solo big guy.

Actually, that sounds about how Blue would like to play. So I guess I shouldn’t complain.

The Upside: Diviner’s Wand essentially rewards you for doing exactly what a Wizard deck would want to do anyway: draw cards. And you get the benefit every turn, whether you play another card or activated ability, or just sit there.

The Downside: The lack of any real instant-speed card-drawing means that either you need to look at creatures with a card-drawing ability to use on your opponent’s turn, or you need to come to terms with the probability that you are going to stick your Diviner’s Wand on one attacker, and let him keep doing all the work while you use all your other Wizards to hold down the fort.

We probably want to start looking at Wizard-type creatures with a card-drawing ability. The ideal “solo attacker” would be Fallowsage, who pumps himself up every time just by turning sideways to attack. Similarly, Inspired Sprite not only has a card-drawing ability, but also has a chance to be used multiple times as you cast more and more Wizards.

Rare Cost Summary:
Voidmage Prodigy ($2.50 x 2 = $5.00)
Arcanis the Omnipotent ($3.00 x 2 = $6.00)
Magus of the Jar ($1.00 x 2 = $2.00)
Mind Spring ($2.00 x 2 = $4.00)

Magus of the Jar and Mind Spring give the deck a sort of “Hatred” feel, albeit a little more obvious in the care of the Magus, as he needs to sit around a turn before you can pop your opponent with +7/+7 and flying. It’s also possible that you could run Whispers of the Muse in the place of Stream of Consciousness, as you do have the Voidmage Prodigies and Willbenders to offer you and your guys some form of protection.

Rares You Might Add, If You Got ‘Em: I’m not sure there really are any.

This is a Mono-Blue take at it, but Wizards come in all colors! Kinda fitting for a company named “Wizards,” I guess. White offers you another “effect when tapped” Merfolk Wizard in Stonybrook Schoolmaster and more protection in Sygg, River Guide ($2.50), although you might have to tweak your manabase a bit. Black gives you even more of a Hatred feel with Hoarder’s Greed, as well as Wydwen, the Biting Gale ($2.00) if you want another Wizard with built-in evasion. Red’s not big on Wizards (it prefers Shamans), but Green offers some very interesting possibilities:

Rare Cost Summary:
Magus of the Library ($1.50 x 4 = $6.00)
Rites of Flourishing ($1.50 x 4 = $6.00)
Scapeshift ($3.00 x 1 = $3.00)

Rites of Flourishing gives you more ammo every turn for your Wand-enabled attacker. The Magus of the Library should always be active for you, and Harmonize should fill in if you get low on cards. The singleton Scapeshift is for once you have plenty of land out and want to focus on winning the game, playing out more card drawing, and beating your opponent about the ears.

Rares You Might Add, If You Got ‘Em: The deck really needs Yavimaya Coasts to help with the mana. You might also consider Howling Mines as another card-drawing engine that “benefits both players.”

In my opinion, Thornbite Staff and Diviner’s Wand are the homely stepsisters to the other, superstar Tribal Equipment Cinderellas in Morningtide. I hope this article has given you some ideas about how they can be good – no, great – in today’s Standard environment.

Next week, let’s finish out the Tribal Equipment look, but be prepared to stay late, as both Obsidian Battle-Axe and Cloak and Dagger seem to be played with the creature types that see the most Tribal play in Standard – Elves and Faeries.

Until then…