Tribal Thriftiness #13 – Shifty Underhanded Underpinnings

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Thursday, March 6th – Finishing out with the last of the Tribal Equipment, Dave gets all covert under the protective blanket of Cloak and Dagger.

The words “Cloak and Dagger” evoke an almost timeless image – a medieval European town, cobblestone streets, and a shadowy figure drifting from covering to covering, pulling up his overcoat and trying to avoid being recognized. He pauses in one shadow as the night watch makes its rounds, clenching a concealed blade in one hand so he can fight should he be found out.

Of all the tribal equipment, Cloak and Dagger has the most established perception of what the term means, and what the equipment itself might do. Promises of concealment, of protection, and of the hidden weapon lurking in the folds of the protective fabric.

When I was a kid, one of the things I always dreamed of was being a spy. Not the high-tech, gadgety, Bond-esque spy… at least, not until I was sixteen or so and understood what “getting the girls” meant. As a kid, I always thought it would be fun to be that eavesdropping, secret-learning kind of spy, that hid in the shadows and snuck away once his intelligence-gathering mission was over. That would have been cool… if I had lived in the Middle Ages, or in colonial America. I bet those guys were the ones that actually got the chicks.

Cloak and Dagger, thematically, fits the dual bill of both “cloak” and “dagger.” A measure of protection granted by the cloak represented by the Shroud, and the undisclosed weapon bonus in the +2/+0. As much as I would have preferred the +2/+0 to be unblockability (because you can’t see the attack until it springs from the shadows), well, then we’d just have another Whispersilk Cloak.

So now we just need to find a Rogue to put it on.

Ideally, there are two types of Rogues to look for. One is the one that provides an effect that you don’t want to lose because the creature dies to direct damage or removal – one where the Cloak is the stronger of the halves. Then there is the other that already has some sort of evasion built in, where the Cloak and Dagger can work together to present an efficient and quick clock.

Mr. Worf, Activate the Cloaking Device

(I’m aware that the Enterprise didn’t have a cloaking device, don’t email me. And don’t email me if the Enterprise did have a cloaking device in that one episode from Season 4.)

Rogues with a continuous effect that we’d like to keep are few but varied, from reducing mana costs to pumping other Rogues, to preventing you from losing the game outright.

Frogtosser Banneret: Even in the Goblin decks that are currently popular in Extended, sometimes a good draw is dependent on a Goblin Warchief staying in play long enough for you to gain the benefit of being able to put multiple Goblins into play at once. Removing a Warchief (or, in the case of Standard, the Banneret) often means that the Goblin/Rogue deck slows down, possibly to a pace where they are more easily controlled. There are plusses and minuses to using the Frogtosser with Cloak and Dagger: the plus side is that he has haste, so he can attack right away; the minus is that often you’ll want him to come down before you play Cloak and Dagger, and therefore don’t reap the benefit. (Although, turn 3 Cloak and Dagger, turn 4 Banneret, attack, Prowl Earwig Squad doesn’t sound bad.)

Stinkdrinker Bandit: Probably better than the Blackguard in a deck filled with evasive Rogues, suiting up the Bandit with Cloak and Dagger can prove to be a difficult situation for your opponent – but one that will at least end quickly.

Oona’s Blackguard: Similar to the Stinkdrinker Bandit, protecting your giver-of-counters and bestower-of-specterlike-abilities from spot removal increases your clock, and makes sure that your later Rogues will all continue to get their counters should your opponent deal with your initial offering.

Fortune Thief ($1): And now we come to the interesting one, the Johnny one if you will. As a Red creature Worship, could Fortune Thief provide a “stop-loss” against opposing creature decks? Once you have a Fortune Thief tucked safely inside the Cloak and Dagger, there are very few cards in Standard that are capable of dealing with him – Red board-sweepers like Pyroclasm or Sulfurous Blast, and the Wrath brothers, are about all that come to mind. If you were to combine him with some Blue countermagic, he’d act sort of like Counterbalance does in Extended – giving you a free counter to most things (here, by negating creature damage and burn) and leaving you to save your countermagic for stuff that matters.

Rare Cost Summary:
Fortune Thief ($1.00 x 4 = $4.00)
Whetwheel ($1.00 x 3 = $3.00)

Whetwheel gives you two things: One, a win condition that doesn’t rely on the +2/+0 of Cloak and Dagger (or on trying to navigate creature damage through your opponent’s probably-angry army); two, an early creature if you need it to stave off early attackers (and to “pose” as a morphed Fortune Thief). Familiar’s Ruse gets a run as a way to protect multiple Fortune Thieves should that situation occur, but it might be better as a bounce spell like Unsummon.

And Then I Shanked ‘Im

The Blackguard and Stinkerdrinker Bandit, however, are better served by being around other Rogues, and both reward you for using Rogues that come with their own built-in Cloaks. So what options are there for Rogues that would be better off with an extra Dagger in their hands?

Flying: The Blue and Black Faerie Rogues like Pestermite and Nightshade Stinger become much harder to handle. Marsh Flitter provides not one but three Rogues to slip into a Cloak.

Fear: Mostly the domain of Goblin Rogues like Prickly Boggart and Squeaking Pie Sneak, the Fear will let them slip by most defenders, but pale in the mirror match, or against beefy Artifact defenders like Phyrexian Ironfoot. But the +2/+0 from the Dagger side makes it much more likely that, if they CAN be blocked, they’ll at least take their blocker down with them.

Shadow: Back from the grave thanks to Time Spiral, there are a handful of Rogues that either come with Shadow built in, or can get it by either discarding a card or by having Hellbent. Trespasser il-Vec is probably the best of the bunch, with an already-high power and the ability to play both sides of the shadows.

Every one of those creatures has some sort of evasion, except the Banneret and the Bandit. You can start out the game using Cloak and Dagger to get in extra damage, and then once one of your “global” effects comes into play, switch the Cloak and Dagger over to them to ensure that they survive to give you maximum benefit.

There’s one other form of evasion that I left to talk about separately, and that’s Islandwalk. The Merfolk Rogues are an interesting bunch, giving you discard in Riptide Pilferer, card selection in Merfolk Looter, and deck removal in Grimoire Thief ($5), although he’s at the top of the proverbial food chain at five bucks a pop. The Merfolk Rogue deck is more of a resource denial deck than a straight attacking deck, tapping down blockers and sneaking in damage where it can while keeping the opponent away from big, game-changing spells.

Rare Cost Summary:
Pendelhaven ($4.00 x 1 = $4.00)

I think the Pendelhaven is worth it in this deck. You have a number of 1/1s that would love to sneak in for an extra damage where they can, and having the ability to save an important Merfolk from Pyroclasm may make a huge difference in the outcome of a game. The Streambed Aquitects, while not Rogues, are imminently important in providing both the Islandwalking that will let you bypass blockers, as well as the Island to walk onto, but it’s not really a “combo” with the Shroudy goodness provided by Cloak and Dagger. If you have Lords of Atlantis ($4) hanging around, slipping them into the deck to give your Merfolk a more permanent Islandwalk is probably better – the Paperfin Rascals and Aquitects are probably the easiest cuts.

Tribal Equipment Roundup

So that concludes our look at the five Tribal Equipments. Of the five, it seems that Obsidian Battle-Axe is the most powerful, giving you an offensive bonus and an incentive to swing with it as soon as possible. But I think they all provide interesting incentives and rewards, and it’s been eye-opening finding decks for them to live in.

And it’s been interesting to find out what creatures fit into the new tribal models of Morningtide. I think you owe it to yourself to go back through the other sets in Standard and see what else is a Rogue or Wizard… the answers will surprise you.

Until next week!