Tribal Thriftiness – Budgets Are For Movies and Dads

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Historically, the tribal mechanic has included the ability to make competitive decks without going overly expensive. Lorwyn is no different, and the recent success of the Faeries deck is just the tip of the iceberg of good, inexpensive, and successful Tribal decks that you can build.

[Editor’s Note – Dave will be replacing Chris Romeo until Chris returns… enjoy!]


It’s a cringeworthy word. When I hear it, I immediately think back to Boy Scouts, for some reason, where

they taught you that one of the twelve tenets to being a good Boy Scout, nay, a good PERSON, was to be

“thrifty.” The Boy Scouts, however, teach a lot of high concepts to 12-year-olds. I would have preferred

that they had taught me how to properly set up a tent. The one time I went camping in Boy Scouts, we ended

up camping in a playground. We took all the tents and turned the jungle gym into a giant, tarp-covered

igloo. Disappointingly, “resourceful” is not one of the placards in the Boy Scout oath.


A budget is something that my dad had to have, providing as he did for five children on a single income back

in the eighties. My mother would have called it, “being frugal.” I called it, “not getting a pony for my

birthday.” It implies that there is a set figure associated to a particular task; you have thirty dollars

budgeted to pay the telephone bill, for instance.

I don’t believe anyone builds decks this way. I don’t believe that, in preparation for Friday Night Magic,

that even my father would sit down with his thirty dollars, and only buy cards that would stay within his

budget. So I propose a rechristening of this idea.

Basically, we need new PR.

“Thrifty” is actually a much better word for the decks I prefer to build nowadays. Careful and diligent

in the use of resources. “Provident” is one better. Having or showing foresight; providing

carefully for the future.

Building a deck thriftily means using your resources to their best advantage — using your existing card

pool, and supplementing it where you can with cards that will provide you value in the long run. Nobody

starts a deck from scratch; it’s important when building thriftily to evaluate what cards you already own

that can fit into spots. You might not be able to buy four Troll Ascetics by Friday’s tournament; do you

have Hunting Moas that could be used in the spot until you can buy or trade for Trolls?

Building with providence means that, when looking to fill holes in decks that will require you to spend

money, you take a moment of thought to look into what cards you’ll be able to use in the future — in future

decks, and even in future formats. For example, your mono-green deck needs a three-drop. You’ve got the

option to buy either four Ohran Vipers or four Troll Ascetics. They’re roughly the same cost, but the

provident choice here would be to buy four Troll Ascetics, which you’ll be able to play for a lot longer in


We’ll still call it “building on a budget,” as that’s already caught on. But I’d much rather call it

something catchy like “Deck Minimum: Thrifty” or “Providence, Teferi’s Island.” This is why I work in

computer software and not in marketing. (I also came up with “Thrifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” but then

it would just be an article about bus fares.)

Lorwyn, Land of Providence

Lorwyn is a land made for provident builders. Sure, there are some cards like Thoughtseize that are up in

the stratosphere, and Garruk Wildspeaker ain’t exactly a cheap hire either, but the breadth and depth of the

tribal mechanic gives the thrifty builder a number of options to play around with. As of right now, there

are only eight rares listing on Star City that cost ten dollars or more. That’s fairly amazing for a big


Another great thing about Lorwyn for budget builders is that, in most cases, the uncommons have far greater

impact than the rares. All of the new lords with the exception of Scion of Oona and Mad Auntie are

uncommon, and most tribes have great creatures in the common and uncommon slot to flesh out a deck. If

you’ve bought a Fat Pack or a box, you probably have plenty of tools to start building a competitive tribal


Take a look at the currently-hot UG Faeries deck, one of which went undefeated at Worlds this year:

The most expensive rares in the deck are the Psionic Blasts, but you could easily swap those for either more

countermagic (like Faerie Trickery) or possibly some more interesting removal a la Ovinize. Nothin’ says

tricksy Faerie shenanigans like turning a Tarmogoyf into a sheep. Yes, I know Ovinize does not hit your

opponent about the ears and shoulders to finish the game off, but still — it would be pretty funny.

By the same token, Lorwyn’s Elves also are a powerful tribe with the ability to perform well without

stretching the wallet. Numerous players won their respective States tournament with Elves, including Conrad

Jackson in Florida:

Obviously, in a “budget” world, the Garruk’s would have to be replaced, but there are a myriad of pointy-

eared replacement possibilities that would have great synergy with the deck. Some other

Elves that saw play over States weekend include Thornweald Archer, Wren’s Run Packmaster, and Immaculate

Magistrate, all fairly inexpensive options.

Tribal, as a deck theme, has historically offered a way to build competitive decks from commons and

uncommons. Onslaught, the first tribal block, had Goblins at the top of the food chain, but even Goblins

didn’t run many rares. This is Matt Severa Top 8 Goblins deck from the Onslaught Block Constructed GP:

Detroit 2003:

Matt Severa from GP: Detroit 2003

3 Goblin Burrows
21 Mountain

4 Clickslither
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Sparksmith

4 Shock

The deck ran all of a dozen rares, and at least two of them still hold value now: the Piledriver leads the

charge in current Extended Goblins builds, and Siege-Gang Commander was reprinted in Tenth Edition. The

rest of the deck is made up of commons and uncommons with a tight synergy, thanks to the tribal nature of

Onslaught block.

My personal pet choice of the tribes in Lorwyn is Merfolk. I was very happy to see the return of the bright

blue fish men to prominence, and with all of the great tools in Lorwyn, it’s fairly easy to put together an

aggressive deck that utilizes the Merfolk’s natural (or unnatural) Islandwalk to slip past defenders and

crunch your opponents.

4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Merfolk Looter
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Riptide Pilferer
4 Tideshaper Mystic
4 Mulldrifter

4 Piracy Charm
4 Rune Snag
2 Delay

4 Faerie Conclave
18 Island

This is a fairly simple build with only one real straightforward plan — make fishies and send them into the

red zone. The Reejerey and the Lord work at pumping up all your little fish-men, and the Mulldrifter and

the Silvergill Adept make sure you keep drawing cards. Piracy Charm works double-duty here, both acting as

removal for many of the one-toughness creatures out there, as well as finishing the job that Riptide

Pilferer starts.

Rares you can possibly add to this build: Cryptic Command (flexibility plus answers a lot of problematic

cards), Psionic Blast (gives the deck that last little oomph to finish off your opponent).

Of course, Merfolk aren’t just Blue in Lorwyn — they’re also White. Adding in the White gives you access to

great removal options (Oblivion Ring, Condemn) as well as to a strong, protective father figure in Sygg,

River Guide. If you have any of the Blue-White rare lands like Adarkar Wastes or Wanderwine Hub, you can

adjust the mana base accordingly, although Vivid Creek and Boreal Shelf are available as well to those


But I think I prefer the Blue. Merfolk are just … Blue to me. Ever since the old days with Tidal Warriors.

They just deserve to be single-colored. My old Merfolk decks had a bit of extra disruption to them in

Winter Orb … say, isn’t there a card combo nowadays that’s popular in Standard that also prevents your

opponent from untapping enough to do anything about your fish-flavored physicalities? Why yes, there is,

and it’s Blue to boot. The Pickles combo is a perfect thing to splice onto the Merfolk deck, giving you a

fairly inexpensive disruption element that doesn’t interfere with your primary plan:

4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Riptide Pilferer
3 Tideshaper Mystic
3 Mulldrifter
3 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
3 Brine Elemental
2 Merfolk Looter

4 Piracy Charm
4 Rune Snag

4 Faerie Conclave
18 Island

The Shapeshifter works major overtime in this deck. He plays his usual part in the Pickles soft-lock if you

want him to, but he also can flip up and copy one of your Merfolk Lords to assist in the quick beatdown.

So, Lorwyn offers many possibilities for the finance-minded deckbuilder, and this is where I’m starting.

I’m going to take Mer-Pickles to Friday Night Magic in the hopes of seeing how our finned friends do against

the field. Next week, I’ll take a look at what worked, what didn’t, and try and tweak this into a winner.

And by then, I’m sure another brilliant “budget” idea will have reared its head.

Until I find a witty catchphrase,