For this article, like all the previous ones I had to make a decision. I could have written about mono-black zombies, but zombies have been played to death (see what I did there?). Vampires, while certainly not being an obscure black tribe, at least haven’t had multiple articles written about them this year. When I was compiling my list of the best and brightest vampires in Magic, I was surprised at how small the tribe is. Wizards designers surely took this fact into account when they decided to visit the tribe in the Zendikar block, and the Innistrad block just a year later. There’s still a lot of room in Magic for vampires. That said, some great ones have been printed both recently and further back in Magic’s history. Since historically vampires have been likely sprinkled lightly in sets for flavor, their abilities go in a lot of directions. Black magic has a few inherent qualities. Black magic is very good at killing things. Black mana is willing to supply a planeswalker with the resources he or she needs to win, for a price. You won’t find a black mage practicing dark arts with power drawn from black mana who isn’t willing to pay with his life. This is the nature of black mana. Vampires exist here. Unlike zombies, vampires are well aware of the price for power. Unlike the black clerics, vampires already have a vast amount of power, and they aren’t about to spend their energy entreating other forces, like groveling at the feet of demons or evil avatars, or raising filthy zombies to do their bidding. Vampires worship only their own ambitions, and they will do anything necessary to realize them. In Magic, there are a few things, though, that you can expect vampires to do. First, a lot of great vampires can fly. Second, the longer they exist, the more powerful vampires become. And thirdly, whatever else is going on in the game, you can expect things to be dying around vampires. This just happens. If you’re familiar with Interview With a Vampire, you may better understand how hard it is for a vampire to deny his or her nature. Stuff dies. Whether the vampire’s ability requires sacrifice, causes a sacrifice, or just straight up kills another creature, being around vampires is a dangerous business. The main thing that ties all the great vampires together, however, is their efficiency. With these creatures, you get a lot more utility than you pay for. First, we’ll make a list tuned for power. If we want a power list, the first place we look is Vampire Nocturnus. This guy is a house, obviously. He’s also managed to stay around $20 despite being printed in M10, and never seeing much competitive play. Since I’m basically going for more budget decks, let’s leave him out of it. Next up on the power scale we have Bloodlord of Vaasgoth. He was just printed last summer, and this card is very cool. I love getting bonuses for things I would do anyway, and the Bloodlord does just that. He rewards you for attacking with vampires, then casting vampires in your second main phase. Continue reading Trials and Tribal-ations: Mono-Black Vampires
About a year ago my pal Sean had an idea for a casual constructed format we could play in our playgroup. The idea was this: The Guilds of the plane-city Ravnica battling for supremacy. The Guilds of Ravnica were stretched across the Ranica block, each having its own two-color color identity, along with a unique mechanic. Continue reading Trials and Tribal-ations: The Guild.
Soldiers are probably white’s strongest tribe. For raw power Angels and Knights dominate, and Clerics often show the most utility, but Soldiers, Soldiers are consistent. They’re the first ones on the battlefield, and the last to leave. When you need to defend the castle, you don’t call on Goblins or Zombies or even Angels. You call on the Soldiers. Soldiers are a subtype that have been sprinkled throughout Magic sets, with a number of lords, and across a number of different creature creature types. There are Human Soldiers, Merfolk Soldiers, Kithkin Soldiers, Bird Soldiers, Elf Soldiers and so on. A few of these types of Soldiers (for example Kithkin, Birds and Merfolk) may get minor bonuses from other cards for their main creature types. The white tribes for Lorwyn block were Kithkin and Elves with a tiny bit for Soldiers, M10 had a few decent Soldier effects, but with Innistrad’s Human component (namely Champion of the Parish), building Human Soldiers seems like the place to be. Innistrad has a few other ok soldiers (Elite Inquitor, Slayer of the Wicked), but Champion of the Parish is definitely the man. This guy is sweet. He comes down on turn 1 as a 1/1, like nothing is happening, and then just ticks up from there. It doesn’t take this guy long to become a huge threat. Champion of the Parish, Mentor of the Meek, and Ranger of Eos all have great card advantage synergy. Continue reading Trials and Tribal-ations: Mono-White Soldiers
Elementals are a strange tribe. Some elementals are more like spirits, creatures that appear with a form and will of their own, while others seem to flare up mindlessly like a forest fire. This is partly because ‘elemental’ is something of a catch-all tribe. They range from typical hasty beaters that get in for fast damage, only to implode at the end of your turn, to unstoppable lumbering beasts that seem to transcend the natural order. As if they weren’t strange enough, the world of elementals got a little stranger in the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block. Elementals appeared in every color, often taking the place of popular spells in their native colors. Shriekmaw had the Terror ability attached, Mulldrifter came with a Deep Analysis effect, Ingot Chewer had Smash, and so on. The makeup of these creatures makes them appear more on the spirit or demon side (see: Japanese mythology) than the embodiment of one elemental force or another. With this block, elementals became a collection of great tools, each with a specific use. They also came with a toolbox- Horde of Notions. A 5/5, haste, trample toolbox. I want to outline a traditional red fiery elemental list, and then we’ll look at just what Horde of Notions can do. Continue reading Trials and Tribal-ations: Elementals
This week we’re taking a step back from the classic mono-colored tribes, and taking a look at a tribe that might not be as obvious a grouping as some others. The cleric type has been printed on some great cards through the years, but you may not have noticed the creature type. Academy Rector, Eight-and-a-Half Tails, Ethersworn Canonist, and Mother of Runes are just a few that claim the Cleric subtype. In Standard Leonin Relic-Warder and the new sensation Geist of Saint Traft are both Clerics. The type isn’t constrained to the white piece of the color pie, however. On the other side there are black aligned Clerics, diligently serving darker forces. The Onslaught block was among the first to explore the darker side of the Cleric tribe, and as the Lorwyn block did for Merfolk, Onslaught provided Clerics with not only powerful creatures, but also non-creature spells specifically designed to support them. Let’s talk a bit about what it means to be a Cleric in Magic. Continue reading Trials and Tribal-ations Bonus- W/B Clerics
My first article on tribal decks covered Elves, so (with apologies to purists) it should be apparent that I’m not following the color wheel. I do plan to hit each color at least once, though. This time we’re hitting blue, with the extremely popular choice- Merfolk. Like Elves, Merfolk is such a deep tribe in Magic’s history that an extremely competitive tribal Merfolk deck is ever-present at top tables of high level Legacy events. I’ll list that deck, and the Elves deck (referred to as Combo-Elves) at the end of this article. Continue reading Trials and Tribal-ations- Merfolk
There are a lot of creature types in Magic. There’s Squirrels, Horrors, there are two creatures with the “Eye” creature type, and there’s my favorite- Beebles. Now there’s a sixth Salamander. One of my favorite creatures hits 3 great types: Coiling Oracle is a Snake Elf Druid. Chances are that at some point in your odyssey as a planeswalker you’ve wanted to build a tribal deck. There’s something about Magic that makes you want to align yourself with a race, and fight by their side. Before I played Magic, when I played the VS. System, I saw an image of Greg Staples’s Serra Angel and decided if I ever started playing Magic, I would fight with an Angel deck. Continue reading Trials and Tribal-ations- Elves