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Overlooked Tribes by Gabriel Showers

Lorwyn is a Magic: The Gathering expansion focused on creature tribes- Elves, Goblins, Faeries, Giants, Treefolk, Kithkin, Flamekin, Elementals, and Changelings. Morningtide is also tribal, but focused on the creature’s occupation, such as Rogue, Wizard, Shaman, Warrior, and Soldier. Tribal decks have been near to the heart of the Casual Gamer since the beginnings of Magic. For me, it was when I saw Goblin Caves back when The Dark expansion was released. Goblin Caves made me want to play goblins. I hadn’t yet seen Goblin King, and when I did I was amazed, and found myself deep into the Goblin tribe for years and years. I have been building tribal decks ever since, and in that time I have built some decks based on tribes that have gotten very little support over the years, often times just enough to build a deck around. Some tribal decks just got the boost that they need, due to Lorwyn block’s introduction of Changelings- creatures which can count for any tribe.


Today I want to focus on some overlooked tribes.


First is Gargoyles. Gargoyles are such cool creatures I can’t believe that they haven’t been better supported by Wizards over the years, but they have experienced resurgence recently. Gargoyles are mostly white or red flyers. Many of them have huge mana costs. For my Gargoyle deck I went mono white with artifacts, but I fully encourage people to experiment with white/red gargoyles, though mono-red Gargoyles may be difficult for the time being, even with the red Changelings in the mix. There are only a few small white gargoyles… the lowest-costed gargoyle ever printed being the conditional enchantment- Opal Gargoyle. New to the Gargoyle family are Stonecloaker and Opal Guardian. The Stonecloaker is efficient and great against graveyard tricks, but requires a creature in play to return, and Opal Guardian is a glorified Opal Gargoyle, though great against red decks. The deck splashes black via Orzhov Signet to make the Shrieking Grotesque a bit better. I have to use Avian Changeling to help fill out the Gargoyle count in the deck (for the time being), so I can activate Cryptic Gateway as soon as I play it. From there, it’s HUGE gargoyles that bend the rules of the game- Darksteel, Voidstone and Nullstone. I expect Gargoyles to get their due as a tribe soon.


The next tribe is Spiders. Spiders are kind of creepy, mostly green, and stop flying creatures in their web…, er, reach. Time Spiral gave us the first Spider support ever in Swarmyard, which taps to regenerate Spiders, among a few other types of creatures. Also released in Time Spiral is Penumbra Spider, which is a green-mana-intensive Giant Spider which replaces itself in the event of spot removal or board sweeping. Planar Chaos then gave us our first red spider since Trap-Door Spider, and a non-green spider at that! Needlepeak Spider is a four-power spider for four mana, making it one of the most efficient agro spiders of all time. Changelings can help the Spider tribe, but Spiders don’t need numbers so much as they need attack power. If you build Spiders, be sure to have Rancor, Alpha Status, Coat of Arms, Door of Destinies and/or Overrun to help out. Personally, I like Lure and similar effects in Spider decks… it feels flavorful, and helps a big attack get through.


Then there’s Illusions. Illusions have gotten a good amount of solid creatures over the years, many with flying or other evasion abilities (Phantom Warrior, Thalakos Mistfolk and Sneaky Homunculus are good examples). Coldsnap then gave us Krovikan Mist, a common creature, but comparable with the uncommon tribal avatars from the Onslaught block (Reckless One, Doubtless one, etc.), but at a cheaper cost, and with flying. Onslaught block did a lot for Illusions, like give them Standardize, which can make the Krovikan Mist much much bigger at instant speed. Ravnica gave us Halcyon Glaze, which helps Illusions against board-sweeping effects like Wrath of God. Other good Illusions against wrath effects include Palinchron, Fleeting Image, and Amugaba, and the aforementioned Thalakos Mistfolk. Riftwing Cloudskate is an Illusion that starts as a 2-mana investment and results in a decent flyer with a comes-into-play Boomerang, and Errant Ephemeron is a 2-mana investment that gets you a flying beatstick…these two also have a way of dodging board-sweepers, and are in the extreme minority of Illusions that easily get the Haste ability. Mistform Warchief can be a big help for this tribe, and can even help an Illusions deck splash non-Illusion creatures at a reduced cost. Aetherplasm can also help get big creatures into play very quick. Veiled Sentry can seriously discourage your opponent from playing expensive spells. Meloku, the Clouded Mirror is a Legendary (and tournament-level) creature which is also a flying Illusion token generator, and can vastly help Krovikan Mist get crazily huge, among other things. Draining Whelk and Chronozoa are some recently printed, powerful Illusions, and some older creatures got included into the Illusion tribe along the way, like Phantasmal Forces and Psionic Entity. There are a lot of ways to go with Illusions; from Morph (with the new Ixidron) to Mistform to Phantasmal to Homunculus… it’s a fun and versatile tribe.


One tribe that I’m still trying to build around is Centaurs. Centaurs got quite a bit of support back in Odyssey block, and have since been getting even deeper in their ranks. They even have some legendary creatures- Seton, Krosan Protector and the more recently printed Stonebrow, Krosan Hero, though neither does anything to help Centaurs specifically. Centaur Glade is a fantastic token generator for the tribe, though another important enchantment to consider is Still Life- both of these are good against Wrath. Burning-Tree Shaman is a very efficient attacker that can severely punish opponents who rely too much on activated abilities, though, like Stonebrow, it forces you to stray into a red splash. Centaur Chieftain is a hasty 3/3 for four mana that can give a very nice bonus to all your creatures once you get Threshold. Seton’s Scout is the most efficient two-costed Centaur that gets much better come Threshold, though Skyshooter is also a great early Centaur that can take down an attacking Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Nessian Courser is the Centaur version of Trained Armodon, but more splashable. Loaming Shaman is great against graveyard tricks and can save you from being decked to death. Spellbane Centaur lets the Centaurs hate on anything blue short of counterspells. The Centaur that has probably seen the most tournament play is Phantom Centaur, and it’s easy to see why… a four-mana, five-power creature with a damage-prevention ability and protection from black sprinkled on top? Power. Forcemage Advocate, also a centaur, can help get +1/+1 counters back on the Phantom Centaur, for a price. Jolrael’s Centaur has the Flanking and Shroud abilities, and should be considered for any Centaur deck.


Lastly is Bats. Lots of Black and a bit of white here and there, Bats got some love in the Orzhov guild of Guildpact, with Blind Hunter, Belfry Spirit and Skeletal Vampire. Then Time Spiral gave us Sengir Nosferatu, which turns itself into a bat token in emergencies. Vampire Bats and Sengir Bats are the old standbys, with Grimclaw Bats filling the gap in between, or Dakmor Bat, and if you’re building a Bat tribe deck, you may as well track them down. The Bat tribe gets very thin after this, though the Changelings can help (especially Mirror Entity- it’s on color with the white from the Belfry Spirits and Blind Hunters, and it gives the Bats the P/T boost they so desperately need). With enough Bats and Bat tokens around, and with Blind Hunter’s haunt ability, black creatures with creature-sacrificing abilities like Delraich and Desecration Elemental look more playable (though if you go this route, I would also suggest Sengir Autocrat). Bats are a creature type that, like Gargoyles, are really cool in concept, but have not gotten the full-on tribal support that classical fantasy creature types like Dragons or Barbarians or Dwarves have gotten, much less Elves or Goblins. However, like with Gargoyles, I expect this to change in the near future.


There are plenty of other unloved tribes that people can build around, from Eye and Thrull to Pegasus and Unicorn. There’s Moonfolk and Crab, Hellion and Hydra, Basilisk and Dryad, all just sitting in boxes of cards, waiting to be your next tribal theme deck. And now, just to make it that much easier for you, there are Changelings in all colors to help fill the gaps. What are you waiting for? Where’s the love?


For the Love of the Game, From the Casual Fringe,

Gabriel Showers

This article was published on Wednesday February 27, 2008.
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