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The tribal decks of yesterday can still be a romp today.

The Tribes That Time Forgot

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The letter Y!ou know, it's new and sexy, so the tribes of Lorwyn / Shadowmoor block get all the hype. "It's all about the tribes!" we cry, and because Lorwyn has these awesome Kithkin and Giants and Faeries built right in, everyone starts building Kithkin and Giants and Faeries decks from the most recently released blocks. And that's good times.

But there are other tribes. Forgotten tribes. The tribes that time forgot. And sometimes, it pays to dust off these old stalwarts and bring them to your multiplayer table.

So let us travel through time to discover... the ancient tribes.

Jerry D'Antonio's Snake Shards


I myself would have called this one "Snakes... Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?" in honor of a certain behatted raider of the Lost Ark, but Jerry calls it Snake Shards, and I must honor that.

In any case, this mostly Kamigawa block deck does surprisingly well in group games, mainly based on the power of Sosuke's Summons, which returns to your hand with... well, with pretty much every spell you play. People can wipe the board a million times, and you'll still have a swarm of 1/1 Snakes—which you can make into a deadly army with Seshiro the Anointed.

Card drawing isn't usually an issue with this deck, thanks to Ophidian (a Snake, wouldn'tcha know), which can generally hit someone in the early game, and Seshiro, who can draw you five cards in a shot if someone's defenses fall.

The Crystal Shard's mostly there to save your Snakes and recycle the "comes into play" effects of Mystic Snake, Coiling Oracle, and Patagia Viper... but if someone taps out for some hulking, ugly creature, you can punish them severely by returning it to their hand—or force them to spend the last of their mana before playing some spell that you want to resolve.

Echoing Truth is one of those cards I don't play with enough, and I should. For two mana, it dispatches multiple threats simultaneously, sometimes yanking a whole army up off the field at once.

Jerry has this to say about the deck:

I once had Eternal Witness in this deck because it works well with Crystal Shard. It sucked in this deck. It was a classic example of a great card being terrible in the wrong deck. The mana cost pushed me so far to green that I had difficulty playing Coiling Oracle reliably. In the early game I never had any good recursion targets. In the late game I was always more concerned with bouncing Seshiro the Anointed or Mystic Snake. Since Eternal Witness isn't a Snake it wasn't even a good chump in the late game. I generally just kept it in my hand as though it were a dead card. I replaced it with Ophidian.

Ophidian rocks in this deck. The mana cost actually helped smooth the mana curve. In the early game it draws a ton of cards because in multiplayer there is always someone with no creatures or with nothing but X/1 creatures who doesn't want to trade, and it isn't enough of a threat to draw removal. Once Seshiro gets out Ophidian becomes a 3/5. Adding Ophidian to the deck was one of the best choices that I made.

Matsu-Tribe Sniper is probably the weakest card in the deck. I rarely play it. I put it in because it fit the mana curve, is a Snake, and has an interesting ability. I've used that ability once. I plan to replace it, but I don't know with what. I want something that has synergy and has an interesting / unusual effect but that won't change the basic strategy of the deck. It also has to fit the mana curve. Some ideas are listed below.

The deck runs pretty well with only 22 lands because of the Elder, Coiling Oracle and Ophidian. I play a variant online that runs Yavimaya Coast, but I don't feel that it is as necessary for multiplayer because the games are slower. Adding some dual lands would help, though.

I refuse to add Coat of Arms. Too easy.

This deck's always been a threat every time Jerry's played it, and it's done surprisingly well... qnd best of all, it should be relatively easy to build. There are practically no killer rares in the deck, and it's made up of mostly uncommons and commons. It works quite well.

And speaking of easy-to-build decks that function quite well, let's take a look at another deck from my pal Peter Risser... and this one uses Crystal Shard, too!


This one's based off of a deck idea by Mister Benjamin J. Bleiweiss (you may have heard of him), utilizing the great synergy between Mirrodin's cheap artifacts and Kamigawa's great Ninjas. And who doesn't love Ninjas, those black-pajamaed hooligans?

Essentially, the deal is that you drop out an early evasion creature like Ornithopter or Arcbound Stinger, then attack someone with little or no defense to get your Ninja on. Whoops! Out comes Ninja of the Deep Hours to get you some cards, or Throat Slitter to kill their guys, or Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni to steal someone's best critter from their graveyard.

The Shrieking Drake and Crystal Shard allow you to recycle your Ninja action (and, in the case of Crystal Shard, to get them the heck out of harm's way when some global destruction comes to town—this deck's fairly vulnerable to large Wrath of God effects).

The Cranial Plating's really what makes this deck scale well to multiplayer, though; it allows for some pretty brutal out-of-nowhere turns where someone lets a 1/1 through, then gets smacked by an Ink-Eyes with a Plating on for upwards of 10 damage.

This isn't quite as good as the Snake deck, mainly because it doesn't have the ability to power-play out some monstrous turns. As I said earlier, "I attack you with six 3/3 snakes and draw a card for each of them that hits you" allows for a game-sealing thunder... and Ninjas still have to work one hit at a time. The deck is potent, like I said, able to do good amounts of damage and card-drawing, but Ninjas? Not known for their explosive capability.

On the other hand, the deck is also very cheap and very flexible in that you can change a lot of the cards in the deck and still have it work. (I myself am not sure about the Springleaf Drums, and would probably swap them out for something like Æther Spellbomb or Lightning Greaves.) And it's also a lot of fun to play... which is, of course, the most important thing about any deck.

My friend Ilia completely floored me with this next creation, which is hard to beat for old-school goofiness. I've been around long enough to remember when the first previews for the expansion in question came out, and one of the big selling points was a brand-new, never-before-seen creature type.

I imagined a whole set devoted to this crazy creature type—a type which, after all, had to do something that had never been done before, or else why would they bother mentioning it? This would be awesome!

As it turns out, the set was an instant classic—in fact, I'd certainly argue that the block it started was the best ever printed. But it wasn't a classic because of this creature type, which saw some minor play (except for one classic, Constructed-clogging card that was everywhere for a time) but never really got any traction the way that, say, Goblins or even Spirits did.

Heck, the only reason they brought these guys back (barring, yes, changelings) is for retro purposes—one in each set in Time Spiral block. One of them is still in Constructed play to some extent today!

But as a tribe, they've never really caught fire. (Which is funny, because "fire" is what the most famous one does.) That's why I was surprised when Ilia hauled out this quirky little beatdown deck at the local multiplayer table, and it actually did pretty darned well....


The key to this deck is Kavu Monarch; with it in play, every other Kavu you play brings it out of Lightning Bolt range and becomes a trampling threat. Trample is one of the best creature mechanics there is in multiplayer, and anything that means you can pretty much ignore the smaller defenses of a defending player is a Good Thing.

Flametongue Kavu and Bloodfire Kavu clear the way of smaller utility creatures, and Fires of Yavimaya—a classic combo with Flametongue back in the day, with a little Constructed deck called Fires—allows all of your Kavu to come charging out of the gate and gives them a bonus when you need to finish someone off.

Strangely enough, Ilia was convinced to add the single Sparkcaster here, and it's been weirdly effective. It's not efficient damage, but Ilia's polished off an opponent or two by attacking and then gating it back to his hand twice for the final damage.

There's nothing particularly fancy about this deck. Plop your Kavu on the ground, pick a target, and attack the heck out of them. As a multiplayer beatdown deck, it works.

A Question

So, because I'm curious: what tribes have you unearthed? Sound off in the forums! Share your most obscure tribal decks! The weirder the creature type, the better!

Also, I have yet to see a changeling deck that really works. The problem with changeling decks is that either:

  1. You throw the changelings in as "filler" creatures in another tribal deck (as Giant decks often fill in low-curve gaps with Fire-Belly Changeling and Taurean Mauler), thus making it Not A Changeling Deck, but a Tribal Deck With Changeling Filler.
  2. ou have changelings with a smattering of lords and tribal enablers, and wind up drawing the lords but not the changelings or the changelings and not the lords.
  3. You use Mirror Entity to fuel an army of small creatures for the win, which to me is really a Mirror Entity deck, not a changeling deck. (Though I do adore Mirror Entity.)

So if anyone has a solid changeling deck, show that off, too! I wanna see! And tune in next week for a Very Important Announcement about Serious Fun.

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