Trying Tribal: An Introduction to Tribal Wars

Tribal Wars is a format of Magic: the Gathering that challenges the player to focus more on the creature aspect of the game than any other spell type. The fun of Tribal Wars is the fact that allows you to loosen up and delve into all the flavorful areas of MTG.  Instead of the focus purely being on the best cards to win the game, Tribal Wars is more about the best creatures to get you to the gold.  And with the “creature creep,” Wizards of the Coast push to make creatures “good,” Tribal Wars is growing to be a stronger format.

The Rules


Basic Theory of Tribal Wars


The general idea of the format is to flex your creative muscles. When making a deck that is, at the very least, 20 or so creatures, you have to be mindful of how you build the decks. Of course, there are some tribes that are stronger then others. Certain tribes are going to need less spell glue than others. Tribes like Elves, Merfolk, Goblins, Soldiers, and Zombies come to mind.

It’s all a matter of how much effort you put into the actual making of the deck. After all, spell support is crucial. If your deck has even a splash of white, look into the card Unquestioned Authority. It’s an aura enchantment for creatures that costs 2W or 2 mana of any color and 1 white mana. It gives your creature protection from other creatures and draws you a card when it comes into play. This means the creature can’t be blocked by creatures, can block creatures and not take damage, and not be affected by abilities from other creatures.  It’s a pretty strong little gem.

Or using a card like Brass Herald. Many of you remember the Herald cycle from the Apocalypse set. Brass Herald works in a similar fashion to the rest of the cycle with the slight twist of letting you select the creature type you want to “herald” for. This is great if you are playing a sort of off the beat and path Tribe like Walls.  He also has the added benefit of being a lord. Yeah, sure he doesn’t buff himself like most lords from that era of Magic, but he’s not bad for a late game rally the troops. And if you’re in green or white, you are going to have some form of toughness boost to let him stay in play.

Let’s Try to Make a Deck


I’ll start with the tribe we all know and love, Elves. It is one of the fastest strategies in the Tribal Wars format. This comes from the overabundance of cheap mana producing creatures the tribe has alongside really powerful lords. For those of us who do not know, a lord is a creature that offers a buff to creatures of its tribe. A fine example would be Elvish Archdruid. He gives all other Elves +1/+1 and he can tap for one green mana for each Elf you control. Pretty powerful right?

So what would be the essentials of an Elf Tribal Wars deck?

  • Lords:  I use Elvish ArchdruidEladamri, Lord of LeavesImperius PerfectElvish Champion, and Joraga Warcaller. Eladamri is great because he grants my Elves shroud and forestwalk. The downside is he does it for my opponent’s Elves too. That is the same downside to Elvish Champion; who grants all other Elves forestwalk and +1/+1. Since we don’t expect to have the same tribes go against each other, we can assume this isn’t the worst thing. Imperious Perfect gives Elves you control +1/+1 and can make 1/1 Elf Warrior tokens. I mainly use her as just another lord and rarely use the second effect. Joraga Warcaller is one of the best lords in the deck. He has the ability Multikicker for 1G which means when you cast him, you can chose to pay that amount as many times as you’d like. For each time you Multikick Joraga Warcaller, put a +1/+1 counter on him; Elves you control get +1/+1 for each counter on Joraga Warcaller. You can see how that would get out of control.
  • Mana Dorks: Elves bread and butter is their mana dorks. This is a term for cheap creatures that tend to be 1/1’s and can tap to produce some type or amount of mana. I run the classic Llanowar Elves alongside their thug cousins, the Fyndhorn Elves. Just check out those daggers the Fyndhorns are brandishing. Finishing off the list is Priest of Titania. She is an Elvish Archdruid without giving the buff.
  • Support: We start off with Sylvan Messenger, who allows me to get more Elves to my hand. I decided to run Seeker of Skybreak to allow me to really turn out a lot of mana. Viridian Shaman gives me the ability to remove problem artifact and enchantments while still being a creature. Ezuri, Renegade Leader allows me to grant my Elves Overrun as many times as I have the mana for it.

This is what the finished deck list could look like:

When it comes to other Tribes in green there is the popularity of Beasts and Druids. On one hand you have Beasts who are your typical big and stompy Tribe. They can get out of control real quick and are well supported by cards like Krosan WarchiefTriumph of FerocityContested Cliffs, and Wirewood Savage.

In Druids you want Gilt-Leaf ArchdruidIchneumon DruidKamahl, Fist of Krosa , and Yavimaya Elder. Druids is another fast mana Tribe that has some really cool tricks up its sleeves. A great deal of people are always caught off guard by Gilt-Leaf Archdruid and having the Overrun effect in Kamahl, Fist of Krosa is pretty sweet too.

For Tribal Wars one of the best support cards to come out of green is Alpha Status. It gives enchanted creature +2/+2 for each other creature on the battlefield that shares a creature type with it. Another card that is pretty good is Abundance. Once you hit your key amount of lands, you can use Abundance to guarantee you hit your spells. And if you are behind on lands, it will help you hit lands. My final suggestion is Creeping Renaissance. This card will help you deal with board wipes and targeted removal. Best part? It even has flashback.

Old is now New

Your eyes hurt and your back is sore; you’ve spent the last four hours sifting through thousands and thousands of commons and rare cards trying to find that one card that everyone’s suddenly realized “Hey, this is good!”. We’ve all been there.
In Yugioh, as most trading card games, there are thousands of cards created. These cards generally do anything, from removal to defense, draw power to attack modifiers. However, the difference that usually these cards have compared to some of our favorite staples is that they aren’t as easily utilized as such cards like Mystical Space Typhoon and Torrential Tribute. With the release of a new set every three months, new decks are always on the horizon. To avoid hours and hours of sorting commons, you should always take into consideration some core factors while looking through new and old cards alike.


It’s no mystery that cards that can search for another card, whether it be a copy of itself or another card, are good. Just look at Sangan and Witch of the Black Forest. Both are banned because of how easily they can be used to grab important cards. Alike, recently in the OCG both Senju (of the Thousand Hands) and Manju (of the Thousand Hands) just recently earned their way into the Limited list because of how they are used in the upcoming deck Nekroz. Senju searches for a ritual monster card, while Manju one up’s his friend by being able to search for either a ritual monster or ritual spell card. These two cards were hardly thought about, mainly because nobody really saw ritual monsters becoming a main deck type in Yu-Gi-Oh. They’ve had their stints here and there with decks like Herald of Perfection and Gishki, but now, Nekroz are dominating in the OCG and it’s in shared success with Senju and Manju.

While you’re shuffling through your cards, just remember, if it searches for a card, it may be worth setting aside. You never know if the next deck supports hard to find cards that you could have plenty of. Keep an open mind. Even if a card, such as Chronomaly Crystal Skull, never see’s any real play, it could be worth it to set aside just incase, Chronamalys become big in the TCG (Which they very well could with the release of certain cards.)

You’ve been there, attacking into a face-down monster, expecting to blow through your opponents defenses and attack for game. But what do they have set? Reborn Tengu! Now if you’re unfamiliar with Reborn Tengu, whenever it leaves the field, another one special summons from the deck in either attack or defense position. He had his shine during the Plant Synchro format, but since has been on the Semi-Limited list, until just now. With Tengu making his way off the Semi-Limited list and now back to three copies, a lot of you may be seeing him very soon. But it isn’t just Tengu that’s a pain to get rid of.
Cards like Giant Rat, UFO Turtle, Mother Grizzly, and more, all special summon a monster of their shared attribute (with restrictions based on attack/defense and level) whenever they are destroyed by battle. The new arch type “Yang Zing” do the same, except instead of just battle, they special summon another Yang Zing whenever they are destroyed! A new deck released just a couple of packs away could be that “deck” that utilizes one of the aforementioned floaters, and they are always worth setting aside. Even if a card can only special summon copies of itself, such as Nimble Momonga. ( In my opinion, is still worth setting aside)

dark holeRemoval:
We are all used to the basic forms of removal with cards like Dark Hole, Torrential Tribute, and the recently unbanned Raigeki. However, there are cards that can do the same, sometimes even more, then even the most popular staple cards. A good example of this is Fairy Wind. With the gaining popularity of Qliphorts, Fairy Wind has earned it’s way into many a duelist’s side deck. Fairy wind is a normal trap card that, when activated, destroys all face-up spell and trap cards, and then inflicts 300 damage for each other spell and trap card destroyed by this effect. This card is used to its full potential when activated right after the activation of Qliphort Scouts effect. The opponent will pay the 800 life points, lose their Scout to the effect of Fairy Wind, and then take 300 (possibly more) damage to their life points.

Fairy Wind was a card from Ancient Prophecy, a pack that came out quite some time ago. Cards like Fairy Wind and Needle Ceiling fell short to other forms of removal based on their restrictions, whether being trap cards, or having certain activation requirements. But now, with the current meta, and decks that occupy it, removal has been found in more cards than just Dark Hole or Mystical Space Typhoon. Keep this in mind, if you think it can help you in a duel by changing the tempo and progressing the game state for yourself, you should definitely set it aside. You may need it sooner then never.

Unique Cards:
Sometimes, decks are released that play in such an obscure way, that cards previously thought to be bad or unplayable become actually quite good. When Dark World became a prominent deck after their structure deck released, players were tracking down copies of Dragged Down Into the Grave. Normally, in almost any other deck, this card can’t really see play. It allows both players to look at each others hands, choose one card for them to discard, and then both players draw a card. However, with Dark World cards being able to properly abuse Mind Crush and the Virus cards, and also gain effects based on discarding certain Dark World cards, this card became a staple in any Dark World deck.
This also could be said about Vanity’s Emptiness. When this card released in Starstrike Blast, many a player threw it to the side, not knowing how much it would impact today’s Yugioh. Being able to effectively shut off special summoning and halt the opponents plays while protecting yourself, made quite the impact beginning during the Dragon Ruler format. Even today, it can still be used effectively against most of the decks played.

While you’re wondering to yourself, “How could this card ever see play is beyond me.” Just stop and think for a second. Decide if it’s effect is unique enough, and effective enough if used to it’s fullest ability, to set aside. You could be thanking yourself in the long run.

All in all, if you’re like most duelist, you’ll probably have shoe box’s or tins full of common and rare cards. Some of you may have them organized, and some of you may have them scattered every which way. Just remember, using a little thought, and a lot of common sense, you can decide yourself if a card should be set aside in a box, binder, or tin, dedicated to being the chance to be the next best card. But don’t worry, even if you miss a few, and even if you have to go back through, at least it will give you another chance to wrap your brain around new combos and ideas for the next time you plan on dueling. Until next time, I hope you all have a happy new year!