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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 12 2017 12:00pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 Released back in October 2003, Mirrodin is a set of great historical significance. It was the first to feature what later would be called the Modern layout, forever changing the way Magic looked, by giving it a sleeker, more "professional" and polished feel (although to this day, there are still players who feel nostalgic about the old frame of old. I'm not one of those). And it was also the start of the planetrotting storyline: prior to Mirrodin, the setting of each block has been firmly placed within Dominaria, the original plane from Alpha, with just an occasional foray into Mercadia, the titular plane of Mercadian Masques (I guess there was also Rath in Tempest, but Rath was more or less just a Phyrexian pawn in the Dominaria-Phyrexia war). The approach began to change: instead of a complicated overarching story spanning dozens of sets, each block would tell a self-contained tale, exploring a new, different plane with a clear, recognizable identity. In fact, in the following 14 years and counting, we would never go back to Dominaria, if not just once to allow for the nostalgia-fueled, temporal extravaganza of Time Spiral.

 So Mirrodin is where modern Magic was born, and the chosen thematic identity was: artifacts. Most notably, Mirrodin sees the debut of the equipment type, and a few notoriously botched concepts like affinity and the artifact lands, both of which will lay the foundation to the so-called Second Combo Winter. It was all due to Mirrodin being the corruption of Argentum, an artificial plane created by Karn (back when the planeswalkers were essentially gods). As a result, everything on Mirrodin is fully or partially metallic: 49 of the 123 featured creatures have the artifact type.

 However, tribal-wise, all these innovations pale in comparison to the subtype reorganization that takes place in Mirrodin and would reshape the tribal concept altogether, making it into what we know today. Before Mirrodin, creatures only had one type: if one of them was a Wizard or a Merfolk, that's all it was and all you needed to know about it. Not anymore: Mirrodin adopted for the first time the race/class model, establishing that from now on sentient beings depicted on creature cards should have both a race and a class (and sometimes more than one of both). This change, that a few years later would be retroactively applied to older cards during the Grand Creature Type Update, also brought into being a necessary new subtype: Human. Yes, Mirrodin is the birthplace of what would go on to become the most infamous of all creature types, which over the years would spiral out of control to the point that is now bound to eventually outgrow every other type in the game except for "creature". But it was necessary at the time: some creatures corresponded to easily identifiable non-human races, like Elf or Goblin; but many others were just plain old human beings, and the game needed a way to represent that fact.

 Aside from specific subtypes linked to the nature of the plane, like Myr, Drone, Slith and Vedalken, Mirrodin also saw the first appearance of two subtypes that would later prove very popular among both players and designers: Rogue and Shaman.

 So, let's have a look at those old Mirrodin creatures and their tribes: what's still relevant today and what's been forgotten? As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 291 (+15 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 269
  • New creatures: 116
  • Reprinted cards: 22
  • Reprinted creatures: 7 (Atog, Bottle Gnomes, Brown Ouphe, Cathodion, Ornithopter, Triskelion, Yotian Soldier)
  • Creature types affected: 45
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Myr (+13), Human (+11) Golem (+8), Beast (+7), Cat (+7), Elf (+7), Soldier (+7), Zombie (+7), Wizard (+6)

Angel: +2

  

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The first tribe of Mirrodin (in alphabetical order) immediately shows up one of the flaw of the new design: the artifact are now gray rather than brown (signifying metal rather than clay, as it was also more appropriate for the plane), but the original gray hue they chose was too similar to white, making it harder to tell white and colorless cards apart at first sight. (It would be amended in later sets with a darker texture, as shown on the right).

 This said, yeah, there are Angels on Mirrodin, apparently. Well, one of them is an artificial Angel, somehow. But also an all-time greatest, the key to winning, or at least stalling long enough to win, for many a deck. The rule-breaking Platinum Angel never went out of fashion during the past decade and a half, as Urzatron lists still occasionally feature her in Modern to these days, as long as other big mana builds (of course, being CMC 7, you'll need some degree of ramping to make her presence effective).

 Unfortunately for Luminous Angel, the direct comparison with her precious metal sister just makes her look even more forgettable. Her ability is actually strong enough, being free and everything, but for the same CMC of Platinum Angel you get the same body and... just a slow-rising tide of tiny flyers. And 3 white mana plus 4 is not the same as 7 generic, not to mention all the dirty tricks one can exploit when trying and dropping an artifact onto the battlefield.


Archer: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Tel-Jilad, the one and only Tree of Tales, is home of a subtribe of Elves whose members are all protected from artifacts. Sounds terrific within the Mirrodin environment, not so much elsewhere. Plus this guy is an overcosted Giant Spider to begin with.


Atog: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Atogs were last seen on Odyssey, with a cycle whose most illustrious representative was Psychatog. Megatog would become the first Atog of the Modern era, but also its last, since no new Atogs have been printed since. It might be for the best, as the concept had already wore thin by this point, as clearly shown by this 6-mana oversized variant of the original Atog (which was reprinted here, to add insult to injury): even with the added trample, the ratio between cost and effect is just nonsensical, even in a set where everything is an artifact.


Beast: +7

   

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Boar, Slug

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Unexpectedly, Beast is one of the largest tribes in the set and they have very bright and fanciful shapes on Mirrodin. Also, some of them have been given an additional type during the Grand Creature Type Update, because it turns out that a "vorrac" is some kind of Mirran boar, and Molder Slug had "slug" in its name. Why they felt like they needed all these specifications always baffles me: couldn't a boar be just a Beast? Do we need to know we're fielding a wild boar in our army? Aren't there many other Beasts that, if you look closely, are similar to one real animal or other?

 Molder Slug is a pretty good artifact hater with solid midrange stats, anyway: 10 points of body for 5 mana wasn't as common back then as it is today. And you don't have to pay anything to see those pesky artifacts die, again and again.

 Most of the other Beasts are just plain bad; some of them, like Clockwork Vorrac or Groffskithur, even aggressively so, reminding us that Mirrodin had still not distanced itself from the era when creatures were consistently the worst cards in the game. The two rares make just some modicum of sense. Broodstar works with affinity, but I can't remember it being actually played. If it was, then not for long, because even in an affinity build, it's going to be slower than everything else, and it's just not worth it. Arc-Slogger has seen its share of play, instead. The cost of its ability is deceptively steep, if you aim to use it as a finishing blow. Plus, it's a strictly better Earth Elemental. (Well, I'm not actually sure that's a "plus").


Berserker: +2

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Goblin, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Berserkers must have haste. That much we know.


Bird: +2

 

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Neurok Familiar is an artifact-flavored take on the usual Bird trick of "informed drawing". But even affinity decks never cared for it, and if they didn't, nothing else will. And Clockwork Condor is... oh my God, Wizards, stop making Clockwork stuff already! It's just a terrible, terrible mechanic! (SPOILER: They did stop making it. But we'll have to suffer through another few of them in this set. Plus the Clockwork Hydra revival in Time Spiral).


Boar: +2

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Behold the two Beasts that would become Boars. Copperhoof Vorrac's ability is actually interesting. Of course it's not worth 5 mana for a 2/2 body, not even a little bit, but still something I wish they tried more, and better. At the very least, it could force the opponent to tap out.


Cat: +7

   

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Knight, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As a tribe, on top of lions and panthers and such, Cat has occasionally also featured humanoid members, at least since Legends' Cat Warriors and their very leader Jedit Ojanen (whom of course wasn't printed as a Cat back then, but his art and flavor text kind of gave it away already). As far as humanoid Cats go, the Leonins are an especially prominent and well-structured subtribe (and yes, that name is very on the nose).

 They would make a few appearances in later non-Mirrodin sets (we'll find one of them on Alara, two on Theros), but they are native of Mirrodin, where they made for the original equipment tribe, years before the Kors would ultimately steal their thunder. In fact, everything the Leonin dudes of this first outing do is either getting boosted from holding equipments, or protecting and benefiting from them and other artifacts (or, well, nothing at all). None of them is particularly good at what it does, unfortunately. Taj-Nar Swordsmith is an early attempt at equipment fetching (you know, the craft a certain Kor lady would later perfect), but it's kind of a goofy, ridiculously mana-intensive attempt, albeit Commander decks with a strong equipment theme might include him for redundancy.

 The best-known Mirrodin card bearing the Leonin name is probably the cheap equipment Leonin Scimitar, which means they're literally not better than their tools.


Cleric: +4

    

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cat, Elephant, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Two of the above-discussed Leonins are Clerics by trade, namely the ones that generically care about artifacts, not just the equipments their more war-oriented brethren have a predilection for. In particular, Leonin Elder is the Soul Sister (Soul Brother?) of artifacts. However, the Cleric tribe gets its star player here in the form of his exact opposite, the common Disciple of the Vault. A staple in more than one build, and especially in Pauper Affinity, the Disciple does what Leonin Elder can't: he combos out and wins games. He just needs a good sacrifice outlet for those artifacts. Say, something like Atog? The original recipe one, not the stupid new one.


Construct: +4

   

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Destined to become the ultimate artifact tribe, Construct had less members here than its Golem cousins (possibly because the entire plane was created by a Golem). Actually there are 6 of them, if we include the reprints of Cathodion and Triskelion (which are better than all of the new ones, by the way). But actually there were none, since as you can see from the type lines up there, not a single one of them was printed with the Construct type. Because it didn't exist yet, it would only make its debut with Ravnica's Bronze Bombshell. At the time, the tribal world-building was still in its infancy and artifact creatures could still be just nondescript thingies; it was only with the Grand Creature Type Update that all of these became Constructs.

 Not that it matters, because Pentavus aside, these are all pretty bad. Goblin Dirigible requires 4 mana to untap (and you can't even do it at instant speed), which is insane considering it's an overcosted flyer to begin with, even to older standards: the idea was that generic mana is easier to pay for, so you should spend 1 more mana for a colorless Air Elemental. But then why adding the drawback, on top of that?

 Duskworker regenerates for free when it's blocked, which is nice, but then it's an overcosted Gray Ogre (again, for the reasons mentioned above) with a laughably costly pumping ability. And Grid Monitor's clause is just absurd as a counterbalance to what it provides, which isn't that much.

 And even Pentavus, sure, it's a great source of infinite chump blocking (which even negates lifelink), but it's still a 7-mana guy. Your 7-mana guys should be more threatening than this. Still, it's versatile and interacts in a wide range of ways with a wide range of cards (triggering ETB and death effects for both creatures and artifacts, providing sacrifice fodder and whatnot), which makes it a perfect soft combo piece for flashy environments like Commander.


Demon: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Where there's Angels, there's Demons. Reiver Demon is a case of a creature that does worse in the Mirrodin environment than it does elsewhere, because his ability is basically a mass Terror (which was famously in the set, by the way). The effect is generally powerful, but it doesn't come for cheap, that's for sure. Compared to contemporary cards like Magister of Worth, it appears overcosted. Truth is, you could set up a one-sided Damnation in a monoblack and/or artifact deck. It's not an agile card to handle, but works wonders and is a minor staple in Commander.


Dragon: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Oh, God, here's that Clockwork nonsense again. Why did I give this thing a rating of 2 on the Dragonpedia? It should have been zero. I must remember to fix it at the next update.


Drone: +3

  

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Drones are... things that do... stuff on Mirrodin. As a creature type, they would appear two more times, both associated with a specific race: Spike (retroactively) and Eldrazi. A drone is a low-level worker within a larger system, after all. Like a drone bee. Here, no further clarification of what they are is provided, even retroactively in the Grand Creature Type Update. Shouldn't they be given at least the Construct type? In fact, shouldn't they be artifacts? The flavor text even explicitly says they're built by Vedalken. (If this was Alara, I bet they would be blue artifacts. But that of colored artifacts was a concept yet to come at this time).

 Anyway, Looming Hoverguard and Wanderguard Sentry are both dreadful. Here's the thing about bad creatures this old: they're not merely useless filler, they're, like, appallingly bad, physically painfully substandard.

 On the other hand, Somber Hoverguard is a safer inclusion than Broodstar in affinity, its cost is low enough to ensure it'll go down to just a single blue mana (rather than two) pretty quickly. And it doesn't die of a Shatterstorm, you know. However, evasion notwithstanding, it doesn't pack enough of a punch to be worth the bother over more straightforward beaters like Myr Enforcer, so it's seen play mostly on Pauper Affinity. In fact, for a common is pretty neat, considering it more or less beats Broodstar, which is a rare.


Druid: +1

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The one Elven Druid from Mirrodin doesn't draw his mana from artifacts, as one would expect, but from his own power, so ideally from the consequence of using equipments to boost it, which brings us full circle, thematically.  Too bad he's overcosted. A common theme around these parts.


Elemental: +4

   

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: I can buy an Elemental made of rust; but I'm not sure it being an artifact makes sense to me. I mean, shouldn't an artifact be the creation of an Artificer? If you manufacture something out of rust, wouldn't that be just a Construct made of rust? An Elemental is more of a natural manifestation, plus the formation of rust is a process already depicted in green cards like Oxidize (from this very block!). I'm probably nitpicking, but it doesn't feel good flavor to me. Oh well, it's just an atrocious card, anyway. If the similar Goblin Dirigible required a downside after you paid 6 mana, it's no surprise the same body for 4 mana actively works to make you lose the game. Oh, I know, there might be artifacts you want to sacrifice; but I'm pretty sure there are better ways to do that than patiently waiting for your midrange Elemental to eat them in order not to eat you.

 These Elementals sure are all pretty distinctive, I can give them that. Aside from the rust monster above, they all weirdly came closer to be good, yet failed. Living Hive has a great ability, and native trample to enable it, but it's just too costly and not large enough to really make it desirable, even in Timmy builds. I've personally built many a monogreen ramp deck in Commander, featuring maybe a dozen big scary curve-toppers, and as I would briefly consider Living Hive, I've always discarded it in favor of more smashing things.

 Similarly, War Elemental stops short of being a great card, miserably falling all the way down to bad. Upon cursory examination, you may think it could be a perfect fit in Red Deck Wins builds, possibly in Modern. I mean, you always have triple red mana available, and you constantly deal damage, so both its bigger hindrances are easily satisfied, and then it can it from there and grow to alarming levels. But let's look an inch below the surface here. The earliest turn you'll have it on the board is turn 3. But even that is not a given, because your Goblin Guide might not be able to connect by then, so that means you'll also need the mana for a burn spell, which sets it back one turn (barring some Rift Bolt perfect storm). And then it'll be a puny 1/1 on the battlefield, though. At least until the next Lightning Bolt. It's just clunky, and RDW doesn't like clunky. And no other archetype can't really afford to play War Elemental.

 Finally, we have Quicksilver Elemental, which is fine as it is, if we accept that its role is uniquely that of a Johnny creature (so, interestingly, the four Mirran Elementals are a wannabe Timmy card, a wannabe Spike card and an accomplished Johnny card. Plus Rust Elemental, which... is there a psychographic profile for players who like bad cards?). You can do some fascinating stuff with that copying ability. See for instance AJ_Impy's take on it: making it copy Gideon, Champion of Justice in order to infinitely abuse his abilities, as a creature given copies of planeswalker activations is not restrained by the planeswalkers rules limiting them to once per turn. Mind-blowing stuff.


Elephant: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Elephants went humanoid as well, with the not-so-grand entrance of the Loxodons, that were destined to greatness through future members like Loxodon Hierarch and Loxodon Smiter. I guess they fare better on Ravnica than they do on Mirrodin, despite the lore telling us they are nearly extinct in the former plane (but it also says they actually originate from there and were brought to Mirrodin by Memnarch, which, as we'll see in the Darksteel evaluation, is the Big Bad of this block). Mirran Loxodons are egregiously overcosted artifact caretakers like Loxodon Mender or equally below-curve equipment profiteers like Loxodon Punisher, while Loxodon Peacekeeper, flavorful and all, is a weird reverse Ghazban Ogre with double the cost for double the body. It's a formidable early blocker, I suppose, but its continuous presence on your side is too uncertain for it to be taken seriously.

 Like in the case of Leonin, the Loxodon moniker from Mirrodin may be best-known for this powerful piece of equipment that would get reprinted often over the years.


Elf: +7

   

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Archer, Druid, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: For some reason, the Elves of Mirrodin have mostly green skin. They've been brought there from some other, undisclosed plane and live in the Tangle, the huge expanse of copper structures that is the closest to a forest Mirrodin can offer. Also, they're graced by the presence of the main heroine of the entire block, Glissa Sunseeker, one of the only two legendary creatures of the set (note how Legend was still a creature type rather than a supertype: it looks mightily goofy now, doesn't it?)

 I like the original Glissa enough, but her ability, although very powerful because essentially free, is too narrow to make for anything more than a sideboard card; and even there, she's too midrange to be effective at providing fast artifact removal. She can bring a bit of fighting prowess to the table, thanks to first strike paired with a 3-powered body, but realistically, you're not going to include her if you're not sure her ability is going to be called into action. She shines in Commander, though, because she's never going to lack targets there. I consider her a minor staple of green in that format. (Flavor note: the metallic stuff you see on her arms and legs is mycosynth, a fungal organism that grows on Mirrodin and turns metal into flesh. Many years later, we would find out what its real origin and purpose were; it feels an obvious twist in hindsight, no?)

 The other Elves are mostly unremarkable. The Elf entry in the Replicas cycle is okayish (although they need to explain to me how a robot is able to destroy something immaterial like an enchantment), but it'll be made almost entirely obsolete in a matter of months by Viridian Zealot, then utterly by Sylvok ReplicaWurmskin Forger is notable for being so unbelievably awful you're led to wonder if there's a typo in there somewhere.

 The more widely known member of this whole group has to be Viridian Shaman. She's a functional reprint of Uktabi Orangutan, but with a better, not stealthily pornographic art. Her function is a basic tool of any green creature deck and as such, she'll see play until finally and sadly made obsolete by the strictly better Reclamation Sage (I still like Viridian Shaman's art better, certainly compared to regular Reclamation Sage's art, but even to the promo version).


Frog: +1

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Frogmite have become so famous as your basic affinity creature, spanning pretty much all formats (Standard, Extended, Legacy, Vintage, even Pauper), that people tend to forget it's an actual Frog, despite having "frog" right there in its name. Well, not that it was a Frog back then; it only became one retroactively. Because it had "frog" right there in its name, after all.


Goblin: +5

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Goblins of the plane have a couple useful fellas among them, namely an early Disciple of the Vault enabler cum removal in Krark-Clan Shaman (which saw play in Pauper) and the Limited star Spikeshot Goblin, arguably the best common in the set: you slap some Bonesplitter on him and, voilà, board control on a stick.

 Goblin Replica is the perfect counterpart to what the Elf brought to the Replicas cycle, but it's even less effective. Since when an artifact is harder to kill than an enchantment? I realize they didn't want to provide too much of a go-to removal-on-legs to their artifact set, but in the larger scheme of things it's pretty absurd.

 Also, shouldn't Goblin Dirigible and Goblin War Wagon have the Goblin type, too? Isn't it strange that it wasn't at least added later? Sure, they're a dirigible and a wagon, but they're clearly crewed by Goblins, and I believe there are other cases where something like this would lead to the creature type of the crew to be featured as well, especially since it's in the name of the card. That would have brought Goblin to 7 members, more on par with the other 4 major tribes representing each color as marked by the presence of a Replica: Soldier, Wizard, Elf and Zombie.


Golem: +8

  

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Golems are the poster boys for Mirrodin, as reflected by them getting the second and final Legend of the set after Glissa. Bosh is an ancient Golem who accompanies Glissa in her travels and helps her defeating Memnarch (sacrificing himself in the process). In game terms, he's quite overcosted for his stats, unsurprisingly, but it's a solid beater with an activated ability that could wins game by itself. He's especially effective in a Golem tribal deck, hurling other high-costing robots directly to the opponent's dome. He's also a good commander for mostly colorless decks, additionally allowing for red cards due to his activation cost.

 Of course, Solemn Simulacrum is the card most of us have played here. Designed by and bearing the likeness of Jens Thoren, the 2002 winner of the Magic Invitational, the instantly nicknamed Sad Robot has been a protagonist of MTG deckbuilding since his inception, his double flavor of card advantage and mana building well worth the 4 generic mana of his cost. He might be the most commonly played card in Commander after Sol Ring.

 I'd like to say nice things about Mirror Golem, too, but, nope, 6 mana are just too many for a guy that has to actively work to build itself protection from a card type (besides, if you go with creature, it'll be exposed to removal; if you go with instant or sorcery, you'll end up with a subpar vanilla beater that's just slightly harder to kill and you invested way too much mana into). At least in subsequent Oracle updates, they added "planeswalker" at its listed card types (other than "tribal", just to remind us that they did create an almost useless "tribal" supertype once, then immediately discontinued it). So now it can protect itself from Liliana of the Veil, provided it can find an earlier instance of Liliana of the Veil in the graveyard.

 Aside from these three, the Golem's number was raised by this cycle of 5 unremarkable guys with colored activations and names taken from the actual minerals with which they're supposedly built. Flavorful, but nothing more.


Horror: +2

 

> summary <

  Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: I think the overall creature design was starting to get better by the time the Mirrodin block was released, but it wasn't quite there yet. Take Vermiculos. It's a creature that does something potentially powerful, but in order to do that it has to wait for something else to happen first. When trying this kind of approach, you shouldn't make the creature a 5-drop with minimal body, because nobody wants to spend their 5th turn dropping something that has zero impact on the battlefield in that moment, while it's not even guaranteed it will have a definite impact later. And this is a rare, the highest existing rarity back then, so you don't even have that excuse for its badness. Yes, I know, bad rares need to exist and all that. They remain bad, though. Plus bad designs are different than bad cards. Bad cards can still have good designs.

 Dross Harvester is an example of good design on a card that's not exactly what most players wish to play. Its reduced cost puts it well above the curve for a 4/4 with a potent ability (situational, but wide enough due to white being both one of the colors of fast creature removal and one of the colors of fast aggro). To balance that, you have to deal with its second ability, drawing your life total for a bunch each turn, but then its third ability come to the rescue, suggesting that the Harvester rewards you as long as you keep helping it do its job of culling creature upon creature. Of course, the required build-around-me factor is too high here to be worth the risk of being killed by your own guy, but it still makes for an interesting card, perfectly in tune with what black is supposed to be about.


Human: +11

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Rogue, Scout, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant?

 Highlights: So, if we go by Collector's Number, Auriok Bladewarden is the first creature ever printed with the Human type, despite being just a weaker Timberwatch Elf for equipment decks. Among these first 11 Humans there were a few decent ones, even if cards like Auriok Steelshaper Fatespinner and Vulshok Battlemaster, while doing interesting things, would later be obscured by cards that do similar things more efficiently. All in all, Disciple of the Vault remains probably the best Human of their very first lot, still relevant to some extent even today.


Imp: +1

 

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Negative

 Highlights: The Gamepedia entry for Mirrodin features Chimney Imp among the set's notable cards for being "arguably one of the worst creatures ever printed". I don't know how it would rank in that list (I still like Wood Elemental as a winner there), but you can see where they came from: it's a 1-powered 5-drop that has to wait to die in order to accomplish what Chittering Rats accomplishes by entering the battlefield, for almost half the cost and double the power. And Chittering Rats is a common from Darksteel, the very next set!


Insect: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: We talked about Living Hive as an Elemental, but its apparent nature of hive has warranted a later addition of the Insect type, even if it doesn't entirely make sense (by this logic, a lot of green Elementals should be given the Plant type, too). It has the same issues as an Insect, anyway, especially since Hornet Queen exists as the ideal in-tribe curve-topper.

 Nothing of relevance elsewhere, too. Needlebug is quasi-decent as a flash colorless creature protected from artifacts, but it never made any list, it's certainly not going to now. And I'll just skip right past any Clockwork crap from now on. I can't even fathom how that mechanic ended up featured so much in this set.


Juggernaut: +2

 

> summary <

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Before Darksteel reprinted the very Juggernaut from Alpha, Mirrodin featured two artifact creatures that would later be deemed worthy of the type. And while Goblin War Wagon is just hopelessly laughable, Leveler is the kind of card that gives you pause. I call them "riddle cards", as they're cards you have to figure out. Why should I want to remove my library from the game? Of course Leveler can be seen (and might have been conceived) as the extreme take on the "colorless vanilla beaters require additional hindrances" rule that we've seen applied so frequently across the set. But its effect is too bizarre to just amount to that. In fact, it clearly makes for a combo piece where you all but disregard the rest of what's written on the card and exploit it exclusively as a way to achieve the goal of having no library, which is not otherwise easy feat to accomplish all at once through just one spell and 5 mana. But, again, why? Well, I'm sure to the readers of 2017 (or 2011), it's become pretty obvious. But back in 2003? It might have indeed felt as riddle.


Knight: +3

  

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Apparently, only the Leonins train Knights on Mirrodin. And not in a particular striking way, must be said. More useful to the tribe is actually a Soldier, Auriok Steelshaper, that doubles as a Knight lord as well (Soldiers and Knights have this kind of interaction occasionally).


Myr: +13

   

   

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 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The little cute robots named Myr are the natural inhabitants of the plane that bears their name (actually, they both take their name from the Mirari, the super-artifact Karn used to create Mirrodin and its guardian, Memnarch). They make for the largest tribe in the set, and as a result there's quite a bit of filler among their ranks. But also format-building elements, like the cycle of 2-drop mana dorks, with each of them producing a different color of mana and, in a great feat of flavorful design, being named after a metal that is somehow linked to that color: white is gold, blue is silver, black is lead, red is iron and green is copper. It all makes sense and really sings.

 The most played Myr of all has to be the bigger, less cute Myr Enforcer, which along with Frogmite has been the bread and butter of all early affinity builds. The heavy hitter Lodestone Myr has some merit as well, but in the end got disregarded in favor of faster threats.

 To Myr Retriever goes the prize for most intriguing effect in this first taste of a tribe that would later be known for some neat tricks. There's value in an artifact that retrieves another artifact upon dying, especially when the first artifact is cheap and dies easily. At the very least, it's a great blocker. But it's easy to turn it into a combo piece by making it recur. My favorite Myr Retriever combo is a parody from the flavor text of the Unhinged card, Johnny, Combo Player: "Just wait till I get my Krark-Clan Ironworks, Genesis Chamber, and Grinding Station. Oh yeah, and a second Myr Retriever." (They're actually all from Mirrodin block and very good companions for Myr Retriever, even individually, especially Fifth Dawn's Krark-Clan Ironworks, which does generate infinite ETB triggers when two Retrievers are around).


Ogre: +2

 

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 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: The Ogres of Mirrodin hate artifacts, but not in a very productive way.


Rogue: +2

 

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 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The very first two Rogues ever printed as Rogues are... nothing special. The thing is, the heavy artifact theme has forever relegated some of these creatures to situational status. With that said, these two are not particularly brilliant regardless. Moriok Scavenger is just a specialized Gravedigger, while Neurok Spy is outclassed by similar blue creatures that are unblockable without an "as long" clause.

 They give us a chance to learn the names of the Human ethnic groups of Mirrodin, though. We've already seen the white Auriok and the red Vulshok, now we have the black ones being called Moriok, while the blue ones are the Neurok (I get the sense the suffix -ok might mean "human" in Mirran). We won't meet the green ones, named Sylvok, until later in the block, but they're more notably represented by New Phyrexia's Melira, Sylvok Outcast.

 Also, we can see how the Rogue tribe was created to cover all the shady types and criminal occupations (except Assassin), as we get here a scavenger and a spy as their introduction to the game.


Scorpion: +1

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 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: There was no doubt this mechanical thing was going to be revised as a Scorpion. That's pretty much the only meaningful thing we can say about it, though. Except maybe to note that at least it's not just vanilla.


Scout: +1

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 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Unlike Rogue and Shaman, Scout had been a type at least since Mirage, that is since before Creature even existed as a word on the type line. I'm saying this because I've not much else to say about the artifact tapper Auriok Transfixer, if not that her ability and demeanor don't really suggest "scout" to me. In her flavor text she even talks about casting spells. That's also the kind of over-the-top exploitative art that fuels those articles where Magic is accused of sexism.


Shaman: +5

  

 

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 Related Tribes: Elf, Goblin, Troll

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Shaman makes its official debut with a nice group here, foreshadowing what would go on to become one of the more varied and versatile tribes in the game. The two Goblins are good at what they do, Viridian Shaman is a classic piece of removal on a stick, and Troll Ascetic is an excellent and vastly played beater that provided the nickname of "troll shroud" to what would later be defined as hexproof. And it's also the progenitor of Thrun, the Last Troll.


Shapeshifter: +1

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 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Duplicant looks like a Clone variant at first, but it's actually more of an exiler on a stick. The fact that it also copies the victim's body is negligible: your Duplicant will not have any ability, after all, so you'll just get a vanilla dude out of the deal. What really counts here is the exiling aspect, and if 6-mana removal seems bad, just consider that a) it's generic mana, so it's accessible by all decks (this is particularly relevant in Commander, where Duplicant is yet another staple that was provided by Mirrodin); and b) it's a permanent, so you can recur it, since the exiled creature is not merely O-Ringed, it's removed forever. You can flicker your Duplicant, return it to your hand, resurrect it from the graveyard, and even drop it for no cost with a particularly high-charged Aether Vial.


Sheep: +1

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 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: With the Grand Creature Type Update, a lot of these generic "artifact creatures" needed some creature type, and in this case, it was decided to give Rustspore Ram the so far non-existent Sheep type. You could say it was because of the name, but I think it was a just joke, the kind of thing Mark Rosewater finds funny (and maybe he's right, Magic shouldn't take itself too seriously after all). I mean, an artifact sheep, c'mon! Couldn't it just be a mechanical Beast? Either they were going for funny, or they have some problems in establishing priorities, because a sheep is definitely not something a non-comedic game of fantasy battles should make you field among the combatants in your army.

 Years later, a second sheep would be released with Journey into Nyx: Nyx-Fleece Ram, which is awesome. This guy from Mirrodin, not so much: it does destroy Loxodon Warhammer, but after that it leaves behind an insignificant body, and it's not like by flickering it you'll keep finding meaningful targets.


Skeleton: +1

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 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: So, if a Nim is a Zombie, but a Nim with its skin removed is a Skeleton, does that mean every Zombie is also potentially a Skeleton? Something doesn't add up here. Anyway, this guy's decent, but not decent enough to warrant play, at least not with a 3-mana regeneration.


Slith: +5

  

 

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 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Slith is another of those creature types that make hard to understand why they even exist. They're from the novels, humanoids made of rock and metal and born inside Mirrodin's molten core. Cool, they make for a great presence in the game, but did they need their specific type that was very clearly never to be used again? (They weren't even reprised in Scars of Mirrodin!)

 Mechanically, they're all variants of Whirling Dervish, with a different keyworded ability based on their color. They're strong 2-drops that saw heavy play in their time, and the ability to grow upon connection, later seen on Innistrad's red Vampires, is still called the Slith ability, despite belonging originally to the Dervish. The cycle would be completed in Darksteel with a colorless one.


Slug: +1

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 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: In the realm of the Slugs, the Molder Slug is king. Slugs are just pathetic that way.


Soldier: +7

   

  

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 Related Tribes: Cat, Elephant, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Despite being a class, as opposed to a race, Soldier was the white's poster tribe back then. It still kind of is, because the most prominent white race has to be Kithkin, and it's a way less visible presence across the blocks compared to Elf, Goblin, Zombie and Merfolk.

 Due to this status, Soldier encompasses all white's main subtribes from Mirrodin: Human with the Aurioks, Cat with the Leonins, Elephant with the Loxodons. And it also gets its own Replica (which becomes sort of a weird concept, since every robot built for war can be seen as "the replica of a soldier"). There's only one major member here, although "major" is used loosely in this case, because it's not exactly a card for the ages. Yet, Auriok Steelshaper is pretty good. His low casting cost puts him there with the best of them, and he's able to work as a lord for both Soldiers and Knights, or just as a cost reliever in equipment decks. It's important to note how his boosting ability affects himself, hence the subpar body. So you can, say, drop Leonin Scimitar on turn 1, then drop a Steelshaper, immediately equip the Scimitar for 0, and he'll be a 3/3. I guess his weak spot is the fact that he really needs to be equipped in order to do something at all, and if that doesn't happen, he ends up being a waste of space.


Troll: +3

  

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 Related Tribes: Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Troll Ascetic is the only relevant card here, but its impact on the tribe (and beyond) is so substantial, it alone is responsible for making Mirrodin a great set for Trolls, despite its two companions being just meh. In particular, the cost of third-part regeneration seems to have been grossly overestimated; it's powerful, I can't say it's not, but for 7-mana you would think Trolls of Tel-Jilad were able to regenerate every green creature at once.


Vedalken: +2

 

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 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Vedalkens don't start big. They're actually both kind of functional: Lumengrid Augur is a looter with a chance to be used more than once per turn, and Vedalken Archmage can engineer chains of low-costing artifacts. I don't know, the impression is that they both drop too late for the use they should have. The Archmage can be crucial in Commander artifact decks, though.


Wall: +3

  

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 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Mirrodin is positioned at a turning point of Magic history, being to some degree the divide between what came before and what would come later, but it's still ancient enough to have old-school Walls. I mean, all three of these could have been in Legends, or even Alpha. Steel Wall gets a mention because it's one of the largest defenders any deck can drop on turn 1, even it misses the first prize (that still goes to Shield Sphere).


Warrior: +5

  

 

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 Related Tribes: Elf, Goblin, Human, Troll

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Man, the poor Mirran Warriors seem to have collected a selection of the other tribes' worst members. There's literally nothing to discuss here if not how bad or too narrow all of these are.


Wizard: +6

  

  

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 Related Tribes: Human, Vedalken

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Wizard is chosen as the quintessential blue tribe because there aren't Merfolk on Mirrodin. As illustrated by the presence of a Wizard Replica, which is actually possibly the best one of the cycle.

 Both Vedalkens are Wizards (as opposed to Artificers, that would later become their favorite occupation), and there's also a vanilla Wizard, which is something I believe they don't do anymore.

 Fatespinner intrigues me. Her ability reads so powerful, and yet something's clearly off. I guess it just boils down to the opponent choosing to skip the phase they know they won't need, which is more of an annoyance than the partial lockdown one would take it for. Like, for instance, if they're ahead with a well-positioned board, they'll just skip the main phase because they wouldn't cast more stuff anyway. Whereas if they're trying to stall for time, they'll skip the combat phase. I doubt they'll ever skip the draw.


Wurm: +1

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 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: I love Plated Slagwurm. I know there are more powerful Wurms, but there's also a lot of unplayable ones. With Plated Slagwurm, all you'll only need is a Rancor, and then you'll have a very scary clock that the opponent can't easily touch. Okay, maybe you need Natural Order, too. A Rancor and Natural Order, that's all you need. Oh, and something to sacrifice to Natural Order, of course. A Rancor, Natural Order and Wall of Roots, that's all you need.


Zombie: +7

   

  

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 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Oh lord, what a sorry bunch of losers are these Zombies, aren't they? All overcosted and mostly needing artifacts to properly function, something that wasn't going to become a staple of Zombie decks. At least Nim Devourer has his own Recurring Nightmare capability, but then it uses it only in the upkeep (to avoid abuses, I guess, otherwise it'd generate an ETB and a death trigger every two black mana spent, since it can sac itself). And it's a 4/1 for 5 that asks for artifact to raise its power, but will keep dying during pretty much any combat it's involved in, so it'll keep killing creatures in the upkeep to come back for more of all that?

 It's also worth noting how none of these Zombies has classes yet. They're just Zombies. Lot of stuff still needed to be done for the tribes of Magic. After all, 14 years of further development aren't exactly few, and it's amazing to realize how Mirrodin was closer to the release of Alpha than it is to the release of Amonkhet.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
(click on them to go to their main tribe)

  

  

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THE REPLICAS
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THE MINERAL GOLEMS
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THE MANA MYR
(click on them to go to their tribe)

   

 

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS

1 Comments

Excellent as usual. A note on by AJ_Impy at Mon, 06/12/2017 - 15:16
AJ_Impy's picture
5

Excellent as usual. A note on the Myr: Their name is a nod all the way back to the Iliad, where the Myrmidons were warriors created from an ant colony by Zeus (Hence the name, from the greek Myrmex, 'Ant') who fought under the command of Achilles. Later reference works defined Myrmidon as a "loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity – unquestioning followers." You can definitely see that in some of the original Myr flavortext.