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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Aug 13 2012 10:50am
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 Taking inspiration from the great Commander-based set overviews by Leviathan, I thought of starting to do set reviews from a tribal perspective as well. That doesn't involve uniquely the Tribal Wars format, of course, since people play tribal-fueled builds pretty much everywhere (with the general difference that outside Tribal Wars you don't necessarily need to have 20 tribal creatures, and you have a sideboard). So, here's what Magic 2013 brought to the tribal scene, starting from the more obvious elements: the creatures, divided into the various tribes, in descending order of new additions. Skip directly to the summary at the end to go check your favorite tribe. And wait for a brief evaluation of all the noncreature stuff too.


Human: +11

   

   

   

 With 1373 members, Human is by far the biggest tribe in the game (almost three times bigger than the second one, Wizard), to the point that it doesn't even feel like a tribe at all, despite Innistrad block's best efforts. Due to the horror story it was telling, Innistrad recently gave us a record new amount of Human dudes to play with (including all the Werewolves in their unchanged forms); but even within a core set, that's usually not focused on any specific tribe as it has to represent the game's world as a whole, Human is still the most represented subtype. And M13 makes a good job at it, since almost all of the 11 new Humans are somehow interesting.

 Among the white ones, Attended Knight and Knight of Glory are probably more alluring to Knight decks. The former isn't bad anyway, as 2 blockers for 3, one of which being a 2/2 first striker, isn't a bad deal. I can see it played wherever you aim to take advantage of the number of creatures on your side of the battlefield (to activate Windbrisk Heights, for instance). The flavor is also very neat, and reinforces the conceptual link between Knights and Soldiers (Knight-Captain of Eos, Hero of Bladehold, even Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Elspeth Tirel). Knight of Glory, along with its black counterpart Knight of Infamy, is a new take on the eternal White Knight/Black Knight trope, this time with exalted as the featured ability, and a more splashable cost. Depending on the build, this might be relevant, as "exalted matters" is going to be a thing (a certain Angel seems to agree).
 Less interesting is Crusader of Odric, a cheaper, lamer Geist-Honored Monk. I've never been a fan of these kinds of unreliable situation-sized critters, unless they do more than just being vanilla beaters (it's been a while since Keldon Warlord was actually played). The Crusader's namesake legend, Odric, Master Tactician, is part of a cycle of legendary rare creatures, and his ability looks badass, but more for a casual environment, I'm afraid: attacking with four creatures isn't something you do too early or too frequently, especially if the opponent doesn't just stay there looking at you being awesome. Granted, if you manage to pull it off, you can possibly own the board, but even that actually depends on the overall board status: it's fairly possible Odric can't help you recovering from a situation where you were too much behind (unless you suddenly have a lot of deathtouch on the field); or conversely, if your other three dudes are stronger than the opponent's, it'll just end up being a win-more thing. And while Odric may surely make for a crucial, unblocked alpha strike in, say, a token deck, I can't see him played in the same slot of Hero of Bladehold too often, if not as a 1-of, just for kicks.

 Blue got a nice addition in Archaeomancer, who can be viewed as a slower, more versatile and recursion-friendly Snapcaster Mage, and will probably see his fair share of play (taking back Swords to Plowshares or Brainstorm for later use? Yes, please). Courtly Provocateur is the latest in the Nettling Imp not-that-glorious tradition of "board screwers"; she's cute, but too situational to be taken seriously, considering that at that point in the curve you should have stuff that deals with enemy creatures in less convoluted ways.

 Black has the best Human of the bunch in Disciple of Bolas, a truly great design: his cost is perfectly tuned for midrange, when you will happen to have some ETB leftover like, say, Snapcaster Mage, that you very much want to convert into 2 life and 2 cards. And think about a freshly Birthing Pod-ded Obstinate Baloth (maybe coming from a Kitchen Finks that'd still be there to summon up the Disciple): sure, a 4/4 beater is good, but yet another 4 life AND a fresh hand of 4 cards are even better.
 Harbor Bandit is part of the "Kird Ape Cycle", a series of five creatures made stronger by the presence of allied lands (specifically, the counter-clockwise ones on the wheel, unlike the original Kird Ape); none of them is particularly interesting in a Legacy environment, and this one in particular is a bland unblockable-on-demand that asks for 2 mana per turn to do its thing. We already talked about Knight of Infamy, and it only remains to note that protection from white is slightly more relevant in a black deck than protection from black in a white deck; also, that you can try and build a black exalted deck now, Human-based or otherwise, thanks to guys like Servant of Nefarox (in such a deck, she'll probably be the one you chump block and trade with, though).

 Finally, we have the green one, Mwonvuli Beast Tracker. Tutoring is always good, there's no denying that. Too bad this isn't really tutoring, though (it's what I call "bad tutoring" or "fake tutoring": makes you control what you will draw next, but it doesn't give you card advantage in the process). It's a bit of a bummer, since the specificity of what she looks for would make you think of recent cards like Treasure Mage, and not of old, overpowered ones like Goblin Matron. Of course, with a built-in card advantage she would have been one of the best cards in the set, since there are lots of off-tribe creatures with those abilities you might want to tutor up, from the obvious Primeval Titan to simpler, faster stuff like Deadly Recluse. Nice to see all the green-defining keywords listed up, anyway. On a shallow note, damn, the art for the regular one is really awful. And double damn, the art for the promo one (which isn't online yet) is super-sweet! That would be enough to convince me to play her, although she's probably more of a Commander staple, and more of a card you play either off-tribe, or within a Scout deck.


Wizard: +6

  

  

 Wizard is a traditional blue subtype, given that blue is the color of the mind and Wizards are supposedly nerdier than Warriors or even Shamans. M13 doesn't move away from this idea, so here's 5 new blue Wizards. We already talked about the Human ones, Archaeomancer and Courtly Provocateur, and they're no different here, although a classic Wizard build is very linear and doesn't have too much room for instant and sorceries, requiring a high number of actual, low-drop members to fuel stuff like Patron Wizard, Aphetto Grifter, or Azami, Lady of Scrolls. This issue might apply to Disciple of Bolas too, but he's so awesome he probably doesn't care.

What's left? Arctic Aven is another entry in the Kird Ape Cycle, and within an Azorius build is a 3/2 flyer with lifelink for 3, which isn't bad, even if the activation cost for lifelink is annoying. I don't see Wizards using it, might be more welcome chez its other tribe.
 Another Bolas's namesake, Augur of Bolas has a nice ETB effect in the same vein as cards like Faerie Mechanist or Court Hussar. Plus, he's cheap and leaves a nice defensive body behind. The only issue is that in a tribal deck you don't have enough noncreature, nonland slots to guarantee he will always find something, like he would in another environment. It's the same reason why Delver of Secrets is considerably weaker in Tribal Wars, and not the powerhouse he is elsewhere.
 Talrand, Sky Summoner is the blue rare legend. With the only exception of the black one, all the cards in this cycle are 4 CMC creatures who belong to both the race and the class more representative of their color: Odric is a Human Soldier, Krenko is a Goblin Warrior, Yeva is an Elf Shaman, and Talrand here is a Merfolk Wizard. And he has a very powerful token-making ability, able to create 2/2 flyers (that happen to be Drakes, but that's hardly relevant) with no activation cost required. Again, the sheer quantity of instants and sorceries in tribal builds is very limited, and more so in both Wizard decks and Merfolk decks (plus the latter rarely even use creatures with CMC greater than 3). Talrand remains interesting even from a tribal point of view, though, as such a free effect is nothing to sneeze at. He might see play in quirky builds, possibly off-tribe.


Beast: +4

   

 Four sturdy green Beasts a-coming! Very different levels here: Spiked Baloth is purely Limited fodder; Primal Huntbeast is little more, as hexproof on a midrange beater might be relevant, but that's the slot where Beasts have Obstinate Baloth, Ravenous Baloth, and Spellbreaker Behemoth. So, in other words, no way. Roaring Primadox looks like a worse Stampeding Wildebeests/Stampeding Serow: for the same CMC, both the Antelopes give you +1/+0 and trample. Yet the Primadox differs in an aspect that might prove occasionally crucial: it doesn't ask for green creatures only. This and the higher splashability could make it fit for off-tribe inclusions when recursion shenanigans are in order. 

 And then there's Thragtusk, and that's the real jackpot. You have to read the text carefully to realize just how awesome it is: that's right, the token isn't created through an usual death trigger; it's created when Thragtusk leaves the battlefield. You flicker it, you get the token. They exile it, you get the token. Even just thinking about bouncing it gives nightmares to any blue mage. There's nothing the opponent can do to stop the damn token from coming. And unlike undying, they're different objects, meaning that you can bring back Thragtusk from the graveyard and not affect the token at all. Recurring Nightmare and Thragtusk is a marriage made in heaven. Birthing Pod and Thragtusk is so insanely powerful it isn't even funny. Thragtusk impacts the game like few other 5 CMC creatures can, boosting your life total and your board presence at once. And it's eminently splashable. I'd go so far as to say Thragtusk is the best card in the whole set, hands down. Buy your playset of Thragtusk today (actually, don't; I'm being a good boy and patiently waiting for the price to come down a little since the release, so please don't make it raise!)


Rogue: +4

   

 Not a lot of good new toys for Rogue decks. We already saw Harbor Bandit, and he's not any better here. Faerie Invaders might be good for Pauper tribal, but feels a bit overcosted. Duskmantle Prowler attacks straight off the bat as a 3/3 for 4, which isn't bad but not exactly groundbreaking. He might find a home in the abovementioned black "exalted matters" deck, but it would be off-tribe probably. And Rummaging Goblin is uniquely there to showcase the new way looting has been given to red, with the reverse order of its elements (first discard, then draw, the opposite of the original, blue looting).Since Rogue builds use more often blue than red, and there's blue Rogues with the better version of looting (Cephalid Looter, Merfolk Looter), Rummaging Goblin is barely noticeable (if you're in red, need looting, and are willing to devote off-tribe slots to it, you better just use stuff like Faithless Looting). 


Bird: +3

  

 Battleflight Eagle is an overcosted filler card with a stupid ETB effect, especially if you look at it from within a flying tribe. You would hardly play it even in Limited. War Falcon is a fast, evasive beater that wants to be included off-tribe in Knight or Soldier decks, which isn't going to happen. We already know Arctic Aven is just mildly effective in Azorius colors (which are the right colors for Bird decks, at least). M13 Birds: not a lot to say about them.


Cat: +3

  

 Somehow unremarkable are the three new Cats as well: Ajani's Sunstriker, although playable, is just basic Limited fodder; more so is Guardian Lions (5 mana for a 1/6 vigilant? C'mon); and Healer of the Pride is a double soul sister, but she only works with your own creatures, and she costs way too much to be effective.


Cleric: +3

  

 Two of the new Clerics are Cats (and no, I don't see Healer of the Pride being used in soul sisters Cleric builds either). The third one is a black Human. None of them do much to impress.


Dragon: +3

  

 There's a lot of humour around the MTG forums about the "Obligatory Dragon", the usually unimpressive red 5/5 flyers for 6 with some kind of classic red ability we have been subjected to in pretty much every block and core set ever, and that almost never sees any kind of constructed play. M13 seems to have been determined to correct this by printing three solid additions to the Dragon family. First of all, there's Thundermaw Hellkite, and that's pretty much self-explanatory: a 5/5 hasted, pseudo-unblockable flyer for 5 with a strong ETB effect is badass. Thundermaw Hellkite is actually so badass to the point you can wonder if they didn't overreach a bit with it, as it's by far the best Dragon ever printed under 6 CMC, and one of the best overall, even factoring in the higher-costing ones. It will definitely see play in many different formats, and has become an instant staple in Dragon decks.

 Dragon Hatchling is probably bound to have less of an impact elsewhere, but it fulfills an important function in tribal Dragon builds: it's the low-costing one. Actually, before M13, there weren't Dragons costing less than 4 at all. The Hatchling is a scaled down Furnace Whelp indeed, and since firebreathing remains firebreathing (luckily they got rid of Dragon Whelp's moronic downside long ago), its reduced CMC might make it actually stronger and worth including. All in all, it's a way for a Dragon deck to establish a board presence earlier.
 Even faster is Slumbering Dragon, but with a twist: it's not actually there until you got attacked by 5 creatures (at that point, the noise prevents it from slumbering any further, or something). It's a cool design, and if there's a place where it may make some sense it's indeed within a Dragon deck, that doesn't get too many things to play in early turns. What the opponent would do at that point? Would he bother to kill the Slumbering before it becomes a 8/8? Would you waste a Doom Blade on it while it can't even block and you know there's bigger stuff to deal with ahead? Maybe you would as soon as it hits 4 counters, but it's still an interesting path to try for a Dragon player. 


Goblin: +3

  

 Only a modicum of Goblins in M13. We already covered the looter, Rummaging Goblin. Do Goblins need looting? Well, if they do, now they have it in-tribe too. Goblin Battle Jester is Limited fodder, so that's it. And then, there's Krenko, Mob Boss, who's part of the already mentioned legendary cycle. And he's strong. Maybe a bit slow for Goblin standards, but his body is better than Talrand's, and while his ability requires tapping, it's still a blast . Geometric progressive tokens? I can use those. In fact, it's not even necessary to put Krenko in a Goblin deck at all to exploit him, although there it's where he's insane right from the start. It's very possible fast aggro Goblins will not care for him, though, while more complex builds might find ways to use him as an off-tribe token-maker.


Knight: +3

  

 Knights have often a knack for being very straightforward creatures. As we've already seen, M13 gave us a nice card advantage one, and a new white/black pair that nicely implements exalted, and it's just solid.


Merfolk: +3

  

 Merfolks got three strong additions, although they're more of a mixed bag than what they appear to be at first sight. Merfolk players will probably not use Talrand, as he's too slow and situational. Plus, they can't do much with non-Merfolk creatures. They might use more the other Wizard, Augur of Bolas, even with a limited amount of targets in the deck, because those targets are usually crucial (since are usually counterspells) and a 1/3 body is able to block most early threats. He could make for a sideboard card against Goblins or such, in formats where Merfolks are actually allowed a sideboard. Finally, Master of the Pearl Trident is the functional reprint of Lord of Atlantis, and everybody uses 4 Lord of Atlantis. Will everybody use 8 of them, though, since there's already plenty of other Merfolk lords (Merrow Reejerey, Merfolk Sovereign, Coralhelm Commander)? We're going to see Merfolk decks with 20 lords?  I hope not, since that would be boring.


Shaman: +3

  

 Some Shamans in Gruul colors, as it's meant to be. Mindclaw Shaman potentially got a very powerful ETB effect (although it's not cheaply costed for a 2/2, probably because they made it uncommon rather than rare or even mythic); problem is, it's awfully situational. You don't just need to find the opponent with an instant or sorcery in hand at the time Mindclaw comes: they need to be playable at all. Which, say, a Counterspell or a Swords to Plowshares with no targets aren't (I suppose the Mindclaw will happily drop the removal on himself just to get rid of it, though). Plus, the real fantasy evoked here is to find something big and juicy to play for free while laughing at a shocked opponent. But it's not really going to happen, like, ever. The chances you'll find something like a Cruel Ultimatum in the opponent hand when you play this are next to zero, unless, again, you're playing Mindclaw as a sideboard card against "decks with big instants and sorceries", where a sideboard is allowed. Of course, in Commander it's almost a staple now, and that's the format it was designed for.  

 Yeva, Nature's Herald comes with a very unimpressive lackey in Yeva's Forcemage (that's Limited filler for you), but she's the opposite of that. A 4/4 for 4 is pretty much the golden ratio for a midrange creature (that's why Obstinate Baloth is good, Stampeding Rhino isn't). Add flash, which is something green doesn't get often, and almost fills the role of a removal slot in green decks. Add the fact that she acts as a specialized Teferi. The result is little short of awesome, and you actually have to try and play her to fully realize it (once you've gone 2-for-1 at instant speed with an Acidic Slime, you'll agree with me). Of course, she's the kind of supporting player that's always helpful yet almost never indispensable, but a 1-of copy of her feels right pretty much in every green-based build, and green Shaman decks are varied enough to give her a lot of different toys to play with.


Elemental: +2

 

 Two Elementals, both blue. And while Watercourser is just filler, Void Stalker is a new take on Gomazoa. I'd even say it's an improved Gomazoa, since it doesn't have to block (although the 3-mana activation kinda sucks), costs 1 mana less, and can swing for 2. Plus, it's easier to build blue or Izzet Elemental decks than Jellyfish. All in all, it's more of a Commander card, though, as shuffling stuff back into the libraries matters more there than elsewhere.


Elf: +2

 

 Elves only get Yeva and her own personal assistant. We already covered them: she's very good, and I can see Elf build exploiting her to dribble mass removals in crucial turns. He's a dork.


Soldier: +2

 

 Shamans had just Yeva and her useless boytoy, and now Soldiers have just Odric and his bland girlfriend. Within a Soldier deck Odric may really shine, anyway, as his three merry men might well be big first strikers as well. Plus, it'd be easier to populate the battlefield and hit the mark with his ability, including going for the mentioned, decisive alpha strike. And Hero of Bladehold, the main antagonist in Odric's slot, is off-tribe in Soldier.


Warrior: +2

 

 Warriors get just a Limited filler in Reckless Brute, plus the excellent Krenko. His tokens aren't Warriors, though, and token-based red Warrior decks aren't very likely. But Krenko might still be worth including, as a 3/3 that progressively fills the board with mini-threats and/or chump blockers.


Angel: +1

 Just one Angel, but you don't need more, as Sublime Archangel is really a one-girl-army. As I noted in her Angelpedia entry, you can see her either as a 5/4 flyer for 4, which is already impressive, or as a way to pump/risk one creature while essentially giving vigilance to all the others. Unless you happen to have only 2 or 3 big creatures, of course. That's why she's not at her best in Angel builds, where she also has to fight for space with the likes of Emeria Angel, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, and Guardian Seraph. But off-tribe in the right deck, she's definitely a blast.


Bat: +1

 We delve fully in Endangered territory here (it's what we call a tribe with 50 members of less back at Tribal Apocalypse). Bloodhunter Bat is even a nice common, for the standards of Bats, that don't comprise too many playable creatures. Or too many creatures, for that matter (they're 13 now, 2 of which aren't online).


Boar: +1

 Boars are 24 (23 online), some of them are red, so this probably should read as a 3/3 haste for 3. I'll let the Boar players judge if it's good enough. Outisde the Boar planet, it isn't.


Demon: +1

 Demons used to be fewer than 50 before the Innistrad block, and now they hit the 60 mark with this Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis, who isn't bad at all. Granted, he's in Titan mana, but despite not impacting the board right away, he swings for 6 and casts a Diabolic Edict per turn, and that's definitely something that the opponent can't ignore for too long. His inspiration Thraximundar is still probably better (also, in actual Grixis colors: is there a reason why the Grixis overlord isn't a Grixis creature?), but Demon decks could use him, since as a 6-drop he looks more reliable and scarier than Reaper from the Abyss (as I'll note in the Demonpedia, as soon as I'll actually find the time to finish it). Of course, Nefarox being a legend may prevent a more massive presence in the build, and he's probably something you will not see often outside Demon tribal.


Elephant: +1

 This lonely white Elephant continues the cycle of creatures enhanced by the presence of allied lands, both by boosting their stats and by enabling an activable keyword ability. In a Selesnya deck, which an Elephant tribal very likely is (you really want Loxodon Hierarch in there), Prized Elephant is a 4/4 for 4 that might have trample. It's not inherently bad (all this cycle is more about unimpressive than bad), but as far as Elephants go I still prefer Endangered Armodon or Loxodon Gatekeeper to complement the Hierarch at that point of the curve.


Faerie: +1

 Ok, Faerie decks all but laugh at this semi-useless common. There, I said it.


Golem: +1

 The first 1-drop Golem in the game (ok, there's Straw Golem too, but that's more of a joke, especially within a tribal environment). The limited Steel Overseer ability makes Chronomaton not bad at establishing an early presence, then growing big in late game if it survived. All things considered, one of the most playable Golems under 4 CMC.


Gorgon: +1

 

 Gorgons are a very small tribe with strong high-costing members. As such, Xathrid Gorgon is going to be compared to a card like Visara the Dreadful, and she doesn't emerge well from the comparison: for the same CMC, Visara is a 5/5 flyer who taps and outright kills; Xathrid Gorgon is an underwhelming 3/6 deathtouch who needs 3 mana to neutralize a creature while still leaving it on the battlefield (there will be cases where this is actually preferable, but it's not that common). Still, her mechanic is really flavorful, and can have some (convoluted) applications like bypassing protection by turning herself into a colorless deathtoucher. Plus, she marks the fifth Gorgon online that you can play without comically giving protection from Gorgons to half the opponents. That promo art is gorgeous, but despite being announced as the prerelease promo I can't find it anywhere, including in the editor database. Does anybody know why?


Griffin: +1

 For some reason, Griffin is the designers' go-to creature type for Limited-oriented flyers. Pretty much the entire tribe is a slight variation on the same basic common/uncommon midrange dude with wings. Misthollow Griffin was the most recent, surprising exception. Griffin Protector re-establishes the usual pattern.


Hound: +1

 Just a 1-drop 1/1 first striker for the Hounds. Cute, possibly useful, definitely unexciting.


Illusion: +1

 Now, there's an interesting 1-drop for Illusions instead. It's sort of a twist on threshold, as it means you can play it early on, then wait for your milling strategy to kicks in (it's called Jace's Phantasm, after all), leaving you with a 5/5 flyer for 1. Even if you're not planning to win through damage, you can still using it to control the board, not to mention you can find yourself with a strong secondary wincon at hand. Very specific to a single strategy, but very strong within it. Illusion was already a powerful tribe, and now I can see a milling build being shaped around this latest addition.


Insect: +1

 Cute little Insect. Mostly unremarkable, but I'm always looking for Insects to work into my Recurring Nightmare build, and this one could make for a possible 1-drop (it's a 1/2 chump blocker after all, and can pump the better ones through later recursion). I think I'll still go with Scute Mob, though, that plays a similar role.


Lizard: +1

 Last in the Kird Ape Cycle. Ok, 3/2 for 3 might be good for stats, but regenerate for 3 is terrible as an ability. Lizard is far from a strong tribe, but probably still stronger than that. Plus, they have very few black members, so to have the Rakdos part of the cycle be a Lizard was an odd choice to begin with, tribal-wise.


Monk: +1

 Maybe Clerics would have exploited it better than Monks, but doubling the lifegaining might be the key for several strategies and interactions (Boon Reflection was less killable yet less tutorable too, and definitely less workable into a tribal deck). And it comes on a strong defensive creature that doesn't feel overcosted. It might see play off-tribe or with Rhinos.


Ogre: +1

 I still hate that WotC decided a while back to discontinue Orcs (a staple of so many fantasy settings) yet they keep printing Ogres. It doesn't help that they're mostly useless stuff like Reckless Brute.


Phoenix: +1

 It's hard to come up with new ideas for a narrow concept like Phoenix. As a rare, Firewing Phoenix is clunky enough, though, since lacking haste, and with that low toughness, it'll end up attacking every fourth turn or so, while eating up a lot of mana. Still a recursive flyer, sure, but Phoenix can do better.


Rhino: +1

 And here's how Rhox Faithmender looks like while playing for the Rhino team. A lot better than with the Monk team, I have to say.


Scout: +1

 

 Scout is very obviously the tribe that seeks for things, these things being mostly lands, so Mwonvuli Beast Tracker is a nice variation on that. She calls for off-tribe members, of course, but that's something you have to do anyway with this tribe. And what's Primeval Titan if not the biggest, baddest Scout ever, after all? (Seriously, I would have so wanted for them to give Titans secondary subtypes, and Primeval was going to be very clearly a Scout. The tribe would have been played a lot more in that case). (They could have gone with less-seen subtypes for all of them, like Monk for Sun Titan, Pirate for Frost Titan, Minion for Grave Titan, and Berserker for Inferno Titan). Anyway, I still want that promo art!


Shade: +1

 This Shade does what every Shade does: pumping with black mana. And as a bonus, it does what its mistress Liliana does in her latest version: tutoring Swamp cards. It's a interesting thing for a black creature to do , and even if Liliana's Shade is a bit high on the cost, it's still a nice addition to both the color and the tribe, as Shades very like to have a lot of black mana available.


Skeleton: +1

 Two things you can find in Skeleton decks: fast drops, and reliable regeneration. Duty-Bound Dead delivers in the first area (with yet another occurrence of black exalted), but horribly disappoints in the second (4 mana? Seriously? This might be a record). Tribal verdict: meh.


Spider: +1

 Sentinel Spider is a solid member of its family, but falls a bit short. I talked elsewhere how a great 4/4 should cost 4 and have additional abilities. Now, Sentinel Spider has a good combination of abilities, making it a strong presence on the board, but you will wish for it to be there one turn earlier. And Spider is a tribe with a fierce competition for these kinds of midrange slots.


Vampire: +1

 Speaking of competition, I will not even start to check what a Vampire deck could use in place of Duskmantle Prowler. Haste is important, exalted is useful, but in turn 4, there's a case where you already have better stuff on the board and you want to drop even more powerful things for turns to come (like, I don't know, Vampire Nocturnus? Just saying).


Viashino: +1

 It's interesting that they keep printing Viashinos, a creature type that was originally from the classic Mirage-Invasion era. We kept seeing some of them over the years (last time was in Alara block), and they usually fulfill a variety of roles. Here, it happens to be a Viashino the Commander-oriented Mindclaw Shaman. It kinda looks like a Minotaur in the art, anyway.


Wolf: +1

 The Wolf tribe had a big boost with Innistrad block, what with their cousins Werewolves being among the protagonists. Timberpack Wolf feels a little like a leftover from that design (I will not be surprised to find out that actually is the case). It's also a classic, solid concept, and it might actually find a place in a Wolf build. At the very least, it's a Grizzly Bears.


Wurm: +1

 Wurms are traditionally where green experiments with unusual concepts. Elderscale Wurm is cool, and certainly feels like a mythic, but I don't know that's terribly effective. I might still prefer to run Pelakka Wurm or even Engulfing Slagwurm in that slot. It makes you ponder the comparison, though, which is good. Not a staple, not a bad card. I don't think it's going to be seen too much outside tribal Wurm decks (the fact that it's valued as the cheapest mythics on the secondary market seems a clear indication of that), but you never know.


Zombie: +1

 A Zombie that returns from the graveyard. I think I may have seen that before. And probably even done better. I doubt Zombie players will even notice this guy's existence.


Noncreature white cards: +5

   

 The highlightAjani, Caller of the Pride. Fast and furious, he somehow acts as a mix between his older version and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. While undoubtedly strong, however, he seems less effective than both his direct inspirations. For a mana more (that feels irrelevant since you first need to build your board position anyway) Ajani Goldmane is able to permanently pump all your team, while Elspeth has the distinct advantage of constantly boosting a beater, while Ajani 3.0 has to spend 3 loyalty counters to do that, which means it can't be done every turn (it's actually done just every fourth turn after the first one). You need to make the most out of double strike then, and that's not done with the kind of creatures you expect to find in a white weenie deck (like Soldier or Kithkin). It's possible more of a card you should put in a midrange deck like Angel.

 The other stuffCaptain's Call is even more Soldier tokens at sorcery speed, someone might feel like wanting to try it in a Soldier deck; Faith's Reward is a one-sided Second Sunrise that might have combo applications; Touch of the Eternal is a weird Johnny card that looks more like something you may want to Donate to your opponent.

 Non-featured Limited fodder: Show of Valor.


Noncreature blue cards: +9 

   

 The highlight: Omniscience is a ridiculously powerful card in Legacy, and especially in Tribal Wars. Why so? Because in Tribal Wars you don't have to worry too much about countermagic stopping a midrange combo, and you can build around guys like Academy Rector or even Lost Auramancers, making Ominiscience builds even stronger than with Show and Tell (where you need to have three combo elements in hand at once: Ominiscience, Show and Tell, and, say, Conflux). In an Academy Rector build, you only need a single copy of Omniscience (and maybe a few Brainstorm or such to shuffle it back if you draw into it), this way saving precious nontribal slots. How to seal the deal once Omniscience is online is up to you. You might want to take the tribal creature routes, and drop a bunch of Dragons or Angels, or you can do Conflux into Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and Doubling Season (or a recent favorite of mine: Conflux into Conflux and Sorin Markov, then into Sorin's Vengeance). It's basically what you used to do with Dream Halls, but now you don't even need to wait for the Halls, or to worry about the opponent exploiting it: you can also easily tutor up Academy Rector with Imperial Recruiter

 The other stuff: Spelltwine feels very Commander-ish, as the high casting cost seems to imply: the case where you pay 6 and cast two removals is a bit extreme; Switcheroo is essentially irrelevant, but it's fun in tribal and can lead to some interactions with creatures you want to get rid of while at the same time take control of a good one; Talrand's Invocation is a decent one-shot token generator.

 Non-featured Limited fodder: Downpour, Encrust, Hydrosurge, Mind Sculpt, Tricks of the Trade.


Noncreature black cards: +9

   

 The highlight: Diabolic Revelation is, again, mainly designed for Commander. But given the resources, it's an extreme combo enabler, and needs to be acknowledged as such.

 The other stuff: Blood Reckoning is a mild way to discourage aggro decks from attacking; Cower in Fear is a one-sided mass removal, although very limited.

 The case: I really wanted to like Liliana of the Dark Realms, but after I looked at her from every side (ok, that came off wrong), I still can't find her a home. She doesn't really ramp (feels more like mana fixing for splashed colors in black-based decks), and she starts doing it midgame anyway: it makes no sense to force her on the battlefield early on (via Dark Ritual or something), when her second ability wouldn't do much, therefore she can't defend herself. The ultimate is what's more baffling: to get there you need to avoid using the removal ability, therefore all she has done until that point is giving your lands and thinning your deck. And then got the emblem, and it's like turn 7, so you go from 7 to 28 mana. Awesome, sure, but then what? Is that uniquely a way to win via Drain Life? It seems a bit too narrow as a strategy for her to be around too many decks. Once more, she's an auto-include in any Commander black-based deck, but I don't know what she will do in Legacy, and particularly within a tribal setting.

 Non-featured Legacy irrelevant: Murder (yeah, it's a neat, unconditional "destroy target creature", but I don't see it played anyway; for 3 mana black decks better use Unmake); Vile Rebirth (not a bard card, but as far as graveyard haters go, you have too many better options in Legacy).

 Non-featured Limited fodder: Crippling Blight, Mark of the Vampire, Public Execution.


Noncreature red cards: +10

   

 The highlightWorldfire isn't a highlight because it's a very effective card or anything, but it sure feels powerful. What to do once you have reduced the game to two guys barely alive eyeing each other over a desert wasteland? Up to you and your inner Johnny (or more likely, your inner Goblin).

 The other stuffChandra's Fury needs to be mentioned as another one-sided mass removal, which is a primary element in tribal builds; Searing Spear is a functional reprint of Incinerate (without the regeneration clause, since they don't hose regeneration anymore these days), and that could affect RDW decks; Wild Guess is the latest in a recent series of great draw/discard spells for red.
 
 Non-featured Legacy irrelevant: Cleaver Riot (Savage Beating is instant-speed and does more); Craterize (plenty of better options in red for land destruction at 4 CMC); Flames of the Firebrand (functional reprint of Arc Lightning); Krenko's Command (functional reprint of Dragon Fodder, seems hard to work 8 slots of one-shot Goblin token-making into a tribal deck); Magmaquake (Earthquake does the same and can win you the game too); Smelt (makes Shatter obsolete, but Shatter was already a bad option most of the times).


Noncreature green cards: +5

 

 The highlightBoundless Realms is once again a Commander card, this time very clearly. However, crazy mana ramping exists very much within Legacy as well, so this might be a way to go from crazy to... crazier? (Truth is: green took the short straw in M13, despite arguably getting the best card of the set. Not too much to highlight there).

 The other stuff: just Fungal Sprouting, a nicely complement to Spontaneous Generation and Saproling Symbiosis; depending on the build, you might want to use either of these when you need a bunch of relatively cheap tokens all of a sudden.

 Non-featured Legacy-irrelevant: Predatory Rampage (bad Overrun that tries to double as a sort of mass removal, but it's lame at that); Ranger's Path (worse version of Hunting Wilds or Skyshroud Claim); Serpent's Gift (worse version of Lace with Moonglove). 


Noncreature colorless cards: +11

  

  

 The highlight: Trading Post, just to make my friend Winter.Wolf happy. Also because I love the design very much (it's a trading post, everything you do with the card means you're trading stuff, and if you follow the sequence, you start giving away a card and end with another card). Look, it's a great artifact, and there's plenty of shenanigans to do with it (try working a Myr Retriever in there, for instance). But it does feel like a casual super-card, needing long, quiet games to really shine. And it does so many things that you can't really find a specific reason to include it in your deck, as for every part of it (discard engine, lifegaining, token creation, sacrifice outlet, recursion, card drawing), you can find other cards that do the same thing better or for a cheaper cost. Then again, there's no card that does all of this, and even if your deck doesn't need all those effects, none of them is useless, especially because the Post can work as a self-contained world that doesn't need anything else to perform. So, it's (very appropriately) sort of a jack-of-all-trades card, and there's the case where you may want to include a copy of it in your deck when you just happen to have a free slot, or even as a 61th card (provided your deck's curve isn't too low, of course). Just to see what happens. I know I'll do.

 The other stuff: Gem of Becoming is a powerful tutor for lands in Bolas's favorite colors (I don't know why they didn't do it as a cycle, by the way), particularly useful in Commander, but with applications in tribal constructed too; Sands of Delirium is the latest, state-of-the-art mill engine (possibly the best one, not counting Grindstone); Staff of Nin is a strange, Commander-ish card that does two very useful things for free once you paid its initial CMC of 6: definitely casual, but fun, might be a 1-of in decks that cheat big artifacts into play (Treasure Mage, Grand Architect, Arcum Dagsson, Master Transmuter, and Goblin Welder might all like it).
 
 The lands: Cathedral of War plays into the exalted revival, and will be seen in tribal aggro decks for sure; Hellion Crucible is, well, the most awkward man-land ever?

The Ring Cycle

  

 

 The Ring Cycle, that replaced the "Lucky Charms" (Angel's Feather, Kraken's Eye, and all such trinkets), is composed of five equipments that provide a different color-linked keyword ability while slowly fattening the equipped creature if it's in the right color. As such, they can be referred to with the name of the color they address in the text, despite being colorless and partially working with creatures of any color. They all cost 2 mana and equip for 1, so they're very light to play. The blue one is definitely the less interesting, as it gives hexproof only upon a 2-mana activation, which makes it clunky. Same goes for the black one, with a not-so-great 2-mana regeneration. Slightly better are the white and red ones: vigilance can be occasionally relevant, and haste most definitely is, and you only need to spend 1 to give it to your most recent creature. Then again, you can do the same with Swiftfoot Boots, not to mention for 0 with Lightning Greaves, getting hexproof/shroud over the chance of getting a +1/+1 counter per turn. I'd say the only one that's good enough to see play is the green one, the trample-giving Ring of Kalonia. I tested it successfully in a Modern deck, where some evergrowing, trampling Thrun or Dungrove Elder were as big a threat as you get. The combination of natural hexproof and the pseudo-evasive nature of trample, plus the added bonus of permanent +1/+1 counters make this ring one of the best low-cost trample-giving equipments available (which means probably the only one you might ever want to use). It beats Vorrac Battlehorns, Horned Helm, and the super-conditional Tenza, Godo's Maul (that's essentially only there to be tutored by Godo himself), and it's also slightly better than O-Naginata in most of the cases. The equip cost of 1 means you can easily move the Ring to another creature if you want to make that grow as well, and it's not even wasted in early turns, while you're still waiting for your beaters to come: strap the Ring onto a Birds of Paradise and you'll end up with a small flying attacker later, and even Wall of Roots benefits from it, countering its loss of toughness and getting some killing power in the process. A good equipment, with hidden tactical values.


Summary

  • Noncreature white cards: +5
  • Noncreature blue cards: +9
  • Noncreature black cards: +9
  • Noncreature red cards: +10
  • Noncreature green cards: +5
  • Noncreature colorless cards: +11
  • Total new cards: +107
    • Creatures: +58
    • Sorceries: +16
    • Instants: +13
    • Artifacts: +9
    • Enchantments: +7
    • Planeswalkers: +2
    • Lands: +2

The Legendary Cycle

  

 


The Kird Ape Cycle

  

 


The Best in Show 

    

 

3 Comments

Interesting commentary, not by Paul Leicht at Mon, 08/13/2012 - 14:11
Paul Leicht's picture
5

Interesting commentary, not that I agree with all your predictions on how good these cards will be. I see some interesting applications for cards you panned and some of the cards you praise seem a little meh to me. (Not many, I think you mostly got this right.) However I am mostly coming from the standard/modern perspective on what can be innovated and less from the tribal legacy point of view of how these cards fit.

One thing in particular: the ring cycle stand pretty well on their own for one purpose. They are absolutely lethal in stall builds. Any control deck that can use their color on a creature while stalling the opponent will love their slow build up.

In fact the red one + slumbering dragon = fun times.

I think Prized Elephant is reasonable in elephants because you are not always going to want the other guys in that slot (aside from Hierarch). Granted elephants don't USUALLY need help trampling lesser beings but meh, what can we do?

Anyway yes I do love Trading Post and think it is one of the better cards in the set along with Disciple and Sublime the beating. Thragtusk makes a distant fourth for me and the big dragon isn't even interesting to me.

I believe I don't make any by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 08/13/2012 - 20:56
Kumagoro42's picture

I believe I don't make any serious "prediction" here (I'm never actually able to foresee how archetypes develop and such), I just evaluate the strength of each card. And yes, this is mainly about the tribe system, what new toys each of them gets. How these cards impact Standard or Modern is beside the point (and again, I'm never good at predicting that. I can just register that, for instance, Thragtusk was an instant hit among pros, and I can see why, but that strictly depends on the ease with which it fitted on current builds, while other stuff would need a brand new home).

Then again, I'm aware that what we mean with "best cards" is highly debatable. Is a card only good if it sees a lot of play? Or is it good regardless? Is the best card the one that defines a new winning archetype? Or is it the one with the best design? MaRo and LSV would never agree on the best cards of any given set.
Is Trading Post the best design in M13? Absolutely. Will see pro play? Honestly, don't think so. (It's still one of the highest-priced rares, though, so there's that). Does that make it a bad card? Not at all.

ERRATA: Of course, Crimson Muckwader (aka the lonely Lizard) is a 3/2 for 2, not for 3. The verdict doesn't change, anyway: still useless enough.

Muckraker = bad sedge troll. by Paul Leicht at Tue, 08/14/2012 - 02:03
Paul Leicht's picture

Muckraker = bad sedge troll. Nuff said about that.