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By: AJ_Impy, AJ Richardson
Jun 22 2009 11:35pm
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Welcome, esteemed readers, as we do something the Ghostbusters have asked us not to do since the mid-Eighties, and cross the streams. In this article, we see what happens when we try to make some of the formats with the toughest restrictions play nice together, building decks capable of taking both on and still winning. Can we take on the might of the classic card pool in Tribal with all our cards ext-legal and multicolored? How about facing down powerful Kaleidoscope decks with 20 creatures all sharing a creature type? Let's go and find out.

Small Iconics:

Real World Types:


Large Iconics:

Generic Labels:


That there is every qualifying tribe, having 5 multicolored members in the Extended card pool. There are some surprising inclusions and even more surprising omissions: Despite every Snake in the format being of playable quality, there are only four of them. Advisors, on the other hand, just about get in under the threshold, mainly due to the numerous game-changing legends. Treefolk are also one member under, despite being a tricolored main tribe in Lorwyn and Shadowmoor. As countless comparisons of the two black iconic rare tribes over the years have shown, Vampires fall short while Demons have no problems. Rats are out, Mutants are in, and in one particularly sad example, neither of the red-blue specific tribes (namely Noggles and Weirds) have enough members to make even a regular tribe, let alone a Kaleidoscope one. We have no access to changelings or Mistform Ultimus to make up the numbers, so until the next set with at least some multicolor, what you see is what you get.

If you're building a deck to be passable in two distinct formats, it needs to be able to cope with everything both formats have to offer, from Swords to Plowshares and Wrath of God on the one hand to unfettered multicolor aggro on the other. (Or if you prefer, from vial goblins on the one hand to 5-color control on the other.) We have a limited selection of cards to work with, so we need to make the most of what we have. Multiple creature types are far less of a drawback in Kaleidoscope than the loss of the classic card pool and monocolored cards in Tribal Classic, so we work on that. Staples such as Trial/Error and Pure/Simple are less effective in a dual use deck, so we turn to more generic solutions. Sweepers of some kind are essential, as a fast tribal deck or Kaleidoscope aggro build can both kill by turn 4 unhindered. A sideboard isn't an option as that would preclude Tribal Classic legality, preventing shenanigans with Research/Development. All that said, let's start with an easy option, a tribe of powerful, evasive 'Kill me or die' creatures with potent abilities.

Calling all avenging Angels

Ah, Angels. The large iconic creature for white, and a staple of the game since Serra Angel ruled the Alpha skies. We've had multicolored angels since Guiding Spirit in Visions and Selenia, Dark Angel in Tempest, with Gabriel Angelfire getting retroactive beatification in the great creature type update. The only other multicolored Angel that isn't Kaleidoscope legal is Iridescent Angel, coming as it did just one block too soon in Odyssey. But what of the angels that are available? The biggest influxes cane, perhaps not unsurprisingly, in the two most recent gold multicolor blocks. Ravnica brought us enemy pairing angels, led by Razia, Boros Archangel and Firemane Angel, also encompassing the vindictive Angel of Despair. We had the reprinted Lightning Angel to tide us over until Alara revisited angels, this time across the allied triad. Stoic Angel and Jenara, Asura of War stood at the cheap and efficient end of the spectrum, Filigree Angel and Empyrial Archangel rather less so. Occupying the middle ground is Maelstrom Archangel, whose ability is perfect in a higher-cost tribe.

Filigree Angel Razia, Boros Archangel Empyrial Archangel

Now, looking at those three, we see one inherent potential problem. Running a dozen 8-mana cards in a pair of potentially fast formats is asking for trouble. It isn't impossible, but it is a substantial risk. As such, we turn our attention to the cheaper end of the spectrum. Another thing to note is how color intensive the tribe is: Every tribe member legal in Kaleidoscope that costs less than 6 mana is at least 3 colors. On top of that, the colors differ: The french flag red, white and blue deck (Lightning, Firemane, Razia and Filigree) or the Bant deck (Jenya, Stoic, Filigree and Empyrial) both fall short of having five available members, which means we're in four or five colors.  We're going to need a very flexible manabase here for starters, and plenty of removal to keep us alive. Fortunately, our cheapest angels are laden with abilities that help them race, flying and vigilance coupled with haste on the one and Winter Orb for creatures on the other. If we can stick an early Trace of Abundance, that gives us the fast start we need, especially if we follow it up with Maelstrom Archangel to cheat our high end angels into play. The curve tops out with Firemane Angel and Angel of Despair, the former as a steady stream of life and late game recursive threat, the latter as a Vindicate on a dragon body. For other removal, we turn to the time-buying Lightning Helix and the potent sweeper Void, and to make sure we can cast everything, we rely on Trace of Abundance and Safewright Quest early on.


Heaven can wait
Kaleidoscope Tribal Classic Angel deck
4 Angel of Despair
4 Firemane Angel
4 Lightning Angel
4 Maelstrom Archangel
4 Stoic Angel
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Lightning Helix
4 Safewright Quest
4 Trace of Abundance
4 Void
16 cards
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Godless Shrine
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Seaside Citadel
4 Temple Garden
24 cards

Lightning Angel

Our game plan here is much the same against both kinds of deck: Aim to drop an early Stoic Angel or Lightning Angel to put some pressure on and dissuade attacks, then ramp up to the bigger options and ride them to victory. We have some measure of security from discard thanks to the Firemane Angels, and if you can get a Stoic to stick, it can pin down those that rely on swarm strategies. The deck's weakness is its reliance on getting the early angel down: If you wind up with a hand of 5, 6 and 7-mana uncastables and promptly die, there isn't that much you can do. Fortunately, the abundance of manafixing keeps that from being too likely. It may be worthwhile sticking in a Hallowed Fountain or Breeding Pool as a Safewright Quest target to fix blue, but that isn't an option presently available to me. This is very far from being a budget deck, but well worth the investment.

A Wizard Did It

Moving on from one of the large iconic tribes, we head to a smaller, more generic one. With Wizards, we have a whole host of options, from half the Ravnica guildmage cycle up to huge monsters, from creature selection with Sages of the Anima and Momir Vig, Simic Visionary through to token generation and mill with Lich Lord of Unx and Oona, Queen of the Fae. The only two cards in the kaleidoscope format relating to suspend, namely Jhoira of the Ghitu and Ith, High Arcanist are Wizards, as is Anathemancer, which as of this time next week will become the second card banned from Kaleidoscope. However, for this deck, I'd like to do something a bit different: How would you like to prevent your opponent casting all his spells, then play them yourself from where they've been uselessly stockpiling in his hand?

Circu, Dimir Lobotomist Sen Triplets Shadowmage Infiltrator

The crux of this fun little deck are the two legends, one to deny spells and the other to exploit them. The prohibition against casting the spells is limited to your opponents, so you can quite happily sit there and use what your opponent can't against him. The rest of the tribe, we use efficient, evasive or card advantage creatures, in this case Finkel, Esper Stormblade and Dimir Guildmage, all of them cheap and capable of double triggering Circu. The remainder of the deck is a comprehensive removal suite, covering persistent or regenerative threats, untargettables and so on. In Kaleidoscope, the majority of creatures played have a very substantial power to cost ratio, maximising the effectiveness of Twisted Justice whatever your opponent sacrifices. This tribe has one weakness in that it is very vulnerable to sweepers: Firespout is bad news, and artifact removal isn't fun when half your tribe is metal.


Got anything you can't play? Go fish.
Kaleidoscope Tribal Classic Wizard deck
4 Dimir Guildmage
4 Esper Stormblade
4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
4 Circu, Dimir Lobotomist
4 Sen Triplets
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Agony Warp
4 Mortify
4 Unmake
4 Twisted Justice
16 cards
2 Plains
2 Swamp
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Watery Grave
4 Godless Shrine
24 cards

Sen Triplets

There's an interesting paradox with the lands in this deck: Exotic Orchard is usually worse in Tribal Classic than Pillar of the Paruns, but when you need to produce mana to cast your opponent's spells against him, they're less likely to be multicolored in the creature format. Both lands are of similar value when it comes to Kaleidoscope, however. It is usually best to try for an early Circu over the Triplets, as the more cards you're able to lock out, the better chance of disabling your opponent's removal and having something worthwhile to steal, and the more chance of surviving to take it.

Dead and Loving It

We started with Angels, we'll end with Zombies, with black's iconic small creature potentially touching on all four other colors. White boasts the potent Stillmoon Cavalier and Tidehollow Sculler, Blue has lich lords by the ton, both Dralnu, Lich Lord and Lich Lord of Unx, glossing over Vedalken Ghoul. Three-color Grixis cards include Grixis Grimblade and the legendary duo of Thraximundar and Sedris, the Traitor King. Where it gets interesting is green and red: All the armies of the Golgari and Rakdos combined with the corner of Grixis and Jund to produce some of the deadliest creatures of the format: The soon to be banned Anathemancer sits here as well, alongside Shambling Remains, Marrow Chomper and Golgari Rotwurm. There is where we'll take up our final deck, exploiting a couple of neat little synergies to wreck our opponent.

Vulturous Zombie Shambling Shell Deathbringer Thoctar

If you haven't sacrificed a Shambling Shell to stick two counters on a Deathbringer Thoctar yet, I highly recommend it. Being able to recur the shell to do it all over again the next turn spells a rapid demise for your opponent: I attacked into an opponent with 11 life with a 3/3 Thoctar, having a Shambling Shell in play, and when it wasn't blocked, I sacrificed the shell for the two counters, used Jund Charm for another two, hit for 7 then pinged for the final four. I used to enjoy getting Vampiric Dragon to hit play and start killing things, but putting the Thoctar in a deck that supports it just takes it to the next level entirely. And how best do we support it? We load our deck with one-sided sweepers, clearing the way for our forces and enhancing them at the same time. Jund Charm gives us both an instant speed Pyroclasm and a means of jumpstarting the Thoctar with counters, Lavalanche is even better than usual, and as much as Vulturous Zombie benefits from those two, it absolutely loves a Void resolution.

Void Jund Charm Lavalanche
The deck doesn't just wait for the heavy hitters to come into play* Ahem, onto the battlefield: the early game of Putrid Leech and Shambling Shell are more than enough to hold their own. The repeatable Char on legs has shown its face on the tourney circuit, swinging for 4 on turn 3 for a 2 mana investment is good times. Shambling Shell is a perfectly respectable three power for three mana that boosts your other creatures and never goes away permanently, on top of its synergy with the Deathbringer Thoctar. We round out our tribe with the slightly later play of Lightning Reaver: the three and one hasty evasive damage can blindside opponents, with the ever increasing repeatable damage putting your opponent on a clock even if he musters a stalemate. The last card in the deck is Terminate because we need more ways to kill things and that's about the most efficient one in the format.

Kaleidoscope Tribal Classic Zombie deck
4 Putrid Leech
4 Shambling Shell
4 Vulturous Zombie
4 Lightning Reaver
4 Deathbringer Thoctar
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Terminate
4 Jund Charm
4 Void
4 Lavalanche
16 cards
4 Blood Crypt
4 Savage Lands
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Stomping Ground
4 Overgrown Tomb
24 cards

Lightning Reaver

The preponderance of sweepers, recursive element and synergy give the deck a degree of reach and inevitability against most that both formats can throw at it. It does have a weakness against enchantments, but it can sit there in front of Teferi's Moat gleefully lobbing (Lavalanches) or recurring Shambling Shell to load up a Thoctar until the opponent is dead. Outs against creatures with Protection are limited to Voiding them, and Shield of the Oversoul is a threat, but on the whole the deck is potent enough to put up a good fight, and above all else, it's fun to play.

So what should you look for if you wish to take up the challenge of building one deck for two formats? It's important to have a grasp of where the two intersect, and the power level of the threats you will be facing. In this case, both formats have powerful aggro options, and slower inexorable control decks heavy on removal and finishers. You have a greatly limited palette of cards with which to compose solutions to these problems, but that is what makes obscure little challenges like this relevant. Turning a potential handicap into innovative and synergistic card choices is an excellent way to hone your skills as a deck-builder, and it can give you a feel for potential deck ideas as the formats change over time. That's all I've got for you this week: Tune in at the same time next Wednesday for more obscure format Johnny goodness. Until then, may you know the pleasure of being able to beat all opposition with one hand tied behind your back.


I really like the first 2 by me myself and i (not verified) at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 00:27
me myself and i's picture

I really like the first 2 decks, well made. Good article.

Re: The 3rd deck. You are by Bigguyinblack (not verified) at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 04:14
Bigguyinblack's picture

Re: The 3rd deck. You are already running all non basics, Did you consider stretching the mana base a bit to run 2 Necromancer's Covenants?

It's an interesting idea. Not by AJ_Impy at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 04:17
AJ_Impy's picture

It's an interesting idea. Not sure what I'd take out for it, though.

Yeah, but can you make a by Godot at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 10:13
Godot's picture

Yeah, but can you make a Kaleidoscope Tribal Pauper 100-Card Singleton deck?

I didn't *think* so.

Fun article.

Don't challenge me: I once by AJ_Impy at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 23:07
AJ_Impy's picture

Don't challenge me: I once made a tribal prismatic singleton Kamigawa block deck and won a player-run event with it. :D

Nephilim where for art thou? by bearer of woe at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 14:06
bearer of woe's picture

No love for the Nephilim? With KoNA on board, the loss of their Mights and Blessings seems insignificant. If it wasn't for my Nephilim Tribal deck, I probably would have missed out on buying Pillars before the rush.

I've got a Nephilim Kscope by AJ_Impy at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 23:11
AJ_Impy's picture

I've got a Nephilim Kscope article floating around on my 'flesh this out at some point' pile. Rest assured they haven't been forgotten.

Zombies & Wizards by Klutz (not verified) at Tue, 06/23/2009 - 18:31
Klutz's picture

Love those decks!

Shambling Remains looks more essential in the Zombie deck than Lightning Reaver. With Void, Lavalanche, and 4x of another 5-drop and 6-drop Zombie, Lightning Reaver seems the odd man out. It's still Jund Charm resistant too.

For the Wizards, rather than just running 16x creature removal, I think a handful of Countersquall might be worthwhile to give the deck an out to a non-creature and to help protect Circu / Triplets. (I'd say Trial/Error but that's not much use in Tribal.) If only Recoil were Extended-legal...