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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jul 25 2019 12:00pm
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CORE SET 2020

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 Core Set 2020 is the second core set to be released since they made their comeback last year following the demise of the Two-Block Paradigm, but it's also possibly the one achieving the highest complexity and power level since Magic 2010, exactly ten years ago, entirely changed the way core sets operated, turning them into black-bordered 50/50 mixes of reprints and new cards, instead of the dreadful white-bordered collections of older cards that were used to provide Standard with a generic, unexciting base of operations, but nobody had really cared for at least since Revised came out in 1994.

 Now, lower card complexity is a distinctive feature of core sets – they're meant as a bridge between starter-level sets (like the Planeswalker Decks) and the advanced sets that are released as part of the main storyline (the old "blocks"), which means that, for instance, core sets don't introduce any new mechanics nor usually bring back aything that's not evergreen. Core sets also differ from regular expansions in that they don't advance the story; in fact, they don't have a specific story to tell, and this way they can mix cards whose flavor comes from different planes. Since Magic Origins, though, core sets have had a theme linked to one or more planeswalkers: the pre-spark origin of the Gatewatch founders in that case, then the same concept re-applied to their nemesis Nicol Bolas in Core Set 2019. And this time it's all about Chandra, portrayed at three different stage of her life, during a time when her spark already ignited and she was a gleeful pyromancer student in Regatha, under the guide of a disguised Jaya Ballard.

   

 The release of a core set also marks that time of the year when we can take stock of the current color bannermen (and bannerwomen), i.e. the five planeswalkers that are given a monocolored starter deck to helm, therefore being marketed as the face of that color. The original group consisted of the Lorwyn Five: Ajani, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, and Garruk. Later, the Gatewatch was created, so by Magic Origins Gideon and Nissa had acquired relevance over Ajani and Garruk, respectively, replacing them. Now, after the War of the Spark, the situation changed again. Gideon's dead (RIP Beefslab) so Ajani's back as the face of monowhite; Jace's still considered spent as a character, though it might be time for him to come back in the limelight – in the meantime, the blue role is taken by newcomer Yanling, which is interesting and will potentially bring joy to the Chinese audience (for which she was created) and the lovers of ethereal-looking beauties; Liliana's in hiding, which forces Sorin to step up for blackness, despite being mostly white-black in its incarnations (guess he can become more selfish if asked so); Chandra is a constant, only rarely replaced by Sarkhan (like in M19); and Chandra's tentative gruulfriend Nissa, despite having rejoined the Gatewatch, still loses her green prominence to Vivien, who's been groomed for the role since her debut in M19 (Garruk is out of the picture because he's still black-tainted mad and will play the anti-hero in an upcoming set).

 As for the tribal side of things, the distribution is tighter than with Core Set 2019, involving 51 tribes instead of 64. The set's main tribe is Elemental, due to the Chandra focus (she didn't actually care for Elementals that much in previous incarnations, but she sure did when she was a kid!). Special attention is also given to Knight, mostly as a consequence of the flashy Cavalier cycle, whose members are Elementals too, thus overlapping the set's two main tribes. Additional boosts go to Vampire, Hydra (two very strong new members) and Wolf (one incredibly strong new member).

 Among the most noteworthy reprints, Thrashing Brontodon keeps being the go-to green solution to artifact and enchantment problems, while (Meteor Golem) is still available as a catchall answer for any deck (and as a reasonable fetching target for Karn, the Great Creator); Steel Overseer returns to Standard for the first time since its first release in Magic 2011, though it's currently not really well-supported by the format (might this foreshadow some artifact love coming up in the fall set or next year?). Goblin Ringleader could make Standard Tribal Goblin happen, and wasn't in Standard since Apocalypse, which means 2001, or full eighteen years ago, which also means this reprint leads to his debut in Modern. Also notable Dragon Mage returning to Standard since Scourge (2003; it also has never been part of Modern before, though it's probably going to be less impactful), Loaming Shaman since Dissension (2006), and Dungeon Geists since Dark Ascension (2012). 

   

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 329 (+15 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 202
  • New creatures: 111
  • Reprinted cards: 127
  • Reprinted creatures: 80
  • New Legendary creatures: 12
  • New artifact creatures: 4
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 51
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Elemental (+26), Human (+16), Knight (+11), Vampire (+7), Wizard (+7), Cleric (+6), Spirit (+6)

Advisor: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 53, online: 41

 Related Tribes: Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: After all these years of writing tribal evaluations, I learned that those that don't begin with Angel often begin with Advisor, which is a very peculiar creature type, not necessarily home of very powerful cards, but almost always offering something a little out of the ordinary, since it's where the game puts its politicians, administrators, and other white-collar jobs. In the case of Kethis, the Hidden Hand, we have a strong "Legendaries matter" build-around card. It's a theme that Dominaria had already tried to push, with mixed results. It's appealing, in a vacuum, because, after all, Legendary creatures and planeswalkers are the heroes and villains of our story, and to fill your deck with such cards feels true to the game's universe. It can be rewarding gameplay-wise, too, but also a bit clunky, because the Legendary rule encourages to give up on redundancy, therefore on consistency, to some extent. Kethis helps as much as he can. First of all, he's a 3/4 for three, which is above the curve, a solid presence on the battlefield that can stop attackers and buy you time for further Legendary shenanigans, which in turn will be facilitated by a cost reduction – so maybe those Legendary sorceries just became more playable. And then you can recast some of them – let's say, one third of them? – from the graveyard. All this package might just prove a good complement for Superfriends decks, since planeswalker are probably the Legendary type you most want to cast ahead of curve and then recover once fallen. But there might be something else that's going on with Kethis, possibly making him the centerpiece of a new Abzan Legends archetype somewhere.


Angel: +5

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 163, online: 162

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The reason why there's a lot of Angels at low rarities in M20 might just be linked to the printing of Bishop of Wings – if you open that in Limited, the environment must give you a chance to exploit that sweet, Angel-related ability. And the Bishop is definitely the most important new card for Angel tribal, despite not being an Angel at all.

 Still, the humble uncommon Angel of Vitality is a decent three-drop, potentially sporting the body of a 4/4 flyer (or definitely so, if we're playing Commander), and doubling as a lovely Hardened Scales of lifegain. Those bonus life points add up fast, and even if they don't provide additional triggers for stuff like Ajani's Pridemate, they're certainly welcome in decks that care about your life total or use it as a resource. And all the lifelink you typically have around in Angel lists seems enough of a reason to include Miss Vitality at the bottom of the curve, where her monowhite competition is basically only Emancipation Angel.

 More high-profile is the rare, Sephara, Sky's Blade, who's already helming a popular Standard archetype where her alternative cost gets leveraged via a large amount of one-drop flyers. A turn-three Sephara in those decks is not out of the question, and that means suddenly dropping a humongous lifelinker that locks the rest of the team under a shield of indestructibility (so, not very good against sweepers like Cry of the Carnarium, but pretty much golden against everything else). The swing in board state engendered by her sudden appearance is massive; unfortunately, Angel tribal isn't likely to profit from the reduced cost, since it's probably more efficient to pay seven mana than to prevent your four-drops and five-drops from attacking and/or defending for a full turn (she lines up a bit better with vigilant flyers, I guess). She might still worth the mana investment, though, considering in an Angel deck she's as impactful as eight-mana Avacyn, Angel of Hope, if not more. So much strength behind that beauty store name.

 Finally, Rienne, Angel of Rebirth is M20's Buy-a-Box promo, not found in boosters. This is probably why she's completely out of sync with the rest of the set, representing the Naya colors where every other three-color legend is from a wedge. She has a "multicolored matter" theme, nonetheless, pumping the power of other multicolored creatures and returning them to their owner's hand post-mortem (make sure not to let this ability bite you in the back with stolen creatures). I still have to see anything built around her, but her basic stats are solid enough, and the recursion supplies more and more value over time, and it's even potentially a combo enabler.


Ape: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 24, online: 21

 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: This gorilla is excellent in Limited, probably not enough for Constructed at five, but certainly good in Ape tribal, which has not been gifted with too many amazing options over the years.


Berserker: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 74, online: 71

 Related Tribes: Human, Ogre

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ogre Siegebreaker is very clearly Limited fodder (and even a bit too mana-intensive to be a very high pick in drafts), while Unchained Berserker is part of a cycle of cards that brought back protection as an evergreen ability, after it was phased out in favor of "hexproof from color". By their own nature, all these cards are very likely sideboard-oriented, and this Theros-looking guy seems like a weapon of red aggro against white aggro. I don't have a horse in that race, so I'm fine with it. He does the completely expected red thing of being more effective while attacking. I'm also fine with it.


Bird: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 249, online: 236

 Related Tribes: Spirit, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Among the archetypes that M20 is trying to make happen there's a flyer deck, and Bird is, appropriately, one of the main tribes for that scenario. The other one is Spirit, and we can see how the two are mixed together on many of these cards, starting from their shared "flyer lord", Empyrean Eagle, which is the fulcrum of the deck alongside Favorable Winds.

 A flashier example of the Bird/Spirit team up is Kykar, Wind's Fury, which use a prowess-like setup to create 1/1 flying Spirits. Then its last ability generates red mana by sacrificing Spirits, which is interesting because red is definitely the odd color out between white and blue for both Bird and Spirit, and in general where flying is concerned, so this might address the fact that red is going to be a splash in such decks – of course you'll still need to find a red source to cast Kykar to begin with, but the idea might be that you won't need many. Also, free mass sacrifice and free mass mana generation should always give us pause, because the abuse might just be behind the corner. Still, Kykar is perhaps too slow for the very deck it's made to inhabit, and too frail to act as a reliable curve-topper. Wizards might be more interested in its services as a Young Pyromancer on steroids. And of course it can be a versatile commander.

 The remaining blue Birds are just inconsequential exclusive from the Yanling starter deck, while Gorging Vulture is useful in reanimator and self-mill, though not the fastest or most impressive enabler of those strategies, so clearly not going to see any play outside of Standard.


Cat: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 178, online: 171

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Core Set 2020 actively tried to maximize the endearing cuteness factor of teenage-era Chandra, so we also find out she keeps a fiery kitty as a pet, because of course she does (it's also become a premium feature in Magic Arena). The Chandra-focused nature of M20 is betrayed by the fact alone that in any other set Chandra's Embercat would be a Planeswalker Deck exclusive, as are most of the cards that reference a planeswalker by name in their rule text. Instead, they gave this two-drop a proper Elemental synergy on top of its Chandra synergy, and as such it's not a bad card to ramp into bigger threats in an Elemental tribal build or Chandra-centered deck. It does pretty much nothing for the Cat tribe, though.


Cleric: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 388, online: 363

 Related Tribes: Cat, Elephant, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: These new Clerics can be sorted into two groups: half of them were designed to be a part of specific decks that unfortunately have nothing to do with Clerics; the other half is generic white creature fare.

 Alas, the second group is the weaker. Apostle of Purifying Light is part of the protection cycle, but black can still easily kill him in Standard with mass -1/-1 or destruction effects (Cry of the Carnarium, Massacre Girl, Ritual of Soot), while the anti-graveyard ability is too mana-intensive to be effective; outside of Standard he has zero applications. Even worse, Loxodon Lifechanter seems to call for some sort of "toughness matters" deck, like maybe some kind of Arcades, the Strategist/High Alert build, but even there it feels awfully unnecessary and overcosted, both in its CMC and the activated ability, which doesn't even do much on a vanilla beater. Just a handbook bad rare.

 Things get more interesting with the specialists. I'm not sure enchantments/enchantresses decks anywhere will find any use for Starfield Mystic (they might if they include Gatherer of Graces in their brew), but Angel tribal deck are definitely going to be excited by Bishop of Wings: she's a two-drop that's meant to accompany a tribe that sorely lacks early plays; she blocks well and buys you time; she doesn't die to 3-damage spells; then she gives you life when you cast your Angels (which might be especially relevant to trigger Resplendent Angel right away, provided you can work one additional point of lifegain into the equation); and then she replaces them with a consolation 1/1 Spirit when they die – and if you have Divine Visitation in play at that point, you can even restart the cycle! (Or get infinite life with a free sacrifice outlet!). I think Angel deckbuilders will have to take this little Cleric into consideration from now on.

 As for the new Kaalia, Zenith Seeker, she's one mana cheaper than Kaalia of the Vast (and, for some reason, more combat-capable), but also way less explosive in her trigger. In fact, she triggers only once, as opposed to every turn, and she just draws you one of your big dudes. Actually, she's able to draw you up to three, if you shove her in the middle of a deck that includes both Angels, Demons and Dragons (I guess that's the "zenith" she seeks?). It seems highly unlikely to have the necessary density of the three different threats, though, even in Commander, where her older version remains the more apt headliner. Don't get me wrong, three mana for a 3/3 vigilant flyer is an inherently good deal, and within a tribal deck of the correct type, some degree of card advantage is almost guaranteed. Even in those builds, though, she doesn't seem likely to make the cut just for the chance of drawing one big finisher, as you're bound to have plenty of them in hand already, and what you really want is a way to drop them on the battlefield – you know, what the other Kaalia would actually do – albeit it's worth noting that she was never legal in Standard, therefore she's not legal in Modern, either. Flavor corner: despite being Mardu-colored, she apparently hails from Bant; her backstory from Commander 2011 is kind of confusing, though, and this new incarnation is the first time we hear from her since then.


Construct: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 123, online: 122

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: All right, Salvager of Ruin, we hear you: you come in combo piece. The effect is sort of a self-triggered Myr Retriever, which is a notorious combo enabler. The Salvager is time-constrained, as the salvaging needs to happen in the same turn you activate your little Construct, although that's sort of already a given when you're comboing off, so it doesn't seem too limiting. And it's also able to retrieve any permanent, not just artifacts. And in a pinch it can swing for two and trade with two-toughness creatures. The only thing that's truly against it is the slightly higher casting cost compared to the old Myr, but it can easily not matter at all. For instance, there's a Standard deck that creates an infinite loop with two Salvagers returning each other onto the battlefield for free by exploiting the affinity obtained through Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge – add some Sai, Master Thopterist, and you'll get infinite artifacts for Tezzeret to fuel his laser beam. And of course the Salvager combos with Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, but Teshar Combo doesn't really need the Salvager to work.


Crocodile: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 23, online: 22

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This croc is from Vivien's Planeswalker Deck. Also, totally irrelevant.


Demon: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 103, online: 100

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Maybe it's one of those (not infrequent) cases where I completely miss on the strengths of a card, but I'm very meh on Embodiment of Agonies, when I feel like I'm meant to consider him a serious threat, because it's a three-drop that could hit the battlefield as a large flyer. But just how large can we expect him to be on turn three, even following some dredge enablers? I'm not too keen on that "different mana costs matter" mechanic, which is new design space M20 is exploring elsewhere as well; it just seems to me like something you can't really build around, or at the very least it's very annoying to build around, if you want to maximize its effects. And sure, maybe this guy is okay just as, say, a 2/2 flying deathtoucher – even if that would make him strictly worse thanVampire Nighthawk.

 Vilis, Broker of Blood is a different beast entirely. For one, he's located at the other side of the curve: a very splashy, very Timmy-friendly, big bad Demon that hits for a ton in the air, kills stuff, draws you cards. Granted, he's not the new Griselbrand by any stretch of the imagination – for one, his ability requires mana, so it's unlikely you can activate it out of the gate, which makes Vilis softer to removal than Griselbrand ever was; plus, with Vilis the caused loss of life isn't offset by lifelink. In exchange, he offers some solid removal capabilities. And it's not exactly fair to compare him to Griselbrand anyway, seeing how very few curve-toppers in the history of the game compare favorably to Griselbrand. Vilis is a good reanimation target in Standard (where reanimation is suddenly a thing, thanks to Blood for Bones), and a decent reanimation/cheat-into-play target elsewhere. Certainly more appealing and less clunky than Kuro, Pitlord, for instance.


Dinosaur: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 90, online: 89

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Man, Dinosaur feels like a new-ish tribe, but thanks to the reassigment of several previous Lizards (including Ripscale Predator, which gets reprinted with its new subtype here in M20), they're already close to their 100th member. And what a new batch we have here! Marauding Raptor is the dream enrage enabler Ixalan block tragically missed, and makes us cry in despair thinking Ripjaw Raptor is going to rotate out in a couple months, because red raptor into green raptor is an incredible sequence that lets you swing for 4 on turn three and then leaves you with one extra card, plus six power and eight toughness left on the battlefield when the dust settled. And Marauding Raptor isn't even strictly confined to Dinosaur tribal – all creatures can profit from his discount, provided they can withstand its welcome bites. But of course it's when paired with other Dinosaurs that it shows its majestic might. Imagine a turn-two Marauding Raptor followed by a turn three where you drop a discounted Thrashing Brontodon plus a discounted Raptor Hatchling: the Brontodon will take the damage, the Hatchling will die and create a 3/3 token, which will also take damage, but will survive, and our Marauding Raptor will now be able to attack as a 8/3. And we should also mention the infinite combo with Polyraptor (which however can't be stopped on its own so it leads to a draw, unless you have an external way to break the loop, like bolting the Raptor after a certain number of iterations – Magic Arena allows for 25 triggers before asking you to act, then one more after that).

 Also great as a turn-three play that might well be a follow-up to Marauding Raptor: Rotting Regisaur. The second black Dinosaur of the modern era (the other being Tetzimoc, Primal Death), is the most power black can field on turn three without any purpose-defying drawbacks (Hunted Horror) or hard to satisfy clauses (Death's Shadow, Nyxathid). Sure, it'll force you to discard a card the next upkeep, but who cares when your board position is suddenly so scary? Plus, the discard actually makes Regisaur a great inclusion in reanimation strategies, getting out a threat before even starting to reanimate, and having it double as an enabler. Not to mention, its other tribe will love it even more.

 Can this quality of Dinosaurs persist through all the tree new additions to the tribe? Yes, it can! After a great red Dino and a great black Dino, Shifting Ceratops shows the green ones haven't been forgotten either. This one of the creatures that brought back protection as an evergreen keyworkd, but out of that cycle, it's the one more suited to the main deck. Basically, it's an above-curve four-drop 5/4, sporting a plethora of relevant abilities. It can't be countered. If you have one extra mana, it can attack right away. Later, it can give itself trample to ignore those pesky chump-blockers. If a flyer annoys you, it can have reach (it can't favorably block Lyra Dawnbringer, but it stops or trades with pretty much every other flyer that's routinely played in Standard). And that protection? It incidentally spells, "can't be targeted by a Teferi planeswalker", which is very topical in the Standard meta these days, and beyond that as well.

 Dinosaur has recently become a 3 on the Beeble Scale, meaning it's now a subtype we can expect to see often, if not in every set. As such, there might be hope it'll receive more support in Throne of Eldraine (the fall set) and/or over the course of the next year. If not, well, these three have all their uses outside of Dino tribal, and they collectively make Dino tribal much, much better, wherever it can be played. Life finds a way.


Dragon: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 195, online: 193

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: When the set's Obligatory Dragon feels decent is already a victory (let's just say, after 26 years, the tribe's design space left unexplored isn't exactly huge). When there's two of them, and both seem playable, it's close to a triumph. Granted, Rapacious Dragon is nothing more than a Limited high pick, but it's well-conceived, a small flyer that ramps you but also caters to effects that care about artifacts, sacrifices, historic stuff, permanents in general, and whatnot.

 On the other hand, Drakuseth, Maw of Flames is the larger-than-life uber-finisher, and appears inspired by Game of Thrones (Drogon in particular has a similarly redundant name). It's appropriately expensive, but one attack is bound to leave the opponent's battlefield in ruins, targeting their creatures and/or planeswalkers and/or their very face. Drakuseth's most conspicuous flaw is the lack of haste, but it could be mitigated by the right reanimator spell, like Goryo's Vengeance or Bond of Revival.


Drake: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 87, online: 86

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Drake gets the protection creature with the more relevant hosing, as being able to stop red aggro is always nice. The sacrifice to counter an instance of burn or disruption is also nice. Neither are probably nice enough to maindeck this little guy, though, not even in dedicated flyer decks, where it's one mana too costly for a 1/1.


Druid: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 182, online: 178

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Elf, Giant

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Woodland Mystic is completely inconsequential (one of the very few cards that have no purpose whatsoever), Howling Giant is good in Limited and nowhere else, but Leafkin Druid is a key role player in Elemental tribal, and a decent mana dork in general, trading Incubation Druid's eventual growth with a three-toughness body ready to block right away, but also outclassing Druid of the Cowl with the potential to double the mana output. Plus, of course, the various Elemental interactions.


Elemental: +26

   

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 426, online: 419

 Related Tribes: Cat, Druid, Horror, Lizard, Rhino, Shaman, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Elemental overhaul! The boost M20 instills into the tribe is unprecedented, and completely game-changing. It seems odd to say so for a tribe that existed since Limited Edition Alpha and already counted 400 members at this point, but this new batch really transforms Elemental tribal for good. The M20 Elementals are mostly distributed between their basic Temur colors – blue for air and water, red for earth and fire, green for the natural elements (it was established this way from the start, which always struck me as a wasted opportunity to make it a proper pentacolored tribe, following the five elements of Buddhism and Hinduism and thus assigning air to white, earth to green and void to black).

 There are just too many of them to mention them all; some are not going to see play in Constructed but are still great in Limited, like Lavakin Brawler and Thicket Crasher. And half of the mythics of the set are Elementals, including the five Cavaliers. So let's start with those.

    

 Well, they're all superb. This might just be the best monocolored cycle of mythic creatures since the M11 Titans. And just like those old classics, the Cavaliers all share the same types, casting cost, and general structure, with a beefy body and three abilities: an evergreen keyword linked to their color; an ETB trigger; a death trigger. Some are more immediately appealing, with the mirrored pair Cavalier of Dawn and Cavalier of Night removing a permanent when they arrive, and providing recursion when they leave, therefore representing potentially a 3-for-1 card advantage. Plus vigilance and lifelink are impactful on the board.

 The strengths of Cavalier of Flame and Cavalier of Thorns are more hidden, instead: at first, you would rank them lower than their white and black counterparts, but they can do amazing thing if employed correctly. Cavalier of Flame can turn dead cards into fresh gas and lead a deadly alpha strike (though it's the only one that requires additional mana to do so). Cavalier of Thorns weaponizes your graveyard, ramps your mana, protects you against flyers (most notably, stops Lyra Dawnbringer in her tracks) and replaces itself with the best possible card, well beyond Dawn and Night's restrictions (Dawn in particular has the more demanding clause to exploit fully). It's also easier to accommodate within an Elemental tribal deck, which is most likely Temur-colored with a green base.

 Unexpectedly, Cavalier of Gales might be the least intriguing here: he's a big evasive finisher with a bit of built-in card advantage (that's a Brainstorm it casts upon hitting the battlefield!), but its death trigger is underwhelming, and it lacks tactical value, being more easily replaceable by one of the many other generic blue midrange flyer with less greedy color requirements, and losing the comparison to better value engines like God-Eternal Kefnet. Still, it's a solid option in any control deck that can afford triple blue.

 As for the others, here's a Top 10 ranking of the best non-Cavalier Elementals in Core Set 2020.

  1. Risen Reef – The main reason to play Elementals after M20. It might looks unassuming – "just" a more expensive Coiling Oracle, but one that essentially shares its ability with every other Elemental, and stacks in multiples, Sliver-style. You first have to get overwhelmed by a never-ending Reef wave of ramp and value before fully understanding why this little guy might just be the most explosive Elemental ever printed. Sure, they'll kill it on sight, but the fact that they'll feel like they have to deal with a 1/1 immediately is a pretty amazing indicator of how its power level.
  2. Omnath, Locus of the Roil – And here's the second reason. Omnath is the leader of the Temur Elemental pack: it deals damage to any target based on the size of its team, then it gets itself or another Elemental bigger via surrogate landfall, and even draws you some cards eventually. It plays perfectly with Risen Reef getting more lands onto the battlefield to trigger Omnath's growth; in return, Omnath could get its +1/+1 counters on the Reef to push it out of harm's way. Despite being Legendary, it's quite decent in multiples because the new copy still triggers damage. And this very versatile card is actually Omnath's third incarnation, the conclusion of a journey throughout the tribe's more frequent colors: the original one, Omnath, Locus of Mana, was a remarkable monogreen ramp enabler from Worldwake. Then Battle for Zendikar gave us Omnath, Locus of Rage, which added red, a damage trigger (although based on death), and a very threatening landfall ability. Seven mana were too many for it to be competitive, though – it turns out it just lacked blue for the Elemental math to work out.
  3. Yarok, the Desecrated – This expanded Panharmonicon on legs is the lone representative of Sultai Elementals, and only one of two black Elementals in the set (the other being Cavalier of Night, while Cavalier of Dawn is the only white Elemental). The tribe is now chuck-full of ETB triggers, so Yarok alrady has a lot of good work to do there, while also leveraging its nicely defensive midrange body with lifelink and deathtouch as useful complements to make for a battlefield presence that doesn't go wholly unnoticed even in absence of combo pieces. Yarok doesn't need Elementals, though: it doubles any trigger, from Dread Presence to Field of the Dead, just to remain in the same set. But the Constructed possibilities are endless, the cost is reasonable, and its other stats give it some spunk. And it's a very fun build-around commander, among everything else. Flavor corner: Yarok is the elemental manifestation of the Blight, the destruction the Eldrazi left in their wake on Zendikar. So I guess that makes it sort of Omnath's nemesis, since Omnath is Zendikar's elemental champion.
  4. Leafkin Druid – A crucial role player in Elemental decks, but a fine ramp creature elsewhere, too. It's the first non-conditional two-drop mana dork the tribe ever gets, as both Chandra's Embercat and the old Smokebraider can't help casting spells that aren't Elemental-related, while Generator Servant is one-shot.
  5. Thunderkin Awakener – The first kind of Elemental partner for this hasty guy that comes to mind is Ball Lightning and its high-impact, low-toughness brethren. But it can bring back Risen Reef as well, and with some help, perhaps from Omnath's +1/+1 counters, sturdier and larger stuff too.
  6. Scampering Scorcher – A trigger enabler of choice, with some one-time haste to capitalize on turns when the Elemental team goes off in a big way. Three Elementals at once can push Risen Reef triggers into overdrive, and greatly benefit from Chandra, Novice Pyromancer's boost, and the presence of the mini-lord below.
  7. Creeping Trailblazer – Elementals don't have a traditional anthem lord, so this power-booster is the closest we get. It's aggressively costed and can become a serious threat in the late game of decks with go-wide Elemental strategies.
  8. Overgrowth Elemental – More Elemental synergies. This one is maybe a little unfocused – it was to drop after another Elemental, then see them die to grow itself – but it's a three-drop with an adequate body and some lifegain capabilities, can be a decent curve filler.
  9. Healer of the Glade – For when you want to trigger Risen Reef on the cheap while also trying to avoid being burned to death.
  10. Cloudkin Seer – A reasonable self-replacing early flyer (and evasion is not the tribe's forte). It's perhaps more useful in Limited but it's not terrible in Constructed either, especially with Yarok.

 We already mentioned the mana bear Chandra's Embercat, which I didn't include in this list but ranks somewhere in the lower half. Wakeroot Elemental stands out for being the only really bad rare of the bunch: a six-mana vanilla 5/5 that requires another five green mana to temporarily animate another vanilla dude? Definitely not in the race for most groundbreaking Elemental here (and there's probably a joke in there about roots breaking ground or something).

 Of course the Elementals have kid Chandra to thank for all this sudden recognition, since the impetuous pyromancer was apparently very in tune with her elemental fire when she was younger (her only other Elemental-related incarnation so far was Chandra, Flamecaller; though I guess we might see more of this theme with her now that this whole design space has been retroactively opened). All three Chandra planeswalker cards in the set are perfect complements to an Elemental tribal deck, with Chandra, Novice Pyromancer boosting them, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame creating more Elemental triggers, and Chandra, Awakened Inferno sparing her little friends from her all-consuming outrage.

   

 By the way, she's still in her early 20s during current events, so I guess these past Chandras are, respectively, about 12-year-old, 15-year-old and 18-year-old? Could make sense, especially her coming-of-age expressed through awe-inducing devastation – Chandra might be cute and goofy, but she also burned two Eldrazi titans to ashes. (Man, I really have to resume my planeswalker series and update my Chandra profile from one year ago).


Elephant: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 54, online: 53

 Related Tribes: Cleric

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Elephants, and the sentient Loxodons in particular, have had their turn in the spotlight recently with the archetype-defining (Venerated Loxodon). They're not gonna get another one of that magnitude for a while, apparently.


Elf: +5

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 380, online: 367

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Druid, Scout, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: There's Kethis, who's only incidentally an Elf, and a few Limited playable like Brightwood Tracker, but the main attraction here is Elvish Reclaimer. This shirtless guy can tutor up any land, which is always something that makes the older Eternal formats pay attention, and is potentially a 3/4 one-drop in environments that include fetch lands – of course it's not easy for him to actually swing for three on turn two, but soon afterwards. He's probably not going to dethrone Knight of the Reliquary, in that he does drop earlier but then his activation has a cost; I wouldn't be too surprised if he'll pop up somewhere at some point, though, and he already has some worthy Standard targets for the time being in Lotus Field (the "fixed" Lotus Vale) and Field of the Dead.


Elk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 18, online: 17

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: On, Dasher! On, Dancer! On, Prancer and Vixen! All right, I feel like I've already made this joke about Elk several times before, but I can't help it if they're the closest thing to reindeer we have in the game (for unknown reasons). And we even got one with the Snow supertype in Modern Horizons. This latest Elk, though, is just one of Vivien's fluorescent friends from her dead plane. It comes in her Planeswalker Deck, and it's pretty much utterly unplayable, so why am I still writing about it?


Fish: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 29

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is not the first time we get piranhas in the game, as that would be School of Piranha from Exodus (so that's a 21-year interval in between piranhas). They're basically the same card, but this one can't attack, while the older one required to be paid for again every single turn. So I guess this is more playable (or we could say, playable) as a defensive barrier that discourages attacks for decks that wish to buy themselves the time to safely reach the mid-game.


Giant: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 149, online: 143

 Related Tribes: Druid

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This Giant is a neat package, nine points of power and toughness distributed over three separate bodies, some defense against flyers, potential Wolf synergies... Too bad seven mana aren't even remotely an amount that could justify his inclusion in Constructed. He's a valid curve-topper in Limited, though.


Goblin: +5

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 343, online: 330

 Related Tribes: Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The reprint of Goblin Ringleader, which also marks its induction into Modern, isn't accompanied by very powerful Goblins, which is a concern for those who dream of post-rotation Goblin tribal in Standard (I swear those people actually exist!). These are all generic commons that for the most part can't even be bothered to have a second subtype. They don't particularly shine in Limited, either, with the exception of Goblin Smuggler, who interacts favorably with other Limited stars like Lavakin Brawler and Audacious Thief. And perhaps we should give the Smuggler more credit, because he represents the culmination of a very ancient lineage of creatures that make other small creature unblockable (what's referred to as "tunneling"), dating all the way back to Dwarven Warriors from Limited Edition Alpha. The Smuggler is beefier and faster than all of his predecessors, sporting a 2/2 body and haste to make the ability matter from the get-go, which is definitely the only way to have it matter at all.


Golem: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 112

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Pattern Matcher is a strange one. The idea is not without merit and feels fresh, but does we really want to run a colorless Hill Giant in order to double on something we already have on the battlefield? (And if we play the Matcher on curve, it also means something that costs less.) It doesn't sound good enough of a tutor in Constructed, and sketchy, if playable, in Limited, where extra copies of cards are few and far between. Golem tribal could pattern-match a curve topper in the late game, but it could also just play Lodestone Golem and Solemn Simulacrum at four and be done with it.


Griffin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 44, online: 43

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: All these Planeswalker Deck exclusive creatures whose only raison d'être is fetching their own specific low-level planeswalker that's unplayable elsewhere might well be considered non-existent for all intents and purposes. The fact that one of them is a Griffin is just business as usual for the mother of all filler tribes.


Horror: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 195

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The trigger-happy Yarok, the Desecrated is also a Horror, which is pretty relevant in-tribe, what with all those ETB effects to duplicate, such as Mesmeric Fiend, Phyrexian Rager, Ravenous Chupacabra, and Laquatus's Champion. As well as the new and Yarok-approved Yarok's Fenlurker, an update on cards like Ravenous Rats: the card gets exiled, circumventing both graveyard interactions and ambush effects like Nullhide Ferox; and the little dude has a secondary function on the battlefield as a mana sink threat, although one with a low investment/reward ratio.


Hound: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 72, online: 68

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This set of assault doggies with decent basic stats makes for a relatively popular chase common in Limited, but the collective firebreathing (or pack-mauling, I guess) is not gonna be worthy enough on 4 cards out of 60 in Constructed.


Human: +16

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2236, online: 2053

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Knight, Rogue, Soldier, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Humans are not too much of a presence overall in Core Set 2020. Additional 16 of them is barely a scratch on their massive back catalogue, and the most prominent new members don't agree too well with the tribe's existing strategies: Bishop of Wings and Kaalia, Zenith Seeker actively want to be placed within tribal builds other than Human, and Agent of Treachery is more suited to ramp or reanimator plans that don't belong with Humans too naturally.


Hydra: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 43

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Hydra is among the tribes that have been blessed with fresh, powerful blood in Core Set 2020. Both its new members are extremely appealing and have the potential to usher in a new era for the tribe. Gargos, Vicious Watcher has the flaw of not being scalable, therefore requiring previous ramp in order to ramp further; but you already have ramp for Hydra, always want more, and in this regard the universal four mana discount is going to matter a lot with X-costed Hydras. Plus, Gargos is not the kind of dumb Timmy play that just dies to removal – I mean, it does, but it hopefully takes something with it out of its fight trigger. And its body is imposing on the battlefield and stays vigilant to protect you.

 Even more impactful, Voracious Hydra ranks among the very best of the scalable Hydras: it's a native trampler, its X cost is always twice the mana you pour in it, and it doubles as removal. It's not just a new must-include in Hydra tribal, it's a creature that can be at home in any green deck, accommodating every step of the curve, providing interaction in the mid-game and inevitability in the late-game. Straightforward yet excellent design.


Insect: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 165, online: 161

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: There are only 14 creatures with protection from green in the game (and two of them must even activate or achieve it), fewer than with any other color protection. This makes Blightbeetle somewhat noteworthy, and +1/+1 counters are indeed a very frequent mechanic in green, so hosing it is something formats with sideboard might want to have access to. Still, it's a 1/1 that doesn't threaten significant damage and can't do much against tramplers. Can't foretell this guy seeing a ton of play, or being of any use to Insect tribal.


Knight: +11

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 265, online: 252

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Human, Vampire, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The pictures above don't show the most impactfull Knights in the set, the five wonders of the Cavalier cycle. Two of them are even expressly designed along the lines of the classic White Knight/Black Knight mirrored pair, but even those feels a bit too high on the curve and not synergistic enough to pique the interest of Knight tribal builds (though, they might run one or both as a 1-of). Those with a triple color requirement in colors where Knights aren't usually found are probably out of the question.

 Perfectly attuned to Knight colors are Corpse Knight, which is more of a minor piece for decks that aim to win through creatures entering and exiting the battlefield rather than attacking; and especially Knight of the Ebon Legion, a terrific one-drop for both Vampire and Knight aggro decks. The clause for growing at end of turn comes into play more often than one would think, which means this fierce Knight is going to get better and better the more we reach into the midgame, when he can also threaten to pump itself and turn on deathtouch at every attack and block. It's a smooth design with great rewards, and definitely the best early drop in the set.

 For the rest, Diamond Knight is a decent colorless option; it gets bigger rather than giving you life, which is the usual pattern for this kind of "choose your own color" card (compare it for instance with Diamond Mare), and it has vigilance to leverage later, so it's not completely vanilla. Similarly adequate but not extremely likely to show up in Constructed is Skyknight Vanguard, a miniature Brimaz, King of Oreskos that would have needed haste (and a higher rarity) to really shine; those Soldier tokens are also pretty generic for being, apparently, assault paratroopers – that guy is just jumping to his death most of the time. The Boros Legion needs better strategists.


Lizard: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 53, online: 49

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A fine way to enable spectacle and other effects that care for noncombat damage (Chandra's Spitfire comes to mind, mainly because it's been reprinted in M20). Granted, it's not the first creature of this type – Vampires alone have Pulse Tracker and Vicious Conquistador, plus Sanctum Seeker to extend the ability to the whole team – but it's typically more effective than it looks, and in certain situations even beats having a two-powered one-drop. Also worth noting, Scorch Spitter updates the mechanic to include attacks to planeswalkers as well, something that current cards are forced to do more and more. All in all, nothing fancy, but a must-run in Raid Bombardment and Cavalcade of Calamity decks.


Merfolk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 209, online: 206

 Related Tribes: Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Merfolk is a time-honored tribe, one of the few tribal decks that get routinely played regardless of format, with great competition for slots at each step of the curve, especially two-drops and especially after Ixalan block. This said, this lone addition to the fishmen ranks is currently making strides in Standard, as part of a successful Simic Flash build. The concept is simple, if you play Brineborn Cutthtroat in a draw-go kind of deck, its body can grow out of control very quickly, becoming a centerpiece-like threat. It's an effective design that might not fit the more linear nature of traditional Merfolk tribal, but could also open new avenues for it.


Minotaur: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 77, online: 76

 Related Tribes: Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Discarding a large number of cards to deal one damage each might not be a viable strategy – cards like Seismic Assault worked because the deal was doubled in their case. But nothing prevents us from running Glint-Horn Buccaneer alongside those cards, since he looks for external instances of discarding too, adding his damage to the original one. And he's a 2/4 with haste for three mana, which isn't bad. The attack trigger might be just gravy at that point, the chance to do some rummaging on top of reinforcing self-discard plans and being a generally good body on the battlefield. He's not too exciting by himself, but he does several different things right, which is not true of every rare.


Nightmare: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 30

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Dread Presence is an intriguing build-around card that strictly requires a mass land drop to properly function (e.g. Scapeshift, with which the Presence shares the Standard meta for a couple more months). Otherwise, it's a slow four-drop with boltable body that doesn't do anything the turn of its arrival, and too little, or nothing again, the turn afterwards. But if you do build around it, it can be very scary, creating crazy swings in life total or replenishing hands, or a mix of both. Unfortunately, it has no synergy whatsoever with other Nightmares.


Octopus: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 8

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Yeah, a Hill Giant with scry 2 is kind of a big deal in Octopus. For one thing, it's the cheapest Octopus available along with Sharktocrab and the strictly worse Giant Octopus. That's just how our eight-limbed tribe rolls: very slowly, very ineffectually.


Ogre: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 87, online: 82

 Related Tribes: Berserker

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ogre is not famous for having too many amazing members, but even without checking, I'm sure it can do better than a four-drop 4/3 in two colors with an activated ability that essentially gives retroactive deathtouch by paying Ogre Siegebreaker's casting cost all over again. I guess it's playable enough in Limited, but it's not appealing to even casual Constructed.


Orc: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 54

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Gruesome Scourger is somewhat weird, because it's the application of a typical tribal effect to non-tribal decks. Go-wide decks could definitely use a finishing move like this, but I don't think there's many of them that care for a black five-drop with double color requirement. Nice try, though.

 Vengeful Warchief feels similarly clunky. He has the potential to grow a little bit every turn, but that's something that would benefit, say, a one-drop 1/1, not a 4/4 vanilla that hits the battlefied on turn five. It's sad how Magic never managed to give Orcs their due, considering how much of a fantasy staple they are – 26 years after Ironclaw Orcs and Orcish Artillery, they're still an afterthought lacking a precise identity.


Pirate: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 90, online: 80

 Related Tribes: Merfolk, Minotaur, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Brineborn Cutthroat and Spectral Sailor play well together, as they do in the Simic Flash archetype they're currently headlining in Standard (alongside Nightpack Ambusher), so they might transfer as a team in Pirate tribal. Glint-Horn Buccaneer is less synergistic but he's also a good card, so overall Pirate gets a trio of interesting early plays.


Rhino: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 35

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Rhino gets a pair of four-drops that are both playable, if not super-exciting. Gnarlback Rhino has a heroic-like trigger, which typically requires some elements of build-around but the reward here is extra cards, so it might be worth the effort. Thicket Crasher is more of an Elemental player, its other tribe is there just for cosmetic reasons.


Rogue: +5

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 250, online: 235

 Related Tribes: Goblin, Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Goblin Smuggler and Audacious Thief are solid Limited cards that wouldn't feel too out of place in Constructed too, and are sort of a team already, although dropping at the same point in the curve doesn't help. Bloodthirsty Aerialist is powerful in the right deck, but she's more likely to find a lifegain theme in Vampire as opposed to Rogue.

 Let's talk Agent of Treachery, then. Lately, control effects with no return clause have become more frequent. Cards like Entrancing Melody and Mass Manipulation don't give the opponent a way to get the stolen permanents back, and neither does Agent of Treachery, who also has the critical peculiarity of being a creature. Which means recurring that effect can be frighteningly easy: for starters, you can reanimate the Agent, even in Standard, where cards like Blood for Bones can either return him from the graveyard by sacrificing something else, or sacrifice the Agent to himself in a loop. This is crazy scary, because Agent of Treachery can take your lands too, so his early appearance on the battlefield can slow the opponent down to a crawl, all while it grants his controller board superiority. Quasiduplicate is also a great pair with this master manipulator, because it's a one-card pass to have three Agents in play, which unlocks the second ability for each of them, drawing you a mind-boggling NINE cards per turn, starting from right away. This guy will populate many a player's nightmares from now on, and is bound to become a blue staple in Commander, possibly a combo endgame in other Eternal formats.


Scout: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 140, online: 134

 Related Tribes: Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Scout gets some Limited players, and a strange colorless rare in Golos, Tireless Pilgrim. It plays like a supercharged Solemn Simulacrum: for one mana more you get a significantly larger body, and the opportunity to fetch any land (the second instance of this mechanic in M20 after Elvish Reclaimer), which is never irrelevant. The flashy multicolored activation could be a build-around – in Eternal formats it's actually pretty easy to set up by having Golos fetch Cascading Cataracts – but its role could just be in support of a pre-existing strategy that relies on a specific land, like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or Cabal Coffers. Standard currently includes the Coffers' little brother, Cabal Stronghold. Could it be enough to infuse more power into monoblack control?

 Flavor corner time. We know nothing about this character, neither its gender or its plane of origin (and the artwork is not particularly illuminating in this regard: that waterfall could be anywhere). So, what is Golos? It's an artifact, so has to be some sort of automaton. Then why doesn't it have a Construct or Golem subtype? Because there wasn't any more room left on the type line? That would be such a lame reason.


Shaman: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 378, online: 373

 Related Tribes: Ape, Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Very little for the Shaman tribe to play with here. Silverback Shaman is a Limited staple that doesn't have much to offer to the Shamans at large, nor Constructed applications in general. Thunderkin Awakener is pretty powerful, but wants to be surrounded by Elementals. I wonder if a Ball Lightning deck with the Awakener will be any good. It's usually the kind of strategy that gets derailed by a single opposing first striker, and the Awakener doesn't solve that issue.


Soldier: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 654, online: 596

 Related Tribes: Human, Treefolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: All Soldiers here play into some kind of Limited go-wide archetype and nothing more. Battalion Foot Soldier is another Legion Conquistador with the Human type replacing the Vampire type. Soldier decks don't care much regardless, but I guess it's a new thing they have access to now.


Sphinx: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 53

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: I see people finding Atemsis, All-Seeing amusing, but I really dislike this one. It's an underwhelming body for six mana, the card-drawing ability requires tapping your non-vigilant flyer and paying Divination cost without even getting Divination's results, and the alternate wincon is quirky in a way that looks stupid more than stimulating. Six cards with different casting costs in hand when this connects? It's not just hard to achieve, it's outright impossible to achieve naturally through just careful deckbuilding, except through some insane amount of luck, which would result in a victory that wouldn't feel earned. You could fill your deck to the brim with tutors to sculpt your hand accordingly, but how is that even an interesting gameplan? Of course it wouldn't be even remotely competitive, but that's not even the issue I have: it's that it doesn't seem very fun to me to look at the cards only for the numbers on their top right corner. Your mileage may vary, but I hope this "different mana costs matter" silliness (also appearing on Embodiment of Agonies will prove to be just a one-time deal for M20.


Spirit: +6

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 460, online: 453

 Related Tribes: Bird, Crocodile, Elk, Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Half of these new Spirits are from Planeswalker Decks (both Vivien and Yanling are big friends of the tribe in their lore), but the other half is definitely more exciting. Empyrean Eagle works as a lord for Spirits as much as it works for Birds and other flying tribes. Of course, Spirits already have that job position filled (both Supreme Phantom and Drogskol Captain are more synergistic), but getting another option is not lamentable.

 Two new members with more chances to make the cut in Spirit tribal decks even in Eternal formats are Spectral Sailor and Hanged Executioner, which offer different advantages played at instant speed. The ghost pirate is a one-drop that dribbles the first round of sorcery-speed removal and provides some reach with its card-drawing ability. The Executioner is two separate flying bodies and a non-conditional exile effect, both for a reasonable cost. We're gonna hear again from this pair (actually, trio) of departed souls.


Treefolk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 67, online: 65

 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Random Selesnya-colored Treefolk that's mostly designed for Soldier decks, or at least for go-wide strategies. It's not even too bad to be honest, that toughness is pretty high for a three-drop, and the power could catch up with it soon enough. It tragically lacks a home, though: Selesnya token decks can do better, and in Treefolk builds it'd be out of place.


Troll: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 31, online: 30

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This is a solid early Troll, the largest two-drop the tribe has to offer along with Albino Troll, which is however hindered by echo. A 3/3 for two is an ideal ratio for aggro, double green on turn two is not particularly problematic for a card that seems designed for Stompy decks, and there's some hexproof thrown in the mix, plus the interaction with +1/+1 counters strategies. I like it. It's not Lotleth Troll, but I like it.


Vampire: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 233, online: 229

 Related Tribes: Knight, Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Some valid Vampires here, alongside some filler, a Sorin-based Planeswalker Deck card, and an overcosted uncommon lord in Thirsting Bloodlord. Vampire of the Dire Moon is a defensive one-drop that also plays into a lifegain theme, of the kind that has Bloodthirsty Aerialist as a natural payoff. She's maybe not a must-include, but she drops with enough of a body already to justify the attempts to make her bigger and bigger, and what she needs is something most Vampire builds usually already include. Also, she's a Victorian-era circus acrobat vampire, how cool is that?

 But then of course the card that's more likely to show up in Vampire tribal from now on is Knight of the Ebon Legion, a game-changer of a one-drop that grows in two different ways and gets deathtouch, messing up with the combat phase from an early stage of the game. Both Knight decks and Vampire decks can use his services for sure.

 And let's not forget what's really going to make Vampire aficionados smile this time around: a Sorin planeswalker who's all about powerful synergies with his kind, in the same vein (pun not intended) that Liliana, Untouched by Death was a Zombie-based card in M19. Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord provides a way to drop a costly Vampire on turn three (forcing to reevaluate the playability of a plethora of older cards), then a way to make any of them better, both longterm and for the turn, and a way to weaponize the weaker ones or the occasional token, turning them into removal or even an endgame. There's literaly no wasteful mode with him, making this Sorin the most successful and well-crafted tribal walker to date. The catch being, of course, that he does absolutely nothing without Vampires around.


Warrior: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 700, online: 683

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Elf, Orc

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Elvish Reclaimer is the better card here, but while he doubles as a 3/4 for one under the right circumstances, he seems more of a combo piece than a pure beater, so I'm not sure Warriors will be that impressed with him.


Wizard: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 702, online: 684

 Related Tribes: Bird, Elemental, Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Wizards take back from Warriors the first position as most populated "class" in the game, but their M20 pool is not outstanding. Kykar, Wind's Fury is the only rarity higher than uncommon, and it's a fine Commander card that probably plays better with Bird and Spirit than with Wizard. But this is a very multi-faced tribe, so you never know what's going to matter. Scholar of the Ages is costly, but can potentially create a loop with a spell that retriggers her, like any flicker effect or Blood for Bones. Lightning Stormkin is pretty decent in Wizard aggro, and Cloudkin Seer is fine too.

 The best card of this lot is probably Tomebound Lich, a looter for three mana that can repeat his trick upon connecting (it's not the same as drawing cards, but still okay), and defends well with three points of toughness, deathtouch and lifelink. A good fit for graveyard strategies where looting over drawing becomes a feature, not a bug.


Wolf: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 49, online: 45

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Wolf is home of one of the best creatures in the set, and possibly in the current Standard meta: the outstanding Nightpack Ambusher. It's pseudo-removal via flash and a lord for both Wolves and Werewolves, but more than anything else, it has an enormous impact on the way the rest of he game plays out if it's left unchecked. See, once the Ambusher is in place, you can stop casting spells on your turn, instead letting this alpha leader spout tokens on top of tokens. Your deck needs to be prepared, but even Standard has already all the tools this pack needs: more flash creatures like Frilled Mystic and Brineborn CutthroatTolsimir, Friend to Wolves to add crucial value to the token-making in the form of fighting and lifegaining; Vivien, Champion of the Wilds to crank everything up to Ambusher speed; and especially Vivien's Arkbow, to happily and utterly forfeit your main phases. The Arkbow is very underrated tech that many decks aren't even prepared to face (it's completely unaffected by countermagic, attack triggers, and Teferi, Time Raveler), and the Ambusher is a prime payoff for it, while also being perfectly gamebreaking on its own.

 As for Ferocious Pup, it might not be the perfect complement for the Ambusher and Tolsimir (here's hoping Throne of Eldraine will give us a big bad wolf for this job), but it sure has adorable art.


Zombie: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 446, online: 439

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur, Knight, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Three playable Zombies from Core Set 2020. Both Rotting Regisaur and Corpse Knight exploit the tribe's recursion capabilities, with cards like Gravecrawler being perfect Regisaur fodder while triggering the Knight again and again. Tomebound Lich plays into the same theme, but also double as repeatable card advantage if the discarded card is going to come back. Out of the three, maybe Rotting Regisaur is the one more likely to see play in Zombie tribal: its early presence on the board (as early as turn one: (Dark Ritual is a thing in Legacy) is intimidating, and being monoblack it's easier to cast in any Zombie build.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW (Cavaliers aside)
(click on them to go to their review)

   

   

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THE CAVALIERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

  

 

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THE ICONIC LEGENDS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

  

 

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THE WEDGE LEGENDS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

  

 

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THE PROTECTORS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

  

 

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS