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By: AJ_Impy, AJ Richardson
May 01 2007 8:39pm
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Lands? We don't need no stinking lands: The art of Tribal Wars

Ladies and gentlemen, I advise you to take a good look: this will be the last you see in this article of five old friends who have doubtless served us all well in our magic-playing careers.


And that goes double for their nonbasic brethren. Today, it's all about decks which, despite the inherent restrictions in the tribal format, take things one step further and play without the one fundamental resource in the game.

How do we manage this?

 We cheat. 


 The Obvious Path

Landless decks have been around since some bright spark put together Channel, Fireball and Black Lotus back before the 4-card limit. Online, our options are somewhat limited, but have expanded massively with recent set releases. Without lands, we need 'free' spells or some means of generating mana from nothing. When it comes to generating mana from nothing, there are four cards currently available:

Chrome Mox
Lotus Bloom
Simian Spirit Guide

Now that we know our toolkit, let's think about what we can build. Our ideal cost for tribe members is preferably between zero and one, with an all-artifact tribe negating the use we can get out of our one repeatable mana source through lack of imprint targets. However, we have resources able to cast up to 3 mana as a one-off, making that the high point of our curve unless we can get in some extra acceleration. Given the relative paucity of good 0 and 1-mana creatures sufficient to fill a tribe, we turn our attention to discounts. The best discounts online? Step forward Affinity.

Quicksilver Behemoth

Landless Beast Tribal

Tribe Members

4 Broodstar
4 Quicksilver Behemoth
4 Qumulox
4 Thought Eater
4 Thought Nibbler


4 Chrome Mox
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Paradise Mantle

Affinity Engine

4 Frogmite
4 Ornithopter
4 Scale of Chiss-Goria
4 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
4 Welding Jar

Cheap Draw

4 Ancestral Vision
4 Thoughtcast


 If you were around during Mirrodin, you'll know the gist of how this goes, albeit without such powerhouses as Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating. Using your 0-cost artifacts, you power out your affinity spells and creatures. You will need either a Mox or Lotus to make a start on the colored mana costs, but your artifacts, if need be, can tide you over in a pinch. The curve of the deck tops out at 2 mana for Qumulox, Broodstar and the fearsome Thought Eater, making a Paradise Mantle on an Ornithopter or Thought Nibbler a necessity. You have plenty of card draw to refill, and the power and evasion to do the job. However, you have one heck of a weakness to any global and most pinpoint artifact kill: protect your mana source at all costs, that Welding Jar is there for a reason.

Funny Little Popping Sounds

Next, we turn our attentions to one of the more ubiquitous and cheap tribes. If landless affinity beasts is about building up resources in play to get your evasive fatties online, landless popping goblins is about dumping your entire hand all at once to gamewinning effect. Instead of free spells, we run rituals: Every 2-mana-or-less means red has of generating more mana than was spent. For card draw, we turn to Wheel of Fate, which ups the count on our win condition: Storm. We either overwhelm them with tokens or deep fry their mind, possibly both. Weaknesses: creature sweepers can spoil your day if your warrens are running on empty, and if you don't get a storm card you're in deep water. I've considered Charbelcher as a possible extra win condition but don't own any: Nonetheless, they have potential.

Empty the Warrens
Landless Storm Goblins

Tribe Members

4 Akki Rockspeaker
4 Goblin Cohort
4 Krark-Clan Shaman
4 Raging Goblin
4 Skirk Prospector


4 Wheel of Fate
4 Empty the Warrens
4 Ignite Memories


4 Wild Cantor
4 Rite of Flame
4 Brightstone Ritual
4 Desperate Ritual


4 Chrome Mox
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Simian Spirit Guide

Ignite Memories


Forgive me, Father, for I have Scioned

On to the third panel of our landless tryptych. For this one, we're going to use two methods of cheating: sacrificing stuff to summon a huge monster, and getting a major discount on our entire tribe. Given the title above, it's fairly easy to guess the former, and the tribe required strongly implies the latter. For those unfamiliar with Onslaught block, here's a handy primer:

Dark Supplicant
Scion of Darkness

Fairly linear design, but you'll notice that the Edgewalker, which enables us to play out all our one-mana clerics, costs 3 mana in 2 different colors, with us playing a landless deck. We need mana fixing, and card draw. Let's try both at once, given that one of Affinity's most lethal weapons is a one-mana cleric:

Chromatic Star
Chromatic Sphere
Mendicant Friars

Tribe Members

4 Blood Celebrant
4 Dark Supplicant
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Edgewalker
4 Empty-Shrine Kannushi
4 Foothill Guide
4 Leonin Elder
4 Nova Cleric
4 Order of the Stars

Win Condition

4 Scion of Darkness

Mana and Filters

4 Paradise Mantle
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chrome Mox
4 Lotus Bloom

 The Disciples and multiple sacrificial mana artifacts give you a little bit of reach, whilst you rack up an impressive array of protections through Foothill Guide, Order of the Stars and Empty-Shrine Kannushi, with which to hold back the opposing horde. Blood Celebrant is yet another mana filtration effect, Leonin Elder can provide a suitably annoying trickle of life and Nova Cleric gives us the stats of Squire for the price of Eager Cadet, coupled with the enchantment-sweeping power of Tempest of Light. If someone is playing Tallowisp.dec, he might even come in handy.

Why landless decks?

I'm glad you asked. Lands are one of the most vital parts of the game: Play a while in the casual room and you'll see a dozen variants on flood or screw, hear the petulant complaints about land destruction or denial, and see game after game gradually curve out. One of the things I love to do is challenge even the most fundamental assumptions: the best decks are set in stone, tribes need at least 20 creatures, you need lands to play the game. I've tried All-land decks in my time, and look forward to adding a few Dryad Groves when Future Sight arrives online.

The point is this: Don't be afraid to challenge the conventional.  Would a Dredge deck weighing in at more than 60 cards be worthwhile? Can you build a deck that wins with Squire? Is Leech Tribal possible? Even the most fundamental concepts are fair game for scrutiny.

Until next time, have fun breaking the game.


by Schwarzer (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 05/02/2007 - 12:31
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great article, ill be toying around with it tonight!

by Javasci at Wed, 05/02/2007 - 13:04
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Whoever said play goblins: We care about the best deck even less than we care about lands in this column.

And at the squire idea: I still can't come up with anything that Squire does that can't be done better by another card, and if you throw Squire into some W Soldier beatdown deck, say, that IMO doesn't count.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 05/01/2007 - 21:05
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Play tribal goblins. End of story best tribal deck

by Lord Erman at Wed, 05/02/2007 - 04:38
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Creativity at its finest as always. Awesome.

Very entertaining. by Hollow0n3 at Wed, 05/02/2007 - 05:33
Hollow0n3's picture

I remember playing versus those goblins, and landless decks are a very interessting concept, unfortunally not one of those that I can try to build myself. Enjoyed the article nontheless.

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