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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
May 01 2013 10:46am
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In an earlier article, I explored the tribes having between 2 and 5 creatures in them, with one question in mind: which of these is most likely to one day become a fully fleshed-out tribe? Today I'll be examining those tribes with between 6 and 8 entrants. Excluded are those who already have lords (sorry Kobolds) or who are already part of a cycle (sorry Zuberas).

 

Trained Pronghorn

   

Antelopes

Currently in print: 7

Assessment: Antelopes are a thing of beauty and grace. They nimbly leap over logs and draw envy from all onlookers yet if we are to be very honest they have no place on a battlefield. Perhaps we can help them find something more suitable to their dazzling talents, like posing for photos and staying away from berserkers and dragons.

The only Antelopes that make any sense as combatants were originally conceived of as other creatures, like Stampeding Wildebeests, Stampeding Serow, or Emerald Oryx. But an antelope...!

What it would take: A block centered around sacrificial fodder and/or venison.

Likelihood:

       
Krond the Dawn-Clad    

Archons

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: These have the opposite problem of Antelopes: those are too small and worthless to become a tribe, and these are too large and iconic! Each of the 6 archons in print has been alone in its respective set, often standing as the solitary large flier in its color. Printing eight of these in a single set would just seem strange, not to mention cumbersome. Of course, the old me would have said the same about angels, giants, and eldrazi.

What it would take: "Archon" is defined as a ruler, so WotC would need to adopt an "all chiefs, no indians" mentality for a set. Unfortunately, the expression is "all indians, no chiefs."

Likelihood: ●●

       
Clockwork Gnomes    

Gnomes

Currently in print: 7

Assessment: Now this is a creature that makes sense as a tribe! They're small, they're cooperative, and they come with prestablished out-of-game flavor. They're not the fightingest creatures, but neither are squirrels and they have multiple lords.

Out of the 7 gnomes to see print, only 1, Bottle Gnomes, has seen tournament play (usually as a Necropotence combo). And that was a very long time ago! I think these creatures are ripe for a reboot.

What it would take: Very little. It could work in practically any set. Being an artifact creature hurts the odds, as very few of those become tribes, but (1) gnomes don't have to continue to be defined as mechanical creations and (2) even if they are it could still work.

Likelihood: ●●●●

       
   

Goats

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: Goats have been talked about by the community exactly once in the entire game's history: Lowryn block, when Goatnapper was printed. ("What goats even are there?" "They mean it to work with changelings." "Oh, I get it.") Other than that one shining moment, the creatures have garnered as much interest as... goats in real life, I guess. And with only three creatures printed to have the goat type originally (the other three had it added during the grand update), and with all three of those being unimpressive, it's easy to understand why.

The other three weren't much better, by the way.

What it would take: Interpreting goats the satanic way, as goat-people hybrids standing on hind legs and emblazoned with a pentagram. But does the game really want to rekindle the old satanic controversy? It's been free of those accusations since Fourth Edition! Of course, that whole controversy did get the game some free press. It's the reason Magic was once mentioned on The Daily Show! (In the early years, when Craig Kilborn was still the host.)

And either way, WotC has already relaxed their stance on demons and devils being printed in the last ten years. If there's ever a block with the hell-on-earth vibe, I could see darker, more aggressive goats fitting in. That would be really cool, actually.

Likelihood: ●●

       
Sisters of Stone Death    

Gorgons

Currently in print: 7

Assessment: The game could absolutely stand to have more gorgons. They're a very evocative creature with tons of mythos attached. The only problem is that a tribe needs some variety, and nearly all of the gorgons in print do the same basic thing. It makes sense—what else are gorgons for besides petrifying people?—but it remains a stumbling block for the expansion of the tribe. You can't have six creatures in the same color that all have the same ability. Still, there are some ways to diversify a tribe with new abilities and synergies.

What it would take: Where are gorgons most at home? Usually around creepy old stone castles. If a block has those as the centerpiece of its setting, we could see a handful of gorgons. Just enough to warrant a lord. It's completely plausible.

Likelihood: ●●●

       
Nip Gwyllion    

Hags

Currently in print: 8

Assessment: Mechanically, it could work. Hags are scalable in size and versatile in ability and definition. The problem is when you think of the emotional reaction that a group of hags generally elicits. Think of how you feel when you see multiple hags in the same place. Not good, is it? So would anybody voluntarily make a deck full of them?

What it would take: Unlike most tribes, hags are not born; they are made during one's life. So defining them as a tribe is a little wonky. But what am I saying? Not all tribes are by species, like goblins or treefolk. Many are still by class, like soldiers or clerics. So perhaps it is possible. We just need a world where defining groups of people as hags makes sense. The way Innistrad made "humans" a palpable concept. TBQH though I cannot imagine what that world would be. Maybe some place where beings are judged by their beauty—like that elvish society with Imperious Perfect. The hags are the outcasts. Hmmmm. This is sounding a little heavy handed.

Likelihood: ●●

       
   

Homarids

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: Woo!! Homarids!! I love these guys. But that's because I've been playing since Ice Age, and I remember buying packs of Fallen Empires in the gaming store for $2 apiece and finding these oddities inside. Like many new players of the day, I assumed that every card printed was playable (otherwise why would they print it?) and I tried cramming them into my decks. Especially Deep Spawn and the namesake himself. Inevitably, and quickly, I realized that homarids are not very good and back out they went. Still, even to this day I love the artwork and the atmosphere of Deep Spawn. Can we get a reprint with the same artwork, card frame, and name, just with 2 mana knocked off its price? Like the reduced-mana misprint of Orcish Oriflamme, except legal.

Flipping through the entire tribe, I'm reminded that Homarids had two big strikes against them: they were all overcosted and their abilities were unimpressive. The bonuses just weren't bonus enough, and most came with a penalty, the famous example being those infuriating tide tokens.

Could these problems be fixed with modern design? Of course. Do we want to? Just take a look at Time Spiral's lukewarm nod to the tribe and you'll see how little care WotC has in revisiting these oversized lobsters. I can't say I blame them. Even the few fans the tribe has are conflicted and half-hearted about their affection.

What it would take: It's the distant future. WotC has grown tired of merfolk, cephalids and vedalken. "What other small, water-dwelling creatures could we possibly print?" somebody asks.

"I have an idea," says an employee who was not even alive in 1994.

Likelihood: ●●

       
Man-o'-War    

Jellyfish

Currently in print: 8

Assessment: When I thought of jellyfish in Magic, I had the following internal dialogue:

"Jellyfish. Like Man-o'-War. He's good. Are there any others? I think it's just Man-o'-War. Well it's hard to imagine him being expanded... but I wrote down there are already 8 jellyfish total. What are the other 7?"

(moments later) "Oh yeah the -zoa cards." Esperzoa, Gomazoa, Dormant Gomazoa, Guard Gomazoa... this could totally work. I don't know what the community's general opinion of those four cards is, but I love each one and would be thrilled to see more.  I mean Avizoa I could do without but they can't all be winners.

What it would take: We got it. The proofs of concept have passed. Jellyfish are ready for prime time. I think it's just a waiting game at this point.

Likelihood: ●●●●

       
Polar Kraken    

Krakens

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: Krakens have the Archon problem: creatures defined as large and solitary tend to make for bad tribes. How many Wrexial, the Risen Deeps can a set support? Don't start talking about the one-mana Kraken Hatchling. Do you really expect WotC to make an army general that ushers a group of infants into battle?

We already have Quest for Ula's Temple, I know (in fact I wrote an entire article about it once), and perhaps one day we'll get another card to mention Krakens specifically. But the premise of this article is to see what creature type will get the Giant treatment, not to see who will get the Archer treatment.

What it would take: Another Eldrazi style set, except instead of the huge creatures being colorless, they're all blue. In other words:

Likelihood:

       
Mystic Enforcer    

Mystics

Currently in print: 7... and Stoneforge Mystic actually isn't one of them

Assessment: Mystics could easily be a tribe. If not for Shamans, Wizards, Druids, and Clerics, they probably already would be. But how many small sorcerous types can one game have? Don't forget we also have cards named after alchemists, augurs, conjurers, diviners, enchantresses, exorcists, healers, hypnotists, illusionists, mages, magi, one mundungu, necromancers, occultists, oracles, prophets, seers, soothsayers, thaumaturgists, warlocks, and witches.

WotC has almost got the entire thesaurus entry completed. All we're missing are auspices, haruspices, palmists, prestidigitators, prognosticators, sangomas, sibyls, theurgists, vaticinators, and wangateurs! And, curiously, magicians.

What it would take: I think the time will be right when there's a second tribe that makes sense to overlap with mystics. Like the way snakes were split between snake warriors and snake shamans.

Likelihood: ●●●

       
Pillarfield Ox    

Oxen

Currently in print: 7

Assessment: Nobody minds an ox, but does anyone get excited about one?

"Hey, this set's got oxen in it!"

"Sweet!"

*they high five*

*one of them can't feel the slap, and he realizes he is in the middle of a dream*

What it would take: A really talented PR manager redefining the ox's image.

Likelihood:

       
Concordia Pegasus    

Pegasi

Currently in print: 7

Assessment: One may accuse the pegasus of having a Lisa Frank vibe and of being at odds with Magic's tone, but the fact is that Mesa Pegasus was printed in Alpha and Stormfront Pegasus appeared in three of the four most recent core sets. In fact, no fewer than 11 of the game's 15 core sets have had a pegasus in them! (Excluded only are 7e, 8e, 10e, and 2013.)

Pegasi have a place in the game, and they even make sense as a tribe—Mirage block players are well familiar with the idea of an attacking pegasus swarm, thanks to the then-powerful finisher Sacred Mesa.

What it would take: Another bright and colorful block, like Lorwyn. Hey, after Innistrad, we could use one.

Likelihood: ●●●●

       
Pyric Salamander    

Salamanders

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: It's entirely possible to make salamanders a tribe. They're small, they make sense in multiple colors, they could have a variety of abilities....

Would anybody want this, though?

Even one person?

What it would take: The average salamander is 5 inches long. One species, the Chinese giant salamander is closer to 5 feet, but it moves slowly and has poor eyesight. Salamanders' diets consist mostly of insects.

It would take a lot.

Likelihood:

       
Sluiceway Scorpion    

Scorpions

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: Half of the scorpions in print have an ability that involves killing a creature. One is just a vanilla creature, one gives poison counters, and one of them is very creative.

My point is that scorpions can be versatile. That they're small and are known for swarming is an additional help. They're also menacing and can exist in a variety of sizes, so I think they're perfect for a tribe.

What it would take: Block with a creepy vibe. Easy.

Likelihood: ●●●

       
Catacomb Slug    

Slugs

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: "The large, villainous slug slowly inched towards us," read the lamest horror story ever. "We would have easily outrun it, but we were feeling drowsy and had leg cramps. Much later in the afternoon, it caught up to us, and..."

And... actually, I don't even know how to finish that sentence. How would a slug kill something? Eating it? Smothering it?

WotC doesn't seem to suffer from this mental block, as they've printed multiple slugs with four power (Molder Slug and Thermopod). And I can guess I can buy that... anything can be gigantic in Magic-land... but why does Thermopod have haste??  Isn't slowness like the only thing slugs are famous for? What's next—a sloth with haste? A penguin with flying?

What it would take: Just for an employee to have the brazenness to submit a card titled "Slug Chieftan" with a straight face.

Likelihood: ●●

       
Calcite Snapper    

Turtles

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: Could Magic, or any game for that matter, ever have a group of turtles being marshaled into combat by a singular leader without drawing immediate comparisons to TMNT? Doubtful. Even if the lord wasn't a rat. Even if it was a human, a snake ghost, or a fish big enough to be an island—it would still inevitably and irrevocably be nicknamed "Splinter."

Sorry, but the rules text "all turtles get +1/+1" just can't happen.

What it would take: Magic's current fanbase all grew up with TMNT. The next generation did too. But what about 8 generations from now? If Magic lasts that long, it could probably sustain a successful turtle lord. And really, it has to be that long. Bouncing Beebles was printed a full 32 years after "The Trouble With Tribbles" aired, yet it still drew comparisons.

Likelihood:

       
Deepwood Wolverine    

Wolverines

Currently in print: 6

Assessment: Talk about strong associations! We all know that there's only one thing that comes to mind when a nerd hears the word Wolverine. And you don't even need to click that link to know what it is.

Still, wolverines can and do get printed every now and then. The most recent was Karplusan Wolverine in Coldsnap, and before that it was Spurred Wolverine in Onslaught. But could we ever make them a big enough thing to get referred to on other cards? Doubtful. Possible, but doubtful.

What it would take: A block all about safaris and real animals. The kind of block that would spoil like 8 of my "it'll never happen!" predictions at once. A block with not only wolverines, but oxen, antelopes, badgers, and elk as well.

Likelihood: ●●

       
Insidious Bookworms    

Worms

Currently in print: 7

Assessment: Nothing like a strong finish!

Not that I would know anything about that, because I'm stuck ending my article with worms. Why did they have to be at the end of the alphabet? Why couldn't it be something cool? Something aggressive, like pigeons, or trout, or any of the non-threatening animals that worms get eaten by??

The thought of worms being printed in bulk makes me as nauseous as the thought of worms being eaten! Why did I bring up either one in the first place?

What it would take: A block in which people go fishing a lot and need bait. Given the art on Shapesharer, maybe it's not so unlikely....

Likelihood: ● (I was being sarcastic in that previous sentence.)

 

There you have it! But before I wrap it up, here are all of the above types sorted by likelihood of becoming a tribe one day.

1: Antelopes, Krakens, Oxen, Salamanders, Turtles, Worms

2: Archons, Goats, Hags, Homarids, Slugs, Wolverines

3: Gorgons, Mystics, Scorpions

4: Gnomes, Jellyfish, Pegasi

5: Once again, I dare not presuppose too much.

 

Now I can wrap it up.

7 Comments

Yeah, Gnomes are where it's by Leviathan at Wed, 05/01/2013 - 17:21
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Yeah, Gnomes are where it's at. Like you said they don't have to remain artifact creatures, although I think they will have a lot of overlap with kithkin, unfortunately. But you could have them branch out into several different colors fairly easily. I could see Red gnomes doing artifact based stuff, White gnomes being protective, and Green gnomes helping out with creatures or lands. Even Black gnomes being little evil dudes. Blue ones don't seem too intuitive though.

I feel bad about Pegasi. There's not really a lot of ways you can get around the whole "small flyer" feel they have going, and they don't translate well outside of White. My daughter loves them though. If they can find a new mechanical identity, like Jellyfish have recently, that would be great. But they've done nothing since the beginning of Magic, sadly.

Mythical Salamanders are not by Paul Leicht at Wed, 05/01/2013 - 17:42
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Mythical Salamanders are not the 3" newts you might find in a stream. They are huge and deadly. (CF: D&D and variants). Specifically they have a tie in to Elementalism. They tend to be fiery and in fact in literature often are used as synonyms for fire spirits.

Goats/Sheep could be part of a set with lots of herders (Think Cyclops with giant goats/sheep) and potentially something to do with an Argosy type adventure with a golden fleece at the end or something.

Gnomes in folk lore are woodlands/sylvan creatures and I am surprised WOTC hasn't picked up on this even a little bit. In fact I don't know who came up with Gnomes as tiny mechanical people but that's just crazy. Love bottle gnomes though.

Gorgons + Castles? I don't get it. All the stories I know of depict them in out of the way places like Grottos/Caverns/Stone gardens (wasn't there one in Prospero's Island (cf The Tempest)?

Mystics + Nomads are pretty much a thing. In fact I expect any set that has lots of nomads to feature a nearly equal amount of mystics.

End of article finisher: Wyvern?

Edit:

Short story concerning slugs.
Setting: The Year is 1979, the place is Oakwood friends school (A boarding school run by Quakers.) I am a freshman who just learned about a game called AD&D.

I am at the headmaster's house for an open house meet and greet thingee at the beginning of the first trimester. I enter a room with a bunch of kids sitting around playing the aformentioned game AD&D. They invite me to sit down and roll up a character. I make an Elf Fighter/Magic User on the advice of a friendly helper/fellow student. In the game we (the party) are wandering down a long corridor, and we come to a door.

We stop. The thief does his thing checking for traps, picking locks, listening for horrors/monsters/other greedy adventurers. Nothing found. As soon as I (the neophyte player) hear this I have my character open the door before anyone else can do anything.

I see a couple of Ghouls staring at me while cowering in a corner. (In this game they were afraid of elves for some reason so yay me) The party rushes in and slaughters them before anything untoward can happen to me their new good luck charm/aka door opener.

The party gets some loot, we travel on, find another door. The same old stuff happens. And again, this time with the party approval I open the door. Inside is the largest slug anyone has ever seen. I mean it fills the room. I quickly shut the door, but being boneless and strangely aggressive it oozes through the cracks in the door and attacks us, eating me first with its acid. Everyone else runs...

Needless to say a horrific colossal slug eating an elf should make you run.

I'd be shocked if the Theros by Doctor Anime at Thu, 05/02/2013 - 01:52
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I'd be shocked if the Theros set didn't have at least one badass Pegasus. Probably not going to be the next big creature type, but a set based on greek mythology is bound to have pegasi.

Gnomes started off as non by AJ_Impy at Thu, 05/02/2013 - 11:34
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Gnomes started off as non artifacts with Quarum Trench Gnomes: there was some discussion about bringing them back for Mirrodin (Indeed, Bottle Gnomes actually made it), so an artifact set could potentially see them in that slot.

RE: Slugs by BlippyTheSlug at Thu, 05/02/2013 - 11:24
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The slime........ the slime......
My own slime, for example, is hallucinogenic.
http://imageshack.us/a/img706/3461/hypselodorisbullocki.jpg

And why does everything think of our ugly landborn cousins when they think of slugs?
https://www.google.ca/search?q=sea+slug+photos

I never thought you as a sea by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 05/06/2013 - 11:48
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I never thought of you as a sea slug! That changes everything!

As Winter said, the thing by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 05/06/2013 - 12:21
Kumagoro42's picture
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As Winter said, the thing about Mystics is that they are ALL Nomads (well, except for a couple taoists from Portal: Three Kingdoms, but anything that happened in that set is essentially non-canon, since it was seriously set in real-life China, for absurd PR reasons.) Therefore, the "magician" class of some races is Wizard (the more "civilized" white and blue choice), others have Shamans (the nature-oriented green and red, plus the less urban fringes of black), while a Nomad's magic-user is called a Mystic. Except the Nomad is a class already (they're all Humans), so essentially a Human who's born a Nomad can become a Mystic. If they'll bring back Nomads they would bring back Mystics as well, but I think it's probably bound to remain an Odyssey-only thing. As you pointed out, they didn't even bother to give the Mystic type to a more recent card with the word "mystic" in its name. I believe the reasoning is that every shamanic/monk type is somehow a "mystic", but these are specifically the Mystics from the Nomad tribes in the Odyssey storyline (sort of bedouins).

Theros is bound to have Gorgons for sure. It's Clash of the Titans-inspired. (So probably a big Kraken too.)

Pegasi share the same creature niche as Griffins (and in blue, Drakes): they're the common/uncommon flyers printed only for Limited purposes. And you're probably right, they're probably afraid that both them and Unicorns feel too "fantasty tales for little girls" to have a place in MTG (to the great disappointment of Leviathan's daughter!) In fact, Griffins replaced them in that Limited role almost entirely now.

Hey, you shouldn't stop doing this tribal researches! Go until 12-15 at least, I want to hear your comments about Homunculi, Hellions, Ouphes and Crabs! And Horses! How do they think an unridden horse is something worth fielding in a battlefield? (Then again, every animal can just become a humanoid race in the shape of that animal, which is a bit of a fraud to me, because saying that a Loxodon is an Elephant is like saying that every Human is an Ape.)