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By: AJ_Impy, AJ Richardson
May 18 2007 9:04am
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Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Purple: The Art of Tribal Wars

Welcome, gentle readers, to the next exciting edition of the Art of Tribal Wars. One of the first thing a new player notices when he sits down in the casual room of Magic Online are all decks are not greated equal. Some are mishmashes of commons speckled with the occasional uncommon, others are finely tuned all-foil rare-heavy killing machines. (You also get lethal PDC - Pauper Deck Challenge - all common decks that can kill you on turn 3 or 4, and random piles of useless rares.) The cold, hard fact is, some people are willing and/or able to spend a lot more on their decks than others. The rarity of a card has a major effect on its cost, as the far greater supply of commons and uncommons in relation to rares has a deflationary impact.

What does all this have to do with Tribal Wars? Some tribes reach across all rarities, others  tend to congregate across one or two. A tribe with a strong common foundation can be quicker and easier to assemble than one printed on a handful of rares, and thus provides a cheaper way in to the format than the bizzare decks I like to come up with. I will be taking a look at one tribe which touches upon all colours and rarities, and building decks with each tribe member at each specific rarity. Let's see if we can keep Wizard decks interesting at each stage.

Fugitive Wizard
Rummaging Wizard
Patron Wizard

Fanfare for the Common Wizard


Let's start with an all-common deck. This little beauty wins through burning out the opposition thanks to the most expensive french vanilla 1/1 in the game: Scornful Egotist. Using cards that care how much it costs, and a variety of other common wizards that let you cheat it to the top of your deck, we can exploit this white elephant for all its worth. 

Spare a penny for a prestidigitator?

The Common Men

4 Aven Windreader
4 Information Dealer
4 Sage of Epityr
4 Scornful Egotist
4 Vedalken Dismisser

Exploitation of the Value of the Common Man

4 Erratic Explosion
4 Rush of Knowledge
4 Torrent of Fire
4 Erratic Mutation

The Means of Mana Production

12 Island
4 Izzet Boilerworks
4 Izzet Signet
4 Mountain

Scornful Egotist
You can use your Erratic cards to shuffle away unwanted lands as needed. It goes without saying you should take care when stacking the deck: First card clicked will be the last card drawn when putting them on top. High on the list of obvious things that occasionally get forgotten: You'll draw a card between stacking at the end of your opponent's turn and going Erratic to the dome at sorcery speed the next.

Uncommonly Fancy Footwork

Our attention turns to the next rarity up: this time, our win condition lies in one simple symbol:


Tap-dancing Magecraft

Tribal Tappers

4 Embermage Goblin
4 Suq'Ata Firewalker
4 Wojek Embermage

Uncommon Untappers

4 Puppeteer
4 Aphetto Alchemist
4 Vigean Graftmage

Reveille Relics

4 Pemmin's Aura
4 Spectral Searchlight
4 Magewright's Stone

Middle-Class Suburbs

4 Barbarian Ring
4 Cephalid Coliseum
4 Crosis's Catacombs
4 Calciform Pools
4 Dreadship Reef
4 Mirrodin's Core


Our path to victory here is passive-aggressively turning men sideways without attacking, repeatedly. The Embermages and Firewalkers are the eventual kill: The Puppeteers, Graftmages and Alchemists help speed things up. The Wojek are there to clean up two-thirds of the potential opposition, the Rings and Coliseums give the deck a little extra reach should the creatures be taken out by a sweeper effect. Pemmin's Aura and Magewright's Stone help keep the pingers tapping: The latter, and Vigean Graftmage, can exploit the storage lands in one massive turn of untapping. the deck is weak to sweeper effects, but if your opponent isn't drawing them, good luck to him keeping a creature in play.

Pure uncommon tribals are perhaps the hardest of all rarities to build. They have a fair degree of power, strong possibilities for finesse and a fair selection of lands, but neither so powerful as rare nor so numerous as common, as you'd expect. There are very few uncommon means of getting enemy colors out of one land, and they have a tendency to set you back a turn in mana development. The exception is the Tainted Field cycle, which come in as a very handy extra if you're running Godless Shrines or Overgrown Tombs. The strength of the uncommon tribe lies in its utility: at the high end, you get bang for your buck on the level of Flametongue Kavu, Eternal Witness and Loxodon Warhammer, or the versatility of the Ravnica block Guildmages.

Rarefied Air

Ah, rares. Everything from absolute bombs to absolute jank, capstones of cycles through to utterly unplayables. This little deck hinges on a few simple lines of text: 'Draw seven cards' being one, 'Whenever you draw a card' being another.

Magus of the Jar

Card-greedy Conjurers

4 Arcanis the Omnipotent
4 Dragon Mage
4 Jushi Apprentice
4 Magus of the Jar
4 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

Burning Draw

4 Wheel of Fate
4 Cerebral Vortex
4 Invoke the Firemind

Lands of Luxury

4 Chrome Mox
1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
1 Teferi's Isle
4 Shivan Reef
4 Steam Vents
4 City of Brass
4 Forbidden Orchard
4 Grand Coliseum

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

This deck draws cards by the metric ton, and throws them at your opponent's head via Niv-Mizzet. If the Niv-Mizzizzle isn't sticking around, there's always the option of Cerebral Vortex to the opponent's face after a flipped Jushi, Magus, Wheel or Dragon Mage has gone off. The principal weakness of the deck is the high curve: The optimal start is turn 1 Mox and Jushi, drawing into more land and moxen, but it may be a struggle to survive against rush decks. Nonetheless, when you can lay your cards with impunity, the game will be over in very short order, and Niv-Mizzet paired with 'Draw 7' is a very handy one-sided wrath effect or a free Searing Flesh. This is a 'win big or lose big' deck, but with that much extravagance on the table, how could it be anything but high stakes?

All-rare decks have the advantage of versatility and sheer oddball potential: they have the best mana options for enemy colours, although an all-rare landbase can be a bit of a stretch. All-rare tribal tends to fall into the extremes of the three psychographic profiles: Angel or Specter make for a vicious Spikish build, Timmy can play with huge Dragons or Demons, and Johnny gets to do convoluted stuff with Nephilim, Leech or something equally obscure.

When I am old, I shall wear...

On to the latest addition to the rarities. Whilst there are technically enough lands at the bonus rarity to fill a deck, some of them don't produce any mana. Given that, I have reluctantly included basic lands.

Voidmage Prodigy
 Perhaps the most conventional of the tribes on offer here, with the excuse that there aren't that many reprinted wizards to work with. Nonetheless, the deck is pretty effective, with Kai and Finkel providing the power. There's something of a tapping theme here, with Tim, the Shadow Guildmage and Fire Whip, aided and abetted by the arrows and Desert to keep opposing tribes off the board. Disintegrate and Psionic Blast round out the removal/kill suite. The deck rolls over to anything even remotely Pyroclasm-like unless Kai is face up and two blue are open. 
Rarer than rare Wizards

Old-time Occultists

4 Prodigal Sorcerer
4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
4 Shadow Guildmage
4 Voidmage Prodigy
4 Willbender

Reminiscent Removal

4 Disintegrate
4 Fire Whip
4 Psionic Blast
4 Serrated Arrows

Purple ter-rain

4 Desert
4 Gemstone Mine
8 Island
4 Mountain
4 Swamp

Building an all-purple rarity deck is the mark of a madman. This is one of only two possible tribes, Human and Wizard, with only Thornscape Battlemage preventing the one being subsumed entirely within the other. Your options are highly limited but quite interesting, and there aren't enough timeshifted lands to sustain a purple landbase. Still, in a game of five colours, there's definitely something to be said for winning with the sixth.

Until next time, may you get more enjoyment out of your decks than you'd expect from the money you put into them.


Just One Mistake by Burn Theory (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 05/21/2007 - 19:19
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In your uncommon deck you mention using the graftmage to uptap the charge lands, but the graftmage can't do that. It only affects creatures with +1/+1 counters...

The rare deck looks brutal however. I also like the purple deck, it has a cool flair to it.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 05/21/2007 - 20:21
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I like this article a lot, but I don't think Wojek is a good fit in a deck with 1 tougness creatures. I think Frostweilder would replace them here.

To clarify... by AJ_Impy at Tue, 05/22/2007 - 04:07
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The trick with the Graftmage and storage lands isn't untapping the storage land, but by emptying a counter-heavy land all at once and using that mana through Pemmin's Aura on an untapper or Vigean Graftmage to fuel your kill turn. As for the Wojek, the 'two thirds of the potential opposition' I mentioned refer to the black, white, green and artifact critters which he can target with impunity. I agree that Frostwielder is usually the better choice, but sadly her common rarity excludes her for the purpose of an all-uncommon deck. Indeed, there are only three uncommon wizards online that tap to do damage.

Just One Mistake by Burn Theory (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 05/21/2007 - 19:19
Burn Theory (Unregistered)'s picture

In your uncommon deck you mention using the graftmage to uptap the charge lands, but the graftmage can't do that. It only affects creatures with +1/+1 counters...

The rare deck looks brutal however. I also like the purple deck, it has a cool flair to it.

Entertaining, as always. by Hollow0n3 at Fri, 05/18/2007 - 10:10
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I really like this concept, since.. well, I build lots of PDC Tribal decks ;-)
I actually have a Magewright Stone.dec, and I liked the aproach here.
The rare and purple ones are definitly interessting but nothing that I could try.
Overall, another fine article.

by Lord Erman at Fri, 05/18/2007 - 10:18
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The purple tribe is awesome. Perfect as always. 6 out of 5.

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