From Angels to Zombies, tribal decks are some of the more popular strategies in EDH, especially amongst more casual players. Who needs to combo off when you can assemble a massive army of like-minded creatures that can buff each other and stomp all over your opponents’ defenses?  In this new series, we’ll explore tribes famous and unknown, and find out which are powerhouses, which are fun durdlers, and which should be better left in the bulk box.

I look forward to sharing my love of Snakes and Elementals in the weeks to come, but I figured to kick off a tribal series it’s best to start with a look at tribal enablers. These are the cards that are auto-includes in almost every tribal deck, as they can have huge effects on your entire team. Specifically I’m going to discuss cards that grant a powerful advantage to a creature type of your choice, anthems in general, and how to beef up the creature count of the more sparsely-populated tribes.

Choose a Creature Type, Any Creature Type

Cavern of Souls is creeping back towards being prohibitively expensive for casual players, but it slides right into any tribal strategy. Producing any colour of mana for your on tribe’s creatures is always great, but adding uncounterability can make sure you can stick your general or tribal lord when you need to. Given its price and the fact that you might just want to pump out a mass of creatures (and don’t care if some get countered), I’m not going to say it’s an absolute essential; still, no deck will suffer from its inclusion.
In terms of tribe specific power and toughness boosts, Door of Destinies makes your favoured creatures larger and larger the more you cast, and Adaptive Automaton is an auto-include as a lord for any creature type. (For those not familiar with old school jargon, a “lord” is a creature that grants extra power and toughness and/or abilities to creatures of a certain type). This is especially useful for tribes that don’t have a ton of specific support; Coat of Arms is another fantastic standby, and depending on the size of your army, can just win the game the turn it’s cast. Be sure to take a careful read of the board first, though – it can wind up buffing your opponents’ creatures as well. There are few worse feelings than losing due to your own Coat of Arms.

If you’re playing black and a lot of non-tribal utility creatures, you may consider Conspiracy to help out your non-tribal dudes. Personally I’ve never found this necessary, but you may enjoy it.

Allow Me to Play You the Song of My People – Anthems in Tribal EDH

Because tribal decks are almost always creature focused, anthems (enchantments or artifacts that buff all your creatures) can be very helpful. Figuring how many anthems to play and which serve your needs best can be tricky, however. We’re long past the days of Crusade; we’ve been very spoiled for anthem options these days, so we need to be picky. You might reserve three-to-five spots in your deck for anthems, so you want them to do a lot. Obelisk of Urd might look exciting at first glance (especially in a weenie or token heavy deck due to Convoke), but Eldrazi Monument probably helps those same decks a lot more.
Consider mana costs too. I know EDH is the format of high-cost spells, but your curve is still important. If all you do on turn six is cast Collective Blessing, your creatures will be a fair size bigger, but that still doesn’t feel like enough value to me. I would almost always rather throw down Spear of Heliod instead. My creatures will only be a tiny bit bigger, but I’ll be able to cast another creature or leave up mana to activate its ability, making sure any opponents will think twice about attacking me.
(Choosing the right anthems is definitely tricky, and is something I’m still feeling out as I develop as an EDH deck-builder and player. Let me know in the comments what your auto-include anthems are!)

Changeling it Up

Some tribes are light on super-playable creatures, so you might want to consider broadening your army. The Lorwyn creatures with ‘Changeling’ can add bodies if you’re desperate. While most probably won’t be effective enough to make the cut in EDH, the ones with the ‘champion’ mechanic such as Changeling Titan are big enough for their mana cost that they can find homes, and Mirror Entity can fit in most white decks no matter what they are.

Lab Grown Specimens

These next two cards help breed your army. Volrath’s Laboratory will get you a 2/2 of the colour and type of your choice; hopefully your lords and anthems are buffing that power and toughness, because the mana outlay is pretty high for my tastes.
Riptide Replicator is a better option. It requires a higher initial investment, but the upside is so much better. Great for a late game mana sink, being able to pump out 10/10s that are aligned with your tribe of choice is nothing to scoff at. It’s still a bit slow, and I find it’s always close to the top of my cut lists, but it usually manages to hold on to its place in the deck for a while longer.
It should be obvious, but it’s embarrassingly tripped me up in the past – these tokens are vanilla. Don’t go expecting them to fly just because you name “Bird” as their creature type. (That was not my finest hour.)

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That’ll do it for this week. I’ll be starting off this tribal series properly next time with what I consider my most fun EDH deck –  Snakes. You may fear the likes of Nessian Asp in Limited, but until you’ve faced down the massive power and card advantage Seshiro, the Anointed provides, you don’t know fear.

Until then, what are your tribal auto-includes? What tribes do you lead into battle? Which ones do you want to learn more about? Hit us up in the comments below or @Wooberg on Twitter

-Jason