The Tribal Throwdown — Building the Surprise Entrants, Part One


It’s no secret, I’ve always liked Magic tournaments. The thrill of doing well is a natural high, and it’s always fun to see who can do the best.

We have a tribal EDH tourney called The Tribal Throwdown coming up on the horizon, where we’ll be smashing the various tribes of MTG (Goblins, Merfolk, etc) together to find out who is the best tribe, and which tribe will come out on top.

As I’ve done for each of our other tourneys, I’ve built a number of surprise entrants for this one. Today, we’ll be looking at these entrants, and discuss them in some detail. Let’s take a look!


As a MTG tournament player at heart, I have always had a spot in my heart for tournaments. I love the excitement of doing well and the thrill of competition, and it’s always been a blast to compete when I can. Hence, every year for the last five years, my little EDH playgroup has hosted a massive EDH tournament between our decks, to crown a champion. This tournament is called The EDH Battle Royale, and this year marked the fifth time we have done this. It’s both casual and highly competitive, and we look forward to who winds up champion each time. This tribal tourney will be following in the footsteps of the Battle Royale events (on a much smaller scale).

Five years ago, roughly around the fall, in the big lull between the fall big set and the February expansion, I set up a swiss-style tournament between all of our EDH decks that I called “The EDH Battle Royale.” The concept was simple: To find out which EDH deck would prove to be the best of the best, from among 32 of our decks in a massive tournament.

That first battle raged fiercely for three-quarters of a month, and when the dust cleared, Sedris, the Traitor King was our ultimate winner of the first ever EDH Battle Royale event. Since that initial tourney, we have done the Battle Royale event four more times, and each time, it’s been a ton of fun.

Now, with a tribal tourney on the horizon, the question looms: which Magic tribe will prove to be the strongest in EDH?

As it turned out, I had some secret tribes put together that wanted their chance to shine in the event!

Going into this event, these were the tribal decks that everyone knew about:

My decks:
Krenko, Mob Boss – tribal Goblins
Darien, King of Kjeldor – tribal Soldiers
Ezuri, Renegade Leader – tribal Elves
Gisa and Geralf – tribal Zombies
Azami, Lady of Scrolls – tribal Wizards
Kangee, Aerie Keeper – tribal Birds
Olivia, Mobilized for War – tribal Vampires
Kaseto, Orochi Archmage – tribal Snakes
Horde of Notions – tribal Elementals
General Tazri – tribal Allies
Sliver Legion – tribal Slivers
Zirilan of the Claw – tribal Dragons

Darby’s decks:
Jazal Goldmane – tribal Cats
Marrow-Gnawer – tribal Rats
Ulrich of the Krallenhorde – tribal Werewolves
Kruphix, God of Horizons – tribal Eldrazi
Thelon of Havenwood – tribal Fungus

Brianna’s decks:
Karona, False God – tribal Angels
Kaalia of the Vast – tribal Angels, Demons, and Dragons
Prime Speaker Zegana – tribal Merfolk
Heliod, God of the Sun – tribal Clerics
Derevi, Empyrial Tactician – tribal Squirrels

Joel’s decks:
Radha, Heir to Keld – tribal Beasts
Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero – tribal Rebels
Reaper King – tribal Scarecrows

Just looking at the list of decks, there are some tribes that stick out to me as potential favorites to win the whole thing: Goblins, Zombies, and Elves. WotC has really pushed these tribes with powerful spells and Lords over the last few years, so I could easily see one of these decks winning it all.

Joel was the question mark going into this event. His work schedule is erratic at best, so we’d have to plan around doing the event without him. With him, we’d need to have 36 decks, cut to a final four; without him, we’d have 27 decks, cut to a final three. Either way, since we only had 22 decks between me, Darby, and Brianna, I had to start building some decks (5 if it ended up being just the three of us, or 9 in case Joel could make it).

Time to get brewing!

I wanted to make sure that any of the surprise decks I built were quite different from this roster of tribes; the surprise decks had to have tribes that no one would expect, or tribes that no one would have built themselves.

So what did I end up building?

The first thing I did when I sat down to build some secret entrants was to pull up Gatherer, and figure out what odd, off the wall tribes had enough tribe members to build a deck around. I kept my list simple; if the tribe had at least 25 creatures, then I could build a tribal deck around it (supplemented by the changeling creatures of Lorwyn if needs be).

These were the odd creature types that I found, who randomly have a ton of creatures printed with their creature type:

62 Drone
95 Demon
41 Mercenary
53 Kor
41 Kavu
67 Archer
48 Elephant
48 Advisor (this is one of the ones I found most surprising)
82 Wurm
29 Wolf
51 Vedalken
44 Skeleton
116 Scout (again, a huge and surprising number)
233 Rogue
41 Orc
27 Ooze
81 Ogre
29 Nomad
34 Imp
81 Illusion
193 Horror
47 Plant (this one was hilarious to me for some reason)
28 Boar
44 Mutant
71 Hound
31 Barbarian
65 Berserker
101 Artificer
127 Construct
42 Djinn
77 Drake
31 Dryad
39 Minion
63 Minotaur
85 Monk

Some of these numbers, I found really surprising. Considering the Monk creature type has only really been emphasized since Khans block, it has a huge number of creatures (85!), especially when compared to something like Barbarians, who have a measly 31 members, and have been around basically since the dawn of Magic.

I knew going into my brainstorming session that I’d want some of these random tribes to be part of the tourney. To eliminate some of the options, I wanted tribes that also had a potential general with that creature type as well.

It turned out that there were several options. Now having said all that, what did I end up building?

One thing I said as soon as we decided to do a tribal tourney was that I wanted to build a tribal giants deck. Back in the day, I greatly enjoyed drafting R/W Giants in Lorwyn block (and to a lesser extent, in Modern Masters 1), so I’ve always had a soft spot for the large oafs.

There were two excellent options for Giant generals (Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas or Brion Stoutarm), but really, who doesnt want to be throwing Giants at people? That made my decision really easy:

R/W Giants decklist:

General (1)
Brion Stoutarm

Creatures (29)
Jötun Grunt
Stinkdrinker Daredevil
Taurean Mauler
Countryside Crusher
Blind-Spot Giant
Hundred-Handed One
Bloodfray Giant
Cragganwick Cremator
Slinking Giant
Desolation Giant
Sunhome Enforcer
Stoneshock Giant
Giant Harbinger
Thundercloud Shaman
Wandering Graybeard
Kalemne’s Captain
Inferno Titan
Sun Titan
Hammerfist Giant
Sunrise Sovereign
Oathsworn Giant
Bloodshot Cyclops
Quarry Colossus
Arbiter of Knollridge
Hamletback Goliath
Magma Giant
Borderland Behemoth
Bloodfire Colossus

Other threats (3)
Pact of the Titan
Opal Titan
Feudkiller’s Verdict

Card drawing spells (6)
Temporary Truce
Reforge the Soul
Tormenting Voice
Well of Discovery

Wrath effects and removal (6)
Austere Command
Tragic Arrogance
Divine Reckoning
Rough // Tumble
Crush Underfoot

Disenchants (5)
Forsake the Worldly
Orim’s Thunder
Aura of Silence
Cast Out
Fiery Confluence

Recursion spells (2)
Profound Journey
Death or Glory

Mana rocks (6)
Boros Signet
Mind Stone
Ruby Medallion
Pearl Medallion
Everflowing Chalice
Hedron Archive

Other spells (2)
Onward // Victory
Glory of Warfare

Land (40)
Ancient Amphitheater
Battlefield Forge
Boros Garrison
Boros Guildgate
Wind-Scarred Crag
Stone Quarry
Temple of the False God
Slayers’ Stronghold
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
15 Mountain
14 Plains
Emeria, the Sky Ruin


I really feel that this deck has a good chance at making a run at the tribal title. There are several Giants that just happen to also double as Wrath effects (Giants like Desolation Giant, Thundercloud Shaman, or Bloodfire Colossus), making this deck play like a slower, more controlling deck than the others in the tourney. I’ve added a number of on-theme Wraths and spot removal, making this deck even more defensive.

The control elements should really give this deck a leg up on the other tribal decks (especially the ones with smaller creatures, like Goblins or Elves), and in theory, I should be able to control them long enough to start dropping Giant after Giant.

As a concession to the very high casting costs of the various Giants, I’ve included a number of mana rocks. Hopefully, this will be my early game, letting me accelerate to big Giants earlier than I’d normally play them.

If the game stalls out, I even have a great lategame, thanks to Brion Stoutarm. I can just throw Giants to kill people!

I like this deck’s chances in the tribal tourney. What did I build next?

This next deck is a strange one, but is pretty cool. When Khans block came out, I was highly impressed to see all of the tribal Warrior support in white, black, and to a lesser extent, red. Between Chief of the Edge/Chief of the Scale, we now had viable Warrior Lords in W/B to pump the tribe, and with Raiders’ Spoils, Warriors now even had on-theme card drawing!

The only issue with the tribe was the general. I originally had this tribal deck slated to be Mardu, W/B/R, but I found that the red cards really diluted the deck (and honestly weren’t really needed anyway). I found that I just wanted the deck to be W/B, but there were no strictly W/B legendary Warriors… or were there?

B/W no-green Warriors decklist:

General (1)
Daghatar the Adamant

Creatures (28)
Bloodsoaked Champion
Mardu Woe-Reaper
Herald of Anafenza
Glory-Bound Initiate
Trueheart Duelist
Herald of Dromoka
Blood-Chin Rager
Mardu Skullhunter
Battle Brawler
Chief of the Edge
Chief of the Scale
Adaptive Automaton
Devoted Crop-Mate
Mardu Hordechief
Hidden Dragonslayer
Mardu Strike Leader
Blood-Chin Fanatic
Moriok Replica
Oketra the True
Timely Hordemate
Dragonscale General
Jazal Goldmane
Bellowing Saddlebrute
Stonehewer Giant
Gilt-Leaf Winnower
Commander Greven il-Vec
Champion of Stray Souls
Butcher of Malakir

Token-making spells (5)
Take Up Arms
Start // Finish
Cartouche of Solidarity
Oketra’s Monument
Secure the Wastes

Card drawing spells (7)
Raiders’ Spoils
Ambition’s Cost
Dark Deal
Night’s Whisper
Painful Lesson
Read the Bones
Harrowing Journey

Wraths and removal spells (11)
Austere Command
In Garruk’s Wake
Reckless Spite
Ashes to Ashes
Grave Pact
Dictate of Erebos
Martyr’s Bond
Malicious Affliction
Utter End
Anguished Unmaking

Disenchants (1)
Forsake the Worldly

Pump spells (5)
Rush of Battle
Grafted Wargear
Obsidian Battle-Axe
Trial of Solidarity
Obelisk of Urd

Recursion spells (3)
Wander in Death
Aphetto Dredging

Land (39)
Command Tower
Murmuring Bosk
Sandsteppe Citadel
Godless Shrine
Concealed Courtyard
Scoured Barrens
Salt Flats
Orzhov Guildgate
Orzhov Basilica
14 Plains
Windbrisk Heights
14 Swamp
Bojuka Bog


Another very simple and no-nonsense deck, this one just wants to play early Warriors and start pulverizing your face. There are lots of removal spells, recursion and card drawing, to keep the beatdown going.

I got around the lack of W/B general by using Daghatar the Adamant, and just ignoring the green mana in his activation cost. Make no mistake, the deck’s color identity may be W/B/G, but there is no green allowed here!

One thing I considered doing with this list was going even more aggro, with one-drops Tormented Hero, Vampire Lacerator, and Dragon Hunter. I’d be able to shave lands from the deck, and kill people that much faster. For now, I don’t trust the deck with less than 38 lands, so I’ve left it as is for the time being.

I like this deck a lot, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action in the tourney. Straightforward aggro is a good way to kill off slower decks like the Giant deck (above), or Brianna’s Angel deck, or Darby’s Eldrazi deck, etc.

What else did I build?

This is a tribal deck that I’ve had put together off and on for the last few years, built mostly around awful Kamigawa cards. It won a round in one of the EDH Battle Royale events, so I’ve never been quite able to bring myself to tear it apart (awful as it may be).

Here’s the most recent list, in all of its awful ‘glory’:

Kodama's mono-green Spirits decklist:

General (1)
Kodama of the South Tree

Creatures (37)
Dripping-Tongue Zubera
Loam Dweller
Spectral Bears
Strangleroot Geist
Shinen of Life’s Roar
Petalmane Baku
Adaptive Automaton
Orchard Spirit
Phantom Nantuko
Ghost-Lit Nourisher
Kami of the Hunt
Elder Pine of Jukai
Phantom Tiger
Pack Guardian
Phantom Centaur
Kami of the Tended Garden
Chameleon Colossus
Briarknit Kami
Ayumi, the Last Visitor
Kodama of the North Tree
Kodama of the Center Tree
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Spectral Force
Forked-Branch Garami
Iname, Life Aspect
Masumaro, First to Live
Primordial Sage
Nightsoil Kami
Jugan, the Rising Star
Phantom Wurm
Bounteous Kirin
Patron of the Orochi
Sekki, Seasons’ Guide
Myojin of Life’s Web

Token-making cards (3)
Honden of Life’s Web
Baku Altar
Riptide Replicator

Card drawing spells (7)
Lead the Stampede
Gift of the Gargantuan
Warriors’ Lesson
Shamanic Revelation
Book of Rass
Grim Flowering

Pump spells (6)
Haunted Plate Mail
Long-Forgotten Gohei
Tribal Unity
Beastmaster Ascension
Roar of Jukai

Disenchants and removal spells (4)
Wear Away
Rending Vines
Gleeful Sabotage
Scour from Existence

Recursion (2)
Creeping Renaissance

Other spells (1)
Time of Need

Land (40)
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Reikai
Rogue’s Passage
Haunted Fengraf
Blighted Woodland
35 Forest


It was really saddening for me that we went back to Innistrad in Shadows Over Innistrad (a block with Spirit tribal cards), but the only green Spirit that I got to add was Pack Guardian.

There’s nothing really much to say about this deck. It just wants to curve out with early Spirits, hit an Overrun effect, and hope to kill someone. Then repeat for as many opponents as necessary. (This is a terrible gameplan and rarely works by the way, which is why this deck isn’t in my normal rotation of decks; the deck has little to no way to react to opposing cards, so more often than not it just rolls over and dies to any threatening opposing card.)

I have this deck back together as a last resort for this tribal tourney; if we cannot get enough decks together, I’ll sub this one in in the last place.

I really hope it doesn’t come to that, though. Playing Kamigawa cards as your main strategy is awful.


So there you have it, those are the first few surprise entrants for The Tribal Throwdown!

I am looking forward to seeing how my EDH tribal decks perform against the other decks, and I can’t wait to see exactly which tribe can run the gauntlet and win the championship. In subsequent articles, I will be going over the various games that we play in this tournament; what wins, what loses, any epic plays made, and our ultimate victor. This should be a very fun and exciting event!

Which tribe will reign supreme in EDH? It’s time for us to find out!


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