What's your favorite set of all time? Every player has one. A lot of the time, our favorites end up being the first set we played with or Ravnica. For me, my first set was Onslaught and I loved it from the very beginning. Goblins battling Angels or Demons gathering clerics to follow them were just a couple awesome things from that block. Onslaught was the first to focus on a creature type mattering. For me, that was all I needed. The mechanics were cool but the flavor of tribes was so interesting to me. Fast forward to today and what you have is a new set coming out that not only has a new flavorful tribal theme but also a fresh genre to play in.
Innistrad gives us five tribes to guide out deck building process. Today we are going to look at the Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Spirits, and yes Humans of Innistrad and get to the bottom of this tribal theme. Are any of these tribes good enough to impact Standard? Are there powerful enough cards to support a deck based on the creature type on the cards you are playing? Let’s find out!
There are a few Zombie cards that stick out for creating a tribal deck. The first card I saw that made me think there was a possibility was Unbreathing Horde.
The horde immediately caught my attention for a couple reasons. The first reason is that no matter when in the game you play it, he is going to be decent. If you happen to draw him late in the game, then he could quite possibly be huge. The fact that he cannot be killed by normal combat damage since he has the "nishoba" ability is an added bonus. Another thing to consider is that normally he should pass the Dismember test.
Diregraf Ghoul is one card that will definitely be involved if there is a zombie deck because he is pure efficiency. Sure he comes into play tapped but if you look at all the cards we lost from Zendikar block you will notice that the majority of aggressive creatures are leaving the format. Diregraf Ghoul could fill a much needed role, whether in this deck or another.
Ghoulcaller's Chant stunned me when I first saw the card. The card's power level is absurd. The issue is that it is extremely narrow. It is a good thing that it says only for zombies otherwise it would be too good. I don't think that sacrificing card quality to just play zombies is worth it but this card might be what pushes zombies over the top.
If we move into blue for some of the new zombies we get some powerful cards. The problem is that the black zombies are geared towards being aggressive and the blue zombies are geared toward combo a little needing so many creatures removed from your grave yard to proceed.
All three creatures are quite powerful but their requirements are high. There is a possibility that Stitched Drake would be fine on its own since one creature dying during the game is fairly regular but the other two require two and three creatures removed. That cost is not a given. There don't seem to be any easy enablers to make these easily playable other than Skaab Ruinator in a Birthing Pod deck.
Other notable Zombies that will still be in Standard are Call to the Grave, Cemetary Reaper, and Skin Render.
Vampires was a successful strategy is past Standard season and I was definitely on board. Innistrad gives us some new vampires to be excited about as well.
The most aggressive vampire is Stromkirk Noble.
If there is going to be an aggressive strategy other than Tempered Steel, Stromkirk Noble will almost certainly be a part of it. This "Slith" ability is going to make Stromkirk Noble very big very fast. It has a little bit of a drawback if you play him later in the game but that is the downfall of aggro. This card seems like part of a core strategy in Standard.
Take a look at Rakish Heir. We didn't get a vampire lord in m12 but we did get one in Innistrad. This lord is a little slower but can have a larger impact on the game. He makes all of your creatures into "Sliths" or gives a second counter in the case of Stromkirk Noble. He seems decent but I am not sure it is good enough.
The vampire tribe may be past its time for competitive play because the quality of cards goes down quite a bit from there. All the rest of these are playable but it has been a while since we have seen as vanilla of creatures as these see much play.
It's not that these cards are bad. Certainly they are decent but they are more the type of cards you would want in limited not Standard. I and others have said that before and then we ended up playing Flayer Husk, so it is feasible, just not likely.
Werewolves done right! Wow! Flavorful, powerful and interesting. The werewolf tribe provides a new mechanic that is almost incomparable to any previous cards. Even the flip cards from Kamigawa Block are quite different as they all require a different activation cost in order to flip them. Werewolves are hard to evaluate because of this lack of comparable data. There is one scary dude that should see play even if the others do not and that is Reckless Waif. This is the perfect type of card that fits right into an aggressive deck. Basically he is a one mana 3/2 and that, you don’t find too often. There are not going to be that many things to do on turn one of the new Standard environment so if you draw him in your opener, he should be a 3/2 the majority of the time. Even if your opponent has a turn one play, you can skip your second turn so that he will flip on your opponents turn. That seems like it would be bad for your game to just not play anything on your second turn but keep in mind, you can play any instants during your opponents turn. So basically you are just keeping up mana to incinerate your opponents turn two play which is not a bad thing anyway and you get rewarded with your aggressive creature.
We may be uncertain of the viability of werewolves in constructed play but they aren't. The prerelease card for example, Mayor of Avabruck, has two powerful effects plus an efficient body to keep the deck aggressive. I'm sure everyone has seen this promotional card by now but have you really stopped to think about what he actually does? Not only is he a two mana 3/3, but he is also a double lord to both humans and werewolves and he puts 3/3 tokens into play for free. What? All for the low cost of having to play instants in your deck that you were going to play anyway? Sign me up.
The verdict is still out on werewolves but here are the other playable ones.
Some of the other ones might be playable but most likely it would be better to just play another creature even if it isn't a werewolf.
Spirits is one of those creature types that does not scream build around me. Some of the cards that have the creature type spirit are build around me type cards but not because they are spirits. I don't think we will be seeing any spirit based aggro decks around anytime soon but take a look at some interesting ones that might spark your interest.
Ok, maybe it's just me but humans? Really? I understand, I do, that the human creature type is a necessity. There are just some cards that are humans. I understand that Innistrad needed humans like America's Got Talent needed a non-singer to win this year or like every magic player that exists needs to read this article and the links within it. Innistrad without humans would be the same thing as a horror movie with out them, pointless. Also, I understand that green white needed a tribe and there weren't other options. I don't have to like it though. One of my favorite parts about magic or any role playing game is the diversity of races. I am escaping into a world of fantasy, why do I care about humans? That is exactly how I feel about the Human tribe. Now, that being said, there are some interesting cards and some strong constructed cards that bear the human creature type so they might make it in the world of constructed magic, but I would rather they were a different creature type.
Rewards for playing humans:
These cards, as well as all the werewolves, just happen to be humans. The fact that they are humans or give you a bonus for playing humans may prove to be important. When we are given a new format to build decks in, the most important thing is to figure out all of your possibilities. In this case, you want to see how each of the tribes interacts with itself. In addition to getting these solid cards that happen to be humans, we also have some more traditional synergistic cards.
There are a lot of reasons to be playing humans in Standard it seems. The overlap between some powerful werewolves, humans, and creatures that happen to be humans might make this aggressive strategy viable. There are a lot of options for building a deck in this direction so a lot of builds will need to be tried in order to see which one is the best use of humans in Standard. Here is a list of other relevant humans already available.
Humans in Standard:
Hero of Bladehold
Hero of Oxid Ridge
Priest of Urabrask
Hilariously Gideon Jura is also a human but I doubt that will be relevant very often. One of the most important cards for a tribal theme is Adaptive Automaton. This card should be considered no matter what tribal deck you are trying to make work. It is not an auto inclusion but definitely a solid card. Tribal decks are fun, popular, and sometimes quite competitive. Hopefully this week, I have shown you some interesting possibilities for this deck type in Standard.
Until next week, Unleash that Tribal Force!