Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are Tribal Cards in Magic?
Tribal spells provide an interesting mechanic in Magic, as they're added to other card types—tribal spells can be anything from instants to enchantments. However, despite their non-creature status, tribal cards carry a creature subtype as if they were a monster.
In addition to their individual abilities, this lets them empower clan-dependent spells, making them great supports for devoted subtypes. But with dozens of kin-related units available, which reign supreme? These are the ten best tribal cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Reach of Branches
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5
As an instant, you can cast Branches at any time, and it creates a 2/5 treefolk shaman token, a useful if underpowered last-second blocker. Additionally, when a forest enters your field, you can return Branches from your graveyard to your hand, making it incredibly easy to retrieve (and great discard fodder).
Plus, 2/5 creatures go from average to deadly when using spells that assign damage using toughness—a common mechanic among treefolk cards.
9. Notorious Throng
While it only activates at sorcery speed, Throng supports multiple groups. It creates X 1/1 faerie rogue tokens with flying, where X is the total damage dealt to the opponent that turn.
That can be a whopping number of aerial blockers, and if you instead cast Throng for its prowl cost of six, it also grants an entire extra turn, one of the best bonuses in the game. Consecutive draws, lands, planeswalker abilities, and combat steps leave foes little room to run from your relentless assault.
8. Faerie Trickery
Another faerie-related spell, this instant counters any non-faerie card. And while it's slightly more expensive than the standard "Counterspell," it sends its target into exile rather than the graveyard, preventing your rival from recovering it. Throw in the faerie subtype, and you have a multifaceted yet inexpensive negation for any blue deck.
7. Militia's Pride
This tribal enchantment has a base price of two, but to activate its effects, you can spend one more when a non-token creature you control attacks. Doing so creates a 1/1 kithkin soldier token that's tapped and attacking.
While the tokens are weak, they give your opponent that much more to worry about, and their easy arrival lets you repeatedly trigger creature-entrance effects. Remember that you can field multiple tokens in a single turn if you have the necessary mana and attacking creatures.
Tarfire works as a slightly weaker yet still formidable version of the infamous "Lightning Bolt," now dealing two damage instead of three to any target. For a one-mana instant-speed spell, that's still an impressive bargain. Plus, Tarfire counts as a goblin, one of the most abundant subtypes in the game (especially in red), granting several potential combos.
5. All Is Dust
This devastating field wipe forces each player to sacrifice any permanents they control that have at least one color. Few commander decks are colorless, meaning this tends to eradicate nearly all opposing forces (excluding lands), and since it doesn't target or destroy, defenses like hexproof and indestructible won't block it.
Of course, the impact hits you as well, but if you're using a colorless or mostly-colorless build (perhaps an Eldrazi or equipment deck), you'll escape relatively unscathed.
4. Merrow Commerce
Along with wizards, merfolk are a prominent blue specialty, and you can support your aquatic allies with this tribal enchantment. For just two mana (one of which can be any color), you get to untap all merfolk you control at the end of your turn.
This is similar to granting them vigilance, ensuring they're available as blockers, and it refreshes any tap effects they may employ. Try chaining with the best merfolk around for a surprisingly battle-competent blue deck.
3. Eldrazi Conscription
While it requires a hefty sum of mana, Conscription is actually cheaper than several Eldrazi warriors, offering a taste of their power to any unit. As an aura, it attaches to a creature, granting +10/+10, trample, and annihilator 2.
This makes any unit lethal, letting them swing with enormous blocker-piercing power, and thanks to annihilator 2, whenever they attack, your victim must immediately sacrifice two permanents.
2. Eyes of the Wisent
With its vast array of draws and counterspells, blue is arguably the biggest threat in commander, and this enchantment provides an excellent defense against its tricks. Whenever an opponent casts a blue spell during your turn, you can create a 4/4 elemental token, punishing them for interfering with your plays.
And since Wisent is a tribal permanent, it stays fielded and empowers any elemental-related effects you employ. I often use Wisent in creature-focused green decks to shield their arrivals, and it's surprisingly cheap for a top-tier card, costing less than a single dollar!
Again, tribal enchantments are useful since they're permanent, ensuring you have time to combo with their added subtype. For just two mana, Bitterblossom has you lose a life at your upkeep but create a 1/1 faerie rogue token with flying.
While these tokens are weak, their aerial prowess, twin lineages, and continuous swarming makes them a fierce threat. Sure, Bitterblossom's effect isn't optional, so it'll kill you if you're at one health, but considering black's prowess with lifelink and the increased life of commander format, this is rarely an issue.
Supporting Tribal Cards in Magic
Many of today's spells work fine even on their own, but be sure to harness their potential by mixing them within their respective clans. Several swarm tokens, and opponents often leave these untouched since destroying them won't eradicate any creatures they've already produced.
Tribal cards support troops while rounding out your deck with non-creature cards, and I look forward to seeing their ranks expand in future sets. But for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next batch of tribal spells, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill