Tribal Guide: The Book of Innistrad
A number of weeks ago, I've come to learn about the downside to tribal in a pauper format. In many cases, our options are limited. We have a few tribes with an abundance of options, but for most others, the options are so low, the decks are almost "pre-built" for you. From the perspective of someone wishing to write about tribal in PDH, this can be, to say the least, draining.
After finishing a piece on Merfolk, I found myself feeling exhausted, after completing a task that felt like pulling teeth. I feel that such articles are worth writing, and such information is of value to all, but in order to avoid the risk of writers block, I've decided to change my direction here, and focus on several tribes from a particular plane. Immediately, I had decided that Innistrad was where I would go first.
Two tribes crossed my eye, and I knew immediately this was the next aim. In this piece, I will be highlighting the essential pieces for building all tribal Vampire or Werewolf decks, despite your play style. For those wondering, "What about Angels?" I did pursue this, and I've concluded that at this time, tribal angels are simply not feasible. However, after seeing some exciting options below, I hope that this will inspire some future brews. I'm going to start this breakdown with Vampires, then follow it up with Werewolves. Let's begin!
If you're going to play tribal vampires, you have three choices of commander. It's not many choices, but these are all pretty good, overall. You have some choices in color, and a few options in strategy. With the recent passing of Rivals of Ixalan, the entry of Legion Lieutenant, although very similar to Stromkirk Captain, opened up another choice of color, therefore more building options. These are your three options for tribal vampires, and any of these will serve you well!
Looking above, one thing is certain: you're playing black. Although Black tends to use your life as a resource, many vampires legal in the 99 have Lifelink, so this isn't a problem. Embrace the versatility that black provides. So, whether you decide to go Red or White, you need to run these vampires below.
These should appear in any build, as they will support a leading theme behind vampires. These creatures want to attack, and they want to give you a life total advantage in the process. This will be a defining idea for how vampires should function, and these pieces above will serve you in that goal.
In regards to splashing white or red, there is very little I can say, as there are few things worth mentioning. However, I will comment that these white creatures serve our theme stated above. Heirs of Stromkirk is a card that I have mentioned before, as an essential red creature for so many different style decks. It is no exception here, and should not be omitted for any reason. That concludes creature talk, so let's see what left for the 99.
So, from here onward, things become rather vague, especially where we have seen such a strong vibe regarding lifelink, and dealing small amounts of damage over time. More importantly, with this theme previously established, there is a real push to add white. This tends to press our choice of commander in one specific direction. However, your hands are not tied. Because there are simply too few demanding options, Vampires will require an additional amount of creativity to be added, regardless.
As you can see, there are few enchantments, but any of these will do work for you. However, be warned. Contaminated Ground and Curse of the Pierced Heart will make you an enemy, and there will be no redeeming yourself there. They suit the theme, but they're personal hits. So, be careful. An enchantment like Ajani's Mantra, on the other hand, will do some really nice work if played early. It isn't a direct threat to anyone else, so destroy spells will be drawn to more prominent targets. Your opponents will eventually catch on to the life gain, but hopefully you will build up a nice cushion first.
When it comes to non-permanents, this really nails the point for running Legion Lieutenant as your commander. Red has absolutely nothing to offer us, and white has some great creature protection for those strong battle phases. Drain your opponents' life totals, and raise yours. That is the name of the game here. On that note, that concludes our discussion about what you can do for vampires. Now, let's prepare to dive into the world of Werewolves.
Now that we have concluded our business on Vampires, I am going to bring us down memory lane, to the Eldritch Moon spoiler season. For many of us, who also enjoy EDH, we were hyped for a Werewolf commander, and then given the moist handshake that was Ulrich of the Krallenhorde. I'm not sure we will ever have this hunger satisfied in EDH, but PDH has already answered this call for tribal werewolves.
Although accommodating to both wolves and werewolves, Immerwolf brings something special, preventing our transformed werewolves from turning back into humans. As far as options go for tribal, this is your only option. However, with that being said, this option is fantastic. You have absolutely no reason to explore other options. Immerwolf is the single best option.
It's important for us to discuss the traits of werewolves legal in the 99 in order for us to have a better understand as to why Immerwolf the absolute best choice, without another thought. Werewolf creatures are difficult to transform from humans, but easy to transform back. Let's take a quick look at an example, to get a better understanding of this.
Two sides of a single card, and a prime example of a common werewolf creature, Convicted Killer requires you to not cast a spell during a turn. This is a large sacrifice, as by looking at Branded Howler, you can see the condition for transforming back is quite common to occur. This right here, is where Immerwolf shines the most. Immerwolf will not only beef up your werewolves, but will also keep them strong. This begins to shape how such a deck is to be constructed, and begins to create some rigidness to options.
With that being said, we're here to build TRIBAL WEREWOLVES, so let's focus on how we are going to make this work. There are a few ideas that we need to explore when building this deck.
1. Protecting Immerwolf.
2. Not casting spells on our turn.
When seeking the spells you need, you need to take the above into consideration. First, let's take a look at some of our essential creatures. However, be warned, they're not all Wolves.
You have many options, but the noted above are your absolute musts. The important cards to discuss, are the remaining five creatures. I've said before, we require the luxury of not casting spells on our turn. We are going to need creatures with Flash, and we need utility from those creatures. This begins to further shape the strategy, and dictate what we must add for the remaining 99.
Thinking about the above stated focus, dictates how to pick the best enchantments for this deck. We need to protect Immerwolf in any way possible, and we need to be able to cast these spells on the opponents' turns. This again, returns to the necessity for "Flash" spells. We want Immerwolf to be large, and have opportunities to regenerate. Where it is so vital to the strategy, there is no problem with redundancy.
As far as non-permanents go, the two pieces above are an absolute must. Depending on how you decide to style your deck, you may have situations where not casting on your turn simply isn't an option. Especially during the later game, wasting turns can be incredibly dangerous. These two pieces will give you a bit of relief, working around the conditions for transforming.
In the realm of artifacts, there shouldn't be anything here that surprises you. Redundancy is super important for this commander, and you need every bit of protection that you can get. Be careful with when you equip Whispersilk Cloak, as once you do, there's no more further equipping until you remove it first. Trust me, someone will be waiting, and ready.
There is one more danger against this deck, and it will be difficult to prevent. Any opponent playing blue will have a vast assortment of cards at their disposal, allowing them to bounce creatures back to hand. We have almost nothing to prevent this, and that alone can leave all of our werewolves vulnerable to transforming back to humans. It is essential to prepare for this weakness. Any opponent playing blue must become a biased target, if you so choose to play aggressively. On that final note, that concludes Werewolf talk.
In a format that is by nature, limited in available resources, it can feel taxing at times to put together that tribal build that you can experience with other formats. It's not always easy, so I hope that this helps you know where to begin when tacking one of the tribes of Innistrad. Besides, this is the singleton format where Werewolves shine. That is a fact that is hard to ignore.
Share with me your Vampire and Werewolf builds, and let me know what cards you utilize most in your game play. I look forward to seeing your brews, and am eager to bring you the next chapter soon. Prepare for the Tribal Guide, "The Book of Elves," coming in the following weeks!