Welcome back one and all to Low Market, and my apologies for my absolutely awful section-title pun. When coming up with budget decklists for this segment, sometimes I need to ponder a little bit before I come across a theme. But as a close friend pointed out: “Bryce, you love tribal decks. Why haven’t you built a tribal deck yet?”
Well that is precisely what we’re doing! We’re going to simultaneously explore tribal themes and the (relatively) new partner mechanic, which allows you to have two commanders so long as both of them have partner in their text. Pay your respects to Ravos and Tymna: we’re going Cleric Tribal!*
*Before I really get into it, I should mention that “tribal” is a term often used to describe a deck with a focus on a specific creature type. This is not to be confused with the card type Tribal, which adds creature types to non-creature cards.
Tribal is yet another angle of attack we can use for building a Commander deck. In some ways, our methods resemble those used in our recent Roon Energy deck, except instead of energy cards, we’re searching for a.) creatures of a given type, and b.) creatures that interact with that type. (Chances are that most cards with cleric interactions will be clerics themselves, but it’s worth double-checking.) This deck wants all of our usual deck building categories – ramp, removal, card advantage, et cetera – but stapled to a cleric when possible.
Oftentimes, I save the “Win Conditions” section for last, but we’re flipping this article on its head: let’s find out how Clerics can kill people first, and we’ll build our strategy from there.
During my cleric-based research I came across one piece of a familiar combo: Daru Spiritualist. Somewhere in the depths of my brain I recalled a set of cards (most of them with “en-Kor” in the name) that can abuse this trigger with their targeted, zero-mana activated ability. One of them, Shaman en-Kor, is even a cleric! Now, a creature with arbitrarily high toughness may be cute, but that doesn’t kill our opponents. However, with one of my favorite lands, Starlit Sanctum, we can gain an arbitrary amount of life and likely a proportionally arbitrary amount of time to grind down our opponents…so long as we avoid death by mill, commander damage, or infect. It’s not often that you get to win via land-based kill, so I take every chance I get to make it happen!
Starlit Sanctum is perfectly indicative of cleric strategies. Frequently our game plan involves numerous creatures, sacrificing, triggering life gain, and causing life loss. On the white side, we can swing with Doubtless One and/or a field of clerics, especially when they’ve been buffed by Ravos. On the black side, we can suck our opponents dry, sometimes with massive effects like Profane Prayers, and other times with gradual bleeding like Pontiff of Blight or Cabal Archon. Cards like Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Falkenrath Noble slot well into this strategy even if they aren’t all clerics.
Mentor of the Meek art by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Especially in a deck with numerous creatures and a low mana curve, we need our fair share of card draw. “But Bryce!” I hear the masses cry, “one of our Commanders provides us with card advantage!” To which I reply, “Yes, she does! But her card advantage is capped by how many opponents we have, and relies on our creatures getting through for damage! Moreover, redundancy is an important element of a Commander deck!” At whatever point that I conclude the self-serving imaginary dialogue, I would tell you that Bygone Bishop and Mentor of the Meek are card advantage engines that slot into our small-creature strategy (the former is even a Cleric!) Former-Standard-boogeyman and current-Commander-boogeyman Skullclamp plays right into the death-half of our strategy, especially with sacrifice outlets like Vampiric Rites.
Rally the Ancestors art by Nils Hamm
Especially in a deck with numerous creatures and a lot of them dying, we’re going to need our fair share of recursion. “But Bryce!” I hear the masses cry, “one of our Commanders provides us with recursion!” To which I reply, “Yes, he does! But his recursion only gets us one creature per turn! Moreover, white/black has some great effects that return multiple creatures at once from our graveyard to the battlefield directly!” At whatever point that I conclude the self-serving imaginary dialogue [and lengthy redundancy comedy bit*], I would tell you that Immortal Servitude and Rally the Ancestors are strong mass reanimation spells. Rally the Ancestors normally exiles all of the returned creatures at our next upkeep, but we have so many sacrifice outlets floating around that I’m confident we can reuse those creatures again and again. Order of Whiteclay is a potentially-repeatable piece of reanimation. I’ll include Holdout Settlement in our land base, in case we want to tap the Order without having to risk its death in combat.
* Strictly speaking, this is probably more of a repetitiveness joke than a redundancy joke, but let’s not split hairs.
Clerics in Magic are often depicted as having very particular ideas of what should and should not be allowed. Consequently, many clerics can destroy or exile a variety of permanents. Considering how many methods we have of sacrificing creatures, False Prophet is an instant-speed exile-all-creatures effect. Blind Zealot is an adorable piece of creature kill that fits in with Tymna’s strategy. Enough of our clerics are incidentally humans that Devout Chaplain enables repeatable exile of artifacts or enchantments. The list goes on!
Immortal Servitude art by Seb McKinnon
On occasion, I like to approach deck building from unconventional angles. Such as, what if every creature in our deck were a one-drop? What if every non-land card were a one-drop? What would that look like? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Swarms of cheap creatures would help maximize the damage wrought by Ravos’ +1/+1 effect, as well as maximize our ability to draw cards off of Tymna. Many draw engines – Mentor of the Meek, Bygone Bishop, Skullclamp – become more efficient. Reanimation gets even easier: not only does Immortal Servitude cost less, but we can use more specific cards like Return to the Ranks and Proclamation of Rebirth. If you too wish to ponder this Sideways Strat, let me know!
It looks like our clerical devotion to budget decks has served us well: by TCG Mid pricing, Ravos and Tymna Clerics clocks in at $45.00. Thank you to Matt B. for suggesting the Partner mechanic, to Rob S. for suggesting a tribal theme, and to you, for your readership! Care to pass a commander or theme suggestion my way? Have you cracked the code to a ridiculously-good one-drop tribal deck? Say hello on Twitter, wave at me on Tumblr, or email me here. And, until next we meet, enjoy your time browsing the Low Market.