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Brewer's Minute: The Competitive Advantages of Ixalan's Tribes

Hey, everyone! It's time for another Brewer's Minute. Last week, we talked about some steps to building tribal decks, and one of the things we talked about was figuring out the tribe's competitive advantage. This week, we'll build off of last week's episode and talk about the competitive advantages of the tribes coming to Standard with the release of Ixalan! What are the reasons to play Vampires, Dinosaurs, Pirates, and Merfolk and how do you go about building around these tribes? Let's break it down!

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Vampires—Go Wide

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The competitive advantage of Ixalan Vampires is that they are really good at going wide with tokens. Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle and Call to the Feast help to support this plan by putting multiple Vampires onto the battlefield with just one card, and then Sanctum Seeker gives the tribe a payoff for having a lot of Vampires on the battlefield. This suggests that when you sit down to brew Vampires for Standard, your main focus will be on having a strong curve, hopefully starting on Turn 1, and then topping things off with Sanctum Seeker as a finisher. Cards that put multiple Vampires onto the battlefield will be particularly valuable. Most likely, the utility slots in the deck will be spent on removal and possibly discard to help get blockers out of the way and allow Vampires to close out the game quickly. 

Merfolk—Go Tall (with +1/+1 counters)

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While Merfolk in Ixalan do have some go-wide elements, their main game plan is to to play creatures and them make them huge with +1/+1 counters, which is an interesting twist on Modern Merfolk, which has a similar plan but uses traditional lords rather than +1/+1 counters. One big reason to be excited for Merfolk in Ixalan is that, out of all of the tribes in Ixalan, the tribe is the best home for Metallic Mimic, which not only gives the deck a two-mana lord but a two mana lord that naturally supports that +1/+1 counter plan. The biggest question for Merfolk is how to use the utility slots. Blue and green aren't really known for good removal, and ramp is likely out of the question, since most of the Merfolk are cheap, so it's possible that Merfolk end up splashing another color. Could they go black for Winding Constrictor to further support the +1/+1 counter plan? 

Dinosaurs—Go Big

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Dinosaurs are weird. While it's possible we'll have enough support to build an aggressive Dinosaur list, it's hard to imagine that Dinosaur aggro will be as good as some of the other tribal options. As such, what Dinosaurs really want to do is go big by playing ramp in the early game and then huge, massive threats in the mid- to late game. As far as building Dinosaurs, there are a couple of things to consider. Most importantly, Dinosaurs are the least tribal focused of all the Ixalan tribes, which means unlike other tribes, where you really need a critical mass of tribe members to make the deck work, with Dinosaurs, you can play more utility cards and fewer Dinosaurs. The most likely Dinosaur deck will probably look a bit like the Eldrazi Ramp decks we've had in our current Standard, with ramp in the early game, some good removal, and then huge Dinosaurs to close the deal.

Pirates—Go Tempo

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Pirates are the tempo tribe. They might not have the biggest creatures or the ability to go wide, but they have an entire bag full of tricks. Many of their threats are small but make up for this by being evasive, like Fathom Fleet Captain and Daring Saboteur. They also have good tribal disruption like Hostage Taker, Siren Stormtamer, and Kitesail Freebooter and a strong card-advantage engine in Ruin Raider. This means that Pirates will likely end up playing similarly to Delver or Faeries, making them the best tribe to take advantage of some of the new, cheap interactive spells coming in Ixalan like Spell Pierce and Lightning Strike. These utility spells offer even more tricks, and the combination of good, cheap spells and disruptive, annoying creatures will be key to making the archetype work.


Anyway, that's all for today. Hopefully, this breakdown of the Ixalan tribes will be helpful when you sit down to build around them now that the full spoiler is out. Which tribes are you most excited to build around? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions below, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at 

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