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Much Abrew: Kor Tribal?!? (Modern)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. A few days ago, I was browsing through decklists that went 5-0 in Modern leagues on Magic Online and suddenly noticed something shocking: Kor Tribal! At least, before Zendikar Rising, I considered Kor to be roughly on par with notoriously janky tribes like Kithkin and Skeletons, but thanks in part to some powerful new Zendikar Rising additions like Akiri, Fearless Voyager and Skyclave Apparition, GuardianShield actually managed to go 5-0 in a Modern league with the tribe! I knew immediately that we had to try out the deck. I mean, how can you resist a good Armament Master beatdown? Could Kor actually be a playable tribe in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Kor Tribal?!?

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Discussion

  • Record-wise, our experience with Kor Tribal was mixed. Technically, we finished with a 2-3 record in a Modern league, which isn't exciting on its face, although considering that two of our three losses came to degenerate graveyard-based decks (Oops, All Spells and Dredge) in games where we actually found Rest in Peace for Turn 2 but our opponent happened to have the answer, I have to think that the deck is at least a little bit better than our record suggests. Our deck would much rather play against fair-ish decks like Death's Shadow or even Burn than against all-in unfair graveyard strategies. I think if we played another league and hit different matchups, the deck would have the power to easily 3-2 or 4-1 (and, with luck, 5-0). 
  • So, why play a bunch of Kor together in a deck? The only real answer is Armament Master, which is a two-mana double lord but only if it is equipped (and it can even be a quadruple lord if we get multiple equipment on it). While it might sound strange to warp our deck by playing one traditionally underpowered creature type just to take advantage of Armament Master, the equipment theme of the two-drop dovetails nicely with many of the other best cards in our deck...
  • When it comes to tribal decks, we often talk about the tribe's competitive advantage. What does the tribe do better than anything else? For Kor, the answer is that they are the best equipment tribe. Along with Armament Master, which is extremely powerful if we can get an equipment or two attached to it, we have Stoneforge Mystic to find equipment, Kor Outfitter to attach equipment, and Akiri, Fearless Voyager to generate card advantage with and protect equipped creatures. Add this all together, and Kor have a ton of sweet synergy with our equipment.
  • Speaking of equipment, our equipment package is more of less standard for a Modern deck with Stoneforge Mystic, except we have a couple of extra pieces because Kor like Armament Master and Akiri, Fearless Voyager actively want multiple equipment on the battlefield. Batterskull is a good default target for Stoneforge Mystic since we can use the Kor Artificer to sneak it into play on Turn 3. Sword of Fire and Ice is especially powerful with Akiri, Fearless Voyager, drawing us two cards if we can connect with it, which is a surprising amount of card advantage for a Boros deck. Shadowspear offers lifelink against aggro, and Maul of the Skyclaves has to be one of the most underrated cards from Zendikar Rising, not only equipping for free but also aggressively pumping one of our Kor and sending it to the air to fly over blockers and close out the game.
  • Outside of our equipment and equipment-themed Kor, we have a few filler tribe members. Giver of Runes offers another way to protect whatever creature we load up with equipment. Skyclave Apparition is an absurdly powerful removal spell that also happens to come attacked to an on-tribe body. Finally, Kor Firewalker is a bit hit or miss. In some matchups, it's basically just a Grizzly Bears, while in others (against decks like Burn or Mono-Red Prowess), it can win games almost by itself if we can play it on Turn 2, thanks to its combination of lifegain and protection from red. 
  • Otherwise, in our utility slots, we have Lightning Bolt (which is solid) and Aether Vial, which felt pretty medium in the deck, to the point where we actually sideboarded it out on occasion. I'm honestly not sure that Aether Vial is worth playing at all in Kor Tribal. While cheating on mana is nice, it's also a brutally bad draw on Turn 3 or 4, and Kor don't really have many tribe members that generate additional value when put into play at instant speed (outside of Skyclave Apparition). Next time I play the deck, I'm planning on cutting Aether Vial for the fourth Armament Master, a Sword of Feast and Famine, and a couple of copies of Path to Exile. This very well could be wrong, but I think it's worth trying at least since Aether Vial just wasn't all that impressive in our league. 
  • Shout out to Devout Lightcaster in our sideboard. While we didn't get to take advantage of it in our league, it is really sneaky Kor tech to deal with Death's Shadow / Scourge of the Skyclaves decks, which are super popular at the moment, exiling one of the eight Shadows with its enters-the-battlefield trigger and blocking another forever thanks to protection from black. 
  • This build of Kor Tribal felt very focused on beating decks like 8 Shadow, Death and Taxes, and Humans, which makes sense, considering these are some of the most popular decks in Modern at the moment. On the other hand, even though we somehow managed to beat Tron, it felt like we were lacking the sideboard cards to compete with land-based ramp decks (Tron, Amulet Titan, and various Field of the Dead / Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath piles). Cleansing Wildfire could be an interesting sideboard option for these matchups, and with a few more fetch lands and basic Plains, we could probably even get away with trying to jank people out with Blood Moon
  • So, should you play Kor Tribal in Modern? This is a hard question to answer. On one hand, our 2-3 record wasn't great. On the other, we played some less than ideal matchups, and the deck felt pretty powerful when we weren't getting Dredged and Oops, All Spelled out of the game on Turn 2 or 3. While I don't think Kor Tribal is a legitimate top-tier option in Modern (at least, yet), the deck was more competitive than I expected, and with some more tuning (improved sideboard, no Aether Vial) and the right matchups, it would be more than good enough to 5-0 a league on Magic Online or compete at a Modern FNM. The new Zendikar Rising Kor are huge, huge additions (to the point where Kor Tribal couldn't exist without them). If you like jank tribes and equipment decks, Kor Tribal seems like a fun and at least semi-competitive option to mess around with!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com,



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