Tribal Update Report: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms


The Tentacled One
Hey there, I want to try something a little different. So there might not be some exhaustive report on all the different creature types in the new Magic set. At least, not yet. If that's all you're looking for, then check this space again later. A report will be forthcoming. But things worked out a bit differently this time around, and I see it as an opportunity...

If you're in the Warhammer Quest game in the Games Run forum, you'll know that I broke my glasses last week and that my usual snail's pace of updating things in that game came to a complete stop. At work, I was doing most of my tasks with my prescription sunglasses, so I might have been wandering around some hallways looking like a villain in a 1970's movie or something, but at least I could see. Sunglasses were no good for computer screens, though, so I fell behind on anything involving screens. Annoying, to be sure, but I actually didn't fall that far behind on most things (Warhammer Quest excepted).

Two days ago, we had the official release of Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. This is the latest Standard Magic set, taking the place normally reserved for the annual core set. I guess WotC is giving up on core sets again. Usually, I start working on my Tribal reports for each new Magic set the week of the prerelease, shooting to have the whole report written up at least a few days before the official release of the set. I happened not to get that done, but not because of my broken glasses excuse. In fact, I hadn't even started the report! I still haven't. And I won't be starting it just yet, either. You see, this set is kind of weird, but also not one that I consider very exciting for Tribal deckbuilding. Oh, it still warrants a report. But this won't be anything like some of the crazy Tribal sets we've seen lately.

A few weeks ago, I decided that I just wasn't very interested in this new set and wanted to give it some extra time before writing up a full report. I also found another project I wanted to work on, one that I'd hoped to have wrapped up a few days ago. That's a long, totally unrelated article, which I should be posting soon enough. In the meantime, I figured I'd let everyone know that I haven't forgotten about this set. Get it? Ha, that's funny. It's also been a while since we touched base on the whole structure of Tribal Update Reports. Now seems as good a time as any to do that. So here are my questions, for anyone interested enough to take the time to read this stuff...
  • What cards or tribes, if any, are you interested in for D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.
  • How do you feel about this set overall?
  • Any thoughts on WotC ditching the core set again?
  • Should I focus on anything in particular for these Tribal Update reports? Would there be some format change that would improve them?
  • Now that it's been a while since the initial report I started between Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance, I've been thinking of revisiting Tribal deckbuilding and potential Tribal format structure as a whole, rather than the smaller reports that just cover new sets. This would be a bigger project, but I already laid the groundwork for it with the initial report and with these updates, so it's not that daunting. When would be the best time to present a full Tribal report? Should I get to work on that right away so that I can have it out before the next set release? Should I make it a year-end thing? Should I tie it to the three-year anniversary of the original Preliminary Report?
  • Any other thoughts on this stuff?


Isengar Tussle
I haven't even looked at this set yet.
What stupid mechanics have they thought up for this one?


Nothing Special
I'm personally not very interested in tribal as a format, but here are my thoughts.
  • Dragons are the obvious big "tribal" inclusion. Every color has a mythic bomb, plus Tiamat. There's also some smaller half-dragon creatures that could complement a dragon deck, which usually focuses on its big drops. Minion of the Mighty, though not a dragon, could be a useful enabler.
  • The set introduces the "Tiefling" creature type. Not sure there's enough there to build a deck, but they do exist. There's a bunch of bards in the set, as well.
  • I mostly play limited (draft & sealed) and find the rogues pretty interesting, though I'm not sure how they fit in constructed. Krydle could probably work in some decks (great combo with Vorpal Blade). I like Yuan-Ti Malison, but I've heard the dungeon mechanic isn't great outside of limited.
  • Two new oozes in the set, both of which I like. Gelatinous Cube has great flavor (pun intended?), but is rendered useless in mirror matches.
  • Not a creature, but Ranger Class might be the best tribal enabler in the set. Are there any good tribes in green?
  • The Tarrasque is a bomb in limited. Maybe too expensive for dinosaur decks?
I like the set overall, but I'm speaking from limited (pun intended!) experience. The most noticeable mechanics in the set are dungeon-diving, dice rolling and making treasures. I'm not sure any of those are going to make a big splash in constructed formats. Maybe treasures as a ramp / color-fixer?


The Tentacled One
I haven't even looked at this set yet.
What stupid mechanics have they thought up for this one?
I think Turgy mostly covered it already. The big mechanic for this set is the "venture into the dungeon" effect, which is a bit complicated. There's also cards that make you roll a D20. There's a minor new mechanic for creatures called "pack tactics" that does something when the creature is attacking along with other creatures totaling up to 6+ power. There's a bit of an equipment theme and a treasure token theme. There's a new enchantment subtype called "class" that is kind of like the level-up mechanic from Zendikar and kind of like the sagas from Dominaria, but also not like those. There are several dragons.


Staff member
I've had some success with Goblin tribal (especially with the pack attack mechanic) and find that even after September's rotation that my favourite little red guys will still be a threat to be reckoned with...
I've been a little ambivalent on this set as a whole but it's way cooler than I expected. The flavor keyword stuff is a bit overdone but kinda cool. I like the Dungeon stuff. That's really cool especially since it enabled the Aluren + Lich guy dude kill. Neat. All the dragons are a big highlight. So cool. I LOVE Old Gnawbone! He's a big green dragon that makes Treasures! Sweet! I like how Bahamut is a PW. Very cool. Love the design, looks like BT (the electronica artist). The Tarrasque is a bit disappointing but still cool. I like the creature lands, very cool. Portable Hole is great! An Beholders are super cool. Love em. Turned out to be pretty awesome. Also the big boi Goblins are cool too.


The Tentacled One
Well, this report is a bit different, for reasons I’ve already gone over in this thread, but probably not too different. Let’s get to it…

New tribes
Six of them! Without going back and checking, I think that’s the most new tribes I’ve had in any of these reports. The new creature types are as follows.

Bard: Seven members. Four new cards. These guys have no cohesive theme or promising build-around concept I can discern, and their mana curve is bad. Tier 6.

Beholder: Four members. All of them are new cards. What a disappointment. From a flavor perspective, these creatures are an obvious fit for Horror Tribal, and no one would have balked at the idea that the beholders would count as horrors. Since a beholder is generally a monster specific to D&D, we presumably won’t ever get another beholder unless we get more D&D sets. Tier 7.

Gnoll: Two members. All of them are new cards. Not much to say here. This tribe defaults to Tier 7.

Halfling: Three members. All of them are new cards. Same deal. With only three members, this tribe is Tier 7.

Hamster: Zero members. A single new card in this set can make a hamster token. So this tribe is Tier 8.

Tiefling: Eight members. All of them are new cards. Thematically, it seems like Magic copied the idea of a D&D tiefling and used it to make the azra, a race of people that inhabit the world of Kylem. WotC did make azra have some minor differences from how tieflings are usually depicted, and a huge aspect of this set turns out to be shoehorning D&D lore and flavor onto cards, even in ways that become awkward. The result is that we get two distinct creature types that consist of what appear to be hybrids between humans and fiends/demons/devils/whatever. Both tribes have exactly eight members and both are lousy options for a Tribal deck. Tieflings are probably a stronger tribe than azra, but not by much. I’m going to list them as Tier 6 in this report, although a case could be made that they should be Tier 5.

And not quite new...
Ranger: Thirty-one members, but only six of them are new cards. The reintroduction of this tribe isn’t actually specific to this set, but I didn’t mention it at all in my previous report, so I need to explain what’s going on. The ranger creature type was originally introduced back in Ice Age, but it only had one member: Kelsinko Ranger. When the human creature type was created, Kelsinko Ranger became a human and stopped being a ranger. So Magic did not have this as a creature type for a long time, and before that, it only applied to one card anyway. Modern Horizons 2 didn’t introduce any new rangers, so I had nothing to say there. I should have noted that the set technically revived the ranger creature type, although they only reprinted two cards with the type and no rules update followed to provide errata to other old cards. In hindsight, it’s obvious that they were getting ready to reintroduce this creature type for the D&D set, which makes sense because it’s one of the playable classes in D&D.

This tribe happens to have some hilarious infinite combos, and now I can’t think of anything else. You can get pretty cheesy with ranger, but overall, I’d rate this tribe’s potential as being Tier 3.

New additions to existing tribes
Angel: Two new cards. They’re mediocre.

Archer: One new card. It’s pretty good and I think I’d run it.

Artificer: Two new cards. This is the first of the official D&D classes we’ll cover in the D&D-themed set, but it is also the one that WotC tends to disregard a lot, which might be why we only see a measly two new cards. I think the cards themselves are fine if you were already potentially going to run white. Probably not enough on their own to justify playing white, and in Magic this tribe is heavily weighted toward blue. But there’s some potential here. Too bad the most powerful old artificer in white, Argivian Archaeologist, is over $200.

Barbarian: Six new cards. This is another official D&D class, and one of the ones that is weakest as a creature type. These cards are mostly unremarkable and don’t do much to shore up a deficient tribe.

Basilisk: One new card. As the first two-drop basilisk, this thing is an automatic 4-of in Basilisk Tribal.

Bear: One new card. It’s bad.

Beast: Three new cards. No impact.

Bird: Three new cards. Nothing too promising. You could use the blue one or even the white one if you really wanted to, but neither is an important development for the tribe.

Cat: One new card. Not suitable for the tribe.

Citizen: Two new cards. These are the first actual creature cards in the tribe. Citizen Tribal is officially departing Tier 8 and getting a promotion to Tier 7. It only took 27 years. At this rate, Citizen Tribal will actually become a valid deckbuilding option in the year 2075. Good luck.

Cleric: Six new cards. Here we see another official D&D class and the first one that is actually a strong tribe in Magic as well. Nothing here strikes me as revolutionary, but there are some good cards that would be worth testing out.

Devil: Two new cards. Both are black. I promise I’m not trying to link every mention of devils to last year’s WotC-imposed ban/censorship of Stone-Throwing Devils, but we have a situation in which a weak red tribe had its decent black one-drop put on the naughty list, and then other black cards started getting added to the tribe. It’s awkward.

Dinosaur: One new card. It’s expensive, but not too bad.

Djinn: One new card. Draft fodder.

Dog: Two new cards. They’re interesting, but neither shores up the deficiencies of this tribe.

Dragon: Twenty-one new cards. Wait, what? Oh, I guess the set does have “dragons” in its name. I think the only set with more dragons in it than this one is Dragons of Tarkir. Nothing here strikes me as a mandatory game-changer for what is already a strong tribe. But there are several ways to try taking Dragon Tribal, and this set does provide options.

Druid: Six new cards. A couple of potential upgrades or alternatives that are worth considering.

Dryad: One new card. It’s good. Yet again, I find myself wondering if Dryad Tribal should be promoted.

Dwarf: Nine new cards. I suspect that existing options are mostly better, but anyone running a Dwarf Tribal deck should certainly test some of these out. A Dwarf Tribal deck with an equipment subtheme could really be pretty strong.

Elemental: Three new cards. Probably no impact, but treasure tokens have become so good lately, and one of these might be worth keeping in mind.

Elf: Twenty new cards. This set decouples “racial” creature types from their typical colors, so we actually get elves in all five colors. Interesting, but ultimately irrelevant: mono-green or green with a splash (usually black) is already so overwhelming with this tribe that it outcompetes almost every other tribe in the game. There’d be almost no appeal in a white/blue Elf Tribal deck or whatever, and likely no environment to play such a deck. A couple of these might be worth testing anyway.

Elk: One new card. It’s probably one of the strongest elk to date. So I guess Elk Tribal needs to run white now.

Faerie: One new card. I doubt that rolling dice will catch on as a mechanic in any format with a card pool extending much beyond this set. Maybe eventually that will change. I don’t know whether WotC consider the experiment of making dice a mechanic to have been successful. But for now, this is a dead end.

Frog: One new card. I haven’t looked at this tribe in a long time, but this new card almost certainly has to be better than something that a Frog Tribal deck would have run in the past. It’s not amazing, but it’s strong.

Gargoyle: One new card. It uses the venture/dungeon mechanic, and the tribe doesn’t really support that.

Giant: Four new cards. Despite a couple of interesting abilities, I don’t see anything here that the tribe can really take advantage of.

Gnome: Four new cards. So, way back in Legends we got a red creature named Quarum Trench Gnomes (it has an ability that causes Plains to produce colorless mana instead of white). Other than that, Magic has stuck to keeping gnomes as artifact creatures. In D&D, gnomes are one of the default race options (this was probably the same inspiration for Quarum Trench Gnomes). So this set introduces three new blue gnomes and one new white gnome. This is quite the departure from Gnome Tribal’s usual toolset, and the abilities of these new gnomes are not at all cohesive. The white gnome is also an artificer and is probably better in Artificer Tribal, but could work here too.

Goblin: Seven new cards. Of course, Goblin Tribal is already so powerful that new cards aren’t even of interest. Ha ha, just kidding. Some of these new goblins are spicy additions to the tribe, and I could see myself testing at least three of these as candidates for a deck. Oh goblins. You’re still the best.

God: Two new cards. This tribe was initially somewhat hobbled by the nuanced restrictions on when its members could participate in combat, but since I’ve started doing these reports, that has changed. I don’t think either of these new cards contributes anything meaningful, but the prospect of getting enough gods together to make something happen is looking almost viable.

Golem: Two new cards. One of these is both better and worse than Juggernaut (not a golem itself), which is intriguing from a certain historical perspective. No impact though.

Horror: Five new cards. They’re not bad, but none of them are cheap, efficient threats and none of them are top-of-the-curve bombs either. They’re generally midrange stuff with utility, and the competition for slots in Horror Tribal is pretty deep there. I think all of these are probably too expensive to make the cut.

Horse: One new card. It’s also an illusion, and its ability might even be functional in that tribe. Horse Tribal is so bad.

Human: Thirty new cards. Blah, blah, blah. It’s the usual spiel about humans. In every set, they get more new cards than any other tribe. They’re in every color and get access to almost any ability or mechanic you’d want.

Hydra: One new card. There are better options.

Illusion: One new card. It seems good, although I can’t immediately pinpoint how I’d use it.

Jellyfish: One new card. I don’t think that Jellyfish Tribal splashes white for something like this.

Knight: Seven new cards. One of the classes in D&D is “paladin” and the closest Magic creature type to approximate that is the knight. Mostly, these cards aren’t good fits for Knight Tribal, but a couple of options here do present some serious power.

Kobold: One new card. Huh. I didn’t expect to have to consider this, but a Kobold Tribal deck with some copies of Kobold Taskmaster and a few other cards that boost the power of multiple creatures at the same time (either while attacking or in general), you could easily use this new card to start aggressively cheating out dragons. I don’t think it’s a great deck or anything, but it’s new and could be exciting. Good luck collecting that set of Kobold Taskmaster, though. Too rich for my blood.

Lizard: One new card. I like the ability, but the tribe can’t really take advantage of it. It’s also a druid, and that tribe cantake advantage of it.

Manticore: One new card. This tribe used to just be red and bad. Now they can also be black and bad.

Monk: Three new cards. Since this is another D&D class, I’m surprised we don’t get more. Barbarian, cleric, and druid all got six new cards. Looks like the contributions of this set to Monk Tribal are pretty weak, which is fitting because this is also a rather deficient class in 5th Edition D&D.

Ogre: Two new cards. No impact.

Ooze: Two new cards. Here we see actual cards for two of the most iconic oozes in D&D, likely inspirations for the creature type in Magic in the first place. Both are flavorful and both are also kinda decent when it comes to actual playability. Ooze Tribal needs something better than just kinda decent.

Orc: Five new cards. Again, we see a well-established “race” in Magic branch out into colors based on “class.” That’s tough though, because Orc Tribal was solidly mono-red or red with a black splash, and the new orcs here are spread out across four colors (not black).

Pegasus: One new card. Draft chaff.

Rogue: Ten new cards. Here’s another D&D class, and there are some nice cards to be found, but nothing jumps out at me as a good fit for Rogue Tribal.

Shaman: Six new cards. In the same way that knights in Magic became the stand-in for the D&D paladin class, shamans have become the stand-in for the D&D sorcerer class. I have to say that it feels a bit more forced this time around, though. There are some good cards here, but nothing that Shaman Tribal seems poised to use.

Skeleton: Four new cards. I want them to be good, but I don’t think that they are.

Snake: Two new cards. Both use the dungeon mechanic, so they’re not great for our purposes.

Soldier: Two new cards. They don’t really work in a Soldier Tribal deck.

Spider: One new card. It’s a spider that makes more spiders, so that’s fun. I don’t think your typical Spider Tribal deck is going to splash black for this thing, though.

Spirit: Two new cards. One of them can be flashed in to help the rest of your team dodge a board wipe. I’d strongly consider running that.

Troll: One new card. Not worth it.

Turtle: One new card. It can tap a creature for a bit, which might be of interest in the right setup.

Unicorn: One new card. It scales well with lifegain, something that Unicorn Tribal is probably trying to do a lot of anyway.

Vampire: Two new cards. They’re probably not amazing enough to make the cut in Vampire Tribal.

Wall: One new card. Probably irrelevant. This card is a good way to ensure that you complete dungeons, given enough mana over time. So if you do build a dungeon-based deck, there’s that. I guess.

Warlock: Seven new cards. Warlock is a D&D class. Low impact, but some marginal utility that might be of interest.

Warrior: Eight new cards. I just realized that this is the Magic stand-in for the D&D fighter class. Duh. Nothing too impressive here, though.

Werewolf: One new card. It’s interesting, although I don’t really see myself using it.

Wizard: Ten new cards. Save the best of the D&D classes for last, right? There are some good creatures here, but none jump out at me as being good for Wizard Tribal decks.

Worm: One new card. It’s big, but kind of bland.

Zombie: Seven new cards. Frustratingly, a few of these have abilities that look strong, then by the time you finish reading the whole card, your hopes are dashed. I wouldn’t rule out testing a couple of these cards, but they’re real long shots in Zombie Tribal decks.

New tribal synergies to look out for
Death-Priest of Myrkul: A nice synergy for vampires, zombies, and especially skeletons.
Den of the Bugbear: I don’t usually bother with lands that just turn into a creature of a specific type or with cards that are simple token generators with no other synergies. But this land does both and at a reasonable rate in the most synergy-packed tribe. It’s good.
Dragon’s Disciple: I mean, if you’re in a white-heavy Dragon Tribal deck, why not?
Dragon’s Fire: In some environments, this would be a decent removal spell in a Dragon Tribal deck.
Minion of the Mighty: Not too surprisingly, the Dungeons & Dragons set has some Dragon Tribal synergies.
Minn, Wily Illusionist: The Illusion Tribal synergy here is bonkers.
Skeletal Swarming: Spooky, scary skeletons!
Temple of the Dragon Queen: Worth consideration as acceptable mana-fixing in a five-color Dragon Tribal deck.
The Book of Exalted Deeds: This isn’t necessarily best employed in an Angel Tribal deck, but it could work.

Overall set analysis
Having gotten to play with some of these cards and experience the set a little bit more, my overall impression is mostly positive. It’s not a power-packed set, but the shift in focus on which creature types get which things is refreshing. Personally, I’m still rather annoyed with the overabundance of what is essentially flavor text appended as prefixes to abilities on cards, but that’s a subjective preference and something I should really try to look past.

I’ve noticed that with these reports, top-down sets sometimes seem a bit weak on overall gains for Tribal formats, but give more opportunities to ordinarily underserved tribes, so results are mixed. That seems especially true here.

Winners and losers for this set? Tier adjustments?
Winners include…
  • Artificers
  • Basilisks
  • Devils
  • Dragons
  • Druids
  • Dryads
  • Dwarves
  • Elves
  • Frogs
  • Goblins
  • Humans
  • Illusions
  • Kobolds
  • Rangers
  • Unicorns

The two most prominent losers would seem to be constructs and horrors, both of which would have been in-flavor for some spicy cards with this setting. Constructs got absolutely nothing and horrors had half of their potential new toys shoved into the new beholder type. They’re extremely strong tribes anyway and didn’t necessarily need help, but the competition, particularly from elves, goblins, and humans, might have just gotten that much better.

For now, I want to hold off on recommendations for tier list adjustments. However, I will note that I’m recommending the newly revived Ranger Tribal for Tier 3.

Ferret kind of called it already. Goblins sure are good. Anyway, for Tribal formats, I think that this has been a pretty good set.
The Goblins in the set are surprisingly good, not even counting something like Den of the Bugbear. Love it. Really appreciate all the work you put in for these things; that's a lot of words!