Tribal Update Report: Commander 2019


The Tentacled One
This will be a much smaller report, which could be good news for everyone involved. Commander 2019 only has 59 new cards, and many of those are rather specific to commander-based formats. Some of the new cards are totally irrelevant for our purposes. Still, it’s worth noting that some of the most powerful tools for tribal decks came out of previous commander products.

On with the report!

New Tribes
There’s another new Tier 8 tribe. The “Sculpture” creature type was created for the card Doomed Artisan.

New additions to existing tribes
Ape: One new card. No apparent application for the tribe.

Artificer: One new card. The card is decent, but probably not relevant.

Berserker: One new card. Possibly playable in a kind of Hellbent-like deck.

Cat: One new card. Despite having combat-focused abilities and an efficient bulk, I don’t think it makes the cut.

Centaur: One new card. It’s a potential gamechanger for a mostly lackluster tribe.

Cleric: One new card. It’s fine but not valuable to a Spirit Tribal deck, despite its explicit tribal synergy.

Demon: One new card. I suspect that the power level of big demons has crept well past the point that this card is a useful addition to the tribe.

Devil: One new card. New sets have been giving us a lot more additions to this tribe than it used to see, but they’ve had no cohesive themes and little in the way of tribal synergies. The random element kills the potential of this card.

Dinosaur: One new card. Interesting and tough to evaluate. On its own, the card is expensive, but can kill some stuff. If the right synergy could be incorporated into a dino deck, this creature could wipe away blockers and let you kill opponents with big attacks. Unsure if it makes the cut in what is already a strong tribe for big creatures.

Djinn: One new card. The colored mana requirements make this seem an unlikely choice, but the abilities are something that could spice up Djinn Tribal.

Dragon: One new card. Potential applications in some kind of casual deck, but the ability isn’t helpful for tribal formats.

Druid: Two new cards. I don’t think that they help this tribe, but they’re not necessarily bad.

Elf: One new card. No impact for this tribe.

Goblin: One new card. In some circumstances it would be useful, but it’s too conditional for such a robust tribe.

Hellion: One new card, which is a bad card.

Horror: One new card. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this card, mostly as a commander. But I am unconvinced. Despite the interesting potential of something like K’rrik, I don’t think the card is actually useful for this tribe.

Human: Eight new cards. Some would be especially interesting for a less powerful tribe, but here they make no impact.

Kor: One new card. We got a new tool for this tribe earlier with Giver of Runes. This one isn’t quite as good, but could be used to ensure that your equipped attacker gets through.

Minion: Two new cards. The new Chainer has some potential here and might be a boon to the tribe.

Minotaur: One new card. It is a four-drop, so the tribe continues to miss out on the lower end of the curve.

Monk: One new card. It probably strengthens the tribe a bit.

Naga: Two new cards. Both are based around the Morph mechanic, which wasn’t something that Naga Tribal especially needed to take advantage of. It is an option, but I don’t think it’s a strong one.

Phoenix: One new card. Its ability is specific to Commander formats.

Pirate: One new card. The same one for goblins, actually. Same problem, too. Its ability isn’t bad, but it is dependent on opponents’ playstyles.

Scarecrow: One new card. It almost certainly boosts the tribe’s power, but not enough to get it into the vaunted Tier 2.

Shaman: Three new cards. Colors are all over the place, but these new legendary creatures are decent and could potentially serve the tribe well.

Shapeshifter: Two new cards. Both are fine. The new Volrath is a bit disappointing to me personally as a Commander card, but could easily take over tribal games, even against opponents using strong Tier 2 tribes. Like most shapeshifters, these cards might not do as much against weaker opponents, but they don’t need to.

Snake: One new card. The same one that apes got, actually. That’s right, this set has an ape snake, because WotC have been irresponsible in their self-administration of various psychoactive substances. Snake Tribal both can make better use of Thieving Amalgam than Ape Tribal could, and has less need for this kind of conditional powerhouse anyway.

Soldier: Two new cards. Probably not helpful for this tribe. Also, why the hell is Gerrard a soldier anyway? Not really his role in the lore at all except for the time he trained some rebels on Mercadia.

Sponge: One new card. At this rate Sponge Tribal will be able to leave Tier 7 in 2049!

Troll: One new card. Probably not worth it.

Vampire: Three new cards. They don’t really fit into the themes for the tribe and wouldn’t be worth running.

Wall: Two new cards. They probably help more in Commander formats than in tribal ones.

Warrior: Three new cards. As usual, I have no idea how to evaluate this tribe.

Wizard: Four new cards. A couple of these gave me some pause, but I think they aren’t worth running in a Wizard Tribal deck.

Zombie: One new card. No impact.

New tribal synergy cards to look out for

Atla Palani, Next Invader: If Egg Tribal weren’t so mind-bogglingly bad, this could be an excellent build-around card. Even now, it’s tempting to try to make Atla Palani work in an Egg Tribal deck. But yikes, the hurdles are severe.

Ghired, Conclave Exile: Token generation has never really been Rhino Tribal’s specialty, but Ghired just might be enough value on its own to be worth running. Any tribal synergy used with rhinos, any at all, and Ghired is looking pretty good.

Overall set analysis
Commander products are, first and foremost, designed for the Commander format. The scope of these reports isn’t really meant for that environment. I think I explained this well enough in the initial big report, but it’s worth a note here anyway. With 100 card decks and all cards except basic lands restricted, you’re starting from an entirely different point for decks based around creature types. Populous tribes are heavily favored and some decent tribes with strong synergy and few members are ruled out entirely. The color identity rule and the existence of a commander in the command zone totally change the validity and available options for tribes.

These Commander products introduce smaller numbers of new cards than normal sets, and their focus often means that the new cards aren’t of interest to us anyway. I only started writing these reports this year, but I suspect that this release is about typical for the annual Commander precon release. The exception would have been Commander 2017, which had strong Tribal themes.

Winners and losers for this set? Tier adjustments?
This product is mostly inconsequential, but I’ll note a few possibilities here. Winners might be…
  • Berserkers
  • Centaurs
  • Kor
  • Minions
  • Monks
  • Scarecrows
I can’t think of any losers worth noting for this update.

Ban list update recommendations
None for now.


If we had a Tribal community going here, this wouldn’t change much and we’d get a bit of a break. I anticipate that Throne of Eldraine will introduce much bigger changes to a hypothetical Tribal ecosystem.