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Bear Tribal


In multiplayer Commander, you can build whatever deck you want, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. This is a casual format where the only reward is fun, and if your heart tells you to splash at the top of a waterfall and catch clawfulls of salmon, then by all means play Bear Tribal.

In this article you’ll learn how to flourish with tribal strategies, even ones with more flavor than power. Summoning vanilla creatures onto a battlefield looming with wraths may seem grizzly, but with the right strategy, we can still get our fish.

Ever since that delicious flavor text in Alpha, bears have been an iconic tribe in Magic. A 2/2 creature for two mana is known as a “bear” whether it has claws or not. The archetype of Hate Bears has proven its strength in Eternal formats, but those decks are full of false bears that try to make up for their lack of fur with fancy-pants abilities. Our deck will have true bears because sometimes the flavor we want is vanilla. And if we can succeed with a tribe where the best creatures are vanilla bears, then we can likely design decks for anything.

What our deck lacks in individual card strength and synergy we’ll have to make up for with strategy. Build more than decklists. Craft a game plan. Here’s ours for Bear Tribal.

Step One: Have Fun

Savor life’s honey. You’re playing a card game that allows you to express yourself, and you’re leading an army of bears into battle. After lumbering to the table and resting your haunches, tell people what you’re playing and smile. Let a little fang show. But in a cuddly panda kinda way. Remember that you can’t win every game of multiplayer, but you can always enjoy yourself. When other players see you’re having fun, the gaming experience will be better for everyone. Also, if you have them joking about bear tribal they’re not going to target-fire you. In Commander it’s never bear-hunting season.

Step Two: Play a Bear

In Limited formats, playing a vanilla 2/2 for two on the second turn of the game can be a strong play. In Commander it’s laughable. So laugh. Other players will join in. They will assess you as no threat and turn their attention to brutalizing each other. You could play cards like Steely Resolve, but why bother? No one is targeting your bears.

But you aren’t playing teddy bears. And once the other players have savaged each other, you will have the opportunity to win. In other formats, variance can allow an unfavored deck to steal a victory. In Commander, the player with the weakest start (or deck) can still win after other players feud. In nature, a wolf pack may wear itself out bringing down an elk, only for a grizzly to steal the meat; in Commander, you can scent the blood on the ground and scavenge the game win.

It starts by lowering your profile and hiding behind your vanilla bear. Once everyone else discounts you as the least dangerous player — as they well should — you can proceed with your game plan. Take advantage of your early creature with cards like Keen Sense,

Sixth Sense, and One with Nature. Build up cards but do not overextend.

Step Three: Plan for Wraths

Every tribal deck in Commander needs a game plan for beating Wrath of God. It does bears no good to fatten up for winter if they don’t live through autumn. We’ll use bear-friend Yeva, Nature's Herald as our Commander. Most often she’ll be the second creature we cast. When we’re ready to go in for the kill, we’ll cast the rest of our bears during the last opponent’s end step, untap, and be able to attack before they all die.

Yeva, Nature's Herald

Playing at instant speed will help us avoid wraths. Caller of the Claw or Creeping Renaissance will replenish us after one. Heroic Intervention can save our team. If an enemy casts Blasphemous Act to try to stop your bear horde, the glee you’ll get from flashing-in Vigor will be unbearable.

Over the following weeks I’ll be writing articles for other tribal decks. Each will have its own tactics for overcoming wraths. Sea-Monsters Tribal uses Teferi's Veil and countermagic. Any creature deck can play Eldrazi Monument. Other ones with Green can restock with Fecundity and Praetor's Counsel. And as we all know, Zombies keep on shamblin’.

Step Four: Overrun

Every tribe will have its own flavor of endgame, but most involve gaining a critical mass of synergy. Since bears have none, we’ll rely on Overrun effects from bear friends like Garruk Wildspeaker and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. Creatures with inbuilt Overrun effects play better with our Commander, as we can cast them at end of turn and take the table by surprise.

Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

Who’s the vanilla 2/2 now? With a little help, our beastly bears will roar victory.

You could add Blue and Red to play Temur bears, as done by Ethan Fleisher in his Ursatron deck, but Mono-Green sticks to the bear necessities. The cards chosen here have that musky bear flavor and follow the tribal deck’s game plan: stalk, Overrun, and devour.

I maximized the bear count, but you could increase the interactivity of the deck by reducing the number of artifacts and enchantments and including cards like Bane of Progress, Creeping Corrosion, and Wave of Vitriol. You could play more cards with bears in the art, such as Savage Punch. Or if you like delivering a gut punch, you could add Triumph of the Hordes, though the flavor here is decidedly Phyrexian.

What tribal deck should I write about next week? Let me know with a comment.

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