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Commanding Tribal: Rogues with Anowon, the Ruin Thief


Tribal decks can have a wide variety of objectives. Oftentimes, it ends up being a necessity: a competitive Legacy or Vintage Tribal deck, for example, is running that tribe for a very specific reason, most likely to support a specific combo. Back when I used to play Modern, there was this deck which used Nettle Sentinel because it untapped whenever you played a Green spell. You could run a ton of cheap Elves and effectively draw your whole deck because there was a way to tap Elves for mana and a way to draw a card every time you played a creature, so it ended up being an Elf deck which was really a fast combo deck.

It also can be sheer power. There are so many Goblins, Zombies, and Elves in Magic that it's easy to make a 100 card deck around them. We have Lords which help them and powerful pieces to do all sorts of degenerate things. I've been run over by Krenko more times than I'd like to admit, and there's a ub Zombie deck in my playgroup I really don't like facing. How do they always have Rooftop Storm?

For me, Tribal decks are about fun. When I build a new deck in real life, I like building to themes, and I don't really worry about power level, because winning isn't my thing - it's more about hanging out with my friends and enjoying the game. So today, I'd like to look at the deck I built which got me started on the idea of doing a whole series on Tribal, and specifically the tribes-less-often-seen. I'm not going to be way off the norm with things like Cephalids or whatever (though if someone has Cephalid Tribal, please comment below because I would like to feature that tribe), but I'm going to try to avoid Gobs/Zombs/Elves and the other really-well-mined Tribes. With that in mind, let me share with you my latest creation: Rogues.

Anowon, the Ruin Thief

Rogue Tribal | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

A few random facts about this. My first Commander deck was Anowon, the Ruin Sage Vampire Tribal. That deck morphed into Mono-Black good stuff with Sheoldred pretty quickly, but Anowon and I go way back. The other is I actually still have - put together - a 60-card ub Rogues casual deck. I've liked the idea of a Commander deck for a while, and a quick Scryfall search showed a bunch of new Rogues, so I knew there could be some fun things I could do with a 100-card pile.

The final thing is I love Notorious Throng.

Tribal decks which don't intend to combo off can normally be broken into three main categories:

  • Lords
  • Utility
  • Tribal Support

This deck does not deviate from that formula. Anowon himself is a Lord, granting +1/+1 to all my other Rogues, plus providing a small amount of card advantage and incentivizing our attack step. Based on what I had in my binder, I'm also running Coat of Arms, which can be dangerous but in a Tribe full of unblockable creatures is pretty great, and Vanquisher's Banner, which is basically another Anowon without the bad feelings of mill and probably more draw. Oona's Blackguard gives my Rogues counters, Silver-Fur Master is another Lord, Soaring Thought-Thief is likely to be live, and Stinkdrinker Bandit lets our sneaky dudes get a bonus for being sneaky.

We have a bunch of great utility, but the best example in this deck, I think, is Notion Thief. We get to stop someone's big draw spell, put another Rogue on the battlefield, and draw a card ourselves, all for the cost of a single card. That's a good deal. Thieving Skydiver can steal a Sol Ring early or a Staff of Nin late. Enigma Thief can slow an opponent's development or get rid of a Marit Lage token completely. Ghostly Pilferer replaces itself, plus it punishes anyone trying to not play fair. If you're not helping the whole Tribe, at least you're going to do something valuable to advance our game state.

Tribal Support is anything which isn't a creature itself but helps the Tribe - Cloak and Dagger, for example, counts as a Rogue when we cast it and auto-equips to Rogues when they enter - or just helps support our gameplan. In our case, we want to play out some little dudes and chip in for damage, preferably without being blocked so we can make use of Ninjitsu and the like. Because of that, we can tie our card advantage to doing damage, so we get Bident of Thassa, Rogue's Gloves, Reconnaissance Mission, Coastal Piracy, Open into Wonder, and Military Intelligence. Rogue Class is too on point to not play, and Vorpal Sword is great fun when you keep playing creatures that can't be blocked. People get pretty scared and count your mana a lot. Thieves' Fortune is great and works well with our plan, as does my beloved Notorious Throng and Knowledge Exploitation, which is another scary one for people. Stolen Identity is great with unblockable creatures.

The rest of the deck is some mana acceleration, lands, and interaction. We're running 38, which is low for my normal 40, but we have a relatively low average mana value, and we have enough mana rocks and card draw to make up for any potential shortfalls. We do have some color requirements, so Arcane Signet and Commander's Sphere are both really useful, but Sol Ring is quite explosive and Thought Vessel serves as a second Reliquary Tower, since we can certainly draw a lot of cards. Throw in some spot removal like Price of Fame and Hero's Downfall, some mass removal like Aetherize and In Garruk's Wake, and a couple of cool modal spells which can be counters or other things like Silumgar's Command and Soul Manipulation, and you've got yourself a deck. And Spinal Embrace is just a great time.

I've played it twice, and it worked fine. I was outmatched the first game - all of us were, in fact. We played against my buddy with his new Shrines deck, which absolutely ran us all over. None of us really got to do much that game! The second game I was more in it. I was up against a Super Friends deck which was quite strong, a Mono-White weenie deck which is also quite strong, and a Zedruu the Greathearted deck I've played against a number of times. It was filled with a lot of interaction, but Anowon performed admirably, making some big unblockable dudes, messing with peoples' boards, and stopping the occasional backbreaking spell. I look forward to playing it some more.

I wanted every creature in the deck to be a Rogue, and I didn't even want to use Changelings; but, if you weren't committed to that, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and Mari, the Killing Quill would both be pretty good. Considering Mari is basically a Rogue Lord, I'd consider running her. Opposition Agent would be solid, but I don't think I have one and it's pretty spendy. The deck wouldn't mind it though. And Cephalid Facetaker could make for some powerful choices during a game.

One change I'm definitely going to make soon is adding Bitterblossom. It's not great late, but early in the game it's really strong, and I happen to have one in my binder I got as a buy-a-box promo several years ago. Otherwise, I want to keep running it and see what needs to change. Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments. And truly, if you have Cephalid (or other really weird) Tribal, please let me know. I'd love to feature your deck.

Thanks for reading.

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