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Tribes of Ixalan

Hello everyone. This week, I'd like to take a look at some recent Ixalan tribal decks that have been doing well on Magic Online (MTGO). I also have for you one deck that's untested but shows a lot of promise. Let's get started.

Black/White Vampires

The first deck I have for you this week focuses on the Vampire tribe from Ixalan. Let's start off by taking a look at the deck.

For me personally, bw Vampires is my favorite Ixalan tribe to play. This deck isn't as all-in on Vampire token creation as some of the decks I've seen, although it does have a fair amount of token generators. It can quickly outnumber your opponent's creatures and overpower them via the bonus provided by Metallic Mimic, Legion Lieutenant, and Radiant Destiny.

The inclusion of four copies of Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle might seem strange considering he is a Legendary creature, but I can tell you from personal experience that I think it's the right call. For me, when I've had Mavren Fein in play, he will usually die to an opponent’s removal spell right away; otherwise the number of Vampire tokens he will create can usually tip the game in your favor.

Another thing to note with this deck is the ease it has when attaining the City's Blessing. Once that happens, it can become very difficult for your opponent to be able to attack you because of the Vigilance granted by Radiant Destiny.

The next tribe we'll take a look at is the Merfolk tribe. Here's a recent example of a Merfolk tribal deck that went 5-0 on MTGO.

This deck has the potential to go wide quickly if you manage to get a Deeproot Waters onto the battlefield right away, however that won't happen often. It's more likely that you'll slowly build up your board presence by casting your Merfolk creatures and then boosting them with Merfolk Mistbinder and Deeproot Elite. It's especially important to remember that Deeproot Elite grants a +1/+1 counter any time a Merfolk enters the battlefield under your control, which includes Merfolk tokens.

Another key card you'll want to play as soon as you're able to is Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. Kumena provides three abilities that are very important for this deck. I feel the most important one is the ability to draw additional cards. This allows you to keep a steady stream of threats coming. Also, Kumena's ability to put a +1/+1 counter on each Merfolk you control is incredibly powerful, and can turn unfavorable blocks for you into favorable ones in an instant. Finally, while the ability to become unblockable is possibly the least important ability, it's still a terrific way to close out the game once the battlefield becomes cluttered.

Let's now turn our attention to the Sun Empire and take a look at a Dinosaur tribal deck.

The plan for this deck is to use your numerous mana ramp spells to be able to play large threats earlier. There aren't a lot of early ways to interact with your opponent other than Abrade and Sweltering Suns. Hopefully this will be enough to get you to the mid-game when you can start playing your big Dinosaur threats. Ultimately, if you're able to get Zacama, Primal Calamity into play, you should be able to wrap the game up quickly.

Most of your ramp spells allow you to only search for a basic land (Spring // Mind and Thunderherd Migration), as does the Enrage ability on Ranging Raptors. However, Hour of Promise is different. It allows you to search for any two land cards. Keep that in mind when deciding which lands to get with Hour of Promise and save the basics for your other spells and abilities.

As I said earlier, this deck doesn't have a lot of early interaction, but it makes up for that in spades in the mid to late game. Being able to cast more powerful spells than your opponent can help swing the game back in your favor. If you manage to cast Zacama and get to untap your lands, you can gain back some valuable life if you need to. Or use that mana to deal damage to your opponent's most annoying creatures, making sure to maximize the damage as best as you can.

The final tribe we have is the Pirate tribe. Pirates have been in a lot of decks on MTGO, but they're usually used as supporting creatures rather than the main focus, so I had to search elsewhere for a dedicated Pirate deck. I found one that I think has a lot of promise on that was submitted by Chill_That_Bends. Let's take a look at it.

So this deck isn't entirely made up of Pirates. It does have a couple of copies of Tilonalli's Summoner which is a card I've wanted to brew around for a while. It's not only a payoff if you already have the City's Blessing, but it's also a great way to reach the ten permanents needed to Ascend if you're a little short.

Another way to reach the Ascend threshold is by attacking with Captain Lannery Storm and Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. Captain Storm creates a Treasure token and Kari Zev brings along Ragavan in token form, and these tokens count as permanents when triggering Ascend.

Almost everything in this deck is either helping you get up to having ten permanents in play or gets a bonus once you do. As you can see, there are a ton of creatures in this deck that have special abilities once you have the City's Blessing. They range from being unblockable to gaining double strike. You're even able to get extra turns once you Ascend. But without the Ascend abilities, most of these creatures are just so-so. Keep that in mind when figuring out how to block in the early game and don't chump block unless absolutely necessary.

Wrapping Up

And that brings us to the end of our look at the tribes of Ixalan. Which of these decks was your favorite? Or do you have a different favorite Ixalan tribal deck you'd like to share? Let me know by leaving a comment below or you can reply to me directly on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at And be sure to join me here again next week as I continue my search for innovative decks in Standard. I'll see you then!

— Mike Likes

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