Rolebuilding - A Thirsty Brew

(Enthralling Victor | Art by Winona Nelson)

A Bard's Invitation

Welcome to Rolebuilding, where I blend my fraternal twin hobbies of tabletop roleplaying games and Magic: The Gathering for your delight and amusement! In this series we choose a role or character from the realms of Dungeons & Dragons and embark on a deck construction quest based on their motivations. This time we're playing a classic D&D role - the Bard. One of my favorite elements of both roleplaying and deckbuilding are the choices I get to make along the way. Bards are a diverse lot, and the deck could go any number of directions.

In our case, we're the Bard that our companions simply can't take anywhere - we treat every tavern like our personal party pad. Music is our way of bringing people together and helping them loosen up a bit. It's a tough life for a nondescript peasant in a procedurally generated fantasy town. We're here to help you unwind! Kick up your feet, take off your jacket, and have a drink!

Our goal takes shape: we want to throw a free-spirited party, big and bohemian, like a swords and sorcery version of Woodstock. Some bards might prefer mournful ballads like Total Eclipse of the Heart, but we're squarely in the Love Shack camp (with fewer goats). We'll be careful about who we invite to the party because we don't want any prudes killing the vibe or guards shutting us down. Our guests need to be willing to let loose!

Party Protocol

To kick off our epic party quest, we'll build a guest(deck) list of revelers with no shirts, otherwise known as Shirtless Tribal. Everyone who comes to this party needs to understand the dress code. We can only invite 100 friends, so here are some parameters to fuel our rockin' good time:

  1. Card art must include a humanoid-shaped being. Biogenic Ooze may be shirtless, but does not make a great dance partner. This also rules out party-crashers like Sol Ring and every other mana rock. Partially humanoid creatures like Centaurs are fair game.
  2. At least one humanoid-shaped character in the art must be shirtless. Let's define this term as carefully as Beastcaller Savant has defined his abdominal muscles, since he'll be our DJ. Fully covered torsos via robes, armor, or an actual shirt are strictly off limits. Partial coverings like vests, sashes, bandoliers etc. on the torso are OK, provided there are some sort of pecs, shoulders, back, or stomach being shown. All creature types, genders, and body types are welcome, provided we satisfy rule #1.
  3. For noncreature cards, if we can infer that there is a shirtless humanoid presence on the card, it can make the list. We're already making this hard, let's not make it impossible.
  4. We only need one printing of the card to be shirtless. I can't control which art pulls into the listings in the article - it defaults to the most recent printing - so for cards where the shirtlessness is not apparent, trust that there is another printing that is shirtless. For example, Utter End features a fully clothed Zurgo, but the Game Day promo printing of the card features a shirtless Zurgo. We want shirtless Zurgo at our party. Who wouldn't?

EDHREC does not have a Shirtless Tribal page (yet), so planning this hippie party is going to be a lot of work. Grease your mouse wheels, because we're going to be scrolling through a lot of card art. Let's start on the tribes page and see what we find.

Stay Thirsty, My Friends

Looking at these lists through thirst-tinted glasses, I've picked up on a few things. Demons, Orcs, Giants and Ogres all like showing off their pecs, and Allies seem oddly unclothed; perhaps Zendikar was a tad warm. We already have the shirtless Savant at our party, why not a few more Allies?

Since we can't fill an entire Shirtless deck with Allies, we'll only swipe right on the ones who provide value even when we don't have a critical mass of Allies on board.Cliffhaven Vampire and Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder are good invites from this clique. Agadeem Occultist can nab our opponents' mana dorks, or something bigger if we happen to have a few more Allies out there. Mirror Entity is found in 22% of Ally decks, and it turns our whole board into Allies, or whatever else suits us in the moment. Giants also like having other Giants around, and Mirror Entity can work with them to make our party larger than life.

Hamletback Goliath, if left unchecked, can take over a game, especially when granted trample by Nylea, God of the Hunt or Archetype of Aggression. Borderland Behemoth comes with trample attached, and if Mirror Entity and a few tokens are on board, he really hits hard. Fling is a flavorful addition that works well with both of these Giants, and the folks at Wizards were kind enough to attach this effect to a shirtless Giant, and thus we have Bloodshot Cyclops. Inferno Titan is the creepy guy in the corner playing with his lighter.

A Bard always brings their closest friends to the party, and it's about time for us to choose a commander. The more the merrier, so let's take a look at our scantily-clad Partner choices.

Ravos pumps our team and also provides us with recursion. He's egging our guests on, while also helping them back up when they drink too hard. Tana is all about making new friends. So far we have a Tribal Tribal subtheme going, with some Ally and Giant payoffs, so we'll want lots of partygoers to support strategies like this.

Grave Titan gets bonus points for not only being a shirtless Giant, but also having shirtless zombies crawling out of his stomach. Pawn of Ulamog, and Kazandu Tuskcaller help bolster our numbers (and potential Giants/Allies). If we make enough tokens, Jazal Goldmane becomes a win con in his own right. We call that the mosh pit victory.

Invite Me Ogre To Your House

It's not a Shirtless party without a few Ogres.

Treasonous Ogre isn't really much of a secret anymore, clocking in at 2661 EDHREC decks at the time of this writing. Wrecking Ogre works well with Tana and our Giant friends. We'll grab Ruric Thar, the Unbowed from this crowd, as well.

Heartless Hidetsugu is the sort of extreme partygoer that we may need to rein in. This guy is jumping off the roof and spreading havoc all over. Then again, we're trying to win by flinging big boys and attacking with lots of creatures, so halving our opponents' life totals will be helpful to accomplish that end.

Get Up, The Party's Not Over

Recursion will be important in this creature-heavy deck, and luckily we have a great engine in the command zone. We'll want some value-driven sacrifice outlets that enable Pawn and Cutthroat triggers and that allow us to recycle important ETB and combo pieces.

I know what you're thinking: Carrion Feeder is absolutely shredded. Not only is he shirtless, but he's skinless too. Real party commitment.

We Need Essentials, like Food, Drinks, and a Bathroom

And every EDH deck needs ramp, card draw, and removal. I'm not sure if I landed that analogy, but let's pretend I stuck it.

Without mana rocks, we'll need our partygoers to pick up the ramp slack.

You may be criticizing my inclusion of Faeburrow Elder right about now, and you might be correct: he has an oddly significant amount of bark definition on his torso, and that's not my fault. You shouldn't discriminate against Treefolk. They like to party, too.

Joiner Adept is a croptop Chromatic Lantern and fills a critical role for fixing our mana. For the same reason, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove easily makes the list. We have Green Sun's Zenith to find these two creatures, as they may be the most important creatures in the deck.

We have a handful of mana dorks like Sylvan Caryatid, Deathcap Cultivator, and Zhur-Taa Druid that help us ramp. Drumhunter is both a mana dork and, with all of our Giants and Ogres around, semi-reliable card draw. From the Demons camp, we'll add Bloodgift Demon and Promise of Power because more pecs means more cards means more power.

For removal we have a handful of options like Crush Contraband, Terminate and Swords to Plowshares. Our emergency party reset spells are Rout and Kindred Dominance.

Time to Talk About Lands

This is the most awkward part of the article, which is saying something because this entire article has been pretty awkward. There are very few lands that meet our criteria, since most lands don't have any creatures on them. We have the Jace, Shirtless Castaway lands from Ixalan, so we are good to go on basics. A quick scroll through the Dune-Brood Mana Staples reveals...nothing we can use, unfortunately. We're staring down the barrel of playing a four-color deck with all basics, which is a terrible idea.

As a Bard, I feel it's important to maintain my integrity. Other than my self-centered, hedonistic, shallow lifestyle, my integrity is all that I have. The below decklist reflects me sticking to my guidelines. If you build a similar deck, I suggest you relax the rules on lands and season to taste. But only if you want to be an Enthralling Victor!

How did our Bard do on his guest list? Did I miss any scantily clad guests of honor? Can we complete our quest of throwing the best party ever with this lot? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Grant is a father, writer, and digital marketer who lives in the frozen tundra of the northland. He enjoys playing with his kids, all flavors of Dungeons & Dragons, and thinking about going outside. He’s been playing Magic: The Gathering since 2013 and enjoys Commander, Standard, and Limited formats.