Too-Specific Top 10 - Pack Think Revisited

(Animal Sanctuary | Art by Alayna Danner)

Tribal Timing

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Basking Rootwalla is the only green creature you can cast for exactly 0 mana?)

Here in June, we're coming up on my two-year anniversary of starting Too-Specific Top 10, and what better way to celebrate the anniversary than to revisit our very first list and see what's changed?

Too-Specific Top 10 – Pack Think

All right, so we did Top 10 Animal Tribes that didn't appear on EDHREC's Tribal page. Let's fire that up and see what's changed!

Top 10 Unloved Animal Tribes

Since we're going to operate off of the exact same criteria this time around, let's go ahead and get those stated right off the bat, and then roll right into the old top ten list as it stood two years ago:

Criteria: Creature cards or cards that reference or create tokens of a specific creature type that can be classified as non-sentient and exists as an actual animal on Earth. Breaking with traditional tradition (but not with the original list), we will be ranking tribes not by their EDHREC scores, but by the total amount of cards available in the tribe. Ties will be broken by the highest ranked card in the tribe's EDHREC score.

Top 10 Unloved Animal Tribes (as of June 2019)

  1. Lizards (54 Total Cards in 2019)
  2. Frogs (29)
  3. Apes (24, top ranked card Pongify had 10905 inclusions)
  4. Bats (24, top ranked card Desecrated Tomb had 2043 inclusions)
  5. Crocodiles (23)
  6. Elk (17)
  7. Turtles (15)
  8. Squirrels (14, top ranked card Squirrel Nest had 1468 inclusions)
  9. Oxen (14, top ranked card Transmogrifying Wand had 532 inclusions)
  10. Goats (13)

Secondly, several of the above tribes have since graduated from obscurity and been added to the EDHREC Tribal Page, making them ineligible for our follow-up list:


#2 on the old list, Frogs currently have 36 total contributing cards in their tribe, although the true Frog commanders (The Gitrog Monster and Yargle, Glutton of Urborg) neither care much about the tribe nor would they account for the full color spectrum you need to play all the Frog cards. Still, 36 cards is more than enough cards to build a tribal deck, and there is no shortage of Sultai or five-color commanders that can synergize with the available options. EDHREC currently has the tribe sitting at 28 decks total, with no standout commanders from the bunch. Not the most impressive showing, but still an available option in the tribal realm!


#3 on the old list, Apes are an incredibly diverse tribe that, despite only having a total of 28 cards, spans four colors if you include Pongify. Aside from the staple blue removal spell, Apes tend to hang around Jund colors and have a lot of small beaters, utility creatures, and huge game-changing bodies. There are only two available commanders in the tribe: Kogla, the Titan Ape and Gruun, the Lonely King, both of which are mono-green. The lack of Ape commanders may be one of the main reasons that there's only 35 Ape decks total on the EDHREC tribal page, along with the fact that there's not much in the way of synergy in the tribe.


Looking at what's joined the tribe in the last two years, it's very possible that Elk tribal may be one of the only tribes more focused on making everyone else's creatures into your tribe than it is at actually filling up your own side of the board with them. Oko, Thief of Crowns aside, however, Elk do have something that none of our other tribes that have graduated have: a viable commander that covers all the colors of the tribe. Jegantha, the Wellspring doesn't particularly synergize with the tribe, as Oko is the only multicolor card in the 26 cards that make up the Elk tribe, and is a non-standard addition. That said, there's something to be said for having a King Elk at the helm, and it's not like tapping for five mana has ever been a bad thing!


Turtles are another great example of a tribe with a viable commander. Yidaro aside, all 24 cards in the tribe fall under the color umbrella of Archelos, Lagoon Mystic. His ability doesn't do much with the usual toughness, hexproof, and +1/+1 counter abilities of the tribe, but is still good enough in general that aspiring deckbuilders should be able to make it work. In fact, 15 decks already have!

I was surprised to find that as of the writing of this article, Squirrels still did not have a page! However, I would not be surprised if, in the wake of Modern Horizons 2, that is no longer true when this article gets published.

For now, though, let's see where they end up!

10. Oxen

  • Previous Ranking: #9
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 18
  • Available Colors: Naya
  • Top Ranked Card: Ox of Agonas (1751 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: 3
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: None
  • Existing Commanders: None

Operating off of just my memory of the last two years, I actually expected Oxen to get a bit of a boost overall. And to be fair, they did in numbers even if they ended up going down one in the overall rankings. Two years ago, there were only 14 Oxen you could throw into a deck, a paltry sum that would have had you relying on Changelings to get your tribal deck off the ground at all. With four more additions, you might still need a Changeling or two if you really wanted to make your Oxen tribal deck competitive, but more important is the quality of those four new additions. Ox of Agonas specifically is a powerhouse of card advantage that can keep on coming back to block and attack as well with its cheap Escape cost. Giant Ox is a huge blocker that can also Crew huge Vehicles, giving you a bit of an outlet into that strategy that you're already in colors for. Makindi Ox can tap down blockers whenever you play a land, which can be a big deal in a deck that is always going to be combat-centric. Finally, Bartered Cow is not what you'd call efficient, but it does give you a consolation prize when it dies or is discarded, which isn't nothing.

Overall, however, Oxen remain in much the same state today as they did in 2019. With no commander to speak of, no overarching strategy in the tribe, and no real theme outside of large behinds combined with poor mana costs, there's not much to go off of here. Maybe we'll pick up some serious additions that will tie it all together with a Naya toughness matters theme by 2023, but for now, only the most diehard of jank brewers is going to be pulling this particular plow. Which reminds me, if you're on the theme, don't forget your Colossal Plow!

9. Octopus

It's unfortunate that a tribe that's been blessed with so many commanders as of late still isn't quite to the point where you can make a true tribal deck out of it. With two Simic cards in the form of Kiora, Master of the Depths and the amazing Sharktocrab, you only have 16 cards to play with if you go with any of our three Octopus commanders. With that said, Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep makes the larger "Sea Creature" tribal quite doable, especially with the aid of Whelming Wave, Serpent of Yawning Depths, Quest for Ula's Temple, and Spawning Kraken. Something that makes your 16 Octopuses feel a bit more numerous is playing cantrip tribal with Octavia, Living Thesis. It doesn't take long to dig down to some Octopuses and make them 8/8s when you're cycling through five or six Opts a turn. The unfortunate part about it, however, is that the average CMC of the actual Octopuses in the tribe is 5.92. If you're slinging a bunch of Brainstorms to make some huge creatures, the last thing you really want is to be drawing into some expensive creatures.

8. Goats

  • Previous Ranking: #10
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 22
  • Available Colors: Dune-Brood (BRGW)
  • Top Ranked Card: Trading Post (12110 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: None
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: None
  • Existing Commanders: None

As the proud owner of several of the foil Unstable Goat tokens, I was really hoping that Goats had become the GOAT. Unfortunately, 22 cards spread over four colors with no commanders (Really, Zedruu? Minotaur?), doesn't lend itself to a whole lot of synergy or ease of build. Still, things have improved a lot since our last check-in in 2019, with several new sources of Goat tokens out of black in the form of Woe Strider, Clackbridge Troll, and Discordant Piper, along with new "about to be huge" Goats Capricopian and Stormwild Capridor. With that in mind, I would expect this tribe to continue to see some support, even if it might be in a more scattered fashion as we saw in the case of Animal Sanctuary. Still, until we get a dedicated commander or at least a lord for the tribe, this is still going to be janklord territory, even with Pathbreaker Ibex and Trading Post being right there at the top of the deck.

7. Jackals

  • Previous Ranking: Unranked (Had a theme page in 2019)
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 25
  • Available Colors: Dune-Brood (BRGW)
  • Top Ranked Card: Khenra Charioteer (1541 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: 2
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 2
  • Existing Commanders: None

Much in the same boat, only with no meme status to capitalize on, Jackals feel like they should have more of a common theme, given that 90% of them came out of the same block. Luckily, since so many Jackals are more recent, given their feature in Amonkhet a short while back, the creatures as a whole are of pretty good quality, even if there may not be an overarching strategy to tie the tribe together. Ignoring the mediocre Disposal Mummy, the entire tribe is in Jund colors as well, which makes finding a decent commander that can take advantage of the efficient bodies and the multitude of enter-the-battlefield/attack/dies triggers, as that's the kind of thing that Jund likes to do anyhow. For me, the one that feels the most on-theme and works well with the options available is Gyrus, Waker of Corpses. Sure, you could get more power out of going Korvold, but you'll also get more hate. Plus, Gyrus's heads look a tiny bit Jackal-esque, don't they?

6. Crocodiles

  • Previous Ranking: #5
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 27
  • Available Colors: Sultai
  • Top Ranked Card: Ammit Eternal (1386 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: 3
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 4
  • Existing Commanders: None

Crocodiles got four new cards over the last two years, but unfortunately not one of them was anything to write home about. (No offense to the Limited powerhouse Moldering Karok.) Still, with the number of cards in the tribe and a solid identity among them, I'd be shocked if we didn't see a Sultai Croc commander soon, hopefully centered around counters. In the meantime, we've gotten two recent commanders that fit that description, minus the "Croc" part, both of which fill in quite well as a Crocodile commander in the interim.

Of the two, I vastly prefer Volrath. Not only does his -1/-1 ability work well with all of the -1/-1 counter stuff from the Amonkhet Crocs, but there are more than a few Crocodiles that make great targets for his Shapeshifter ability with relevant abilities like hexproof, shroud, lifelink, and haste, along with a fair amount of ways to put +1/+1 counters on him to make him a lethal commander damage threat. Put all together with a reason to play Scuttlegator, and I think we have our first promising tribe that deserves to be lifted out of obscurity here!

5. Bats

  • Previous Ranking: #4
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 28
  • Available Colors: Abzan
  • Top Ranked Card: Desecrated Tomb (5140 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: 0 (4 French Vanilla)
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 0
  • Existing Commanders: Blex, Vexing Pest

Four must be the magic number, because that's how many new Bat cards there have been since last we checked in on them. Of those four, however, the only one that really seems to be that exciting is Dirge Bat, which is pretty good as an instant-speed removal spell and combat trick in a Mutate deck, but is kind of just a bad Ravenous Chupacabra in a deck where all of your creatures already fly. Luckily, Strixhaven gave us a lord of a commander in the form of Blex, Vexing Pest, which does mean you miss out on the three white/Orzhov Bat cards in the tribe (RIP, Regal Bloodlord and Belfry Spirit), but is otherwise a great option that should boost the amount of decks we see out of this tribe immensely. Not only that, but Blex's death trigger helps out with the lifegain subtheme present throughout the tribe, which in turn makes Search for Blex hurt a lot less when you pay 15 life to draw five cards!

4. Squirrels

Many of you may have been following along with the fact that most of the tribes had dropped by a single rank, despite getting four more cards (that's still super weird to me that that number is that consistent), and might have been wondering how that could have been. Well, the answer is that Squirrels got another 15 cards in the tribe, predictably rocketing them up the charts! Along with the new cards, they also got two commanders, one of which is even a Squirrel lord of sorts (to go along with the plethora of already available Squirrel lords, which they also got two more of). In other words, much like the price of mediocre Squirrel-crafter Liege of the Hollows, Squirrels are exploding!

No, seriously, a lot of you are mulling over Squirrel builds right now, so let me be the first to tell you that the meme can come with a price tag if you're not careful. If you're looking to avoid a second mortgage, avoid Reserved List cards Deranged Hermit and Liege of the Hollows, along with "hasn't been reprinted in 20 years for some reason" lord Nut Collector. Thankfully, that still leaves you 26 cards in the tribe to play with (not even counting silver-bordered), which should be more than enough to get your meme on!

3. Fish

  • Previous Ranking: Unranked (Had a theme page in 2019)
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 38
  • Available Colors: Glint-Eye (UBRG)
  • Top Ranked Card: Deepglow Skate (8442 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: 2
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 11
  • Existing Commanders: None

I don't think anything on this list surprised me as much as the inclusion of Fish. If you'd asked me before researching this article how many Fish I thought there were in Magic, my answer would have easily been in the hundreds. I also would have assumed that at least three different Fish commanders existed. Maybe a lot of that has to do with Merfolk, or maybe I'm just ignorant. I'm not sure. Either way, this tribe is playable, just given the fact that they're solidly in a core of blue and have enough cards printed that you can easily leave some of the vanilla and just plain bad cards on the cutting room floor.

As for commanders, there technically aren't any, except thematically it's easy to choose any of the 23 different Merfolk commanders. No, the real problem with Fish as a tribe is that there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to what they want to do. Deepglow Skate wants to mess with counters, Wavebreak Hippocamp wants you to go spellslinger, Fleet Swallower is all about mill, and Reef Worm wants to force a blue Aristocrats or Tokens build, and those are just the Fish at the top of the food chain! Plus, thanks to old blue cards with Islandwalk, you'll probably have to find a means to make a few of your opponent's lands into islands as well! In short, this tribe needs some work to get past any kind of jank status, despite the high numbers and the good cards within them.

2. Rhinos

  • Previous Ranking: Unranked (Had a theme page in 2019)
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 44
  • Available Colors: Ink-Treader (RGWU)
  • Top Ranked Card: Loyal Guardian (5638 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: 2
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 8
  • Existing Commanders: Ghired, Conclave Exile, Roon of the Hidden Realm

What's impressive to me is not that Rhinos are a playable tribe, but rather that they ever got removed from the EDHREC tribal page in the first place. Ghired is a more than capable commander for the tribe, you have to go down twenty cards to find something you wouldn't be happy to be playing, and there is enough midrange aggro here to change Standard forever, because that's exactly what this tribe did. Oh, and did I mention that there are more 4/4 tokens with trample than you can swing a stick at? Consider this one a blip, because I can guarantee it won't be here the next time we revisit animal tribes!

1. Lizards

  • Previous Ranking: #1
  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 64
  • Available Colors: Glint-Eye (UBRG)
  • Top Ranked Card: Rapid Hybridization (28629 Inclusions)
  • Vanilla Creatures: 3
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 0
  • Existing Commanders: Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar

Thanks to Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar from Commander Legends, Lizards not only got a commander in the last two years (along with 10 new members to the tribe), but one that also has Partner. This allows the aspiring brewer to sculpt their color identity to either Temur or Jund, depending on preference. Of those options, the most on-theme with what this tribe wants to do is easily Ikra Shadiqi, the Usurper, although as usual, the existence of Thrasios, Triton Hero means there is an easy choice if you want to push the envelope.

As much as I say there's a strategy among Lizards that lends itself to join up with Ikra Shadiqi, however, there really isn't anything as a whole that ties the Lizard tribe together. Most members are medium-sized creatures that are fairly inefficient when it comes to their mana cost, instead leaning into static and triggered abilities that seem to have little to do with each other. There is a tendency toward pump abilities, but the costs or triggers to activate them are all over the map. In other words, while there are a lot of options for Lizard tribal out there, they essentially boil down to 'goodstuff tribal', only the goodstuff is actually just medium. Not that that's entirely a bad thing, mind you. To the hipster brewer, mediumstuff tribal is the ultimate challenge!

Honorable Mentions

First off, a shout-out to our tribes that almost made the cut, mostly just because I was rooting super hard for Sharks to make it in the wake of Ikoria:

11. Salamanders (13)
12. Leeches (13)
13. Whales (12)
14. Hippos (11)
15. Sharks (11)

Secondly, as part of the extensive work of compiling this list, I actually had to go through every tribe not on the EDHREC Tribal page manually, so I figured I might as well rank the non-animal tribes for you as well!

Top 10 Obscure Fantasy/Non-Animal Tribes

  1. Drakes (95)
  2. Drones (64)
  3. Vedalken (63)
  4. Djinns (57)
  5. Serpents (56)
  6. Mutants (53)
  7. Minions (46)
  8. Viashino (44)
  9. Warlocks (40)
  10. Imps (39)

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

By default, we know that all of these tribes need a bit of love, so...

Finally, what is your favorite obscure tribe? Which animal tribe that only has a couple members would you like to see more of (cough, cough, Trilobites)?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the rare hardwood table in the back that would probably be worth money if anyone had bothered to take care of it over the years.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.