Too-Specific Top 10 – Pack Think

(Basking Rootwalla | Art by Heather Hudson)

Morophon, the Deckless

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where we’re going to rank everything. However, why use the broad categories we see everywhere, like “Top 10 Tribes”? The narrower the scope, the better! And if there isn’t a category to rank our pet cards, well, we’ll make one up! (Did you know that Goblin Grenade is the best burn spell depicting an active fuse?)

Morophon, the Boundless created a lot of initial excitement, but is currently sitting as the third-most popular commander from Modern Horizons. Perhaps this lack of brewing among the masses out there is due to its seven-mana casting cost, or the weird clunkiness of having a pseudo-member of the tribe leading it.

Or perhaps we just haven’t fallen in love with the right obscure animal tribe yet?


Top 10 Unloved Animal Tribes

This week, we’ll be looking at the top 10 tribes made up of non-sentient, non-fantasy animals that don’t already have an active Theme page on EDHREC. This immediately makes for some pretty slim pickings, immediately knocking out that animal tribe you’re thinking of right now. Yeah, that’s right… no Dinosaurs, Cats, Birds, Snakes, Rats, Spiders, Beasts, Bears, Insects, Wolves, Elephants, Hounds, Foxes, Crabs, Horses, Boars, Rhinos, or even Fish. We’re going full obscure here, and really testing the limits of what fresh new tribes can be made available by our new Shapeshifting Lord-Commander.

Since we can’t rank that which does not exist, we won’t be able to rank these tribes by how much they’re played on EDHREC. Instead, we’ll go by how many actual creatures and cards that care about the tribe total are available, then give the tribe a +5 bonus for every creature it has included in the top 100 Creatures on the EDHREC page (Past two years). Ties will be broken by averaging the EDHREC ranking of each creature in the tribe, not counting Changelings.

So, without further ado, let’s get to the list!

Lizards

Lizards are the undisputed monarchs of the obscure animal tribal game, and it’s not close. At 50 true Lizards and four Lizard token generators, these reptiles more than double the amount of options available for any other tribe on this list. Given that the top-rated Lizard is Frilled Mystic, however, you do have to wonder how “true” to the animal theme we’re really being.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 54
  • Available Colors: Glint-Eye (8 including Blue, 7 including Black, 23 including Red, and 26 including Green)
  • Top Ranked Card: Rapid Hybridization
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 20938
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 418.76
  • Vanilla Creatures: 4
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 4
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: None
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: 11 (8 with CMC 1)

With the amount of Lizards available, the overall quality of the tribe, and the lack of an existing commander in the tribe, Lizards just might be the best obscure option available to show off Morophon, the Boundless‘ capacity for thinking outside the tribe. But still, there must be more obscure options…

Frogs

Our number two slot goes to the premiere amphibians of the multiverse (sorry, Salamanders)! The tribe might actually be stronger than our number one ranking, however. The Gitrog Monster is the 88th most popular creature overall, granting the tribe an extra five points in addition to their 26 members, all of which are true Frogs.

While the lack of any token generators is a bit disappointing, the sheer strength at the top of the list is impressive. Outside of Gitrog itself, Spore Frog is a highlight, as is Plaxcaster Frogling. Perhaps in an even better stroke of luck, Plaxcaster Frogling isn’t the only Frog which cares about +1/+1 counters, nor is Spore Frog the only one to synergize with graveyard strategies. Largely thanks to the Simic’s Frog leanings, there are actually five Frogs that care about +1/+1 counters, and nine which in some way synergize with putting things into or taking them out of the graveyard.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 29
  • Available ColorsWUBRG (1 White, 9 Blue, 7 Black, 1 Red, 18 Green)
  • Top Ranked Card: #91 The Gitrog Monster
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 24046
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 829.17
  • Vanilla Creatures: 2
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 7
  • Existing Legends: The Gitrog Monster, Yargle, Glutton of Urborg
  • Existing Lords: Omnibian, sort of?
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: Spore Frog only, I’m afraid.

Given all of the synergies and the relatively excellent mana curve, then, I’m actually tempted to proclaim Frogs as the best of the underutilized animal tribes. We should at least take a look before making that kind of proclamation, though, don’t you think?

Apes

While certainly not the powerhouse we’ve come to expect from the reptiles and amphibians on top of the pile, Apes are still a solid inclusion worth consideration. Uktabi Orangutan was a staple of the format during its inception, Gorilla Shaman is a Legacy MVP, and Ape have all sorts of back and forth with buffs based on owning forests or mountains (such as on Kird Ape). Finally, despite Pongify, Sidisi’s Pet, and Savage Gorilla, the tribe easily fits into Gruul, making color-fixing a non-issue.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 24
  • Available ColorsGlint-Eye (1 Blue, 1 Black, 5 Red, 17 Green)
  • Top Ranked Card: Pongify, the only blue card. Since you probably won’t be playing that, Simian Spirit Guide is the runner-up.
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 27954
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 1644.35
  • Vanilla Creatures: 3
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 2
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: None
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: None

The main strategy here seems to be pure aggro, which typically suffers in multiplayer formats. As a result, apes are rather underwhelming despite their greater numbers. Still, if you do break open the tribe to include Monkeys

SPOILER CENTURY FOLLOWUP: Hey look, another Ape! And it’s good!

Bats

The first of our token tribes, Bats don’t actually have that many cards. This is strange if you think about it, as I feel like there’s a ‘draft chaff’ Bat in almost every set. Perception does not equal reality, however, as there are only 19 total Bat creatures, with five token generators. Paradoxically, most of those five token generators are quite good, and 19 true Bats is still more than enough to take advantage of Morophon’s cost reduction ability.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 24
  • Available Colors: Orzhov (3 White, 22 Black)
  • Top Ranked Card: Desecrated Tomb
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 3699
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 154.125
  • Vanilla Creatures: 0 (4 with flying only)
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 0
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: Skeletal Vampire seems to qualify.
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: There surprisingly hasn’t been a two mana Orzhov bat as of yet, so only Vampire Bats and Blight Keeper come out for free.

Overall, there is some synergy to tie this tribe together in the form of Drain Life effects. Add the fact that you’ll be flying over the top for quite a lot of damage, and this tribal deck seems feasible, as long as you can effectively mount a defense as well.

Crocodiles

Mostly thanks to the Egypt-themed plane of Amonkhet, which was then ported into another plane during War of the Spark, these sneaky reptiles have gotten a major boost in both numbers and quality in the last few years. Amonkhet‘s focus on -1/-1 counters was somewhat centered in this tribe specifically, and was then immediately followed up with some Simic experiments which cared about +1/+1 counters. Given that +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters eliminate each other, this actually works out somewhat well for the tribe as a whole; being able to play Baleful Ammit into your Crocanura‘s Evolve ability and stack the triggers to eliminate the disadvantage immediately may seem like a small thing, but every little bit helps when it comes to playing sub-optimal tribes.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 23
  • Available Colors: Sultai (9 Black, 11 Green, 5 Blue)
  • Top Ranked Card: Ammit Eternal
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 2154
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 93.65
  • Vanilla Creatures: 3
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 2
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: None
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: Grayscaled Gharial

The lack of free stuff here hurts the Morophon-at-the-helm plan a little bit, but given that a decent percentage of the tribe is based around being aggressively costed already there is still quite a bit of upside here.

Elk

A solid Selesnya addition, Elk are a pretty strong tribe thanks to a relatively great mana base. There are six Elk—more than a third of the tribe—which only cost two mana, two of which also ramp you. They’re then joined by a measly two Elk in the three-mana slot, which is less than optimal but is somewhat made up for by the quality of those two Elk specifically: Burnished Hart and Great Sable Stag. With any luck, you’ll skip your three-drop and go straight to four anyway, getting you to things like Bellowing Elk and Glimmerpoint Stag, along with the bulk of the rest of the tribe. That just leaves the four expensive Elk, one of which also acts as repeatable removal for you in the form of Somberwald Stag.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 17
  • Available Colors: Bant (11 Green, 4 White, 1 Blue)
  • Top Ranked Card: #35 Burnished Hart
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 27954
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 379.63
  • Vanilla Creatures: 3
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 2
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: None
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: None

All in all, Morophon doesn’t do much as a commander for this tribe, although that in no way means you couldn’t build it with an existing Selesnya or Bant legend. I hear Trostani Discordant is feeling about as unloved as most of these tribes are.

Turtles

It was tempting to add Turtleshell Changeling directly to the tribe here, but rules are rules. Regardless of whether you think the true number of Turtles is 15 or 16, however, there are still some large rear ends to work with here. Outside of that, however, it would appear that Turtles don’t particularly work well together in any specific way, just gumming up the ground early with no plan for later on. Angler Turtle shows some hustle that may end up in your favor, but otherwise here you’re basically looking at some very vanilla creatures as a whole. I suppose Turtles being imaginative would be a bit of a flavor fail, though.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 15
  • Available Colors: Sultai (1 Black, 4 Green, 10 Blue)
  • Top Ranked Card: Scuttlegator, also known as a mid-tier Crocodile and a low-tier crab.
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 398
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 26.53
  • Vanilla Creatures: 3
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 3
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: None
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: The one, the only, the Thriving Turtle.

As for synergizing with Morophon, there’s not much here. With only 15 creatures total to choose from, you’re starting to scrape the bottom of feasible and will definitely need Changeling support. Even then, however, you’re going to need a gameplan for how to win that utilizes the defensive nature of the tribe to stay alive but otherwise has nothing to do with them, all while really not getting much of a discount on your featured creatures.

Squirrels

Squirrels finally got a bit of extra love thanks to Modern Horizons, and while it’s still a fringe tribe at best, I would bet we’ll see a fair amount of people trying to force it. Why you ask? Because Squirrels!

While Squirrels still wait for a custom-made commander, and though they are still quite a fearsome tribe despite their small numbers, Morophon is really not a great choice to lead the charge. For now at least, the Squirrel tribe is almost solely based around token generation, with only two actual Squirrel creatures: Squirrel Mob and Krosan Beast. Even with Changelings helping out, in monogreen you only get seven extra “Squirrels”. Things are helped a bit by splashing for stuff like Mirror Entity, but overall, with basically no cost reduction from Morophon, you’re probably better off going with a mono-green token commander like Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Sakiko, Mother of Summer, or Baru, Fist of Krosa.

Squirrels have some potential, but they’re really still waiting for a purpose-made commander and some more support. In the meantime, if you can talk your local group into letting you play silver-bordered cards, this expands the tribe quite a bit. Unfortunately, if they’ve ever heard of Form of the Squirrel, they may not be inclined to oblige you.

Oxen

More and more I’m noticing that general hoofstock tribal is probably a hot ticket. The Oxen contingent, however, tend toward the expensive side. Add in the fact that they’re all over the map strategically, and it could be an uphill climb before you even start talking about the smaller numbers.

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 14
  • Available Colors: Naya (5 Red, 4 Green, 4 White)
  • Top Ranked Card: Transmogrifying Wand
  • Total Deck Inclusions:
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 1290
  • Vanilla Creatures: 2
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 7
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: Maybe if Aurochs get shifted over at some point?
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: Yoked Ox

With no multicolored creatures whatsoever to speak of, oxen don’t particularly work well with Morophon outside of allowing them to play all their colors. There is some aggro potential here with the addition of Changelings, as Charging Cinderhorn and Arc Runner can attest. Outside of that slight upside, however, you’re going to have to dig deep or betray the tribe to make this competitive with even the preconstructed EDH decks, no matter who your commander is.

Goats

Have I mentioned that hoofstock tribal is pretty deep, even if you get none of the benefits of playing a tribal deck?

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 13
  • Available Colors: Naya (8 Red, 1 Green, 2 White)
  • Top Ranked Card: Trading Post
  • Total Deck Inclusions: 13996
  • Average Deck Inclusions: 1076.62
  • Vanilla Creatures: 0
  • Cards Ranked Worse than Worst Vanilla Creature: 0
  • Existing Legends: None
  • Existing Lords: Springjack Pasture, sort of?
  • Number of “Free” Creatures with Morophon: Only the best, Mountain Goat, oh and also the G.O.A.T., Zodiac Goat.

Looking through the tribe, Goats feel much the same as Oxen overall, although they have a few great token generators to fill in the gaps. When you consider that the only reason they beat Leeches to get into the top 10 is Goatnap and Goatnapper, however…. Maybe they’re more devious than we give them credit for?


Honorable Mentions


Leeches

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 12
  • Available Colors: WUBRG (1 White, 2 Blue, 5 Black, 1 Red, 2 Green)
  • Top Ranked Card: Squelching Leeches
  • Most Exciting Deck Idea: Bad-stax Donate Awfulness!

Octopus

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 12
  • Available Colors: Simic (2 Green, 12 Blue)
  • Top Ranked Card: Kiora, Master of the Depths
  • Most Exciting Deck Idea: Big Sea Creature Control

Salamanders

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 10
  • Available Colors: Grixis (5 Blue, 1 Black, 4 Red)
  • Top Ranked Card: Gudul Lurker
  • Most Exciting Deck Idea: I have no idea, all I know is that Scalding Salamander deserves more respect than it gets.

Antelope


Jellyfish

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 9
  • Available Colors: Simic (1 Green, 8 Blue)
  • Top Ranked Card: Hydroid Krasis
  • Most Exciting Deck Idea: There’s nothing here yet except some really excellent good stuff. Hopefully we’ll get more of it in the future! Also, apparently anemones are actually jellyfish, which I’m told by a Marine Biologist pal is somehow partially correct when you include baby jellyfish. This is a strange world we live in.

Scorpions

  • Total Cards in the Tribe: 9
  • Available Colors: Golgari (7 Black, 2 Green)
  • Top Ranked Card: Soulstinger
  • Most Exciting Deck Idea: It’s really just too bad that The Scorpion God isn’t actually a Scorpion.

What About You?

And finally, which tribe are you hoping gets more support in the future? I know the answer for me is Pegasi. Which tribe are you forcing right now that you know isn’t the best, but want to represent for anyway?

Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you at a jank table soon!

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.