The 5 Tribes of Innistrad and the Best Decklists for Each Tribe
Hello everyone! With the full set of Innistrad: Crimson Vow now spoiled, this is easily my favorite time to be a Magic player as I can completely flex my brewing muscles! There’s so many decks to try, but generally, I like to start with the more obvious ones first so the harder ones have more time to marinate. In this case, considering Innistrad is all about their tribes, I’m thinking we should visit each tribe of Innistrad and try to get the best possible list for each.
As a quick aside, I did go over two tribal lists in a previous article, but with all the spoilers out even those got more upgrades I can touch upon! If you want to see that previous article, you can click on the picture below.
Let’s get into it!
Initially I went Selesnya as Katilda, Dawnhart Prime and Sigarda, Champion of Light, and while that’s definitely still a viable path to go down, a Monowhite version of Humans was definitely needed to be made as well. This deck is really much more similar to Monowhite Aggro than a dedicated tribal deck, but you’re certainly not giving up any equity in terms of what cards you are playing to make that happen. From Crimson Vow, we have 3 new awesome additions that really help this deck thrum.
Hopeful Initiate has been flying under the radar, but I think it’s going to be a really nice one drop for either Humans or Monowhite Aggro. It has a bit of a slow start, but being able to grow whenever a larger creature attacks with it is going to make it a 1 mana 2/2 by turn 3 and a 1 mana 3/3 by turn 4 very often. Furthermore, the ability to Naturalize something when it grows enough is quite powerful in a format with Esika's Chariot, and activating the ability is hardly a downside as you can just grow it again!
I’m sure everyone has already extolled the virtues of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but I’ll join in one more time. Thalia is nuts powerful and excellent in a deck that doesn’t have to play any non-creatures (I chose to, which I’ll touch on later).
Savior of Ollenbock is the final addition and is great at interacting with our opponent’s boards or even recurring creatures from our graveyard as it can target creatures on either side of the board or graveyard! The versatility on this card is really powerful.
Finally, to the end that we are a tribal deck, this list is playing 4 Rally the Ranks which I think is really good in a deck with 33 creatures and combines well with the cheap creatures so they’re more relevant in combat and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar to make her free tokens much more threatening. It’s hard to say if this will become the preferred version of Monowhite Aggro, but it’s definitely going to give it a run for its money.
At the end of the spoilers, it seemed that Boros Vampires was being pushed a bit, but I think I’d stick with trust Rakdos. The main upgrades to this deck from last set are all focused on their flagship mechanic Blood. In the previous article, there were 3 Blood matters cards which was fine, but a little light for my liking. Thankfully, they printed another good one and although it’s an Uncommon, I think it’s very exciting.
Bloodtithe Harvester is clean, elegant, and powerful. A 2 mana 3/2 is a very solid stat line, but it comes with not one, but two abilities! An enter the battlefield trigger to make a Blood on a 3/2 and I would’ve happily played it, however you can use it’s activated ability as a very solid removal spell, needing only a few Blood to kill functionally anything. It’s weird as this seems more like a Rare power level to me, but my wildcards aren’t complaining!
Voldaren Bloodcaster is our other 2 drop Blood producer, but instead of making it on entry, it does when it or any other Vampire dies. This can really accumulate Blood quickly if you’re trading in combat in lot and also has nice synergy with Bloodtithe Harvester as if you sacrifice it to kill something, you can get the Blood before the ability resolves! Having 2 early ddrops help produce Blood is going to make the payoffs that much more powerful.
The first Blood payoff is Falkenrath Forebear and it is real good. A 3/1 Flier that can’t block isn’t the most exciting, but one that’s really hard to kill permanently is going to be a huge pain for many opponents! Furthermore, it produces Blood as well so it’s going to be even more difficult to keep it off the board for long.
The second Blood payoff is Anje, Maid of Dishonor who definitely gets the largest boost from Blood mattering. Turning every extra Blood token (or creatures) into drain 2s is a very scary clock that works very well in conjunction with the large 4/5 body. Like the other Blood matters cards, Anje also produces a good amount of it so its going to be easy to set up massive damage turns!
The final addition to the deck is Henrika Domnathi which doesn’t exactly synergize with the deck, but it’s just a powerful card similar to Rankle, Master of Pranks. It’s versatile and you can flip it instantly to a 3/4 Vampire Nighthawk with an activated ability which by itself I’d be happy to play.
Vampires was looking reasonable before, but with just one more Blood matters card, the deck looks to be elevated to a much higher level.
Despite Werewolves being the last set’s main tribe, it still got some very nice upgrades to the deck!
Far and away the best card Werewolves got from Crimson Vow is Ascendant Packleader. It’s a solid 1 drop that the deck desperately needed, and better yet, it’s a Wolf! In reality Werewolves may have played any good one drop even if it didn’t have the right type, but being a Wolf really helps with all the synergies the deck provides. Furthermore, coming into play/growing larger as the game progresses is just the cherry on top.
Although it’s just a 1 of here, Cemetery Prowler is poised to be excellent in Standard. A solid body that helps give your spells cost reduction is nothing to sneeze at and can make late game double or even triple spell turns relatively easy.
Finally, although it’s not a Werewolf card, Abrade is a pretty substantial upgrade to all Red decks in the metagame. Esika's Chariot is still a huge threat for most decks, and although this doesn’t answer it, it’s a way to at least mitigate the massive amounts of damage it can do.
Overall, Werewolves upgrades were understated, but highly impactful for the deck’s functionality.
Monoblack Zombies was already on the precipice of playability with Midnight Hunt, but Crimson Vow is finally going to put it on the map. It just needed a few more Zombies and ideally a Zombie payoff to become a player, and luckily, we got both.
Graf Reaver is a very solid Zombie that can also kill Planeswalkers if the situation calls! A 2 mana 3/3 is a great body (if Werewolf Pack Leader has taught us anything) and although taking 1 damage on upkeep is a downside, it shouldn’t be super relevant most games as you can just trade it away if you really need. That being said, I still only want to play 2 as drawing multiples can be very painful very quickly and you likely aren’t killing too many Planeswalkers with it’s Exploit ability in most matchups.
The real prize from Crimson Vow is the very powerful Headless Rider. Zombies was struggling as there was no real payoff to be in Zombies. You could play Bladestitched Skaab, but splashing a color for a mediocre Lord was not what I wanted to do. However, getting a solid 3 drop when the deck didn’t have any that makes Zombies whenever any of your nontoken Zombies die is quite the boon for the deck. I still wish we had one more Zombie payoff, but at least having a reason to stick to the tribe, and a powerful one at that, should make it very appealing.
The final upgrade to the deck is the 2013 killer, Hero's Downfall. This card used to be the nuts so seeing it downshifted is funny to me, but it’s still going to be great. Killing any threat you could be worried about for 3 mana makes this a generally better Soul Shatter and exactly the type of removal Black decks are going to want.
Considering Zombies was already remotely playable before Crimson Vow, it’s looking quite good with some nice additions.
The final tribe of Innistrad, Spirits was the one I was most worried about as it seemed the furthest away from being playable. It lacked the support and card density that all the other tribes seemed to have so it was hard to say if it was going to be even remotely viable. Well thankfully, Crimson Vow delivered and we have a powerful looking Spirits deck.
The first great addition is Fleeting Spirit which is really an analog to Seasoned Hallowblade and exactly what the deck needed. It’s a solid beater, helps dodges removal, and being a Spirit helps padding the Spirit count.
The second addition, which is probably the coolest Spirit in the set, is Dorothea, Vengeful Victim. The front side is super strange as a 4/4 Flier for 2 is massive stats, but has the downside of dying after it’s in combat. If that’s all it did, that would likely not be playable, but for 3 mana you can turn any creature you have into a psuedo Geist of Saint Traft! Hexproof is what really broke Geist, but putting that on a Flier can enable some disgusting turns and the fact that neither the back side nor the token is legendary can allow for some really absurd turns and massive damage swings.
Next up we have an innocuous entry that’s still quite good, Circle of Confinement. Standard has been missing it’s Glass Casket so having that to contend with the other creature decks and synergize with Stonebinder's Familiar is quite nice.
Finally we have the big Spirit payoff, Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr which seems nuts. Considering we’re playing predominately creatures, if you curve out with it, Katilda’s going to be on average a 3/3 flying lifelink which is already great stats, but to be able to grow from there and turn into an Aura that has the same ability when it dies is just pushing it to obscene territory. The other tribes should take notes as this is what a tribal payoff should look like.
So we could stop there, but in my brewing I realized there wasn’t one viable Spirits deck, but two!
The base is functionally the same, but you get access to better top end in the form of Showdown of the Skalds and Hofri Ghostforge. I can’t say which version is better, but going Azorius seems inherently better in a metagame where counterspells matter and Boros may be better in a metagame where creature decks are king Either way, both iterations seem quite viable and leverage their tribal synergies well.
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Which tribe are you most excited to try? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading!