More or less what it says on the tin. I see a lot of meta decks that revolve more on a (thematically) random group of cards that only share a strategy.

When is the last time a tribal deck was competitively viable in Standard? (Let's say, the last time a tribal deck made it into the top 4 at a major M:TG tournament.) What tribe was it?

Was there ever a time when tribal decks dominated the Standard meta?

  • 5
    How do you delineate between "tribal" and "random group of cards that only share a strategy"? Orzhov Vampires/Aggro is a thing right now. There were some dinosaur decks that did well earlier this year. Do those count as "tribal"? (For reference I was using mtgtop8.com to find some of these. See here and here for example)
    – Becuzz
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 16:23
  • My metric is 'core cards in the deck care about a certain creature type'. Whether that's buffing them, fetching them, or doing something based on having them. Thanks, I wasn't aware of mtgtop8 as a resource! (Just now getting into mtg competitive scene)
    – Aetherfox
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 16:37
  • Grand Prix Denver 2019, 4th place: Orzhov Vampires. All 26 creatures, the 4 Sorins and Legion's Landing are all vampire themed. Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 12:36

2 Answers 2


If you consider "Tribal decks" as decks with

core cards in the deck [that] care about a certain creature type,

there's plenty of examples out there.

This will be a very broad answer that'll brush over many specifics of the metagame and the differences between physical and digital plays, focusing only on information available from resources such as MTGTop8, which accounts mostly for MTGO tournaments.

In the current (as of 09/09/19) standard meta, Orzhov Vampires represent 11% of the (MTGO) field, while Jund Dinosaurs represent about ~5%.

Both of those decks focus on aggressively dishing out their creatures and hitting for as much damage as possible, using those same creatures to create card advantage (such as Champion of the Dusk and Ripjaw Raptor), or decrease the clock to end the match more swiftly (such as Legion Lieutenant, Sanctum Seeker, Marauding Raptor and Rampaging Ferocidon).

Both these decks are currently posting good results consistently in standard play, as you can see from the links provided.

When talking about Modern, the obvious examples are 5 Color Humans which focus on Human creatures, while some Eldrazi variants focus on Eldrazi creatures and fast mana. It's also worth mentioning the Spirits deck, which focuses on Spirits. All three of these currently post good results in the modern metagame, although they're not as dominant as they once were, especially the eldrazi decks.

Legacy has always had some tribal decks being represented, although not many with expressive results. The currently most represented tribal decks are Goblins, Humans and Slivers, although they're only about ~4% of the whole Legacy field, which favours more controlling and combo decks due to faster mana and cheaper countermagic.

As @Veskah noted, Elves has been very represented in Legacy at some point, but its power has dwindled lately due to the more controlling meta for the format. That said, Elves is one of the original tribal decks in Legacy, and it veers from the usual strategy by being something of a combo deck, relying on generating huge amounts of mana and putting many creatures on the board to finish the game with a Progenitus or a Craterhoof Behemoth.

Vintage has also has some tribal decks in the meta for a while, specifically Fish, which used to be Merfolk tribal decks, although today the term has been adapted to mean any kind of (mainly blue) deck with cheap creatures and lots of countermagic. Along with Fish comes the ever-present Eldrazi, although once again it's more of a hate/control deck than an actual tribal deck.

  • Aw, Elves not even getting a shout-out despite being one of the OG tribes?
    – Veskah
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 13:23
  • 1
    @Veskah I guess I skipped over elves mostly because it's considered a combo deck while usual tribal decks are aggro. It's definitely worth a mention though, so I'll add it to the answer.
    – J. Sallé
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 13:24

Since you're referring to Standard the answer is "right now". B/W Vampires is one of the pillars of current Standard.

Tribal decks haven't dominated Standard since I started following the format, though. In recent years there were attempts at Pirates, Merfolk & Elementals in addition to Vampires, and none of them worked out very well. Dinosaurs is a legitimate deck, but not Tier 1. Vampires is great and definitely tier 1, but it's also not dominant, and there are decks that beat it.

  • Regarding tribal decks not having ever dominated a format, I recommend reading this great TechRaptor article on the Eldrazi Winter.
    – J. Sallé
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 12:40
  • @J.Sallé you consider Eldrazi decks during winter tribal decks? The only tribal card in those decks is Eldrazi Temple.
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 12:45
  • 2
    Naturally. Not only Eldrazi Temple, but Eye of Ugin, Eldrazi Mimic and every other creature in the deck (except SSG) either are or care about Eldrazis in some way. By the OP's definition, that's as tribal as it gets.
    – J. Sallé
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 12:48
  • @J.Sallé fair point, will edit.
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 14:11

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