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Top 10 Best Tribal Lords in MTG – Riley Ranks

The cycle of tribal lords brought to us in Dominaria United are not mucking around. It’s been awhile since we’ve had such powerful tribal lords printed into a Standard set, and it’s unsurprising to see how popular some of these new two-drops are, given their power level. But what about other tribal lords from the past? There are plenty of lords that, in addition to buffing the power and toughness of their chosen tribe, provide other upsides and benefits.

 

 

10. Lyra Dawnbringer

Lyra Dawnbringer

It’s weird for a lord to cost five mana, as in aggressive creature decks you generally want your curve to stay pretty low to the ground. Lyra Dawnbringer, however, breaks the mold by being a five-mana lord that very, very seriously enhances your team of Angels. Not only does she herself do a decent impression of the iconic Baneslayer Angel, but giving a board of big flyers lifelink as well as increasing their stats tends to mean you end up with a pretty unassailable board. Lyra may be expensive, but she is nonetheless one of the most powerful tribal lords you’re likely to come across, with her personal abilities as well as her team-buffing effects. 

9. Kyler, Sigardian Emissary

Kyler, Sigardian Emissary

Given how Humans are, by quite a margin, the most popular creature type, it’s odd that we don’t have more Human lords. Mayor of Avabruck, General Kudro… the list doesn’t go on much further, but it does include Kyler, Sigardian Emissary. Again, we have a five-mana lord, but again, Kyler makes up for his high mana cost with a suite of abilities that are absolutely nuts. First, there’s the Champion of the Parish ability, meaning he can grow out of control very quickly (especially when tokens are involved), but second, his lord effect can very easily give the team +5/+5 or more. That is absolutely ridiculous, and makes Kyler the natural choice to lead tribal Humans decks, in which he is a must-kill threat.

8. Leaf-Crowned Visionary

Leaf-Crowned Visionary

There are a ton of Elf lords, but this new one has got to be one of the best ever printed. Elves decks tend to want to draw extra cards wherever they can, whether it’s with Elvish Visionary or Glimpse of Nature, and they also tend to generate a lot of mana. Being able to funnel that extra mana into extra cards whenever they cast an Elf is bonkers, as it will allow Elf decks to snowball, rebuild boards after a sweeper and generally become more resilient than ever before. Not to mention that Leaf-Crowned Visionary still gives the team +1/+1, so you’ll still die to those go-wide attacks for which elf decks are so famous. 

7. Death Baron

Death Baron

A rare dual-type lord, Death Baron is usually used in Zombie decks, where it makes blocking an absolute nightmare for opponents. It’s not that all the 2/2 Zombie tokens these decks generate so readily are now 3/3s, it’s that they have deathtouch. And, like any good Zombie, they just don’t stay dead. Zombie decks always have ways to generate more Zombies, and when each of them is at least trading with your creatures as they attack, it quickly becomes difficult to keep up. Without Death Baron, a single 3/3 can forestall a Zombie deck and hold back the undead hordes, but Death Baron makes playing defensively more or less impossible against Zombie decks (and Skeleton decks, too, I suppose, I don’t want an inbox full of angry Skeleton fans feeling overlooked).

6. Goblin Chieftain

Goblin Chieftain

Just like Elves, there are so many Goblin lords: King, General, Trashmaster, the new Rundvelt Hordemaster. It’s tough to say which, exactly, is the best of the lot, but for my money it’s Goblin Chieftain. Giving Goblins haste makes them a lot scarier than before, as anyone who remembers the dominance of Muxus, Goblin Grandee in Historic. Goblin decks want to get in early and often, and giving the team haste is the best way to do that, especially when all those puny 1/1s have their power and toughness doubled. Besides, Chieftain lets you activate cards like Krenko immediately and attack with the tokens he made straight away, which is just absurd. 

5. Knight Exemplar

Knight Exemplar

There may be an element of personal bias sneaking in here, given my well-publicized love of the Knight tribe, but Knight Exemplar really is an exceptional lord. One of the biggest weaknesses of tribal decks is, of course, sweepers, and Knight Exemplar offers a huge barrier to anyone hoping to deal with a board full of Knights with something as simple as a Day of Judgment. Pair her with a Dauntless Bodyguard to make things even more difficult for opponents and enjoy getting into combat with a juiced-up team, confident that nothing can go wrong. Unless they play Toxic Deluge or Mutilate, I suppose, but hey – you were never beating those cards anyway. 

4. Vodalian Hexcatcher

Vodalian Hexcatcher

We’ve seen Merfolk lords before, and we’ve seen Merfolk that sacrifice themselves to counter spells before. Why not combine the two into a disgustingly powerful two-drop that will, I have no doubt, be a staple of Merfolk tribal decks moving forward? Oh, and it has flash, don’t forget. This card will blow so many people out in both combat or while trying to resolve spells, as it provides a stat buff for the team or a bunch of Force Spikes, whatever is necessary. It synergizes magnificently with Merfolk Trickster in keeping the opponent guessing, it is yet another two-mana lord for Merfolk decks along with Master of the Pearl Trident and Lord of Atlantis and will be a card you absolutely must keep in mind whenever facing off against a Merfolk player. 

3. Scion of Oona

Scion of Oona

When it comes to extra abilities granted by lords, we’ve already seen everything from lifelink to deathtouch to indestructible. Scion of Oona, however, offers shroud to other Faeries, which, when combined with flash, offers a blowout potential that outstrips even Vodalian Hexcatcher. Being able to flash this in in response to a removal spell to save your key creature and power up a squad of (presumably) small flyers makes Scion of Oona one of the most dangerous and frustrating lords to play against, and it’s a good thing EDH is a singleton format when it comes to this card. With two Scions, all your point removal is blanked, and good luck resolving a sweeper against a tribe known for its interactive, instant-speed play. 

2. Elvish Archdruid

Elvish Archdruid

Despite Leaf-Crowned Visionary being amazing, I still don’t think it’s the best Elf lord. Elvish Archdruid is capable of producing colossal amounts of mana, sometimes before an opponent has even played their third land. Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid, then on turn three use the four mana from lands and the dork to play more Elves, then use the Elvish Archdruid to make even more mana. Elvish Archdruid enables Elves decks to routinely produce and spend seven or eight mana on turn three, which – to say the least – is extremely difficult to keep pace with. Not to mention, of course, that all the Elves used to power up the Archdruid’s mana ability all get +1/+1 to boot. Ridiculous. If you have a removal spell, don’t hesitate to use it on this card, because you’ll likely regret it later if you done. 

1. Captivating Vampire

Captivating Vampire

Of all the secondary lord effects, however, I don’t think there’s one more powerful than what’s on offer from Captivating Vampire. Sure, a three-mana 2/2 lord that only gives +1/+1 is a little below rate, but having a repeatable, mana-free Mind Control effect stapled to a creature is just absolutely busted. If your board is big enough, you can even activate it the turn Captivating Vampire comes down, the effect doesn’t end when Captivating Vampire dies and he makes the stolen creature into a Vampire as well, meaning you can use it to fuel more activations. At any point in the game, early or late, Captivating Vampire is one of the most terrifying threats that Vampire decks are capable of producing. Kill it on sight!

 

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