One of the most fun ways to build a deck in Magic: The Gathering is to base it around one of the many tribes in the game. MTG tribes are cards that share a creature type. While they’ll often be things like Wolves, Cats or Dragons, you’ll also occasionally find tribes in Magic: The Gathering that are a little looser when it comes to their definition, such as Warriors or Wizards.
No matter what the tribe is, as long as they all share a creature type, they’re often far more powerful together than apart. MTG is filled with tribal decks in nearly every single format. In fact, decks often end up labelled as simply being “Standard Zombies” or “Modern Humans” instead of any greater strategy beyond that.
Best Magic: The Gathering tribes
According to EDHREC, there are 117 tribes. The most popular of these is Elves, and the least popular is actually tied between Crocodiles, Warlocks, Serpents, Gargoyles and Bats. Not everyone puts their decks on EDHREC, but it’s a nice little snapshot of what people play, at least when it comes to the Commander format.
Tribes in MTG go way beyond just being useful in Commander, so we’ve tried to keep that in mind with how we’ve ranked them. It’s worth noting that Eldrazi would be on this list if they were a little more consistent, but we’ve not seen them in a while, and they’re not often designed to work together anyway.
We are legion
First up is Slivers. We know we said that Eldrazi haven’t been printed in a while, but technically we got Slivers in Modern Horizons 2, which was this year, so we’re counting it. Slivers were, in many respects, the first tribe in Magic: The Gathering.
They’re also one of the best examples of what a good tribe should do, as each card works together in perfect harmony. However, they’re not all that competitive and, even in Commander, will often be outplayed by more interesting creature types. They’re undoubtedly powerful, and they come in every mana colour, but they’re not quite powerful enough to rank any higher than this.
It’s probably not fair to assume Merfolk smell like the sea, but a lot of people refer to the deck in Modern as being “fish”, so it’s not unreasonable. Merfolk are an excellent MTG tribe for those who are keen on drawing a lot of cards, and those who like playing in Blue and Green.
It’s a tribe that tends to be good at protecting itself using a variety of keywords such as ward and hexproof, and has a lot of ways to become unblockable too. Because of this, you can use them to be aggressive when needed, or hold back and build up an army if you need to overwhelm someone’s defences.
The Fire Nation is the least of your worries
Elementals are another five-colour tribe, but this one isn’t as much about synergy as just having a lot of mana, and probably using all four iterations of Omnath. The latest version of the Elemental creature, Omnath, Locus of Creation, is a four-colour terror that is currently banned in Brawl and Standard.
The tribe, on the whole, tends to value landfall triggers, and can often flood the board with hordes of shockingly big creatures, along with often finding ways to make sure you’re drawing extra cards and getting additional value from your graveyard too.
Spooky, but ethereal
Spirits wouldn’t have been this high up on a list of the best MTG tribes until fairly recently. While you could argue that Spirits in Modern have been semi-viable for a few years, in our opinion, they didn’t become a really interesting tribe until the release of Strixhaven.
Strixhaven introduced more White and Red cards into the mix. Traditionally, Spirits have just been a little bit hexproof and all flying, but these new cards have changed things. Now we’ve got cards like Laelia, the Blade Reforged and Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant who mess around with exiling things for value. It’s also likely that Innistrad: Crimson Vow is going to boost the power level of this tribe yet again, so they’re one to pay attention to.
The stinkiest tribe in Magic: The Gathering
This is a reluctant acceptance of the fact that Goblins are a powerful tribe in MTG, but that doesn’t mean we have to like the annoying mono-Red stinkers. Goblins do one thing and one thing only, and that’s swarm.
Nearly every strategy that involves them just involves making as many of them as possible, and then using them as fodder to either slowly chew through enemy defences or use something like Impact Tremors to destroy your foes under the sheer weight of the stench we assume they bring. We don’t like them, we don’t really respect them, but they’re here.
They don’t suck
Vampires are another MTG tribe likely to get a power boost thanks to Crimson Vow, but it’s also likely that we’ve already seen many of the most powerful Vampires thanks to the legacy the tribe has. You only have to look at the might of Olivia Voldaren and her ability to steal opponent’s creatures to realise what makes this tribe so good.
Vampires are generally considered a Black and Red tribe, but the most powerful Commander deck is headed up by Edgar Markov, which turns the tribe into Black, Red and White. The strategies often involve stealing other people’s things, and sacrificing creatures for profit.
The most persistent MTG tribe
In your head, in your head. Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie. Zombies are one of those tribes that most people have tried out at least once. The way they never stay dead is enticing in a game where losing creatures is a big deal. These Blue and Black beasts are especially absurd when you mess around with them in Commander and add in the likes of Rooftop Storm, which lets you cast them for free.
They’re also the stars of the show from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, despite the fact that it was meant to be a Werewolf set. It’s always a good time to be a fan of Zombies in Magic: The Gathering, but now’s especially good as they’re very strong in Standard.
Big flying lizards that spit fire, what’s not to love?
Dragons are the number one Magic: The Gathering tribe in our hearts. Despite that, their casting costs are often far higher than other tribes, which makes them a little hard to manage in the more competitive formats. That being said, you’ll nearly always find a four-mana Red Dragon near the top of the best MTG cards in any given format, because they hit hard and fast.
They’re our penultimate five-colour tribe, and Dragons are undoubtedly at the top of the list when it comes to raw power. Nearly every single member of this tribe needs to be dealt with if they’re staring you down; otherwise you’re in for a bad time. In Commander especially, it’s possible to pull off some ridiculous feats with these scaly flying menaces, and we love them for it.
Don’t be selvish
Our penultimate tribe is Elves, which stands at the top of the EDHREC ranking of popular MTG tribes with over 10,000 registered decks. Elves are good in nearly every format because they don’t cost much mana individually; the tribe specialises in creating more mana, drawing more cards and then eventually winning through those two advantages.
Recent years have only served to cement the tribe as a Black and Green powerhouse. They’re also one of the simpler tribes to play around with too, because every MTG player understands the value of having a lot of mana and drawing a lot of cards. However, they’re not quite the best of the bunch.
Vanilla, but powerful
Honestly, there’s something a little anticlimactic about Humans being the best tribe in Magic: The Gathering. We’re all humans - or at least, we’re assuming so - so having the best tribe in a game with so many fantastical creatures in it is a bit off, but it’s also true.
Humans come in every mana colour of MTG. They not only have the usual tribal synergies you’d expect, like making each other stronger, but also manage to include such a wide breadth of potential effects that you could create 30 decks with them and still have a different strategy for each. They’re flexible in ways that the other tribes just can’t match up to, and every time a new overpowered Human gets printed, Modern sighs at the influx of new Human decks that are about to befall it. There’s no doubting that they deserve to be at the top of the best tribes in Magic: The Gathering.