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For the card type formerly known as Tribal, see Kindred.

Typal, also called Tribal, is Magic slang for a block, set, or deck with a mechanical theme centered around one or more creature types.[1][2]

Description[ | ]

Typal (then named Tribal) was a major focus of the Onslaught, Lorwyn, Innistrad, and Ixalan blocks, while many other blocks and sets have offered support to one or two creature types. As of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, R&D started to use the term "typal", instead of "tribal".[3] This came about because the word “tribal” has some unintended connotations.[4][5][6] The word “typal” will never appear on cards.[7]

The typal / tribal theme should not be confused with the no longer supported Tribal card type that was renamed Kindred.[8]

History of the typal theme[ | ]

This history covers primarily draftable sets, focusing on premier sets, as Commander decks and the like typically point out their typal focus clearly on their descriptions.

The typal concept has been around since Alpha[9] , but was not explored in depth until Fallen Empires. The Onslaught block was the first to delve very deeply into the mechanics of the typal theme, to be followed several years later by the Lorwyn block.[10] Many other blocks and sets have employed the typal theme in a more minor capacity, most notably the Kamigawa block and Innistrad block.[11]

Typal decks have been persistently popular since the game's beginnings, in part because novice players find it easy to understand and fun to play with. Meanwhile, their range has expanded from being cute side strategies to being the core of many sets.[12]

R&D shifted all typal effects many years ago to only affect the player's cards, instead of the appropriate cards of all players. It was what more players intuitively believed was supposed to happen and it leads to less tension when casting the cards.[13]

AlphaWeatherlight[ | ]

The typal concept is as old as the game itself, going back to Alpha. The three "lords"—Goblin King, Lord of Atlantis, and Zombie Master—each encouraged players to build decks with creatures of their respective type (goblins, merfolk, and zombies respectively), although this was hampered by the fact that none of these creatures actually had that creature type (all three would later be issued errata to change this) and that each lord had very few cards of their creature type to call subjects (two goblins, one merfolk, and one zombie). Ensuing sets would add a handful of new cards to each race, but for most of the game's early history, creating a typal deck meant simply picking a large number of creatures of the same type and just throwing them in a deck together.

Arabian Nights and Antiquities added little to the typal theme (despite the preponderance of djinn and efreet in the former). Legends employed the typal theme with the addition of the "legend" creature type (which has since been changed to a supertype) with numerous cards that helped or hindered legends; the set also included the kobolds, which are viewed by many as a failed early experiment in typal design. The Dark added a few more goblins to players' arsenals, plus a handful of cards that rewarded players for playing with them (Goblin Caves, Goblin Shrine, Orc General) or against them (Tivadar's Crusade), setting goblins on their way to becoming Magic's preeminent creature subtype.

Fallen Empires was the first set to bring the typal theme into the limelight. Numerous cards were created that cared about certain existing creature types (mainly goblins, but also elves, dwarves, merfolk, and orcs). Soldiers emerged as white's preeminent creature type (though they wouldn't get considerable support until Invasion, years later). The set also introduced three new races —fungus, homarids, and thrulls—but despite the enduring popularity of the fungus/saproling concept none of these made much of a splash. Despite adding new fodder to typal decks, however, Fallen Empires is regarded as something of a failure, as each race (with the possible exception of the goblins) received very little useful support; like many early sets, it was built from a "flavor-first" perspective, and as such the set's mechanics suffered.

The rest of Magic's early, pre-Weatherlight Saga sets did little to expand the typal theme. Ice Age and Alliances both brought in more goblins, elves, soldiers, and zombies, but without much in-game support. Homelands tried to encourage players to use unusual races (dwarves, faeries, minotaurs, vampires), but like much about the set, it fell flat. Mirage, Visions, and Weatherlight tossed in yet more new goblins and had a few cards that encouraged players to use knights and griffins, but did not play up the typal concept.

TempestJudgment[ | ]

With the release of the Tempest block and the beginning of the Rath cycle (kicking off the long-running Weatherlight Saga), Magic began moving toward a different model in which consistent game rules took precedence over the set's flavor, a model that would later be cemented by Invasion. Tempest was not a "typal" set, but it and the following set, Stronghold, did introduce a new race that has proven enduringly popular and deadly: The slivers. Every one of these creatures rewarded players for putting them in a deck together, making it relatively easy to build truly powerful decks around a single creature type for the first time. Tempest also saw the creation of beasts, but it wouldn't receive adequate support until Onslaught.

The last set of the Tempest block, Exodus, added little to the tribal theme, nor did the ensuing Urza's block, although Priest of Titania and Goblin Lackey from Urza's Saga empowered elf and goblin decks respectively. The Masques block did not play up the tribal theme, but it did include widespread support for two new classes: rebels and mercenaries.

The Invasion block was the first time an entire block was built around a single concept (in this case, multi-color cards), laying the groundwork for the Onslaught block and Lorwyn blocks to come. It also formally solidified in many players' minds Magic's five major subtypes with the five "envoys" in Apocalypse: Soldiers in white, merfolk in blue, zombies in black, goblins in red, and elves in green; the five enemy-color two-drop creatures from the same set reinforced this. The Invasion block also featured the kavu race across several colors.

The Odyssey block's major theme was interactivity with the graveyard, though it also encouraged the use of several new or unusual subtypes: Barbarians, beasts, birds, centaurs, cephalids, druids, horrors, insects, minions, mystics, nightmares, nomads, and squirrels, plus some new zombies. However, there was minimal tribal support, as the different creature types existed more for story purposes than game ones.

OnslaughtTenth Edition[ | ]

The Onslaught block was a breakthrough in tribal design, as the entire block was built around the concept. Soldiers, zombies, goblins, and elves returned as the major subtypes of their respective colors, though wizards replaced merfolk as blue's characteristic type. Beasts, birds, clerics, dragons, and even walls received broad in-game support.[14][15] The slivers made their triumphant return. Many enchantments, instants, and sorceries bolstered tribal decks with subtype-specific effects. The mistform creatures, which could change their creature type between turns, were created to patch holes in the tribal concept, and the set saw the creation of Mistform Ultimus, the first creature to have all creature types. Onslaught represented a high-water mark in tribal design as goblin and elf decks saw widespread tournament play, and the depth of its exploration of the tribal concept wouldn't be matched until Lorwyn.

At this time, Eighth Edition introduced the race/class model, in which almost all humanoid creatures were given not one but two creature types: One for their species and one for their profession. For instance, Fyndhorn Elder was both an elf and a druid and benefited from cards that cared about either. This model, which had been heralded by the many "bird soldiers" and other dual-typed creatures in the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks, opened up a whole new dimension for typal deckbuilding.

The typal theme was not played up in the artifact-centric Mirrodin block, though it introduced playable races in the form of cats and myr, and added several new goblins, elves, zombies, soldiers, and others to complement those in Onslaught.

The Kamigawa block had numerous typal elements, though it is not considered a "typal block" — its focus was more on the legendary mechanic. The spirit creature type, which had been in existence since Legends, was a major part of the block, spanning all five colors and spawning what is so far two of only a handful of keyword abilities to relate to a single creature type: spiritcraft and soulshift. Other subtypes to receive support included foxes, moonfolk, rats, goblins, snakes, ogres, demons, samurai (which received another type-specific keyword, bushido), and ninja (which was assigned ninjutsu).

The next block, Ravnica, centered around multicolor cards rather than creatures, but some new goblins, elves, rats, ogres, and spirits were included to bolster cross-set synergy. The Time Spiral block, however, was a dumping ground for all themes and mechanics up to that point, included many typal concepts, including bringing back the slivers for one more hurrah; it also included several new races (such as kithkin) in anticipation of the upcoming set Lorwyn.

LorwynScars of Mirrodin[ | ]

To date, the Lorwyn block is the most thorough exploration of the typal theme. To begin with, almost every creature in the block belonged to one of only eight races (elves, goblins, merfolk, kithkin, faeries, giants, treefolk, and elementals), and most belonged to one of five classes (soldiers, wizards, rogues, shamans, and warriors), all of which received numerous cards to promote play with them. In Lorwyn, several races received support in colors they had previously not been very prevalent in. Minor clasases like knights, clerics, assassins, archers, and druids also received some support, making decks built around some of them viable for the first time in Magic's history. The Lorwyn block followed Kamigawa's example by assigning keywords to single creature types, giving them a sense of thematic cohesion: evoke belonged to elementals and prowl to rogues. The kinship ability (focused on shamans but appearing in others as well) rewarded players for playing with many cards of the same subtype in one deck, benefiting from the race/class model. That said, the depth of type support made for prescriptive drafting and a mind-melting gameplay experience, which influenced set design from then on.

The Shadowmoor block following Lorwyn was not typal-centered, but since it shared settings with the previous block it provided many cards that fit well into decks built around the Lorwyn subtypes. For instance, Inkfathom Infiltrator and Noggle Bandit were boons to rogue/prowl decks, while Sapling of Colfenor played well with other treefolk. The Shadowmoor block also offered some support to the scarecrow artifact creature type.

The Alara block was light on typal elements, focusing more on the three-color "shards" as card groupings. Dragons and Zombies got a couple of cards each, with the colored artifacts and 5-power matters taking the place of typal synergy gameplay. The Zendikar block similarly did not feature much typal, with the introduction of Allies and Vampires being inducted as a characteristic race. Rise of the Eldrazi had some with the Eldrazi themselves getting a few colorless spells with the typal supertype and a keyword typal with Defenders. Over the block, Merfolk and Elves got two independent typal cards, one Goblin and one Kor. Scars of Mirrodin block was again mostly devoid of typal, concentrating on the Mirran/Phyrexian split, except for some minor elements of it in the continuation of the myr family. Golems have various lords through the Splicer mechanic, and Elves got another single lord.

InnistradAmonkhet[ | ]

Innistrad block saw a return to typal, but with less heavy-handedness than Lorwyn. Though the kindred supertype was not present as it had been in Lorwyn and Rise of the Eldrazi, each of the five main "races" of Innistrad and Dark Ascensionhumans, spirits, vampires, werewolves and zombies—got some support cards, including the Dark Ascension "captains" cycle (a return to the concept of race "lords"). Avacyn Restored, as a partial mechanical reboot, included some angel and demon typal as well as further exploration of human typal. The same races were used in the Shadows over Innistrad block.

Return to Ravnica block, like the original Ravnica, was not type-focused (although there was an unusual example of some minor land subtype themes, with the bicolored Gate lands). Slivers returned in Magic 2014. Theros block has featured a significant amount of typal in black-red minotaurs (and less so with gorgons), but it has not proven to be a major theme of the set as played.

Khans of Tarkir block featured Warrior typal as a prominent sub-theme of the Mardu Horde (and some {B}{W} cards in Dragons of Tarkir), though Dragons of Tarkir would fully embrace typal play with a predictably heavy Dragon typal focus. A Zombie lord was printed at Mythic in Dragons, which was strange given how the set generally didn't support Zombies.

In keeping with the tradition established by its predecessor, Battle for Zendikar showcased both Eldrazi and ally typal gameplay, though strictly speaking the Eldrazi cards all referred to "colorless creatures" to encompass the surrounding morphs in Tarkir and the artifact creatures in Kaladesh. Likewise, Shadows over Innistrad block maintained the precedent set by its predecessor with its five subtypes - more Eldrazi were printed in Eldritch Moon, but there were no callouts to support them.

Kaladesh featured only sparse typal elements, mainly about Vehicles rather than any creatures. That said, the Dwarf, Thopter, Servo and Aetherborn all received lords during the block.

Amonkhet was built with Zombies as a central theme, with a dose of Cat and Minotaur typal mixed in. In Hour of Devastation, a significant number of Desert related cards were also printed, making yet another instance of land-subtype typal. A Horse lord was printed, with its creature type chosen specifically not to overlap with any relevant cards.

Ixalan - Modern Horizons[ | ]

The Ixalan block places typal gameplay front and center, arguably to the greatest degree since Lorwyn. Pirates, Dinosaurs, Merfolk, and Vampires receive substantial support, the first two receiving it for the first time.[16] Ixalan was somewhat unusual in that Pirates ({U}{B}{R}) and Dinosaurs ({R}{G}{W}) were three-color groupings, while Vampires ({W}{B}) and Merfolk ({U}{G}) were two-color ones. Most of the two-color draft archetypes in Ixalan were centered on drafting from a single subtype.

Dominaria offers support to Wizards and Goblins typal, with lesser but still noticeable support for Knights and the triumphant return of Fungus and Saproling typal. It also supported legendary as a form of super-typal, with it being part of a new way to group card types called batching, represented with the Historic batch.

The return to Ravnica in Guilds of Ravnica block was low on creature-type typal, though it expanded on the Gate land typal. War of the Spark had four cards that boosted the Amass drafting archetype which could be used in Zombie typal, though restricted to tokens. The oft-requested Ooze lord Biogenic Ooze was printed in Ravnica Allegiance; Persistent Petitioners called for Advisors and Mesmerizing Benthid called for Illusions, though both cases are self-contained cards.

Core Set 2020 featured Elemental typal as a draft theme in {R}{G} and {U}{G} pairs, and also had a selection of independent typal cards, notably Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Marauding Raptor for the outgoing Ixalan subtypes. An extremely powerful Wolf and Werewolf lord printed is Nightpack Ambusher, incidentally following two other Wolf typal cards in War of the Spark. Given the lack of Wolves in the following year, the card was printed as a stand-alone power card with Werewolf for flavor.

Modern Horizons brought back Slivers, Goblins, and Ninjas for typal draft archetypes, alongside four independent typal cards, two of which have no support within the set. These were designed for the "arbitrary subtype" Shapeshifter deck in {W}{B}.

Throne of Eldraine - Adventure in the Forgotten Realms[ | ]

The following year of sets was not in blocks; none had typal as a major theme, with Eldraine having a Knight theme for pairs in the {W}{B}{R} wedge and minor {W}{B} Human typal in Ikoria. However, there was an experimental through-line for Throne of Eldraine and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths of anti-typal or "non-Human" typal. Ikoria had lesser benefits for non-Humans, being only for Mutate and some callouts that support controlling both Humans and non-Humans; whereas Eldraine had more true rewards. Ikoria also introduced "keyword lords" in four spells for five different keywords - previously a treatment only seen at length for flying. Satyrs received a lord in Theros Beyond Death. With the consolidation of the Dog creature type, a Dog lord was printed in celebration in Core 2021 - it was also the white constituent of a loose typal cycle, with blue Spirits, black Rogues, red Goblins and green Cats getting one card in support.

Zendikar Rising brought about subtype batching in the mechanic party, which collects Rogue ({B}), Wizard ({U}), Warrior ({R}), and Cleric ({W}) together, four iconic Dungeons and Dragons classes. Each has primary (listed) and secondary (the color next listed) colors, with {G} being tertiary in each. This allows for a scaling typal count that caps at four, where previously it was clunky to implement limits in type counting. It also incentivized some diversification of classes, unlike previous typal being strong enough that one was inclined to always go all-in. The imbalanced color distribution provides an unusual archetype dynamic: four two-color typal decks, two Party decks in the off-colors of {B}{R} and {U}{W}, and four non-typal {G} decks. Allys do not make a return from the previous two blocks due to type line space, but it gets a callout on one card: Tazri, Beacon of Unity.

Kaldheim takes the Innistrad approach of top-down typal, with a race per pair but with lower mechanical focus, unlike a set like Ixalan or Zendikar Rising. Multiple cards support cards that share creature types, but the type the cards are is not relevant. To up the density and relevance of these cards, Changeling returns as a mechanic. Of the ten races of the realms, {U}{R} Giants and {B}{G} Elves have the most typal synergies; the Giant spells sometimes also refer to Wizards. Dwarves and Zombies get a lord each; Berserker, Cleric, Warrior, God, Serpent, Shapeshifter, and Angel receive one or two references in stand-alone cards. A few cards check for Legendary creatures, though each of them uses it as a small bonus to their normal function.

Strixhaven: School of Mages is primarily an enemy-color set, but each school features a token type, and tokens themselves as a type have some support. Spirits have definitive support across various cards. Fractals have one card in Biomathematician. Pests are supported obliquely by lifegain triggers (Pests are defined to gain the controller a life upon dying), with Blex, Vexing Pest also being a lord for Bats, Insects, Snakes, and Spiders. Inklings and Elementals round out the quintet but have no support.

Modern Horizons 2 featured the return of Squirrel typal support as an element of the {B}{G} draft archetype, centered on creature sacrifice. A large selection of cards have explicit token-typal effects, extending them to noncreature tokens also, like Food or Clues. Like the previous Modern Horizons, several types received one-off typal support, like Merfolk, Lhurgoyf, and Crab.

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has minor themes of Dragon typal, alongside two Goblin lords and one "undead" (Skeleton, Zombie, and Vampires) lord. "Legend" typal returns in some Bard-flavored cards.

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt - Outlaws of Thunder Junction[ | ]

Midnight Hunt continued the five-race typal seen in the previous two blocks of Innistrad, now with a stronger mechanical link over a subtype link. As previously, there are four or five cards in the set for each type. Part of this approach leads to a far fewer number of Spirits and Zombies, as the former are represented on the back faces of Disturb cards, while the latter are scattered across various instants and sorceries with the downside mechanic Decayed. Crimson Vow restores these numbers with different mechanics, with a similar number of typal effects, plus a cycle of typal hate cards.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty brings back Samurai and Ninja as supported types, but couples them with Warrior and Rogue respectively to give some level of format cross-compatibility. Vehicles, in the form of Mechs, now have typal effects that were previously limited to Pilots. Dragons and Frogs got independent callouts, and one card ends up being an incidental anti-typal Rat card. Unlike the previous visit to Kamigawa, Spirits get no typal support, instead having enchantment synergies representing the spiritual realm. Streets of New Capenna is a tricolor faction set foremost; but like the previous tricolor set Khans, one overlapping color pair uses typal (Citizens) as an archetype. Angels and Vampires have independent callouts, while Spirits got a card that called for a type specifically not represented in the set. Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate gave some more Party, Gate and Dragon support, introduced Horror typal, and batches a set of "Demonic" creatures (Demons, Devils, Tieflings and Imps) on a lord.

Dominaria United was low on types as a theme, but many single lords, with Goblin, Soldier, Merfolk, Elf, Cleric, and Dragon, with self-contained Saproling and Zombie cards. Partial themes of legends and defenders are also present. The Brothers' War prominently featured Soldier typal as its white-blue draft archetype, with some Assembly-Workers and a Beast-and-Bird supporting creature. Phyrexia: All Will Be One featured toxic keyword typal, alongside a typal land for Phyrexians. Self-contained Cat and Juggernaut cards and a Rat lord were printed. March of the Machine added Knight and a greater amount of Phyrexian typal, with one Hydra, Praetor, Spirit, and two Dragon cards. The introduction of Incubators makes for a subset of Phyrexian typal, as all Incubators create Phyrexians and effects regarding Incubators are related to transforming them. Transformed cards are a new quasi-typal grouping. There is also a God, Demigod and Aura batching, and a battle that supports matching types in general.

The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth batched Goblin and Orc, with one card adding Army as well, to go with the return of Amass. The Ring Tempts You gives all decks steady access to a legendary creature, which also received support. After that, Human, Halfling, Treefolk, Wraith, Elf, Spider, Spirit, Horse, Bird, and Dwarf have descending levels of support, from five cards to one. Wilds of Eldraine did not carry through the non-Human theme, instead adding support to Rat and Faerie. It also added more incentives for Adventure creatures as a theme. The Lost Caverns of Ixalan dialed back on the four types it supported the previous visit, with Dinosaurs being the more prevalent. It also added Fungus/Saproling support.

Murders at Karlov Manor introduced the Detective type in a premier set and with it a series of typal support. Ooze, Wolf and Goblin have single cards. Outlaws of Thunder Junction introduces the coupling term Outlaw for Rogues, Assasssins, Pirates, Warlocks and Mercenaries, and uses it much like any form of typal. Mounts were also introduced with support, one of which also supports Vehicles, as well as more cards that support Legendary creatures. Zombies got two lords, one of which also supported Skeletons.

See also[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (May 09, 2019). "What is lower case tribal?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  2. Mark Rosewater (January 10, 2022). "Even More Words From R&D". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2023). "Crafting the Ring, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2023). "Just for clarification - is "typal" the same thing as what's commonly referred to amongst players as "tribal"?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  5. Mark Rosewater (August 1, 2023). "I noticed that “typal” has been used more recently where “tribal” would once have been used. Why the change?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  6. Mark Rosewater (February 24, 2024). "Whats wrong with the word tribal?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  7. Mark Rosewater (August 21, 2023). "One thing that has bothered many players in the Portuguese language is the new term "typal".". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  8. Wizards of the Coast (November 3, 2023). "Card Updates Coming with Khans of Tarkir on MTG Arena". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Mark Rosewater (June 1, 2020). "My Favorite Things". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Mark Rosewater (October 08, 2007). "Before and After". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (January 09, 2012). "Dancing in the Dark Ascension, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Gavin Verhey (July 7, 2016). "The Trouble with Tribals". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Mark Rosewater (October 14, 2016). "When slivers return will they be "all slivers get" or "sliver creatures you control get"?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  14. Mark Rosewater (September 23, 2002). "Tribal's in Your Court". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Mark Rosewater (October 14, 2002). "Creature Feature". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Sam Stoddard (September 12, 2017). "Developing a Tribal Set". Wizards of the Coast.