Introduction & About the Format
In Magic, there are many deck archetypes in the format, such as Combo, those focused on destroying other player's lands and also tribals (or typals). This last one is mainly built by using a "Tribe", a term that originated from Onslaught when creatures that were defined by their tribes were released. From then on, any time they wanted to define a deck based on their creatures, the deck was identified as a "Tribal" deck for that type of creature.
In Commander, considering only one card of each card name is allowed, a tribal deck frequently becomes extremely consistent, creating incredible possibilities based on the tribe that deck brings. Usually, these decks count on 3 cards that heavily support tribal decks: Lords, which usually increase that tribe's power and resistance.
Besides that, there are usually protection cards for that tribe's creatures, and cards that are ways of bringing victory against your opponents. Even then, there can be countless different builds for a tribal deck.
Here are some tribes which, despite being interesting, seriously disappoint - sometimes because of the low number of creatures in them or due to how unviable the ways of playing with them are, be it because the cards released are very limited, or even because we're still missing commanders which make different types of strategies viable.
Dinosaurs - They have a good theme, but we are missing commanders and access cards. Considering Ixalan has barely had a few sets, we are still in need of, potentially, good commanders besides Gishath, Sun's Avatar, but we're anxious to see what the next set, Lost Caverns of Ixalan, will bring.
Allies - This is a solid theme: anytime an Ally enters the battlefield, or any time they are tapped or spend mana, all other Ally creatures activate their effects. They are much more pleasant to play with than Slivers. General Tazri is a good example of a commander for this tribe, with a few cards being released in a few sets.
Knights - This is a rising thematic, with many cards focusing on them, but it isn't as powerful. There are many cards that have powerful effects, but there are just a few cards which bring diversity to decks based on this tribe. Sidar, Jabari of Zhalfir is one of the few commanders for this tribe which has potential, besides Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale.
Top 10 Tribal Commanders
10. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow - Ninjas
The Ninja tribe uses combat to get ahead. Their mechanic can be used whenever they aren't blocked, so using creatures which can attack their target directly is a must, and, furthermore, they need to be low-cost creatures to make it possible to use their Ninjutsu effects as fast as possible. You can count on creatures such as Changeling Outcast, Slither Blade and Tormented Soul.
Your main goal is to use the commander's effect, and deal damage to an opponent any time a Ninja deals combat damage. Ideally, you'll always have a considerable number of creatures to apply effects that will slow down your opponent's game plan, such as, for instance, removing cards from their graveyard, looking at cards in their hands to predict what they can do, or destroying creatures.
To give this tribe consistency, you use cards with Scry to control what you want to reveal and deal damage to your opponents, card draw to speed up the game whenever necessary and extra turns to apply increasingly more damage through your commander's effect, such as Kaito Shizuki, Bolas's Citadel and Karn's Temporal Sundering.
9. Horde of Notions - Elementals
Elementals are one of the tribes which can access 5 colors, and, when we use Horde of Notions, we'll also take advantage of this. Besides being quite brutish with its 5/5, Haste, Trample and Vigilance, using its secondary effect enhances the Evoke ability considerably, and losing creatures becomes less of a hassle.
This deck's creatures don't just have Evoke; we also count on the trio of Omnaths, which together cause a lot of damage. Using land searching mechanics with Fertilid, we can enhance their effects, increasing board presence by a lot.
Another interesting mechanic is Landfall, with Omnath. We also count on a few creatures that create reasonable advantage on the board through the Elementals tribe, such as Avenger of Zendikar, Phylath, World Sculptor and Zendikar's Roil.
To keep a sharp game rhythm, this deck has a good number of ramp cards, such as Harrow, Sylvan Scrying and Explore the Underdark. We'll always try to have at least one land drop per turn, and we'll, this way, always be capable of using Horde of Notions' effect.
8. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre - Eldrazi
Eldrazis is one of the strongest tribes when it comes to body stats, always bringing high values of power and resistance. The Annihilator effect is one of the greatest fears a player can have. Forcing your opponent to sacrifice their own board and still having a creature with a large body any time you attack is very brutal, particularly using Pathrazer of Ulamog, Artisan of Kozilek and Artisan of Kozilek.
Accelerating mana is crucial, so we use the most efficient colorless ramp cards, such as Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum and Oblivion Sower, to get both your own lands and your opponent's lands. Another way of accelerating mana with this deck is with our mana rocks, which we bring in a big quantity so we're able to cast our commander and the other creatures.
7. Éowyn, Shieldmaiden - Humans
Using tokens has always been viable for tribal decks, and Human decks wouldn't be different. Counting on creatures such as Lossarnach Captain, Thraben Doomsayer and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar to create board advantage is the fastest way to take advantage of the board acceleration this commander provides.
Another way this deck creates advantage is by benefitting from the Monarch effect, which can create a board quickly solely by placing creatures on the battlefield, besides always keeping a card draw flow active.
The best way to build a board full of creatures is counting on a few spells to place many bodies on board. This becomes the key to victory with this deck - after all, no one can block that many creatures.
6. Krenko, Mob Boss - Goblins
Goblins are always a headache, particularly when your commander can place numerous Goblins on board quickly solely by having other Goblins on the battlefield. As a result, many creatures in this deck, such as Squee, Dubious Monarch, Pashalik Mons and Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, are quite interesting.
Another way to fill the board is through the tokens some spells create. Even if they aren't a big deal in this list, they really help Krenko build the board.
We have two ways to finish games with this deck. We can finish with a big attack with numerous attackers, in which Lords like Goblin King or Hobgoblin Bandit Lord shine, or we can use enchantments to boost their damage, such as City on Fire or Impact Tremors.
5. The Ur-Dragon - Dragons
Out of all 5-color tribes, this is the second most powerful. Dragons are creatures which, in general, have Flying, and for that reason, are hard to deal with. The Ur-Dragon makes it easier to play Dragons because of its Eminence. Like so, using creatures which accelerate mana or reduce costs, besides the ramp cards present in this deck, is a way of placing these very dangerous creatures on board - and quickly.
One of the best things this tribe provides is versatility. You have Dragons such as Ryusei, the Falling Star, which can deal with creates on board which don't Fly; Deathbringer Regent, which can reset the board if you need to; and even Bladewing the Risen, which can Reanimate Dragons from the graveyard.
Finishers are quite punctual in this deck. As they have access to all colors, cards such as a few creatures, spells, and the commander itself are capable of ending the game.
4. Edgar Markov - Vampires
For Vampires, creatures, alongside Edgar, greatly impact the board. Cards such as Shadow Alley Denizen, Vampire Socialite and Bloodlord of Vaasgoth help with a stronger ETB. Putting down a token any time you play a Vampire, besides triggering other effects, is one of this list's strong points.
Another strong point is the access to cards whenever your creatures die. Similar to Zombies, they can be used as sacrifice with Viscera Seer or Indulgent Aristocrat, for instance, to accelerate and boost your creatures and disrupt your opponents.
Even if it doesn't have access to colors such as Green or Blue, this tribe can easily boost and protect other vampires with creatures, spells and other sorceries, so you don't lose your creatures and still guarantee your victory.
Some of these examples are Etchings of the Chosen, which increases your power and can protect your creatures at the same time, if you need to, or Glass-Cast Heart, which besides providing card draw, provides tokens and possibly Life Gain.
3. Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver - Zombies
The Zombie tribe is one of the most famous and beloved Magic tribes. They have been used in Commander for a long time now. Throughout time, creatures such as Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver were released impacting the use of creatures with Decayed, an effect that creates creatures which can only attack once, being sacrificed soon afterward. Some creatures in this deck, such as Archghoul of Thraben, Diregraf Captain and Repository Skaab, create advantage on board every time we sacrifice a creature.
Besides some creatures, we also have cards in this deck to interact with sacrifice, such as Altar's Reap and Costly Plunder to provide card draw whenever necessary, and Black Market to create a load of mana.
The use of Lords boosts Zombies' attack and power tremendously. As a result, we have numerous cards to increase the number of tokens on board or return those that were once destroyed to the battlefield again.
2. The First Sliver - Slivers
In second-place, we have one of the few tribes that doesn't have tribal decks with commanders that can't access 5 colors, but it is still one of the most synergistic tribes there are out there. The First Sliver is a very powerful creature which creates a fast board when other creatures are played. Here, the possibility of creating mana of any color very fast is very important.
One of this tribe's strong points is the versatility of being able to deal with practically anything. If you need proactivity, just use Striking Sliver to prevent the damage that could defeat your creature. We also have Flying and Haste with Cloudshredder Sliver, if you need to attack as fast as possible besides evasion, and we can even protect our fractius from punctual or global removals with Sliver Hivelord.
One of this deck's qualities is that even the Lords, which usually only grant powers to other creatures in the tribe, also grant powers to themselves in this tribe, creating a powerful and consistent army. One of the strongest creatures is Sliver Legion, which becomes one of the win conditions, and we can use Double Major to copy it or even copy the commander. We have all this besides the deck's most basic strategy: a direct attack.
1. Lathril, Blade of the Elves - Elves
In our first place, we have one of the most beloved and hated tribes in Magic, both in Commander and outside of it: Elves. These creatures accelerate, at an outrageous rate, both mana and creatures on board.
As a result, I chose 2 different lists: one with a lower cost and another more expensive, showing that, despite having different costs, these decks can be extremely strong, considering both their board power and card variability.
In both decks, we've selected Lathril, Blade of the Elves as the commander, as she is one of the strongest cards for this tribe currently, besides providing us with access to Green and Black, the best colors for Elves currently.
In these lists, there is a small variation regarding number of creatures: we have 39 in the cheapest, and 37 in the most expensive, including the commander. The key to mana consistency is in the use of dorks (Elves that generate mana) to accelerate the game rhythm. In these lists, using Fyndhorn Elves, Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic on turn 1, Incubation Druid and Priest of Titania on turn 2 and Elvish Archdruid e Marwyn, the Nurturer on turn 3 are a few of the ways you can accelerate and keep the game rhythm.
Besides dorks, many creatures are in this deck to build our numbers, bringing an increase in tokens on board. Elves can do this easily, be it because of their creature spells, or through other cards such as enchantments or sorceries.
To win, Elves count on the good old combat or commander effect, if the board is hard to get through with just brute force.
The most viable ways to defeat your opponents are using cards such as Ezuri, Renegade Leader, to grant all your creatures Trample and +3/+3 at instant speed, and Timberwatch Elf, which drastically increases an Elf's power, making it possible for that 1/1 creature which is going through unblocked to deal a lot of damage.
Using cards to fill your hand with new draws is one of the factors that support the Elven strategy. We can use the cards Shamanic Revelation or Beast Whisperer, for instance, to keep resources in hand.
Lastly, decks must have various punctual destructions to deal with the board. Some of them, such as Assassin's Trophy, Beast Within or Casualties of War, can help us by eliminating eminent threats and buying us more time to win the match.
Finally, these are the top 10 tribal commanders. You can disagree with me, after all, there are dozens and dozens of different tribes in Magic, but not all of them are viable.
The Spirit tribe, for instance, despite being extremely powerful in formats such as Modern, can even be built well and have powerful decks in Commander, but it ends up having the same issues Dinosaurs have, for instance: lack of variety or lack of powerful cards for different decks.
Another example is the forgotten tribes, such as Kobolds, which even getting a card here and there still don't give us many options.
See you next time!