Goat Tribal

The Future of Tribal – Goat Tribal

Since the dawn of cube, people have been asking the same question: “How do I get tribal working in my cube?” There have been countless forum threads, text messages, telegrams, letters and phone calls about this, and even some face-to-face conversations. Elf tribal packages were added to cubes, goblin decks were discussed, wizards were considered and tossed aside, soldiers turned out to be rubbish, and inevitably most of the people involved scrapped it all.

I tried tribal too, years ago after I first built my cube. I tried in vain to replace my blue AND my white two drops with 19 copies of Voidmage Prodigy to make a mono-blue wizard aggro-control archetype. This was total garbage, as I’m sure a few of you spotted. So was everything else. With a heavy heart I threw aside the Gempalm Sorcerers, the Goblin Kings, the Ambush Commanders, the Bloodthirsty Ogres and the Brushwaggs. I filled up the spots in the cube up with “good cards”, but I couldn’t fill the void in my heart.

Years passed. The tribal ideas became fewer and further between, and more ridiculous each time. The internet threw around ideas about Gravecrawlers and Carrion Feeders, Champions of the Parish and Fencing Aces, Starlit Sanctums, Vampire Nocturnuses, Hordes of Notions but still nothing was good enough. What was the point of going Gifts Ungiven into Haakon and Gravecrawler when your opponent was casting Channel into Colossus of Sardia?

But finally I had a good idea: Goat tribal! I’ve been testing this baby 25 hours a day, and I’m ready to unveil this monstrosity.

The Core

The key cards that make this work are Trading Post, Springjack Shepherd and Springjack Pasture.

Trading PostSpringjack PastureSpringjack Shepherd

These are the main goat producers.

Trading Post is a fantastic card, a lot of fun to play with and against. It’s one of many cards that ties the Goat theme into a possible artifact theme. That said, the goat deck is really where Trading Post shines. Starting at 20 life, there’s potential to make up to 20 goats (that’s a lot). I added two copies of Voltaic Key to my cube to push that boundary higher, and to tie into the artifact theme.

Springjack Shepherd has had a lot of attention recently, with the printing of Master of Waves. Master of Waves doesn’t quite match up to the power of Springjack Shepherd, for a couple reasons. Master of Waves fails the Lava Dart test, and when it does you lose all the tokens. Shepherd has a crucial 2 toughness, and you get to keep your tokens when it dies. This opens up potential for recursion as well.

Springjack Pasture is absolutely the most important card in this deck. Like Trading Post, it allows you to make one whole goat every turn, but this time it doesn’t cost you any life. Instead, Springjack Pasture potentially gains you life. If you have it in play with Trading Post, you can make 2 goats for the price of 1 life. 2 goats = 2 life with Springjack Pasture, so infinite life! There’s been a couple times I landed Springjack Pasture and showed the Trading Post in my hand. This usually is enough to get the concession. (There’s also great fun to be had nicknaming this card “Goatscape” – it’s a pun on “Scapegoat”)

The final two cards to make up the core of the deck are Mountain Goat and Zodiac Goat.

Mountain GoatZodiac Goat

These are your 1-drops, both a solid first pick. Because you are usually an aggro deck, you need to be doing things on turn one. The speed of these two leads to blazing openings and leaves you open to closing the game with your slower cards. The evasion is important. Roughly 1/5 of your opponents will be playing mountains, so don’t underestimate these guys. From a design perspective, having two functionally identical cards allows you to bring redundancy to this archetype.

These cards are the first step to supporting goat tribal, but it still needs fleshing out. I had a chat with ChannelFireball’s own Jason Waddell and we came up with more support.

The Support

Adaptive AutomatonEldrazi MonumentCoat of ArmsCavern of Souls

Adaptive Automaton is fantastic. Usually I have between 7 and 11 goats in play by turn three, so I can land the Automaton and swing in for the last few points of damage.

Eldrazi Monument is really incredible here. If Automaton is just about wrapping things up on turn 3, Monument is certainly going to close things out on turn 5 (or earlier with Springjack Pasture). In fact, with Springjack Pasture you can sacrifice the goat you sacrifice to Eldrazi Monument to gain 1 life. It’s a neat synergy, and it’s a good use of Springjack Pasture.

The best of the support cards is certainly Coat of Arms. Again, turn 5 is plenty for the goat engines to have assembled a formidable force, and huge amounts of damage can be dealt. I did once attack for more than INTMAX on turn 7 with this deck, which in my opinion is one of the benefits of the new “real life” version of magic, rather than the old, inflexible “MITGO”. Eat it, Travis Woo.

Finally, double or triple up on Cavern of Souls (1 is already an auto-include in cube). A Cavern set to “Goat” does good work in keeping your goats streaming in through Stifle and Brown Ouphe, and it makes sure you land your Automaton. If you’re playing any of the crucial artifacts, you can set Cavern of Souls to “Artifact” and make sure your game-enders resolve.

Incidental Goodness

There’s a few cards already in your cube that become better with the addition of the goat tribal deck.

GoatnapperEngineered PlagueCloudgoat Ranger

To quote Jason Waddell, “Goatnapper is like… a three-mana Zealous Conscripts.”

Engineered Plague becomes less of a spot-removal spell and starts scattering whole flocks (of goats). Beware that this card may not be enough to save you in the face of stampeding herd of goats, though. Sometimes it comes down too late, and the Coat of Arms is already in place.

Cloudgoat Ranger is of course an auto-include in this deck, and I sometimes even pick it over the goat 1-drops.


Now, I know what you’re all thinking. “Why didn’t I think of that?” Well, I have to admit, I didn’t think of it for a long time, and I’m pretty good at magic. Once I saw it, it was obvious. All the pieces were right there, hiding in my collection. (I’m happy I never managed to trade these cards away, seeing as how they’ve come in useful. If you don’t have some of these, I would say snap them up while you can. Proxies are fine for cube, but some cards are investments.)

I’d like to make one important point about overlapping strategies. Many of these cards work well in other strategies, which from a design perspective is good. You want to watch out for cards in your cube that only work in one archetype. It’s poisonous for your draft experience and leads to uninteresting decision trees. (I feel there might be another article worth writing on this subject – if you like this one I may transcribe my thoughts on poisonous drafting)

Jason’s Critique

James, these are some fantastic ideas, and I think the potential is there to revolutionize cube design. However, as great as your thought baby is, I don’t think you’ve given it the proper gestational period. Let’s bring this thing to full term.

Amoeboid Changeling

Two words: Scuttle Mutt. While the kids are changing colors, Amoeboid Changeling trumps that scarecrow in every way imaginable. What’s that? Your Eldrazi is now a Ninja Goat Nicolas Cage? Goatnapper just swiped himself an Emrakul. Best of all, it works with and against the Goat archetype. I’m not sure what this poison nonsense you mention is, but imagine this: Your opponent is setting up their critical turn for a big Springjack Pasture fueled Fireball. On upkeep, that Goat becomes typeless. Fireball no longer deals lethal. It’s like a Rishadan Port with no mana cost for its activation!

Mirror Entity

When you’re running a Springjack Pasture combo ramp control deck, you don’t always have the Colossus of Akros in hand to dump your mana into. This archetype needs mana sinks, and it needs goats, and Mirror Entity gladly fills both holes roles.

Picture this: You attack with your army with Mirror Entity and Springjack Pasture in play. You’re not on mono-goat tempo, so you’ve got some non-goats in your composition. What’s that? Mirror Entity activates for 1. Your non-goats are now goats. Now they sacrifice to Springjack Pasture. You sacrifice goats to the pasture, then funnel that excess mana back into a huge Mirror Entity activation. How many guys do you sacrifice? Now that’s a numerical optimization problem we can all enjoy.

Best of all, we have overlap with other archetypes. Post combat, activate Mirror Entity once more for 0 with Blood Artist in play, flash in Ajani’s Pridemate via Aether Vial with the triggers on the stack, and go to Value City.

Konda's Banner

Unfortunately this guy can be tricky to get online, thanks to Wizards’ refusal to print a legendary goat. But it’s the anthem we need, and thanks to Mirror Entity and Amoeboid Changeling we can now get it going. For bonus points, use Scuttlemutt to turn that Legendary creature into a five-color general and pump your entire army.

The question is, which legendary creature do we want…

Doran, the Siege Tower

Tired of your 0/1’s being ineffective in the red zone? Doran makes those goats infinitely more powerful (the math checks out). Plus, it provides incidental hate against the Ball Lightnings and Falkenrath Aristocrats floating around.

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