• The Tribe

    Tribal synergy has long been a favored mechanism in competitive games. Whether we examine the factions in a miniatures game like Warhammer 40k or the clans in the recent Khans of Tarkir block in Magic: The Gathering or even board games like Summoner Wars, we will see tribal systems implemented to varying degrees, some optional, some mandatory.

    When we talk about tribal synergy, we are referring to affiliations providing benefits. The easy early example of this in our beloved game is Nick Fury from the AvX set, who provides specific bonuses to Avengers that remain a robust part of the game even today. Other cards implement tribal effects without actually being specific, like the Teamwork basic action.

    Tribal abilities are only becoming more prominent as the game moves forward. Let's look at a couple of categories, see where we've come from, and then take a look at where we're going.


    Tribes as Affiliated Groups

    This is the obvious one, exemplified by the aforementioned Nick Fury. He makes Avengers do interesting things. Easy enough. However, this is a pretty basic form of tribal synergy, nothing more than a buff. Otherwise, there isn't a lot that the Avengers could do with one another in that first set. It was a start, but it was only that.

    Then along came the OP rewards, where the Phoenix Force and its very expensive counterparts all worked together, doubling attack and fielding for free from the used pile.

    UXM piled on as well. Villains, exemplified by Nasty Boy, gained a few interesting synergies within this set. Mostly, it was the ability to deal damage by knocking out villains that made things interesting. It was common to see this used with Mystique, who received a buff for more villains being in the field. Scarlet Witch does damage to X-Men for each villain in the field. It's not a lot, but the tribal synergies enabled teams to work through one another.

    Yu-Gi-Oh brought some interesting attempts but they were limited to just a few characters - the Egyptian Gods and the Fusion. This was an extraordinarily tiny part of the set, but it was probably the Fusion that interested me the most, with two characters combining to get you a six-cost dragon for free.

    D&D has really turned it on. Cards buff dragons, buff actions, provide discounts for dragons and actions. All of that seems to work together pretty darned well. We have factoring within the adventurers, but it's unclear how that matters to this point. Monsters vs. Not-Monsters has a definite impact, and several of the "good"-aligned characters have synergies too.


    Tribes as Energy Type

    We've seen plenty of this, such as Pyro thriving on lots of bolts. Venom buffed other fist characters (while debuffing non-fist characters). Mummy makes mask characters cost one fewer to purchase. This kind of stuff is all over the place.

    My personal favorite in this class is Cyclops: Field Leader (and not just because I'm trying to ingratiate myself to Chris) who allows characters to do one additional damage every time they do damage.

    Another effective, but oft-overlooked, version of this is the Red Eyes Black Dragon from the Yu-Gi-Oh set, which makes bolt characters cost two less to purchase when active - six cost, but easily attainable from fellow setmate Blue Eyes White Dragon. Then you have various forms of Summoned Skull dealing damage whenever bolt characters are fielded and manipulated.


    Tribal Hatred

    Strangely, for a set called "Uncanny X-Men", there was little direct synergy between the students of the School for Gifted Youngsters - but there was a lot of hate. Sentinels specifically weakened your X-Men characters. A version of Scarlet Witch targeted them too, as did Quicksilver. Plenty of cards punished you for ignoring a tribe, like the Archvillains, who buffed themselves or debuffed their opponents depending on villains the opponent had in the field.

    Dr. Doom took things out on everything that wasn't a villain, giving them -/-.

    I could be glossing over something, but I don't believe we've seen specific hatred for Avengers.

    We've also seen energy hatred, characters that could do something extra or ignore things depending on the energy type of the dice that they were interacting with. Just as Venom strengthens characters, he weakens non- characters. Emma Frost dances around fist characters like they're nothing. Vision avoids certain energy types. The beat goes on.


    DC, The Tribal Set

    All of the above doesn't hold a candle to what we're seeing in the DC Set.

    We do have the "old"-style "Tribal abilities run through one character" concept in the common Firestorm, who deals two damage for each bolt character that you field. Not many other bolt characters are specifically charged by their energy type, but he is. Energy type shenanigans are also given to us by the basic action "Pick Your Battles," which limits blockers to those of like energy types.

    On top of this, there are two factions that are incredibly synergistic in this set.

    First is the Justice League. We have multiple characters that make playing the Justice League all the more fun:

    • Aquaman - all three forms - Each does something important, whether buff, discount, or getting a Justice League die in your prep area quickly. He even has retaliation on his rare.
    • Batman - World's Greatest Detective - you gain life for fielding Justice League characters, and he also has retaliation.
    • Cyborg - Exceptionally Gifted - Once again, we have the retaliation keyword.
    • Superman - Man of Steel, Kal-El - The first lets you purchase another Justice League die, ANY die, for two, the second has retaliation.
    • Wonder Woman - Champion of Themyscira - She provides a fielding discount, one less. This means that a TFC 6 effectively becomes a TFC 3.
    • Green Lantern - Brightest Day - Deals damage for all your Justice League characters that attack, and he has retaliation.


    You get the idea. Suffice it to say that the Justice League has a lot of pieces that just mesh together. They also support affiliated characters that don't necessarily do anything special for being Justice League because they make them better cards by having them in tandem. But Justice League aren't the only fun ones to play with here, oh no. Indeed, it is good to be bad. Let's scope out some villainous highlights:

    • Black Manta - Deep Sea Deviant, Artificial Gills - The former has retaliation, but deals damage for every villain in play! The second has a very Mystique-like +1/+1 or each other active villain.
    • Blue Beetle - Jaime Reyes - Not a villain, but can help the cause by doing one damage each time a villain is fielded.
    • Harley Quinn - Dr. Harleen Quinzel - Not strictly a villain affiliation, but she does make another specific villain more attainable.
    • Katana - Outsider - She's not a villain, but gets +1A for every villain that's out there.
    • Sinestro - All forms - Which to take? Hard to say! The common discounts fielding costs, the uncomming gives +1/+1 when no opposing villains are present, and the rare protects them from globals. Plus, the C and UC have a global that buffs villains. Sign me up!


    Effective DC play, especially in draft, is undoubtedly going to at minimum begin with respecting the tribal synergies that WizKids has pointed us to by putting them on the cards. I don't think that Justice League has the tools at this point to stand toe-to-toe with the Avengers (who quite frankly were pretty good right at the release of AvX) but there is plenty of time. As for the villains, things are only getting better.
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. RJRETRO's Avatar
      RJRETRO -
      I'm starting to research more of the effects that certain "energy tribes" have, and to see how certain globals work better with various characters. Being able to play with people who think differently than me is really helping that.

      Great article. Hopefully it helps some people think in a different way.
    1. Shadowmeld's Avatar
      Shadowmeld -
      A mention about the teamwork BAC, in DnD all characters that aren't adventurers are indeed part of the monster affiliation. Play teamwork on your swarm team for massive weany swarm.
    1. IgwanaRob's Avatar
      IgwanaRob -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shadowmeld View Post
      A mention about the teamwork BAC, in DnD all characters that aren't adventurers are indeed part of the monster affiliation. Play teamwork on your swarm team for massive weany swarm.

      Adventures are characters with the experience keyword on their card, and there are plenty of characters without that ability that do not have the monster banner on their cards.
    1. Randy's Avatar
      Randy -
      Quote Originally Posted by IgwanaRob View Post
      Adventures are characters with the experience keyword on their card, and there are plenty of characters without that ability that do not have the monster banner on their cards.
      Not in D&D. It either has an adventurer banner or a monster banner. (Except Minsc and Boo. That card is neither)
    1. IgwanaRob's Avatar
      IgwanaRob -
      Wizkids specifies the keyword definition here. Unless I'm missing something (always possible).