Pattern Recognition #93 - With a Cause

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


6 December 2018


Good day to you all! My name is berryjon, and this is Pattern Recognition! TappedOut.Net's longest running article series. Each week, I endeavor to come to you all with something new and interesting to talk about, be it the history of the game, mechanics, the backgrounds of individual cards, or something a bit more esoteric. I always try to be educational, and am quite willing to listen to your feedback. After all, I can't know everything at all ever!

Anyone with a decent knowledge of film history should be able to figure out my subject this week from the title of my article, but for those without, it is the story of youth and the follies that come with it in the face of a changing world.

That's also not what I'm going to talk about this week. No, I want to examine something that was first introduced in 1999, saw a return in 2006 and has since been on the metaphorical shitlist of Mark Rosewater himself since the beginning.

I am, of course, talking about the Rebel creature subtype.

Clocking in at a mere fifty examples (plus Mistform Ultimus and related cards), Rebels as a tribe first appeared in Mercadian Masques (!) and had a followup in Time Spiral before having one last shot at existence in 10th Edition.

Initially, Rebels as a creature type was tied to the plot of Mercadian Masques. The leadership of the city, Mercadia, on the plane that bears the same name, near to Rath and Dominaria, had screwed up one too many times with their civic policies, enabling themselves and taking away from the others. So, there was open rebellion among the populace.

Gerrard and the Weatherlight crash into this conflict - literally - and try to avoid the worst of it to repair and refit the Weatherlight for their return to Dominaria and the impending invasion.

Now, I don't want to make this article a retrospective on Mercadian Masques, but I do need to provide some context. Because, well, let's call it the "B Plot" of the block of Masques, Nemesis and Prophecy is the Rebellion going on the background, there is some intertwining of the two here. Part of the larger issue with Mercadian Masques is that the plot took a seriously hard shift away from the impending Phyrexian Invasion, and into local politics of the setting of the plane. This disrupted the flow of the larger meta story, even as Wizards tried to keep it relevant with the search for the remaining pieces of Ramos, Dragon Engine by the Weatherlight for repairs and upgrades.

Anyway, if you want to squint just a little bit, Mercadian Masques was our first real flirtation with a Tribal set, with the primary conflict being between the -aligned Rebels, and the -aligned Mercenaries sponsored by the rich rulers of Mercadia.

Each of these tribes shared a single, unifying mechanic - one that has never been named or even repeated since. Rebels (and Mercenaries) can pay a mana cost of , , then search their owners library for a Rebel (or Mercenary) with a converted Casting cost of minus 1, and put it into play.

Simple, really.

Hideously, garishly powerful.

Let me be clear, Rebels is probably the one point that saved Mercadian Masques from being even lower than Chronicles in terms of worst set ever. It was a mechanic that encouraged creature play by allowing for creatures to fetch other creatures out to the battlefield, which meant that you didn't have to wait to draw them, a noted problem and solution in White.

And I suspect that this is the problem. Actually, it's been directly stated by Wizards R&D (through Mark Rosewater) that this degree of Tutoring is actually a bad thing for the game as it makes the deck play exactly the same in a very predictable and repetitive manner.

You know, like Commander.

For Rebels (and Mercenaries), the ability to consistently tutor out an army for as long as your mana hold out is a huge thing, or at least it should be. Because the real benefit of this isn't to get the next card in the chain of Rebels that fetch other Rebels, but rather it's to get the other Rebels that actually do something, like Children of Korlis or Big Game Hunter.

Oh, and for what it's worth, the Rebel Chain is as follows:

Ramosian Sergeant to Amrou Scout/Defiant Falcon/Ramosian Lieutenant to Defiant Vanguard/Ramosian Captain to Ramosian Commander to Ramosian Sky Marshal to Ramosian Revivalist.

With this, each creature can summon the next creature in the chain, all the way to the end, where you can start to put your Rebels back into play from the Graveyard.

It's self-supporting, and I had fun with the archetype back in Time Spiral. In fact, I even kept the deck intact through my various moves, and here it is:

With a Rebel Yell

Modern berryjon


Bask in its mediocrity!

Now, this isn't to say that Rebels is all average. In fact, they even have a couple of stand-out cards that really help raise the profile of the Tribe. And let's start with the Tribal card itself, Bound in Silence. This beauty of a Pacifism effect may look more expensive (because it is) but because it's a Rebel, guess what?

You can Fetch it through the Rebel Chain and put it into play at Instant Speed. How's that for Control, huh?

Bound in Silence is also one of those cards that helped convince Wizards that Tribal as a card super-type just didn't work out, a decision that was finalized with the Eldrazi's efforts in that regard. It just added unnecessary complications to the rules, and was redundant. I mean, having the supertype of Tribal was only really used as a marker that a non-creature card had a creature type!

I like it! Then again, I like Rebels in general.

The next Rebel is one of the two Legends. Cho-Manno, Revolutionary was the original Rebel leader thanks to being in the original Mercadian Masques. As he was in a set that was trying to make creature-based builds more viable, he naturally prevented all damage that would be dealt to him.

He found his way into a few decks of mine, especially those that were specced against Slivers, and held a brilliant combo with Pariah. It's no surprise (to me) that both of these cards received a reprint in 10th Edition, meaning that it was an intended use for the cards to be paired up. But if you want to keep it in the Tribe, Outrider en-Kor is a Rebel that can redirect the damage dealt to it to Cho-Manno, who just takes it all like a champ.

He's very defensive, which keeps with his portrayal in the original story, but doesn't mean that he can't swing in, unafraid of being killed in combat. Or by Lightning Bolt.

Now, we come to the last one, I think. The Rebel Commander. Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero. If ever there was a Commander that synergized with their tribe more than this, it would be Krenko, Mob Boss. She's a one woman Rebel Chain given that she can simply activate for rather than a set amount, and she can go straight for the creature's cost, rather than the smaller, incremental increases that came from the actual Rebel Chain. In addition, her ability to put a Rebel from the Graveyard into your library, then Fetch it out is huge, at it allows you to recycle Rebels that sacrifice themselves, such as Samite Censer-Bearer or Lawbringer for a cost far cheaper that Ramosian Revivalist.

Oh, and one more for good measure. You recall when I talked about Ranged Strike a few months ago, and why one of the creatures with that power was doubly never going to be reprinted? Well, Ballista Squad is also a Rebel! You can Fetch it out, and start shooting attacking and blocking creatures with aplomb!

Now, this is not to say that the Rebel (and mercenary) mechanic is all well and great. It's also extremely mana intensive. The most basic version, found on the costing Ramosian Sergeant costs to get a Rebel with a cost of . For that same cost, you could hardcast Shield Dancer or Task Force.

Rather, the Rebel mechanic lets you fill in gaps in your creatures, or to just get more once you're in a position to spend the mana. It's an option, not a solution, and that is something that a lot of people can miss.

Now, let's talk about the great gap in the Rebels.

Aether Revolt.

What's this, you ask? An entire set where you get a metaphorical callback to Mercadian Masques in more ways that one. A totalitarian regime out to control more and more of the populace, using not Mercenaries, but Artifacts, and led or guided by an extraplanar threat that the Heroes must overcome?

Yeah, I was laughing my ass off once I realized what was going on here. Except that Gerrard and company were competent, and Jace.... wasn't.

Anyway, this would be a perfect time to bring Rebels back, right? I mean, sure, we didn't need to have the Rebels be able to Fetch other Rebels in a set, but it would have been a nice call back. Heck, even have a Rebel be able to make Thopter or Servo tokens! There would have been room for that, right?


Wizards (and I suspect Rosewater in particular, but cannot say for certain) has decided that there is a problem called "Tribal Creep", where simply making more cards with a certain Creature type causes more problems than it's worth.

Which might actually be a thing they're sticking to given that while Humans can't go away, I haven't seen a serious Elf presence in a set since Battle for Zendikar, with a side in Dominaria.

Anyway, Rebels is one of those, not because any new [s]Elves[/s]Rebels would be a problem in of themselves, but its how they would react or synergize with cards from 12-20 years ago in eternal formats like Commander. Printing new Rebels means that someone (not just me) would look to see how they work in the larger tribe, and what sort of synergistic combinations we could get out of it.

Also, there was the excuse / reason that if they started to add "Rebel" to the creature type, they would start to run out of space given that they wanted to push the 'Artificer' creature type. And, I mean, I can see it when there's no room to make Pia Nalaar into a Legendary Creature - Human Rebel Artificer without mangling or reducing to unreadability the creature types. And in the context of the story, her being an Artificer is more important than being a Rebel.

So, there you have it. Rebels. A color-breaking Tribe who have suffered for being in a narrow section of the game that was too powerful, but at the same time, couldn't really do much with that power.

I like Rebels. I still do. But they're never coming back. There's just no way to bring them into the modern game with the way Wizards is developing cards.

But you know, at least when those of us who fight with Rebels fight, we fight:

With a Cause

Commander / EDH berryjon


with a cause.

Join me next week when I crack open another batch of Cards to Critique! I mean, it's only Christmas time, so consider this to be a present to you all!

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #92 - Custom Card Critique 4 The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #94 - Custom Card Critique 5

Pervavita says... #1

I don't see a problem with them adding Rebels in; they did it in Zendicar with Ally effectively and it was not a problem. Even with cards that don't reward the subtype and there were cards if I remember right that also would have fallen into the Ally category that were not Allies anyway.

I would say that Aether Revolt was just a wasted opportunity for what looks to be no good reasons. Tribal creep seams to me to be a weak argument as there will always be for as long as there is creature subtypes.

December 6, 2018 1:43 p.m.

loricatuslupus says... #2

To be honest, it's nice to have tribal synergy that isn't just anthem effects, perhaps doubly so in white!

December 6, 2018 6:32 p.m.

Darkshadow327 says... #3

Whelp, looks like I have another tribes to add to my EDH Tribal series. Guess I'll have to slot rebels in for #30.

December 7, 2018 8:35 a.m.

oddly enough, if memory serves, rebels were the issue for that block for one simple reason - they tutored UP in mana cost - Ramosian Sergeant costs 1, and tutors for a 2 drop for 3 mana. the mercenaries, on the other hand, worked in the opposite direction - they pulled out a card of lower converted mana cost, but at the regular cost of the card (see Cateran Persuader for an example).

while the rebels dominated the block, the mercs were underwhelming, to say the least. without a leader, they were largely curb-stomped into oblivion. heck, mercs have actually been printed OUT OF MASKS BLOCK because of this. arguably the best mercenary came out in onslaught as Doomed Necromancer, and wasn't even a merc at the time.

that said, because of the tutor mechanics putting them directly into play (as opposed to hand, top of deck, graveyard, or anywhere else, really), I doubt we will ever see any compeditive cards with either creature type, but you never know. of the two, I have my money on the mercs.

December 7, 2018 9:29 a.m.

berryjon is there a place we can submit cards for you to critique?

December 7, 2018 4:36 p.m.

berryjon says... #6

Riclamin_Silentread: You are months too late for that now. Maybe next year.

December 7, 2018 6:21 p.m.

Agent_Fire says... #7

berryjon can you do an article about color pie shifts over time?

December 10, 2018 4:44 p.m.

berryjon says... #8

looks at Agent_Fire's request

looks at Planar Chaos

I might be able to do something with that.

December 10, 2018 8:28 p.m.

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