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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tribal Theme – Pursuit of Knowledge

September 4, 2012 by  
Filed under FAQ, In-Depth FAQ

Hi there fellow EDH-ers and welcome to another Tribal theme article. Today the Creature type in question is a very small Creature group which had slowly gained a bit of popularity over a period of few sets – Sphinx. Sphinxes in MtG are a group of huge, usually Flying, Blue Creatures. They are depicted as always asking for riddles and very knowledgeable to some tribes in the MtG world, some seen as great advisors or even Gods. Their knowledge is not gain easily as well, usually costing the person life if he or she can’t pay the payment up front. Such is the whim of these majestic Creatures. Thus without further delay, let us take a deeper look into this small group of intelligent flying giants.


Back History:

The very first Sphinx, Petra Sphinx, came from Legends and strangely enough; do not fly (although it has wings in its art). As color pie was not that well fixed back then, Petra Sphinx was White. Its ability of guessing the library top card would later appeared on other Sphinxes with some twist. New Sphinxes after this would either come in groups in blocks or singles in expansion sets or Core sets. A lot of these Sphinxes would then divert from the library top guessing and into other abilities, leaving only Flying and huge sizes to be the common traits among them.


City of Guilds:

Welcome to Utopia

The Creature type was not revisited since its introduction in Legends until much later when the storyline moved to Ravnica, the City of Guilds. Here for its second debut in the game, three more Sphinxes were added for this block. Although not clearly stated on two of them, two of the earlier Sphinxes in the block first set were most probably linked to the Azorius guild judging from the background depicted in the artwork, as during then the guild was not disclosed yet. Then finally along came the champion of the Azorius guild, Isperia the Inscrutable joining the group in this block. All three of them have some interactions with the library; milling the library, shuffling itself back to the library, and tutoring. Also by this block, the Sphinxes colors were more shifted towards Blue, further concreting their color roots in Blue.

Name Ability
Belltower Sphinx Flying. Mill the damage source’s controller for each damage dealt to it.
Cerulean Sphinx Flying. U: Shuffle itself to the library.
Isperia the Inscrutable Flying. Name a card when it connects with a player. The player reveal his or her hand, if the named card is in the player’s hand, tutor for a Flying Creature card.


Whole New Level:

“In Esper, we shaped our World.”

The Tribal group took a whole new twist when it went to Alara block. Here on the Esper shard of Alara, the Sphinxes are considered to be the highest ruling Creatures. One of them, Sharuum the Hegemon, actually rules the Shard. A specialty to the Alara breed of Sphinxes is that all of them are colored Artifacts, something which is unique to those who live in Esper. Because of their near godly status on Esper, many of them have far more abilities than just the basic library interaction than before, putting some diversity into the Tribal group.

Name Ability
Enigma Sphinx Flying. Cascade (6cc or less). Return to third from the library top when die.
Magister Sphinx Flying. Change target player’s life total to 10.
Sharding Sphinx Flying. Creates a 1/1 Blue Thopter Artifact Creature token with Flying whenever your Artifact Creatures connect with a player.
Sharuum the Hegemon Flying. Return target Artifact from your graveyard to battlefield when it enters the battlefield.
Sphinx of the Steel Wind Flying, First Strike, Vigilance, Lifelink, Protection from Red and from Green. 6/6…
Sphinx Sovereign Flying. At the beginning of your end step, gain 3 life if its untapped, otherwise each opponent loses 3 life.
Sphinx Summoner Flying. Tutor for Artifact Creature card when it enters the battlefield.


Adventure World:

Plane of the trapped Gods

Then the Sphinxes got another new group joined in Zendikar block. Of this group two of them focus on card drawing. As per the basic of the Sphinx ability, one of them even gives you access to your library top card at any time, very good for setting up Cascade and stuff.

Name Ability
Goliath Sphinx Flying 8/7.
Sphinx of Jwar Isle Flying, Shroud. Peeking access to your library top card at any time.

Sphinx of Lost Truths

Flying. Kicker 1U. Draw three cards when it enters the battlefield. If it wasn’t kicked, discard three cards.

Sphinx of Magosi

Flying. 2U: Draw a card, put a +1/+1 on it.


Scars of Mirrodin:

Home World Lost

The Sphinxes of this block seems to mirror the stages of the slow corruption of the world. There was one in each set of the block, Scars of Mirrodin; Mirrodin Besieged; New Phyrexia, with each turning from the majestic Creatures they were to the hideous Phyrexian forms. This mirrors Mirrodin being slowly corrupted and converting into new Phyrexia. Again one of them, Chancellor of the Spires, has an ability regarding the library this time milling. Notable mention, Consecrated Sphinx is considered by many as the most powerful Sphinx for the card advantage it generates. It is so good that many are playing it in normal variant despite its high casting cost of 6cc.

Name Ability
Argent Sphinx Flying. Metalcraft – U: Blink itself.
Consecrated Sphinx Flying. Whenever an opponent draws a card, you may draw two.
Chancellor of the Spires Reveal it from your opening hand, then mill each opponent at the first upkeep.Flying. When it enters the battlefield, you may cast target Instant or Sorcery from an opponent’s graveyard without paying its mana cost.


Cost Effective:

To have a good breed, you just have to breed them yourself.

Powers and abilities aside, the Sphinxes are not cheap creatures to cast. Most are at a whopping 6cc or more. Anything lesser are not very common and given their small numbers, that is very less to work on. So to get them onto the battlefield is not easy if you just depend on drawing Lands. The most trusted way to make the job easier is to include Artifact mana sources in your decks. Adding them not only just helps with casting the Sphinxes but also let you cast your other spells. Also having a heavy Artifact theme provides some synergy with Argent Sphinx and Sharuum the Hegemon. There are also spell cost reducers out there to help with your deck. And as with using Artifact mana sources, these cost reducers also reduces your other spells in your deck, making casting spells a lot easier and smoother. Unique to the Sphinx Sovereign, Sphinx’s Herald could be used along with the sacrifice of a White, a Blue, and a Black Creature to tutor for Sphinx Sovereign and put onto the battlefield. Having said that, the Sphinxes are really consider mid and late game play, further improving your winning position in the game.

Cost Reducers Cost Reduced
Cloud Key Your spells of the chosen type cost 1 less to cast (Artifact, Creature, Enchantment, Instant, Sorcery)
Etherium Sculptor Your Artifact spells 1 less to cast. Good for the Artifact Sphinxes.
Helm of Awakening All spells cost 1 less to cast. Political tool.
Heartless Summoning Your Creature spells cost 2 less to cast but your Creatures get -1/-1.
Jet Medallion Your Black spells cost 1 less.
Pearl Medallion Your White spells cost 1 less.

Sapphire Medallion

Your Blue spells cost 1 less.

Semblance Anvil

Your spells that share a card type with the card imprinted on it cost 2 less to cast.

Urza’s Filter

Multicolored spells cost 2 less to cast. Political tool, multicolored spells anyone?

Urza’s Incubator

Your Creature spells of the chosen type cost 2 less to cast.


“I live only to summon O Great One….”


Knowledge is Power:

Guess what’s coming up next….

A great deal of the Sphinxes power comes from knowledge. Knowledge of what you may ask. That Knowledge, my friend, is the knowledge of the top card of the library or cards in hand. The Sphinxes play guessing games with their abilities, many of times asking the target(s) to name, give a guess, as what card is on top of the library or in the hand. If one guessed the card correctly, you get some form of card advantage. In case of guessing the library top card, that card usually goes to the graveyard or the bottom of the library if guessed wrong. In EDH, the ability to put cards to the bottom of the library is actually far more powerful than putting it into the graveyard since recursion is very common in EDH. With the huge 99+1 cards decks, a player who does not have enough tutors in his or her deck, might not even get to see that card for the rest of the game. The case is much worse if he or she can’t shuffle his or her library at will to even out the chance. Another good thing about this Sphinx guessing ability is that, if the card is put into the bottom of the library, you could then proceed to use Tunnel Vision on the player and outright mill him to death right there. Sounds like a fair game? To be honest, it’s never fair as you could set up your library top through library manipulation. With that you would never guess the top card of your library wrong since you arranged the library top; you already knew the answer while your opponents are REALLY guessing unless they too have library manipulations of their own. Library manipulation, as my friend Manferd once told me, is really card advantage as you are actually setting up the better if not perfect draw. The deeper you could dig into your library, the better it gets. The Sphinx of Jwar Isle also supports in this theme by allowing you to look at your library top card any time.

Library Manipulation Effect
Crystal Ball 1, T: Scry 2.
Darksteel Pendant 1, T: Look at top card of library. May put that card on bottom.
Future Sight Play with the top card of your library revealed, and you may play that top card too
Sensei’s Divining Top 1: Rearrange top three cards.T: Draw a card and put Sensei’s Divining Top on top of the library, sort of exchange the Top with the top card.
Soothsaying X: Rearrange top X cards of your library.3UU: Shuffle your library.

The above ways are only some of the permanent ways to manipulate the top of the library. There are many other spells too which does the same, though spells are not really recommended as they are kinda one shot to be effective in EDH. Of this group of library top guessing Sphinxes, Sphinx Ambassador is the most broken as it could steals your opponent’s powerhouses, using them against their owner.

“Sure you can have it back, but GUESS correctly what did I took first.”


Another guessing Sphinx, Isperia the Inscrutable, does it differently. It requires you to guess a card in the hand of the player it connected to, and if you guessed it correctly, you get to tutor for a Flying Creature. In a way, Isperia is actually your Sphinx tutor. And because it has Flying, there is a high chance that it could hit the player. So now all you need to do is to guess if a card is in that player’s hand.

Hand Peeking Effect
Glasses of Urza T: Look at target player’s hand.
Seer’s Vision Opponents play with hands revealed.Sacrifice to look at target player’s hand and discard a card from it.
Telepathy Opponents play with hands revealed.
Wandering Eye Flying 1/3. Players play with hands revealed.
Zur’s Weirding Players play with hands revealed. When a player draw a card, that player reveals that card instead and any player may pay 2 life to put that card into the graveyard. Otherwise, that player draws a card.


“I see you….”


Card Advantage:

Know more than you should

Knowledge is power; in MtG that is translate in cards in hand. The more you can fill up your hand, the more options you have each turn. Therefore card draw is ever important. The Sphinxes know that and many of them fall under this Card Advantage category. Some of them are so good that they are already seeing play out of the Tribal group.

Name Card Draw
Consecrated Sphinx Whenever an opponent draws a card, you may draw two.
Sphinx of Lost Truths Draw three cards when it enters the battlefield. If it wasn’t kicked, discard three cards.
Sphinx of Magosi 2U: Draw a card, then put a +1/+1 counter on it.
Vexing Sphinx Cumulative upkeep – Discard a card. When it dies, draw a card for each age counter on it. The most insane and weird card draw available among the Sphinxes.


Combos: –

“Guess what’s the top card?”

Here are some combos worth considering in a Sphinx Tribal deck: –

Cards Combo
Belltower Sphinx + en-Kor Creatures en-Kor Creatures refer to the tribe of Kor Creatures which first debut in Stronghold set (Nomads en-Kor) who have the ability to redirect damage from themselves to other Creatures you control. Since Belltower Sphinx mill the damage source for each point of damage dealt to it, you could use the en-Kor to redirect the damages and slowly milling your opponent.
Conundrum Sphinx + Sphinx of Jwar Isle Never guess your top card wrong with this pair.
Conundrum Sphinx + Tunnel Vision This is a fairly easy combo to use considering the Sphinx cost only 4cc to cast. Once you succeeded in putting an opponent’s library top card to the bottom, you could proceed to kill him or her with Tunnel Vision.
Consecrated Sphinx + Font of Mythos / Howling Mine Both the Font and the Mine were made to be a political tool but with the Sphinx that just plain unfair. It is our group’s favorite card advantage.
Enigma Sphinx + Soothsaying Set up what cards you want to cast with its Cascade.
Sharding Sphinx + Grand Architect The Sphinx provides the Architect with the Blue Creatures it can tapped for mana so you could cast more Flying Artifact Creatures which you could send in for the attack to create more Blue Creatures for the Architect, thus creating a good synergy between the two.
Vexing Sphinx + Tamiyo, the Moon Sage Tamiyo’s ultimate allows you to decide what to put into your graveyard. With it you can pay for the upkeep of Vexing Sphinx for a longer time since every discard you paid for its Cumulative Upkeep return to your hand. Allows you to store up more Age counters onto Vexing Sphinx before it dies.


Recommended Generals: –

Isperia the Inscrutable – Isperia might short out a couple of Sphinxes but it is a walking tutor with the colors of Control and Counter with White and Blue. Since it is also a Flying Creature tutor, a Flying theme can be added to the deck, making it a good partner with Radiant, Archangel if you go with the Flying theme. Also almost all Sphinxes have Flying too.


Sharuum the Hegemon – Since the idea of Sphinxes generally expands the most in Alara, it is of no surprise that this Legendary Sphinx is a recommended General too. Playing Sharuum allows you to play with all the Sphinxes available since her color identity covers all Sphinxes. A sub Artifact theme can also be play with her too.


To Gain Audience, Please Bring a Riddle:-

Kings & Queens of Riddles

The Sphinxes play a lot of guessing games with the players. Knowing how to play around their games is a key to using them. When you master that part, it actually also improves your draw a lot. Since information is also an important part of the game, anything ranging from knowing what is in your opponents’ hand to what is on top of libraries, all of it allow you to plan the game ahead. The Sphinxes Tribal might be hard to go full Tribal in EDH though given their limited numbers but it still fun to pull off. Innovation is always fun in EDH, so till next time, stay innovative always.


This is yours truly, Edward “Reaper King” Leong, signing off.



2 Responses to “Tribal Theme – Pursuit of Knowledge”
  1. Darrence says:

    Stay with this guys, you’re henpilg a lot of people.


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