If you were ever thinking of building a Centaur Tribal deck in Magic the Gathering, the Centaur tribe does have a few good things going for it. Centaurs actually do have a lord creature: Pheres-Band Warchief from Journey Into Nyx. This Warchief gives his fellow Centaurs not only +1/+1, but also both trample and vigilance. He’s also a 3/3 himself with trample and vigilance. That’s a lot of value for only four mana.
Did Pheres-Band Warchief Ever See Play in Standard?
Around the release of the Journey into Nyx set, there was a lot of speculation on what a Centaur Tribal deck in Standard would look like. It seemed like the pieces were there. Mono-Green Devotion was a strong archetype at the time, and it was thought he could see play in a Centaur-oriented version of the deck.
Nylea’s Disciple was a Centaur creature that saw a fair amount of play at the time, and she could gain you a lot of life. The Warchief would make her into a 4/4 vigilant trampling threat, too. Swordwise Centaur was a 3/2 for two Green mana that saw a lot of play at the time, too. A 4/3 with vigilance and trample for only 2 mana seemed too good.
Also, Courser of Kruphix was a major player at the time, and he’s also a Centaur. At 5 mana, Centaur Battlemaster was a 3/3 Heroic creature that could gain 3 +1/+1 counters. With Aspect of Hydra a major part of Green Devotion, this guy could have been extremely big. There was also Fated Intervention, which was a card that many Limited players called “surprise Centaurs,” which would have fit in a Centaur deck as well. This deck never happened, though.
Naya Blitz was a real deck at the time, too, and there were also pieces for a Naya Centaur deck to work. Centaur Healer was a great sideboard card in Standard at the time while also having a reasonable 3/3 body. With the Warchief, the Healer not only gained you 3 life, but would become a real threat for only 3 mana (1 generic, 1 Green, 1 White). Another solid Centaur was Fanatic of Xenagos, who seemed made for a Centaur tribal deck.
Chronicler of Heroes was a fringe card at the time, but with plenty of ways to gain +1/+1 counter in the format, it seemed even this Centaur would be playable in some way as a feasible draw engine. Lagonna-Band Trailblazer may have been a White one-drop, but a 0/4 Centaur is a great way to hold the ground while you build up your army.
Neither of these Centaur tribal decks ever happened. There would be Herald of the Pantheon in Magic Origins, but a Centaur deck didn’t really have room for much of an Enchantment subtheme. So was Centaur Tribal just never meant to be?
Is Centaur Tribal Possible in Modern with Pheres-Band Warchief?
The Standard that Pheres-Band Warchief was a part of is long past. But as we look to Modern, is there anything good there that could make this deck possible now? Sadly, the cards that Centaur Tribal picks up in Modern aren’t that many. Loaming Shaman is a nice card, but not really meant for a Centaur Tribal deck bent on aggro. Burning-Tree Shaman is a decent 3 mana creature that punishes players for using activated abilities that aren’t mana abilities.
Really, the best card that Centaurs pick up is Stonebrow, Krosan Hero. He’s good, and we’ll get to him in a minute. Still, while the deck gains some useful pieces and some additional staples like Lightning Bolt, it’s too slow for the Modern format.
Is Pheres-Band Warchief a Useful Piece in a Centaur Tribal EDH deck?
In Commander, there are currently only three Centaur Legendary Creatures. They are Seton, Krosan Protector, Stonebrow, Krosan Hero, and Karador, Ghost Chieftain. All three are pretty good Commanders, but Karador Centaur Tribal is more just for fun. Seton decks are most focused on Druids. So the only deck that Pheres-Band Warchief seems to fit best in is alongside Stonebrow.
The Warchief seems like a perfect fit for Stonebrow decks, as Stonebrow’s ability gives any of your attacking creatures with trample an extra +2/+2 until end of turn. While there are a limited number of Centaurs in the game, there are enough other good creatures with Trample to fill out the deck. This includes a really good Centaur in Stonehoof Chieftain who gives other attacking creatures trample and indestructible. He’s 8 mana and not Modern-legal, but in EDH, he’s great.
Sadly, Stonebrow, Krosan Hero is far from being a popular Commander. While there are good Centaurs, there aren’t enough cards that make Centaur Tribal a deck that people really want to build. Currently, it’s really only a deck that is just for fun. Even then, Pheres-Band Warchief is omitted from a bunch of Stonebrow decks.
The only way that Pheres-Band Warchief ever becomes worth anything is if we get a whole slew of good Centaurs in the future all at once. It’s sad, because this is a good creature. While Pheres-Band Warchief is underplayed in the couple of Commander decks he may actually be good in, it’s fairly easy to see why he’s been overlooked. He still should see more play than he does, though. If Centaur Tribal ever does become a feasible deck with more support outside of just creatures, though, this Warchief will likely be a vital piece of that deck. Unless, of course, they print a better lord creature, which is most likely.