Dude, you are speaking my language. My favorite monsters out of the MM? Goblins, kobolds, orcs, gnolls, and lizardfolk. When I world build, I often have Orcs at the very least and usually gnolls and/or lizardfolk as major political/cultural players. When your players are smart, they often wisen up real quick and see "Oh, the lizardfolk aren't necessarily the bad guys, they got their own wants and needs they're struggling for over here."
As for your battle tactics? Same page, yet again. I'm pretty certain it was you and I talking about how I don't really like players getting past level 10, partly because there's too much to pay attention to mechanic wise, but also because it often pushes "lesser monsters" out of the picture. Fuck that.