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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 21 2018 12:00pm
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 He's been one of the most loyal and consistent players in Tribal Apocalypse for the past five seasons. Now he's also the reigning Player of the Year, a title he earned in 2017 with 233 points, in a close race with a player from literally the other side of the world, Brazil's own Socanelas. Now it's time to learn everything we can about this paragon of dedication and fair play: Golden_Lin.

 First of all, let's hear something about you: who's the man behind the screen name?
 My real name is Lin Chun-hao (林俊豪), I'm a middle-aged guy who works for a boring electronics company. I've lived in Taiwan's capital Taipei City in the past, and now I live in Taoyuan City, in northwestern Taiwan. If someone's interested to visit here someday, I will be glad to be a tourist guide for you and take you to visit famous Taiwan spots like the Sun Moon Lake or Building 101), but I think there's very little chances someone will actually come!

Taoyuan City, home to over two million people.

 Taiwan, then. Is it still correct to call you Chinese?
 Taiwanese is a kind of Chinese. I love Taiwanese and Chinese both, and I don't want to talk about our political issues here. Taiwan, "the Ghost Island" (all Taiwanese know what it means), is my homeland, and I lived there since when I was born. I traveled to China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries multiple times, but never went to Americas or Europe. I think most people like to visit other countries for tourism, but your homeland is always the best place to stay.

 So Lin is your actual family name. Where did the "Golden" part come from?
 It's just an English word I like. If I had to say, maybe it's because, deep down, I like valuable things. I have another MTGO account I used in the past, Edison_88luckyplayer. Edison is my "office name". My original office name was "Johnny", but it was too similar to the one chosen by another senior colleague called "Johny", so my old boss asked me to change it to another English name. After thinking about it, I decided "Edison" was harder enough to pronounce for my boss, so I took that one! Also, 8 in Mandarin sounds like 發 ("rich"), and many Chinese, including me, like 88888.

 What do you like to do in your free time, aside from playing Magic?
 I read books, play computer games, and go out with my family in my free time. I always liked to play video and computer games, but I've mostly played Magic Online these past few years. Lately, I only play PREs on Gatherling. I chose to focus and invest my time on MTGO mainly because I feel it's useful to improve my MTG skills, and I think it can prevent Alzheimer's disease.

 When did you start playing our dear game?
 I used to play paper MTG when I was a college student, many years ago (around 4th-6th Edition). I was a collector at that time, I had many full sets (4th Edition, Ice Age, Alliances, Portal... about 10 sets). I love the fantasy style of the art on these cards, and the English text seemed helpful to enhance my English. I did many crazy things for my collection, like trading several Force of Will for one Shivan Dragon. I played in paper tournaments a few times, but Magic was not popular in Taiwan back then, so most of the time I would just enjoy looking at my card collection, thinking it will be valuable someday. I started to play Magic Online with the V3 client (still better than the current V4 to me). Playing MTGO let me really experience the fun of Magic games, I discovered I can play many different decks with many players anytime I want, that's hard to achieve with paper MTG.

Not one of Golden_Lin's best trades.

 Magic is translated into Chinese these days (as 万智牌, Wan Zi Pai). You ever bought any Chinese cards? (Gotta say, I never buy Italian Magic cards, they're usually poorly translated and the name of the cards sound stupid in translation).
 Well, I have Chinese cards, of course. I don't like my localized version too, it makes me feel like they're children's toys, not an elegant hobby. I played some paper events (including a GP in Taipei), which is why I have those Chinese cards. And they only have a market in Taiwan and China, so that's not a good investment.

 What would you say is your Timmy/Johnny/Spike percentage?
 Actually, I think I'm mostly a Vorthos. In real life, I can barely find a MTG player to play with me. Online, I can be a Johnny/Spike player if I'm playing in a competitive event.

 As a collector, how do you feel about spending money on MTGO to improve your collection?
 I satisfied with my current MTGO collection. I only ever spent real money to get 100 tix for buying cards, but most of my collection comes from playing PRE games, trading, and free bots. I tend not to invest much money on MTGO, the way I did in my paper MTG time. I treat MTGO purely as a game, and paper MTG as a collector habit. Even so, my MTGO collection is growing bigger than my paper collection (perhaps due to the cost of digital cards being cheaper). Anyway, I hope my MTGO collection can keep value or even increase it, like Bitcoin. My family don't play Magic, they're not interested, so maybe I'll sell my entire MTG and MTGO collection when I'm old, and I'm curious to see how much it will be worth by then. If I won't be able to sell my paper collection during my life (Taiwan has no Legacy events, and I can't find other collectors like me here. I look at my MTG cards more than I play with them!), maybe I'll let someone inherit it. To pass on my collection to someone else, even if they're not family, will still be better rather than no one playing with those cards ever again. Magic cards only have life when they are played.

Lin's wife Lisa (傅錦秀) and his daughter Tina (林巧婷), a beautiful family that unfortunately doesn't share Lin's passion for MTG.

 Let's move to Tribal Wars. How did you end up playing it?
 I started to play Tribal Apocalypse about 5 years ago. Sunday Commander was the first Gatherling PRE I played (with the Edison_88luckyplayer account that I was using to play casual Commander games on MTGO), and there I met a certain wonderful host named Kumagoro who introduced me to Tribal Apocalypse. I thought it could be fun to play a new format I had never experienced, so I began to build some Tribal decks like Soldier and Sliver. At first, I would mostly create fun decks, although some of them ended up getting good results like Sliver. Then I started to study and learn from the top decks in the format, so many of my most successful decks are original designs from other genius players; I just try to improve the lists a bit to my liking each time, and I try and provide the playing skills to pilot these decks. Only a few of my builds, like Slivers and Kobolds, are my original design, and I'm especially proud of those.

 Last year you won 3 events and ended undefeated in the Swiss portion of 5 others. Would you review those winning decks for us?

Archon Encore
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 313 (Underdog)
Creatures
4 Archon of Justice
4 Archon of Redemption
4 Ashen Rider
4 Blazing Archon
2 Krond the Dawn-Clad
2 Silent Sentinel
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Animate Dead
4 Dance of the Dead
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
4 Faithless Looting
1 Recurring Nightmare
1 Winter Orb
22 cards
Lands
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Marsh Flats
4 Scrubland
3 Badlands
3 Bayou
18 cards
 
Ashen Rider

 

 I think pulling big creatures out of the graveyard is a great strategy in Tribal Wars, since it's a format with no sideboard. It worked for a while, until several tribal players began to run graveyard hate cards in the main deck. To use Winter Orb in a reanimator deck seemed like a good idea, since a deck like that only needs one or two lands to work. But I'd rather focus on the reanimation theme (the graveyard-related spells) than put in some mean card just to interfere with the opponent, that's not my style.

 

 After playing against ML_Berlin's white Humans, I felt inspired by their simplicity, power, and flexibility. And the best news was that they were cheap to build! So I started to play and study white weenie builds for a while. I recommend new players or budget players to try it if you are after a stable winning rate. I saw Abzan Falconer on another great player's list. After testing it in several Tribal events, I concluded flying really is a big advantage for white weenie, especially with most people at that time thinking Moat would stop it. So the Falconer became my WW elite trooper.

Enduring Bombardment
1st place at Event 319 (Pure), 2nd place in Event 330 (Underdog)
Creatures
4 Crimson Kobolds
4 Crookshank Kobolds
4 Kobold Taskmaster
4 Kobolds of Kher Keep
3 Kobold Drill Sergeant
1 Kobold Overlord
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Enduring Renewal
4 Enlightened Tutor
4 Goblin Bombardment
2 Faithless Looting
2 Gamble
2 Urza's Bauble
1 Forked Bolt
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Pyroclasm
22 cards
Lands
4 Boros Garrison
4 Plateau
4 Temple of Triumph
2 Mountain
2 Plains
1 Crystal Vein
1 Karakas
18 cards
 
Enduring Renewal

 

 As I said, this Kobold list is my original idea. The goal is to fire the infinite damage combo asap, getting onto the battlefield a 0-CMC Kobold + Goblin Bombardment + Enduring Renewal. I first thought of this combo many years ago as a deck for a Legacy tournament, using different 0-mana creatures, like Ornithopter. After testing it, though, I found this combo wasn't competitive enough in the Legacy world, I have no solution for counterspells, and a 4 turns kill speed is too slow. So I brought the idea to Tribal Apocalypse, and it worked well, due to tribal decks not being not as fast and cutthroat as Legacy decks are. After playing it for a few events, my combo trick was cracked by some smart players (for instance, Kor Firewalker can gg me directly). So I started to run some answer cards, like Humility and Oblivion Ring.

 

 At first I used Sliver in Singleton, thinking I was more familiar with the tribe, but soon I had to face the Sliver's limit. So, once again, I started to research and modify the top decks. Since MTG has many crazy Elves, why not to play them in Singleton?

 

 I have to pay tribute to one genius Tribal player, Socanelas, who built a flexible, powerful Elf deck with Natural Order. Playing the deck made me feel like standing on the shoulders of a giant. The deck is fine-tuned perfectly, I changed very little from it to this day. Except I have tried Wren's Run Packmaster for a long time in Elf builds. It's a good finisher, doesn't cost too much mana, and never let me down, so I've not retired it so far.

 

 I believe Human is the king of Modern, so to build a Human deck for Modern Tribal Wars seemed like a given. I'm glad many powerful Humans are still legal in the format, so I can simply edit a white Human deck built for Regular events to turn it into a Modern-legal deck, then just enjoy driving the mighty tank to battle. Well, even if sometimes it still gets overturned.

 Looking back at your results, do you think you have a strategy or archetype you like playing the most or are better at piloting? You seem to like both linear aggro and ramp.
 I know that my playing Human and Elf too much makes me seem like I'm uniquely a linear aggro and ramp player. But don't forget I play my Kobold combo deck often, too. I like each kind of strategy, don't want to stick to only one. I think Magic is like "rock-paper-scissors", I'd better know how each strategy works, though playing the same one doesn't reduce one's winning rate in the long term, because there are always different kinds of decks in the tournament, so in the end I prefer to be the master of a few strategies than to try my hand at everything. And if you ask me why I'm not tired of playing the same decks over and over again, well, I've got to say, I just like the feeling of thinking my next move while playing against different players, different decks, different strategies, and different conditions. So far they've never felt as the same games, new surprises always happen and new ideas jump out and come into play.

 Favorite tribes and colors?
 My favorite tribe is Sliver, because they help each other, which feels like a good choice for a tribal deck. Unfortunately , not enough different types of Sliver abilities have been designed (e.g. a counterspell Sliver), so a Sliver deck always comes off just as another brainless aggro deck. But I do play aggro, and think direct damage decks are better than control, counter-heavy decks.

 My favorite colors are red and white, mostly because I like the card artworks, the many beautiful Angels in white, and the many cool Dragons and burn spells in red.

 

Vorthos card appreciation corner.

 Is there a deck or tribe you played that you wish had performed better?
 There's not a list I've played so far that never managed to win at least a match ultimately, and that includes some super-underdogs like Cockatrice or Badger. I think one could get a match win with everything if they keep playing it again and again, and never give up. I would say luck is an important part of MTG, and it's also what makes the games fun, since anything can happen.

 What's your process to build a new deck? How often you feel compelled to try something new?
 I must confess I am a lazy deck builder. I like to play, to think about my next move in a game, more than I like to take the time required to build a new deck. I'm glad to see many great deck builders in Tribal Apocalypse, and I like to look at the winning lists on Gatherling and in your tribal articles each week. Recently, I like to use the spare time in between the rounds of an event to update my decks, to trade, or to prepare new decks. A new list often takes me many weeks to finish, as there's no way to test them in the casual room, so I have test my new decks in the PREs directly.

 Is there a deck that didn't perform as well as expected? Or one that in the end made you go, "What was I thinking?"
 About a year ago, I had a Cloudpost phase. I loved to include the Cloudpost lands in any new tribal deck I wanted to try. Cloudpost Eldrazi: good; Cloudpost Masticore: it works; Cloudpost Thopter: fun; Cloudpost Bear... What was I thinking? Total nonsense.

 In these cases, are you more likely to try and fix these experiments until they perform acceptably, or just switch to something else?
 After I build some strange fun decks, possibly with the only goal to get the "Underdog Prize", I usually abandon them, because I can't stand to constantly lose. Last year I've almost exclusively played and improved top tribal lists to try and win, and that's what ultimately made me become Player of the Year, but I know I'm not that good, there's many tribal players who do not play to win each single time, they are great adventurers, and make the events more fun.

Taoyuan also produces green mana: the Xiao Wulai waterfall. © Josh Ellis Photography

 You've played Tribal Apocalypse at high levels since years now (your first recorded first place is from December 2014 with Sliver). Do you feel your tribal skills have improved over time?
 It's awesome that I was able to play Tribal for so many years, I want to thank you and all tribal players here, I really enjoy Tribal Apocalypse events, which most MTG players never experienced. Since my original Sliver and Soldier decks, I have tested and built many tribal decks that I still want to try. And I have enough playable decks not to worry to be left without anything to play week after week. My tribal decks and ability have certainly improved during these years, thanks to all the players I met. If you wanted to make the event more friendly to new tribal players, I would even accept to have the Top Player Lockout time increased to forever!

 After your Player of the Year season, you ended up third place in last January's Invitational, winning the final round after losing the semifinals. What do you recall of those games?
 In Round 3 we were using Pure decks, and my Slivers lost to Nagarjuna's Show and Tell Eldrazi deck. He managed to put Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play in turn 3 or 4 each game, I just felt losing to that was a natural result, my brainless linear Slivers are too weak to such plays, I have not a single way to answer that in the whole deck. Then in the "on the fly" round, I admired AJ_Impy's pick of Dinosaur for Pauper Tribal, he always surprises me.

 Which other players from the Tribal Apocalypse crowd you admire?
 All of them, either for their deck building skills, or playing skills, or both. They inspire me a lot indeed.

 Is there someone else from the old era who's not around anymore and you particularly miss and wish was back?
 My Hong Kong friend Robin88 has been playing Tribal Apocalypse events less, recently. Although I always lose to him, I hope he'll come back to play more often. I passed through Hong Kong in business trips, but never stayed long, so I never met with Robin88 or Michelle_Wong in real life. Maybe they have seen each other, though. Robin is a handsome young man and Michelle is a beauty, who knows what will happen!

 What are your thoughts about the current state of Tribal Wars?
 I remember when WotC had an official Tribal Wars format in V3. I hope Tribal can somehow become great again, and a popular Magic format. More players, more creative decks, more fun.

 Which other formats do you play other than Tribal, and which PREs other than Tribal Apocalypse?
 I almost exclusively play Gatherling PREs these days. I mostly play Heirloom, Tribal Apocalypse, and S100. Other events (Pauper, Penny Dreadful, Modern) start when it's the morning of a working day for me, so I'm less likely to be able to play them. I plan to try official league events (Pauper or Legacy) once I feel ready, I've been preparing for that for years.

 Where do you think Magic and MTGO are going? Does MTG Arena excite or concern you?
 I don't know anything about MTG Arena. I tried Duels of the Planeswalkers once, and it felt so-so. I hope WotC will focus on improving Magic Online only, without wasting resources to create platforms everywhere. One successful MTG digital game is better than many immature games. Please let us feel like MTGO is worthy to invest money and time into. If WotC can make MTGO playable everywhere, on any device, and if MTGO assets can keep or increase value like Bitcoin, I think the player base will grow more and more. I hope Magic can become more and more of a mature, well-known game, one day regarded as a classic strategy game like chess. I hope WotC will focus on MTG's qualities, rather than the number of cards. Designing new formats and creating better rules is more important than coming up with new cards. I hope my little voice can reach the people in charge and influence Magic's road map. I love MTG, and I don't want to see it collapse someday.

 Finally, is there something you never tried before that you're going to try this season in Tribal Apocalypse?
 No clear idea for a new deck now. If you'll create some fun tribal challenge with a prize, maybe I'll try it. I know AJ_Impy will be my main competitor for that. :) 

3 Comments

This is true. :) I always by AJ_Impy at Thu, 03/22/2018 - 04:02
AJ_Impy's picture
5

This is true. :)

I always love these interviews, thank you, Kuma and Lin, for the insight.

Nice article about one of our by Nagarjuna at Thu, 03/22/2018 - 11:41
Nagarjuna's picture
5

Nice article about one of our nice guys! Well done Kuma and Lin!

Nice article, thanks for the by MichelleWong at Fri, 03/23/2018 - 08:15
MichelleWong's picture
5

Great article, thanks for the interview.

And well done on slaying me last week, you got me ;)