Welcome back to Tribal Apocalypse, the PRE whose meta is always shifting.
Table of Contents
- Last Week on Tribal Apocalypse...
- The High Price of Winning
- RexDart's Show and Tell
- Force of Will: A Debate
- Announcement Time!
- What's Next
First of all, a couple of announcements that feel important enough to make it out of the regular section.
The Hall of Fame point system has changed! (Which means that I changed it, since, you know, I'm the one that does this kind of things.) As you can see from the table in the 2013 Ranking (the new system has been retroactively applied to the 4 events that already took place this year), I finally decided to award points to every player (and tribe) that ends "in the money". I admit, the decision was triggered by my own frustration after getting one too many 5th places, but I know that many other players were feeling the same way. After all, the difference between a 4th place and a 7th place is often negligible in terms of accomplishment. We're not running a Grand Prix-style Swiss tournament over 11 rounds, after all, so it all boils down to tiny, tiny differentials, and sometimes a player with a 2-0, 2-0, 1-2, 2-0 track would end behind a player who did worse game-wise, but had the luck to lose to a slighter better ranked player. Now, if you end with 1 loss, you're sure to get some points, albeit fewer than an undefeated player, and of course even fewer than the winner, that, I like to remind, is always determined through a play-off round between the undefeated. Of course, events with 4 rounds award more points than events with 3 rounds. Here's the full table:
- 1st place (4-round event): 100 pts.
- Undefeated (4-round event): 75 pts.
- 1 loss (4-round event): 50 pts.
- 1st place (3-round event): 75 pts.
- Undefeated (3-round event): 50 pts.
- 1 loss (3-round event): 25 pts.
- 1st place with Unhallowed: +20 pts.
- 1st place with Semi-Virgin: +15 pts.
- Any score with Semi-Virgin: +10 pts.
- Any score with Orphan: +10 pts.
- 1st place in Invitational: 150 pts.
- 2nd place in Invitational: 100 pts.
- 3rd place in Invitational: 75 pts.
- 4th place in Invitational: 50 pts.
- 5th-8th place in Invitational: 25 pts.
- 9th-16th place in Invitational: 10 pts.
Of course, the points for the ranking aren't cumulative: if you get 1st place, you don't also get Undefeated. There's a few bonus, as you can see, that replace the points previously linked to the Special Prizes and are only awarded to the players, not the tribes. They are focused on harder feat than just getting the Endangered Prize, which has become a bit too easy. They're essential about achieving results with the Semi-Virgins, that are the truly hard tribes to pull off; or piloting to 1st place a tribe who never won before (Unhallowed); or getting into the Hall of Fame a tribe that didn't have any point (Orphan; you can check the list here, on the bottom right corner.)
Other point of interest: the Achievements! Which are, well, not ready yet. Sorry, guys, it took more (and/or we didn't have enough) time to complete the new season's list yet. I promise it'll be ready to go in time for Event 110 next week.
LAST WEEK ON TRIBAL APOCALYPSE...
- Event Number: 3.04, Week 108 BE
- Date: January 26
- Attendance: 24
- Rounds: 4
- Special Rules: Small Time Tribal (no Big Shot Tribes allowed)
- Winner: Chamale (Devil)
- Undefeated: RexDart (Sliver)
- 1 Loss: bdgp009 (Elemental); _BIG_BROTHERS (Beast); _Kumagoro_ (Plant); AJ_Impy (Monk); Robin88 (Faerie); Nagarjuna (Elemental)
- Special Prizes: Endangered Prize and Topical Prize to Chamale with Devil; Semi-Virgin Prize to AJ_Impy with Monk; Up-and-Coming Prize to RexDart with Sliver
- Tribes: Ally, Assassin, Beast, Devil, Druid, Elemental (x2), Faerie, Fungus, Horror, Monk, Myr (x2), Ogre, Plant, Samurai, Shaman (x3), Sliver, Sphinx, Treefolk, Unicorn, Vampire
- Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is
That was our first monthly Small Time event, which RexDart analyzes in his feature. From my side, I can add another piece of news here: next month, the Big Shot Tribes will be entirely shut down from the available tribal bases. Meaning that you won't be able to play any of those types (the ones who won 5 events or more, which currently are Elf, Human, Goblin, Wall, Cat and Wizard, with Vampire being only 1 win short of joining the club) within your tribal base; you'll be allowed to play them only as off-tribe creatures. I came to this decision because I realized how easy it is to play, for instance, an Elf deck masqueraded as a Druid deck (or Goblin masqueraded as Warrior, and so on), and the old rules would allow that just fine. And this would just render the entire premise moot.
Our first Small Time winner didn't leave room for ambiguity, though, as an Achievement-deprived Chamale abandoned his combo builds for once and run a pure aggro Devil deck, smashing faces left and right.
What can I say? That's RDW goodness to the nth degree. Now that the Devils even got their very own Savannah Lions in Rakdos Cackler, they're primed for lightning-fast aggression. I like that the tribal base still allows for a bit of insurance answer via Torch Fiend's artifact hate.
At 2nd place, RexDart successfully vindicated the Slivers, a popular tribe that's often associated with the tribal concept itself (especially of the linear variety), and yet never did much in the past 2 years of Tribal Apocalypse.
This is not your typical Sliver build, which is more often than not Naya-oriented, and that was probably the key of its success. Truth be told, the Slivers here seem more worried about self-preservation (Crystalline Sliver, Hibernation Sliver) than about packing the kind of fast punch the red and green ones usually bring on the table, with only Sinew Sliver being able to raise the individual power of the little guys past 2. It's all about high-profile control elements, Force of Will in primis (see the debate between me and Rex below), which is all nice and cool, but feels like you could do the same, with a reasonable prospect of success, with any Azorius-colored tribe in existence. You can hear Rex's own opinions on all that below, anyway.
Moving on: now that I don't have a Top 4 anymore, I can just pick some deck I liked among the ones with 1 loss (Rex talks about another one of them, among other things). What about, for instance, this rare Monk build by the one and only AJ_Impy? (I know it's always him, guys: be creative and/or diverse and I'll feature you too!)
The theme here is clearly life-gaining, something that the Monk does well, and also elicits the presence of Felidar Sovereign with its alternate win-con.
And what about my deck? I love this Plant build, which gives me the chance to play a Progenitus-less Natural Order package in a way that feels legit. Especially because, Worldspine Wurm apart (ah, the temptation was too big!), I happened to get the best results by fetching Vulturous Zombie to fly over some heavy roadblocks. Who would have thought that a flying, rotten vegetable would be the MVP?
And that's it.
THE HIGH PRICE OF WINNING
Also known as: how much do the top decks cost? As of February 1, 2013, here's the answer (MTGO Traders prices; the cheapest version of each card is always used; basic lands count zero):
- 1st place, Chamale's Devils: $80.56 (nonland cards: $80.56; tribal base: $61.04)
- 2nd place, RexDart's Slivers: $672.18 (nonland cards: $360.52; tribal base: $2.95)
The disappearance of the Top 4 leaves me with just 2 decklists to evaluate (which, I must say, isn't something I regret, since these price calculations aren't exactly the time of my week I look forward to the most.) Which criterion do you think I should use to work some other decklist in there? The ones that look particularly expensive or particularly cheap, maybe?
Anyway, KABOOM! goes the previous record for most expensive deck, annihilated by Rex's FoW-graced build. The previous record being still by Rex, so now you guys know who you should ask to borrow cards from.
REXDART'S SHOW AND TELL
This week on Show & Tell, we take a look at the first Small Time event. With the 6 Big Shot tribes banned, it promised to be somewhere between Regular and Underdog in terms of power level. Combo was conspicuously absent from the x-1 finishers, as we saw sligh aggro vs. aggro-control vs. midrange making up the modified rock-paper-scissors metagame for the week.
In Part One of this week's video, I take a look at two decks by previously successful players who moved away from their comfort zones this week. Combo specialist Chamale rode to 1st place on the back of Hellrider and the increasingly popular Devil tribe. Devils have the tools for a powerful sligh aggro deck, and I believe they will be a common part of the metagame in Underdog and Small Time events going forward. Meanwhile, Elven enthusiast _BIG_BROTHERS_ put together a very nice midrange aggro deck with Naya Beasts, finishing 4th place with the power of the big-bodied Woolly Thoctar, and the repeatable card advantage offered by Garruk Wildspeaker, Ajani Vengeant, and Contested Cliffs.
Stay tuned until the end of Part One for a special CONTEST GIVEAWAY offer. This time it's a deck-building challenge, and the prize is worth over 4 tickets! The guidelines are explained in the video.
In Part Two, I show off the build of my 2nd place Esper Counterslivers deck. Although UB Fae is my aggro-control deck of choice, Slivers have a lot to offer, primarily in the form of Crystalline Sliver shutting down the format's ubiquitous spot removal, and backed up by free countermagic to fight board sweepers. I discuss the options for competitive Sliver decks, both the Esper and Bant variations as well as 4-color.
In Part Three, I have a match replay with audio commentary between my Countersliver deck and _Kumagoro_'s midrange/ramp Plant deck. [Rex, I hate you so much — Kuma]
Remember to send me your match replays so I can feature them in the Show & Tell segment!
Check the complete archive of RexDart's Deck Techs here.
FORCE OF WILL: A DEBATE
1. RexDart's Opinion
The price of Force of Will has crashed to its most affordable level in at least two years. When the MOCS promos hit the digital streets last week (on January 23), Legacy players were ready to snap them up, and the price briefly reached as low as 50 tix for the formerly 120 tix format staple. With the MOCS tournament being held this weekend, we can expect to see more FoW on the market in the next week than ever. While the card has attained nearly legendary status in the minds of many MTGO players due to its scarcity, Force of Will is far stronger against certain strategies than others. I wanted to take a look at how it might impact Tribal Apocalypse if it begins showing up in greater numbers.
First of all, if you play aggro, the presence of other decks running Force of Will is generally a net positive for your deck's performance. For one thing, the card is weakest against aggro. Unless your deck relies on a single key noncreature spell to enable your strategy, Force of Will countering one of your creatures is doing the job of a Swords to Plowshares at the cost of two cards... sometimes acceptable, but not awesome. All of your creatures are threats, and they spent two cards to stop just one of them. As the aggro player, you also have access to Cavern of Souls, which is already a highly playable mana-fixing in the Tribal format.
Second, and most important for aggro players, Force of Will suppresses combo decks. Combo decks are by far the worst matchup for straightforward aggro decks. In paper Magic tournaments, I play Legacy Zoo, a deck that is stone-cold dead to something like Goblin Charbelcher, and the more Forces of Will in the room, the better for me.
Although some combo decks in Legacy can use Force of Will to protect their combo, most combo decks in Tribal Wars are very tight on space (because of the 20 creature requirement) and have only rarely played ANY protection for their combos. Of those that might, how many can run 12-16 other blue cards to pitch to FoW? In most cases, running Silence or Thoughtseize would be just as effective as a protection, if not more. That being said, FoW is commonly used to protect the "Painted Stone" combo (as seen earlier this year in the Painted Stonecrows deck piloted by grapplingfarang in Event 105), and should also be an easy fit into the Pester-Twin Faerie decks.
Pure control decks have always been the ones that least liked having to go down a card to counter an opponent's threat. In environments with turn-1 kills, it is a necessary evil. But turn-1 kills are rare in Tribal Apocalypse, so it remains a questionable inclusion in pure control.
Where Force of Will truly shines is in aggro-control. In a format without Aether Vial, free countermagic allows you to deploy threats and protect them. The traditional blue-based aggro-control tribes (Merfolk, Illusions, Wizards, Slivers) benefit the most from this. Powering up these decks may incidentally help the R/x aggro decks, as these have more than enough spot removal, greater threat density, and traditionally demolish Fish decks.
In summary, I think greater access to Force of Will for more players would improve the event. There is a world of difference between 120 tix and 50 tix, but even that remains out of reach for many players. If Force of Will were 0.5 tix and saw the amount of play that Swords to Plowshares does in this format, I think we'd see a quite different metagame, one much better-equipped to handle emergent combo decks. That may never happen, but I hope that even a few more copies in player's collections might have a positive effect.
2. Kumagoro's Opinion
I agree with everything Rex said above, except for the fact that I don't think a wider presence of FoW in the meta would be a good thing. First of all, I have to say that I don't really think we'll ever see that: the current MTGO Traders price for a regular FoW is $73.49; the promo version isn't available, yet priced even higher, at $74.27. This will possibly change in the next weeks, so let's just say that we're looking at a 50-tix FoW for the foreseeable future (which I doubt). It would still amount to almost the full cost of most winning decks in Tribal Apocalypse. We have players who run 5-tix, or even 2-tix decks with some degree of success. For those players, the difference between a 100-tix card and a 50-tix card is approximately null. That means that the new FoW's inflow will only matter for players who have the means to invest $200+ in Magic cards. Yeah, I'm making it a question of money. But we have to be realistic, we're not talking about a virtual metagame observed in a vacuum; Tribal Apocalypse is based on a given community, and it'll exist as long as the members of that community will be willing to spend a few hours of their Saturdays by playing in it. As a host, my main responsibility, backed up by our main sponsor MTGO Traders, and to a lesser extent by Clan Leys, is to have as more players as possible for each event. Every decision I take has to be in the direction of not chasing current players away, while at the same time attracting new ones. Even at $50, FoW will still represent a strong divide between the players who can afford those kinds of money cards, and the players who just can't (or don't want to). The price reduction might just put the card within the reach of a group of players that felt that $400+ for the playset was unwarranted, but $200+ is a honest deal. So far, the presence of FoW has been negligible; but if now we'll see more of them in the hands of this kind of top players, that might become a further source of frustration for new and budget players who approach Tribal Apocalypse for the first time and are welcomed by such a display of money power that would put them off the tournament immediately and for good. (Wasteland poses a similar problem, but the case of FoW is more blatant because if we consider, say, a 3-year window, FoW was never even remotely affordable, while Wasteland was at times.)
And there's another consideration to make, again from a host's point of view. Let's imagine a world where, suddenly, FoW is $0.5 and everyone owns a playset of them. As Rex observed, that would push the combo decks off the meta (since in Tribal Wars they don't have room or a sideboard for countermeasures, and Cavern of Souls doesn't help them much). The result would be that, in order to dribble the FoW problem, most Spikes would just run fast aggro. Which is a trend already present in full force: the 2012 results show us that fast aggro won more than any other kind of deck. Combo builds actually act as a barrier to the spreading of fast aggro at the top positions: you take combo out of the equation, and insert a strong FoW presence, and this format will become an endless fight between sligh builds, within any subformat we can come up with, even Underdog. Something I learned from Modern is that you don't ban a card because of its intrinsic power; you ban a card to stop an archetype that's become ubiquitous, because that makes for a boring meta. And boring is definitely the worst thing that a format and its community can be. The Watch List showed us that Doomsday is not our enemy, because nobody plays it, and if they did, it would just be once in a (far) while. Banning or unbanning cards like Doomsday doesn't actually make any tangible difference in the meta. The dangerous cards, and with "dangerous" I mean "at risk of causing boredom", are the ones that you can see every single week in half the registered decks. And the cards that should be banned are the ones that cause such a huge shift in the meta that whole families of broad archetypes become unplayable, while a few simple patterns emerge and keep popping up at the top places. In those cases, the Modern format isn't afraid to ban cards apparently harmless. And neither am I.
So, in a world where FoW were primed to really become ubiquitous, it would be banned from Tribal Apocalypse, pronto. You can bet your pants on that. We banned Glimpse of Nature for less. However, in the real world, where FoW will be at most prerogative of only a few, "privileged" players (but possibly, a more significant number compared to the past), I'm putting it in a special category of the Watch List; if it'll show up too much, and the reaction in the metagame will be tangible enough, off will go Force of Will, once and forever. And with no remorse.
Just to remind you of a few things:
The Rules: we now have a page with all the rules listed, so we won't have to repeat all of them before any tournament. Yay for time saving!
The Top 8 Lockout: since last week, every time a Top 8 player (either from this year's ranking or all-time) will end undefeated, they will not be allowed to register the same tribe and deck again for 4 events (i.e. they'll have to register a different deck or decks 4 times before coming back to the undefeated one). With "deck" is meant a specific, recognizable archetype (e.g. Wall-Drazi), which in some case will be linked to a specific combo card (e.g. Helm of Obedience). A list of the current lockouts is maintained here.
The Watch List: some particular, archetype-defining cards have been put into a specific Watch List, giving them Annoyance Levels based on how frequently they show up and their degree of success. Once a card gets to Level 3 or more, it'll be banned until enough weeks will have passed to make its appearance ratio acceptable again. So far, with 12 cards on watch, none of them reaches an Annoyance Level.
The Tribal Achievements: the first round of Tribal Achievements is over! Soon a new list will be launched for 2013, with new ways to have fun within Tribal Apocalypse, challenge yourself to do all kinds of strange MTG feats, and make some tix in the process. The past list had 8 achievements still to unlock. Some of those will be back in the new list (also, some of the ones proposed by the players, with one of them getting the "I Made This Myself" achievement from the old list), along with some of the more popular ones. But expect new, wild stuff too.
The Mongoose Pride Prize! As the last tribe standing after everyone else had been played at least once, Mongoose has become the protagonist of a dedicated prize that will remember forever that you all neglected them despite Nimble Mongoose being featured in high-profile, tier-1 Legacy decks. The Mongoose Pride Prize will permanently award 1 tix (at SBena_Bot) to everyone who'll just... play Mongoose. That's right, you just have to play them and you'll get 1 tix, till the end of times. Well, there's just one clause: you have to win at least one match with them within the event (byes and forfeits don't count). Let's show them all what the mighty Herpestidae can do, shall we?
Hard to kill, hard to play (apparently)
Topical Prize rotation! As we have returned to Ravnica, we said goodbye to Avacyn Restored's star tribes, Angel and Demon, and we embraced a whole new set of tribes for the Topical Prize. It's five tribes, each representing a different guild as portrayed in their relative keyrunes: Bird (for Azorius), Elemental (for Izzet), Devil (for Rakdos), Insect (for Golgari), and Wolf (for Selesnya). You don't necessarily have to play them in their guild's colors, but that gets bonus points for style and topicality. The Topical Tribes will switch to the Gatecrash Guilds after the Gatecrash release, i.e. starting from Event 111 on February 16.
The Hamtastic Award: the Biodiversity Prize dedicated to the memory of Erik Friborg has started again, for its 4th edition, in a shortened form: be the first to run 5 different tribes in a row and you'll get 2 tix on SBena_Bot! You have to play all the rounds of an event in order for the tribe to be added to your sequence. If you repeat a previous tribe, your whole sequence resets.
The Volver Challenge is still unclaimed! I'll give 1 tix out of my pocket to the first player who'll win a proper match (no bye, no opponent forfaiting) with a Volver deck featuring 4 copies of each of them.
And maybe in the process we'll find out what the hell is a Volver
Videos: Send me replays of your games, please! Don't know how? Read this quick guide in 6 easy steps and start saving your tribal feats for posterity!
And Slugs for all! To honor the memory of the one and only BlippyTheSlug (the longest-run host of Tribal Apocalypse), any new player can ask me for a one-time free treat: a full playset of any and all Slugs ever printed and available online (that is Spitting Slug, Molder Slug, Thermopod, and Catacomb Slug). Courtesy of MTGO Traders and SBena_Bot. The gift is meant for players who never took part before on a TribAp event, but I can grant it to recent players or budget players too, at my discretion. So just ask me for that, maybe you'll be lucky.
The upcoming Tribal Apocalypse events of the Blippian Era (every Saturday at 17:00 GMT):
- 3.05 (Week 109 BE), on February 2: Underdog Week.
- 3.06 (Week 110 BE), on February 9: regular week.
- 3.07 (Week 111 BE), on February 16: Tribal Singleton.
- 3.08 (Week 112 BE), on February 23: Small Time Tribal: no Big Shot Tribes allowed.
Check out the full Tribal Calendar for 2013!
Last chance to take the Tribal Survey! Results coming next week!
See you all in the Tribal room!