Singleton is an apt week to discuss the big news of the moment, which is the freshly announced massive rule changes we're going to get once Magic 2014 will be released (online that means July 24). Two are the more seismic ones: the introduction of a flexible sideboard, and what more or less appears to be the end of the Legend Rule (with the Planeswalker Uniqueness Rule coming along). Now, the former clearly doesn't affect Tribal Wars — and, all in all, it's mostly harmless: you can now sideboard stuff in after game 1 without taking anything out, and you can have any number of cards in your sideboard from 0 to 15. While it'll be surely nice to get the chance to add that additional hate card without thinking too much about what it should replace in the main deck (it seems that "let's not make people think too much" is the watchword here), I hardly find a reason why a player should want to build a 13-card sideboard anyway, or envision a case where you will start playing with a 75-card deck come game 2. But again, that's of absolutely no concern in the sideboard-less Tribal world.
What applies to our format, though, as it applies to ANY existing format, is the new Legend Rule. Also known as "the Legend Rule ceases to exist". That's so major a change I believe is only comparable to when the combat damage stopped using the stack and, more recently, to when the mana burn was abolished. Yet, in those cases, we were dealing with a change that was either stopping an unintended abuse (in the former case), or eliminating an obsolete annoyance (in the latter). A few cards were made more playable by the sudden absence of the mana burn, particularly the ones where the mana burn was a built-in mechanical limitation (Braid of Fire comes to mind). However, it wasn't a big deal in that regard (we didn't get a lot of Braid of Fire combo decks after that). What we're looking at now is an entire category of cards suddenly becoming considerably more powerful, some of which already were highly powerful as they were.
RexDart and I had a bit of an exchange (okay, he gave me his opinion, now I'm corroborating mine), so let's have a mini-debate on the theme of...
LEGEND RULE'S ANNIHILATION: MADNESS OR NOT?
Rex: The big breaking news this week concerned changes to the "Legend Rule", as well as the "Planeswalker Uniqueness Rule". The short summary is that both you and your opponent may now have a copy of the same legendary permanent or planeswalker subtype (i.e. Jace, Chandra) in play at the same time. You can still only have one copy on your own side at a time, however if one is in play and you play another, you get to choose which copy goes to the graveyard (and technically, this is a state-based action, not a trigger, so the two will never be on the field at the same time while you can take any game actions.)
My initial hunch is that Tribal Apocalypse will barely notice the rules change for the most part. Gaddock Teeg is the only legend played off tribe in substantial numbers, and opposing Teegs are redundant and irrelevant, so that leaves mirror matches. The ability of each player in the Rebel mirror to have Lin Sivvi active will change things up a bit during the Underdog weeks — it's the key to your deck, and since both players in the mirror can fetch her almost at will, the match should look a bit more sane then it did when they were blowing each other up, and a bit more fair than in Masques days when the first to stick prevented other copies from entering. Ezuri also sees play, but the Elf mirror will be won by the mana race (or the coin flip), and the first player to deploy Ezuri still has a big lead in that contest.
Kuma: I'm looking at it from a wider angle. The Legend Rule was used as a built-in downside to powerful creatures. Of course, part of the downside still remains — you can't have 2 copies of Thrun or Sigarda on the battlefield on the same side (or two Liliana of the Veil), but that was only a side of it. Legends had an inherent fragility, due in part to the chance that the opponent would use their own copy as an impromptu removal (and with the most popular ones, especially in smaller formats, that wasn't so uncommon an occurrence); in part to the fact that a fairly ample category of cards worked as additional removal, while also providing other services: the clones. A card like Phantasmal Image was great in no minor part because it could deal with a lot of those powerful legends. For how I always saw it, that was absolutely intended as a limitation of such creatures. And what I don't understand is what the change is trying to accomplish here. Now Emrakul is even more untouchable than it was before: was that really necessary? Now you can create the sad, sad sight of two Elesh Norn facing and canceling out each other (not to mention what all this means for multiplayer: team with double Thalia on 2HG? That looks like fun). And we lost a design space: the stealthy clones who circumvented the Legend Rule a la Sakashima the Impostor, whose coolness is now entirely lost to the altar of... I don't know, you tell me. Rule simplification? What's particularly baffling to me is that this design space was nicely exploited as recently as in Gatecrash with Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. Didn't they know about the upcoming M14 revolution back then? What gives?
Rex: More relevant to our format is the fact that your opponent's legendary lands no longer "strip mine" your own copy. Karakas is widely played in this event, and that interaction did happen from time to time. You are now safe to stuff Karakas into any deck with white — use two or three if you want, the extra copies aren't entirely dead anymore. The ability to play a second copy of your own and choose which leaves will have marginal applications. The most-discussed at this point is Gaea's Cradle. That card is already very expensive, and I imagine this rule change will make it spike again. If you actually own two of these, you can tap one, play another as your land for turn, get rid of the tapped one, then tap the new one for another rush of mana.
Kuma: The land deal is probably THE deal here. Your Gaea's Cradle example honestly scares me, both in terms of a new shenanigans of the kind we didn't need (you just have to imagine what you can do with just 2 Cradles and 1 Crucible of Worlds), and in terms of giving reasons to a raise in price to a card that was already insanely pricey. But now essentially every copy of a legendary land after the first gains, "Discard this card: add X to your mana pool where X is the amount of mana it would generate on the battlefield." Running 4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is no more a concern. Again, there was a reason these cards had been printed with "legendary" written on them.
Rex: The planeswalker rule will have a moderate impact in Legacy. Nobody can play Jace Beleren to prevent me from landing Jace, the Mind Sculptor anymore, but who are we kidding, that almost never happens in Tribal Wars anyhow. Walkers are criminally underplayed, in part due to their price and in part due to limited support slots being used in other essential ways.
Kuma: Honestly, planeswalkers don't worry me much here, mainly because they're a young card type with relatively few existing cards, so the applications are limited and the new ones will come to existence in a world where the new rule is already established. Still, so far you couldn't replace your Vraska at loyalty 1 with a new Vraska, ready for action. You had to find a way to get rid of the first one, or stick to build her loyalty instead. A lot of good strategic decisions will be lost under the new deal.
Rex: Apart from the actual gameplay changes, which have their good side and bad side, this is a massive "flavor failure". Everybody who plays Tribal Wars likely has a bit of "Vorthos" in them, the side that loves the flavor and the feel of these tribes they deploy for battle each week. I think it's silly for opposing players to have the same character in play at once. But it was also silly for a clone to "kill" the creature it was copying. Once they decided to start fiddling with this, there was no perfect solution. In the end, if this is what it took to open up design space for some future set with tons of legends, we will probably wind up thankful on the whole.
Kuma: I feel like we might well just stop caring about the flavor of "a game that lets a stone wall hold a sword", to quote CottonRhetoric. Yet it's a hard thing to do for some of us, since so much of the game comes with an evident flavor work attached. And I have to say, I can hand wave more easily the idea of a clone killing the original creature (after all, isn't science fiction filled with shapeshifters and dopplegangers assuming the identity of someone after dispatching them, or at least imprisoning them somewhere?), than I can with two identical characters preposterously fighting on both sides of a battle (where I can accept that two versions of, say, Niv-Mizzet from different points in his timeline can magically co-exist. In this sense, I'm glad we can now have this for planeswalkers with the same type too). And, as noted, poor Sakashima and his cool "camouflage" ability get entirely lost in the shuffle (also a cool Johnny card like Mirror Gallery, which however I doubt will be the more sadly missed), and that equals to the loss of design space to me. I honestly can't see what design space this change will open: the Legend Rule was an effective tool to balance the power of a creature; now it's quite less effective at that.
In the end, if that was all to put more legendary creatures in the game, I just don't see the necessity of it, as there were already enough of them in any given set (borderline too many), and often quite powerful despite the Legend Rule. I'd like to read some clear reasoning (which wasn't given yet) behind a choice that seems to contradict the trend we were seeing with legendary creatures exploiting the Legend Rule to result more balanced, and with creatures like Lazav working around it as a way to distinguish themselves.
LAST WEEK ON TRIBAL APOCALYPSE...
Event Number: 3.19, Week 124 BE
Date: May 18
Special Rules: Tribal Singleton (only 1 copy of each nonbasic land)
Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is
Record attendance for a Singleton event: 26 players! One of the all-time best attendances in Tribal Apocalypse, no less (record is 32 in a regular event, then there's one 28, one 27, and six 26s, among which there's a Pure Tribal event as well). Also, fun fact: none of the players who ended in the money this week were in the money last week. Different crowds entirely, or quite wide, and quite competitive, player base?
First place went to all-time Top 8 member Nagarjuna, returning to victory after several months, thanks to this solid all-black Vampire deck that nicely extends from early threats to late game bombs (and with this the Vamps achieved their 5th win in TribAp and entered the Big Shots club! Woo-hoo!) (Rex somehow protests against this fact in his feature, but I don't care! :P)
Bigger surprise was the undefeated turn of pk23, an extremely accomplished Modern player (he's leading the scoreboard of the very competitive WAFTT PRE, for instance — and, hey, look who's second place!), who's only recently got into the Tribal side of things. He's also a fellow Birthing Pod adept, just like this very sophisticated, very fascinating Goblin list clearly shows. These aren't your regular aggro Goblins! Just look from how many different angles they can come at you!
Rex will feature pk's deck tech and a few replays in his section, so I'll just say kudos to him, then I'll proceed to acknowledge another new player, Kumquats, who did well with this Human build based on a safe bet: protection. This simple premise turned his deck into a veritable parade of all kind of protected dudes one could cram into a single deck, including the poster girl of them all, Pristine Angel (and now all those protected dudes can even count on a secondArmadillo Cloak to comfortably wear!)
Finally, another deck I particularly liked was milegyenanevem's concoction, filled with stuff you don't usually see associated with Wizards, like Blessings of Nature or Revenge of the Hunted, along with unusual flavorful cards like Stream of Unconsciousness. Dragon's Maze guest star of the occasion: Beetleform Mage, aka The One With Three Types. (By the way, I'm finishing up my traditional tribal evaluation on the new creatures from DGM, it should be up early next week).
Also known as: how much do the top decks cost? As of May 24, 2013, here's the answer (MTGO Traders prices; mtgGoldfish charts and analysis; the cheapest version of each card is always used; basic lands count zero):
Let's have a look at how much Singleton decks cost compared to regular decks. It appears they cost fairly less, an effect of the need to steer away from the "all money cards, all the time" approach you may fall into when allowed to the usual 4-of deal. More so, it's worth noting that nearly 75% of Nagarjuna's deck's overall price amount to just to the $61 of Wasteland and $13.5 of Mutavault, which could be easily replaced with, say, Tectonic Edge and Mishra's Factory, and the deck would play just about the same. On the other hand, in pk23's deck, the price is kept low by the presence of a somehow weird manabase, likely due to a collection not ready to fully tackle a Legacy Singleton approach yet (seriously, Cinder Marsh? Lantern-Lit Graveyard?!). And the tribal base's comparatively high cost is entirely due to our old friend Kiki-Jiki, of course. Star demands his due. (Ah, I remember when he was just a struggling bit player barely worth 2 tix a performance! Back in those crazy times we used to call "2011").
Welcome back to Show and Tell, the ongoing audio/video deck tech and replay extravaganza where I cover the decks of the Legacy Tribal Wars format and the Tribal Apocalypse PRE!
This was the second Singleton event since it became a regular monthly part of the rotation, and Nagarjuna got his second win of the year with Midrange Vampires. Out of the five Singleton events held in Tribal Apocalypse, Midrange Vampires have won 3, each winning list being piloted by a different player, making them clearly the best deck in Singleton by a wide margin. Before we get started on the feature deck this week, let's talk about Vampires then. This event marked the 5th win for them, making them officially part of the "Big Shot" tribes, meaning they are no longer eligible for play in Pure Tribal weeks (in addition to them not being playable in Underdog as well). But are Vampires really one of the dominant tribes of Tribal Apocalypse? The results over the past few years indicates... absolutely NOT. Of those 5 wins, three came in Singleton events as previously noted. One came in the 2011 Halloween event. The only Vampire win to come in a regular tribal week was by the all-time leading tribal player mihahitlor, who won a 15-player event with them in July 2011. Compared to the other "Big Shot" tribes, Vampires seem positively anemic by comparison. In a wider field, they are a solid but not exceptional tribe. But in any special event where the Tier One tribes are eliminated or weakened, they rise nearer to the top as one of the strongest and deepest "fair" decks to play. Joining the "Big Shot" list takes them out of Pure Tribal, where they've never won, and leaves them still legal in Singleton, where they are the top deck. While I believe it's best to have a clear, identifiable cutoff for determining the "Big Shot" tribes, and 5 wins is a decent marker at least for now, I do think that counting wins in some of the oddball formats has resulted in Vampires' unwarranted promotion to that elite club.
Kuma's Intervention: Just to say, Chris, you're not entirely looking at this the right way. Yes, I chose 5 wins as the marker, because one was needed, but you can't just look at event wins to establish a tribe's overall success. If you check the 2011-2012 leaderboard, you'll see that Vampires have 672 points, nearly 100 more than Cat, over 200 more than Kor and Merfolk. That means they're both widely played (they're the 4th most played tribe indeed, right after Human, Elf, and Goblin) and consistently Top 8. More so, there's no such things as "oddball formats" anymore: if anything, regular is the oddball format now, as it just amounts to one quarter of our game play; being a dominant force in all the other formats equals to being a dominant force in the tournament at large.
Now on to the Singleton Spotlight Deck for this week! And our Spotlight Deck, coming in at 2nd place, was a Goblin combo deck by longtime PRE-circuit player and Modern-format specialist pk23, who is relatively new to Tribal Apocalypse. Building combos into Singleton lists requires a special talent for recognizing cards that can be used as redundant combo pieces and as part of your back-up plan. Take a look at his deck in this week's video deck tech:
In the next video, check out how pk23 assembles and executes his combos in two game replays, featuring his deck against Kumagoro's Snakes and mihahitlor's Vampires:
And remember, the Old Fogey Deckbuilding Challenge is still available! No attempts were made this week. There are only two more weeks left to attempt this challenge: Pure Tribal on May 25 and Underdog Tribal on June 1st. A new challenge will be unveiled for the June 8 Regular Tribal event. Up for grabs is one non-foil, digital copy of Sylvan Library, valued at 3.5 tix on MTGO Traders. How do you claim the prize? Follow these deckbuilding rules:
Build a tribal deck using ONLY cards that were originally printed (in paper Magic) in one of the following sets: Alpha/Beta/Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, Fallen Empires. (Because these sets were not released online except in Masters Editions and other reprints, please be sure to use the Gatherer online tool to check legality.)
You must enter a Tribal Apocalypse event with your deck and obtain at least 2 match wins, not counting forfeits or byes.
Not sure where to begin? You will need to identify a tribe that contains at least 5 online representatives from the legal sets. Some of the available Old Fogey tribes for Pure Tribal week include Cleric, Construct, Djinn, Knight, Merfolk, Orc, Thrull, and Zombie. There are more out there to explore. To see the full range of options, you can view the list of all available creatures at this Gatherer link, though keep in mind not all of them may be available on MTGO.
DISCLAIMER STUFF: Only one prize is available. In case multiple players accomplish this in the same event, the player with the greater number of valid match wins takes the prize; if two or more players are still tied, the player whose tribe has the fewest lifetime Hall of Fame points will take the prize. If the players are still tied, a random choice will award the prize. Also: please note that the winner will be determined by reviewing decklists AFTER the event. This means that the winner will not be officially chosen until the announcement is made on the following Friday, within this article here on PureMTGO.com. If you are the winner, you may collect your prize from me by messaging RexDart on MTGO after the winner is announced.
Finally I want to give a brief shout-out for some of the other PREs out there. Although I had mixed feelings about the move to Gatherling, it has encouraged me to check out some of the other available events affiliated with them. Last week I played in Overdrive!, the Modern-format single-elimination event hosted by our old pal BlippyTheSlug. This week I'm planning to play in the very interesting One Buck Challenge tournament, a semi-budget Standard format where all non-land cards have to cost less than 1 ticket each. This is a very interesting model for a budget-conscious format. Being able to play whatever land you want, including the good rare ones, really opens up the format and gives you much more flexibility in deck type than Pauper or Silverblack do. You also get to use powerful rares that just don't happen to be popular in constructed right now, and consequently fall under the price threshold. So if you aren't already doing it, check out a few of the other PREs and give one a try!
Check the complete archive of RexDart's Deck Techs here.
The Tribal Achievements: welcome to the second season of the Tribal Achievements! Find new ways to have fun within Tribal Apocalypse, challenge yourself to complete all kinds of strange MTG feats, and make some tix in the process.
The Hamtastic Award: the Biodiversity Prize dedicated to the memory of Erik Friborg has started again, for its 6th edition: be the first to run 10 different tribes in a row and you'll get 5 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. We already have 3 players leading with 4 tribes: AJ_Impy, justcanceled, vantar6697.
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)
The Champion Challenge: challenge one of our Tribal Champions, and win an Egg of Tarmogoyf (aka a Future Sight booster, courtesy of SBena_Bot) and 20 points in the seasonal leaderboard! In order to do that, you must: 1) choose one of the Challenge Decks; 2) end X-1 or better with it in a Tribal Apocalypse event; 3) beat its creator in a challenge! Follow this link for the complete ruling and the decklists.
The Bringer Challenge is on! A new, crazy pentacolored challenge has been issued! After Elder, Kirin, Nephilim and Volver, it's time for a true heavy weight, the kind I like best: be the first player who'll win a proper match (no byes, no opponent forfeiting) with a Bringer deck featuring 4 copies of each of them, and you'll win 1 tix and admiration, both from me!
C'mon, this time is alluring!
The Top Players Lockout: every time a Top Player (either a Google Era Top 8, an Ultimate Champion or a seasonal Top 8) 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 13 cards on watch, none of them reaches an Annoyance Level.
Videos: Send me or RexDart replays of your games and we'll feature them in these articles! Don't know how? Read this quick guide in 6 easy steps and start saving your tribal feats for posterity!