Welcome back to Tribal Apocalypse, the PRE where challenges exist to be taken!
Table of Contents
- Last Week on Tribal Apocalypse...
- The High Price of Winning
- Show and Tell: The Best of Theros!
- Tribal Lab: The Insect Project!
- Announcement Time!
- What's Next
THOUGHTS OF A TRIBAL HOST
In my recent interview to pk23 — which everyone should go and read right now! (shameless self-promotion) — I asked him, an accomplished Modern player only recently involved in the Tribal Wars, what this format looks like from the outside. His answer is at the same time obvious and enlightening: "Tribal Wars seems a lot more casual than Modern. There don't seem to be too many really established decks, and it feels like everyone is pretty much brewing their own stuff."
This is something very true that we seem to forget all too often: Tribal Wars is a format for deckbuilders. In other formats, you might brew your personal recipe of a known archetype (or even go rogue, of course), but mostly everyone will know what you're playing, be that either Maverick, or Tron, or Storm. There's almost no sense at all in using this approach in Tribal Wars. In fact, it's even hard to do: as a niche format, you can't really find sites with successful lists to copy. Heck, there can't be, since... where those successes would even be happening? What I say in the summary isn't a joke: We're really the only Tribal Wars tournament in existence! So your chance at netdecking is entirely contained within my articles (or Gatherling data), which means you would just be mimicking the deck of someone whom you will have a good chance to play against in the next event. What I publish here aren't really archetypes. There's a few of established ways to do some tribes, especially the always despised Elves & Goblins, but even in those cases, there's a few key cards but not a single agreed upon list to start with. Mostly, what you'll find are people's more or less personal concoctions.
You don't see these often, but you can see them here.
And speaking of that "less", my suggestion is just: Don't do less personal builds. Go as much personal as you can. With Theros now out there (RexDart is back to talk about the best new creatures here, and he's giving a lot of nice suggestions for new builds), and even entirely new tribes to try out, this is the best moment to just sit in front of the editor and say, "What insane thing could I try this week?" Don't think you'll meet people with Elves & Goblins. Don't worry about not owning Wasteland or the latest Mythic with the price horribly inflated by damn Standard. We have one of the biggest card pool in the game. There's stuff in there that's still worth playing, might be surprising, and costs only a few cents. The only thing you have to do is dig deep enough to find one of those strange, interesting cards nobody even remembers anymore or still has to try.
And we have challenges, like the remaining Achievements of the season, the new Champion Challenge, or RexDart's latest crazy idea. Go grab those tix, and go do that in style. Because in a PRE devoted to a niche format nobody else's playing, be regarded as a cool deckbuilder is the best accomplishment you can achieve.
LAST WEEK ON TRIBAL APOCALYPSE...
- Event Number: 3.38, Week 143 BE
- Date: September 28
- Attendance: 18
- Rounds: 3
- Special Rules: Pure Tribal (no off-tribe creatures, no Big Shot Tribes nor T9 cards allowed)
- Winner: justcanceled (Spirit)
- Other undefeated: ML_Berlin (Soldier)
- 1 Loss: Nagarjuna (Golem), auggm3nt (Elemental), mihahitlor (Zombie), Edison_88luckyplayer (Sliver), Heureka (Elemental), romellos (Kor), brettmemphis1989 (Merfolk)
- Special Prizes: none
- Tribes: Ally, Demon, Elemental (x3), Golem, Kor, Merfolk (x2), Sliver, Soldier, Soltari, Specter, Spirit (x3), Zombie (x2)
- Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is
Third win this year (and overall) for justcanceled, who's having a nice season that currently sees him at the 5th place of the leaderboard. After Berserker (in Underdog) and Shaman (in another Pure event), this time it's Spirit the tribe to give him glory. In particular, this scary Storm-like build with Deus of Calamity as plan A, and, wow, Chandra Ablaze! It might be the first time ever I see her actually played!
I just realized that the Deus and his fellow Spirit Avatar Nobilis of War were included in Duel Decks: Heroes vs. Monsters. Does that mean the entire cycle will be retconned with the addition of the God subtype? Let's hope so.
Anyway, in the playoff against justcanceled's storming calamities, we find a recent addition to TribAp, ML_Berlin, here at his first final (although partly in virtue of Nagarjuna not being able to show up in time for the 3rd round). Berlin is a player who's managing to consistently do well despite budget constraints, and is especially fond of the Soldier tribe (which indeed is budget-friendly enough).
I like how this classic White Weenie is hosting a few late-game bombs, too, like True Conviction. And a few 1-ofs of creatures you don't see often, like Catapult Squad, Commander Eesha, and Master Decoy.
In other news, a nice build was (once again) Heureka's, with these flickering Elementals cleverly using the Elemental's evoke and Forbid's buyback to enable flashback. Mechanical synergy, thy name is Heureka.
As for me, the return of Liliana in my collection didn't pay the dividends I wished for, partly due to some bad luck on my part (that tends to happen more often with 3-round tournaments; should we play over 4 rounds regardless of the number of players, I wonder?). I still believe this Recurring Nightmare-based Spirit build has potential, the two Dragon Spirits performed well, and Morkrut Banshee was a pleasant discovery with a great synergy with the Nightmare.
And that's it.
THE HIGH PRICE OF WINNING
Also known as: how much do the top decks cost? As of October 4, 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):
- 1st place, justcanceled's Spirits: $64.13 (nonland cards: $36.17; tribal base: $13.04)
- 2nd place, ML_Berlin's Soldiers: $11.96 (nonland cards: $11.47; tribal base: $6.00)
Two nicely budget-friendly decks at the top this week. Almost half of the Spirit Storm build's price is actually due to a couple of entirely non-crucial Arid Mesas, while the other half is made up of the three Chrome Moxen (which are at 6 tix) and the playset of Elvish Spirit Guide (about 2 tix and a half each). And of course Soldier is easy to build with little, what with most of those effective Soldiers being just 2 or 3 cents worth. ML_Berlin's build is also a masterwork of "make do". You don't have any expensive Swords? Just use the next best things, Loxodon Warhammer and Basilisk Collar. No money for Ancient Tomb? Good ol' bounce lands will do. Wish you could use Elspeth, Knight-Errant? What about the 1-tix worth Ajani Goldmane instead? There's always a budget-friendly solution! And, you know, you can still make the final with them.
The Top 10 Cheapest Decks that Went Undefeated
- morpphling's Goblins, $2.35, 2nd place on Event 102
- Gq1rf7's Goblins, $4.12, 2nd place on Event 141
- Trickerie's Golems, $4.31, 1st place on Event 138 (cheapest event winner)
- arcbounddaylabor's Goblins, $4.46, 1st place on Event 111
- ellmaris's Goblins, $6.52, 2nd place on Event 103
- Heureka's Weirds, $6.53, 3rd place on Event 140
- kokonade1000's Rats, $7.55, 2nd place on Event 140
- mihahitlor's Goblins, $10.24, 1st place on Event 100
- mihahitlor's Vampires, $17.50, 1st place on Event 87
- AJ_Impy's Hounds, $24.26, 2nd place on Event 129
NOTE: not adjusted to current prices; data collected since Event 85.
SHOW AND TELL: THEROS TIMES
RexDart is back with his traditional new set's assessments! (And one of mine, too, regarding the new Sphinges!!!) (I don't know why I'm using all those exclamation marks really, since I didn't actually like any of the new Sphinges that much.) Let's let Rex talk in non-italics, for once.
Another new set will shortly be in our digital paws, and once more it's time to look at the 10 creatures I think could have an impact on Legacy Tribal Wars. There are definitely some fun and powerful individual cards in here, but first I want to say something about the set as a whole.
Quite bluntly, the set looks like it was designed by amateurs who fell too much in love with their own creation. Somebody detached needed to take a pass at this set with a much more critical eye. "Legendary Enchantment Artifact"?? Really?? Did "World Interrupt Tribal — Squirrel" get cut in development? And what group of blindfolded chimps threw darts at the board to come up with Bow of Nylea's rules text?
This card is making Rex very angry for some reason.
"Ok, I hit Gaea's Blessing, and Bob hit Healing Salve, so it's your throw, Jim. Ooh, deathtouch, nice toss! But your toe was over the line, so I'm marking that down to 'deathtouch while attacking.'" These cards just look clunky, like somebody on MTG Salvation's card creation subforum designed them. There is a hamfisted attempt to give a story justification for some of these cards, but most people won't be aware of that, and it feels like a post hoc explanation anyhow.
While I think the set as a whole doesn't make much sense, there are plenty of individual cards that I do like quite a bit. And overall, I think the art director did an amazing job this time. I suspect that at some point I'll just look past the flaws and the ugly wordings and the messy mechanics — bestow, I'm looking at you — and will enjoy the world. I just wish they hadn't put so much weird, and seemingly arbitrary technical baggage on what was billed as a more organic "top-down" design in the vein of Innistrad.
For all the set's flaws, I must say that tribal enthusiasts are in for a treat. For a set that isn't explicitly tribal-focused, it will have a huge impact on Tribal Wars. The creative team really did us a favor this time out, both by giving us new tribes and by greatly adding to the ranks of some old forgotten ones. So let's get down to it now, and look at the Top 10 creatures for Tribal Wars. As always, cards are selected from all rarities — though the commons and uncommons are not as intriguing as usual this time — and are numbered by rarity (mythic to common), not by ranking.
TOP 10 THEROS CREATURES FOR TRIBAL WARS
1. Ashen Rider. Types: Archon. Rarity: Mythic. This variant of Angel of Despair should find a home in some sort of cheaty-face strategy, such as reanimator or — for a sweet double-scoop of this guy's triggers — Sneak Attack. Those decks usually have opted for Eldrazi in the past, and in Regular Tribal they still will. But Archons are definitely catching up. Expect to see them a bit more often now during Underdog Tribal, and during Pure Tribal where the death trigger is more likely to be relevant.
2. Hythonia the Cruel. Types: Gorgon. Rarity: Mythic. Gorgons get a couple reasonable additions in this set. Hythonia is ready-made for Cabal Coffers strategies, providing you with a one-sided sweeper which leaves behind, at the minimum, a 7-powered flyer. The other Gorgons aren't as friendly to mono-black, as you'll want to branch into green to avoid having to play a few stinkers. But a few dual lands and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can help you out. This is the card in Theros I'm 99% sure AJ_Impy will cast at least once this year.
3. Stormbreath Dragon. Types: Dragon. Rarity: Mythic. Protection from white is the single best ability a creature can have in Legacy Tribal Wars. A Dragon deck that is only interested in cheating them into play may have better options. But in a more "honest" Dragon deck, one that is perhaps more of a ramp strategy, I think this guy will merit inclusion. Not only is he immune to the most commonly-played removal in the format but he has the ability to be a nice mana-sink in the late-game if you've run out of fatties to cast.
4. Fleecemane Lion. Types: Cat. Rarity: Rare. This is the current state of the epic struggle between Cats and Dogs in Magic: Cats gets a strict improvement over Watchwolf, but might not even play it! The typical Cat deck starts with Steppe Lynx, Loam Lion, Wild Nacatl, and Qasali Pridemage. So that leaves this efficient beater fighting for the flex-slot recently occupied by Rubblebelt Maaka. I doubt very much that Fleecemane Lion can take over for Pridemage, since Pridemage also attacks for 3, has one pseudo-hasted point of power, and has an important role in fighting opposing Swords of X and Y. It could be worth trying to go just slightly bigger with Cats, cutting the 1-drops from 12 to 10, and adding a couple of these for aggro mirrors, securing Cats' advantage against the various 2/x Goblins and Soldiers of the Tribal world. The monstrous ability is a nice late-game mana-sink, provided you can play smart and not get blown out by Bolt or white exilers in response.
5. Prognostic Sphinx. Types: Sphinx. Rarity: Rare. Sphinges already dabble a bit in discard/reanimation with Vexing Sphinx and Sphinx of Lost Truths, it's a strategy both Kumagoro and Winter.Wolf have played in the past. A discard outlet that's hard to kill AND helps dig for your Living Death should slot nicely into that existing deck. [KUMA: My two cents as a Sphinx player here. I thought exactly so when first saw this card. Then I looked at the deck, and thought again. What should I cut to make room for this one? I currently run 8 enablers in Vexing and Lost Truths, and both are better than this one, Vexing being the earliest threat/engine and Lost Truths — at the same CMC of Prognostic — being the only one to guarantee, just by resolving, an insane boost of dig+discard, while Prognostic only works if you already have the targets in hand. And I can't really cut one of the 8 finishers in favor of a low-powered enabler that is based on having those finishers in hand, since that wouldn't make any sense. That only leaves me with Conundrum Sphinx, which has three relevant characteristics over Prognostic: it's the only stable threat/defense at a CMC lower than 5; it does more damage; it combos with Sphinx of Jwar Isle, in a way that Prognostic doesn't. Plus, I don't really care if Prognostic is harder to kill: in fact, I ultimately want for my early Sphinges to end in the graveyard, since I'm going to play Living Death later. And when I bring back Sphinx of Lost Truths, I get to see 3 fresh cards. With Prognostic, I get nothing. So, I'm sorry, Prognostic, but your weirdly bearded services aren't really needed. And of the other two new Sphinges, Horizon Scholar is just weak, and even Medomai the Ageless, albeit good, is leaving me cold when I compare it to Sphinx of Jwar Isle, Consecrated Sphinx, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, and Sphinx Sovereign. It allows me to attack two times with the other Sphinges after a Living Death, but that's possibly just a win-more, and all in all it's underpowered and doesn't impact the board much when it comes. I might try and run it as a 1-of, though.]
6. Rageblood Shaman. Types: Minotaur, Shaman. Rarity: Rare. The Minotaur lord hinted at earlier this year by Mark Rosewater has finally arrived! There weren't any Emrakul-level Minotaurs to reward you guys sitting on 100 Didgeridoo, but this should be enough to excite the Minotaur faithful. They aren't really a swarm aggro strategy, so the +1/+1 isn't amazing, but trample is nice to have. We have a couple more sets to get more Minotaurs, so keep your eye on them. [KUMA: And there's also Kragma Warcaller, no?]
7. Sylvan Caryatid. Types: Plant. Rarity: Rare. Plant ramp is still legal in Underdog, it looks amazing on paper, and I suspect it's criminally underplayed. This gal is a nice upgrade to Utopia Tree in most respects, as you don't have to risk your ramp creature being killed by a removal spell. Of course, if you're ramping into Elesh Norn, the addition of the defender keyword is a bummer. This is the card in Theros I'm 99% certain that I will personally cast this year.
8. Fanatic of Mogis. Types: Minotaur, Shaman. Rarity: Uncommon. The first weekend of Standard play saw a lot of red mages casting Boros Reckoner followed by this guy. Having that sequence legal within the Minotaur tribe is promising. He may not be Flametongue Kavu, but he does share its P/T and casting cost, which are both reasonable for a a creature with a solid ETB ability. The new Minotaur lord, Rageblood Shaman — featured above at #5 — has a devotion-friendly 1RR casting cost as well. The Minotaur tribe has picked up enough this set to have a reasonable chance at winning an event, at least in Underdog. I'm not quite as fanatical about this guy in Shamans, but the idea of copying him with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker sounds like a blast.
9. Tormented Hero. Types: Human, Warrior. Rarity: Uncommon. A 2/1 for 1 mana is fine, but doesn't always cut it for Legacy Tribal Wars. Being another reasonable one-drop for Warriors isn't bad, and the drawback is minimal. But the real excitement here is that, if you can find a way to abuse it, the heroic ability can kill your opponent without a combat step and without even targeting the opponent. You need a way to recur a spell that targets him, but decks like that have been played in Tribal Wars before, so this can't be too big of a reach. Rancor plus any sacrifice outlet for your permanents is one obvious way, and Rancor really would be fine in an aggressive Jund-colored Warrior deck regardless. [KUMA: Rancor combos with Faith Healer and Gatherer of Graces in Human.]
10. Nylea's Disciple. Types: Centaur, Archer. Rarity: Common. This guy is getting overlooked as limited fodder. Now I admit he's no Thragtusk, but I think he could see play. Centaurs look like a potentially playable midrange tribe, and if you gain 4-5 life off this guy — which is very possible — he's doing a half-decent Obstinate Baloth impression, and he has potential upside way beyond that. Pair with Centaur Healer and Jolrael's Centaur, a bit of mana acceleration, season to taste, and you are cooking up trouble for weenie aggro players. He is Bolt-able, so I suggest trying this recipe out during Pure Tribal week first.
Honorable Mentions: Boosted Tribes
Instead of the usual Honorable Mentions, I'm going to give a quick rundown of some of the new or reinvigorated tribes not covered above, and see whether Theros has given us enough for a coherent deck. I'll rate each tribe "long way off", "needs more help", or "playable". Of course I realize people can play any odd tribe they like and find something to do with it, my assessments are just a rough guide to the general power and synergy of the tribe as it will exist after Theros.
SATYR: We have a Jackal Pup variant in Firedrinker Satyr, plus two mana-acceleration guys in Voyaging Satyr and Satyr Hedonist. Firedrinker does give you a way to use the extra mana, but is a dangerous call in Tribal Wars with all the damage spells running about each week. You're in Gruul colors with this tribe, and perhaps you can find some decent X-spells to dump the mana into, because hitting your Lumbering Satyr a turn early is likely to accelerate nothing but your own demise. Some of the creatures are reasonable, but it doesn't look like it quite comes together right now. VERDICT: NEEDS MORE HELP.
CHIMERA: The original set of four artifact Chimeras made for a very clunky deck, as they all competed for the same spots. All were 4 mana 2/2 creatures with a static combat ability that could be sacrificed at no cost to permanently give another creature +2/+2 and whichever ability they had, basically grafting their P/T and abilities onto it in a sort of reverse of the bestow mechanic. The four new Chimeras give us two mono-blue options, neither of which seems costed for constructed play. The two multicolor ones are better, with Spellheart Chimera easily the best. Unfortunately his ability doesn't play well in Tribal Wars. VERDICT: LONG WAY OFF.
NYMPH: As I understand it, Dryad is a subset of Nymph. Sort of like saying "all terriers are dogs, but not all dogs are terriers." There are different varieties of Nymphs with different names based on their habitat. Dryads are forest-dwelling Nymphs. [KUMA: That sounds about right.] Despite this, the Grand Creature Type Update did NOT give the Nymph creature type to all Dryads. [KUMA: Uh... because the Nymph type didn't exist back in 2007?] For some reason, they only bestowed that honor on Shanodin Dryads. [KUMA: Wait, what?! That's a new development, then. In fact, it's only implemented on Gatherer so far, there's no trace of it on MTGO — which makes Shanodin Dryads not legal online for Nymph decks. Maybe they still have to update all the others?] These Nymphs are a five-color cycle of creatures, all with the bestow mechanic, and named for the five varieties of Nymph, Dryad included. They are actually at reasonable spots on the curve, and you could play some of them out early and use the later ones to enchant the earlier ones, adding power to the board while still maintaining some resistance to Wrath effects. The problem is that they are in five colors, though that could go down to four at a minimum if you run Shanodin Dryads and Leafcrown Dryad. You just don't get enough value for going to all that trouble. VERDICT: LONG WAY OFF.
GOD: The obvious problem is that you are locked into five colors with this tribe. Worse yet, each card rewards having permanents of its own color in play. I have no doubt that somebody will try to do something with them just for kicks, or to win an achievement next season. If you can solve the pentacolor mana issue then the abilities are all fine, but they really aren't going to win you the game in any hurry. They aren't particularly good reanimation targets either, which is the saving grace of the similarly pentacolored Praetors. The good news is that the next two sets will feature 10 demi-gods, and I fully expect this to push the tribe into playability. VERDICT: NEEDS MORE HELP.
Of these tribes, I think Satyr may be the closest to playable, but that could just be my recent penchant for Gruul ramp strategies showing through, or maybe the fact that they have their OWN PLANESWALKER [KUMA: Yeah, how cool is that?] who looks like he's been pulled straight off a heavy metal album cover. I covered Minotaurs and Archons in the Top 10, and those are the two revitalized tribes that I think got the best new tools.
Overall, this set's impact on Tribal is heavily concentrated in fringe tribes. With the exception of Fleecemane Lion and Tormented Hero, none of my picks are in Big Shot tribes. The impact of these additions may not be felt until the full block is released, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Satyrs and Chimeras frequenting the Underdog events come next spring.
Check the complete archive of Show and Tell here.
TRIBAL LAB: THE INSECT PROJECT!
Previously on The Insect Project: Kuma and friends set themselves a preposterous goal: giving the Insect their first event win ever. The previous episodes can be found here.
Will the Insects ever come back? Oh yes, they will. In fact, they're near. Can't you hear them scratching and your door? They're coming!
TO BE CONTINUED!
Just to remind you of a few things:
Meet a new Challenge by RexDart: The Unnatural Deckbuilding Challenge! Here's the rules:
- Your deck must include at least 16 total cards that are either green enchantments and/or green artifacts.
- Your deck may NOT include any auras. If the challenge goes on long enough that cards with the new bestow mechanic become legal, those are allowed as they are not technically auras while in your hand.
- No colorless artifacts are permitted. Colored artifacts are only permitted so long as at least one of the artifact's colors is green.
- The deck must win at least two proper matches (no byes, no forfeits) in a Tribal Apocalypse event.
The prize for this contest is one non-foil, digital copy of Mirri's Guile, valued at over 6 tix on MTGOTraders.com! Good luck!
The Up-and-Coming Prize is now 3 tix! So go find a tribe that never won an event (the Unhallowed list) and try and be the first to break it!
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 7th 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. In an unexpected twist, slug360 didn't show up last week to mark his 10th tribe, and now justcanceled is just 1 step behind! What will happen? Suspense!
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 is all new! Every time a player who's not currently Top 16 will end up X-1 or better in any event, they'll get the right to challenge one of our Tribal Champions, if available (they can try and find one next week, too). Winning that challenge means getting 3 tix on SBena_Bot and 10 bonus points in the seasonal leaderboard. More so, the Champions will have to answer the Challenge with a predefined deck, which you can see here, along with the complete ruling.
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 5 events (i.e. they'll have to register a different deck or decks 5 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.
Videos: Send us 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!
The upcoming Tribal Apocalypse events of the Blippian Era (every Saturday at 17:00 GMT):
- 3.39 (Week 144 BE), on October 5: Tribal Underdog (only Underdog Tribes allowed)
- 3.40 (Week 145 BE), on October 12: Regular Tribal (just plain old Legacy Tribal Wars)
- 3.41 (Week 146 BE), on October 19: Tribal Singleton (only 1 copy of each nonbasic land)
- 3.43 (Week 147 BE), on October 26: Halloween Special (only Spooky Tribes allowed)
Check out the full Tribal Calendar for 2013!
Take the Quick Survey about the ban list and the event rotation!
See you all in the Tribal room!