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By: AJ_Impy, AJ Richardson
Sep 09 2009 9:25am
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Welcome, gentle readers, to the other side of the great tribal debate. For those wondering if they've come in on the middle of something, it is my pleasure to direct your attention to Lord Erman's article published here, where he expounds on the idea that Tribal Classic should once more be a tournament-supported format. I apologize to my weekly readers for the absence last week: Being away from my computer from mid-Friday through to late Monday at a convention didn't leave me with enough time to produce an article I'd be happy to see in virtual print. In any case, with Lord Erman having given me a hard act to follow, on with the debate!

In the Beginning

Tribal, in its original classic form, has been available on MTGO since March 2003. It was first announced as a format for the Wizards Invitational, back when casual formats were more likely to start with a number than a name. Even then, it started out with the key elements that made it unsuitable for tournament play: No sideboards, and a 'Spirit of the format' banned list. All six of the first banned cards have been grandfathered into today's Tribal Classic format:

Engineered Plague

Endemic Plague

Tsabo's Decree

Peer Pressure

Unnatural Selection

Circle of Solace

I could go on at length about their relative merits, but I already did that some months back. Lord Erman yesterday made reference to a Tribal Wars game we played a number of years ago, in which he recalls me commenting on Damnation. Sadly, the exact nature of the comment is lost to the mists of time, but knowing me, it was most likely something petulant, waspish and uncalled-for born from the frustration of being outplayed. I'd like to think that nowadays I'd have no qualms about any card being played against me: My stance on the casual room has mellowed to 'Play what you like, concede when you want'. Nonetheless, take a look at the list: It's fair to say that Damnation is a lot easier to use than Endemic Plague, but the banned list has always been somewhat inconsistent. The key thing is the intent behind the bannings: Very few of them would have any relevance whatsoever to the decks that would later emerge when Spike was allowed his reign.

The Casual Years

One of the main thrusts of Lord Erman's argument was that spikes and competitive play were essential to the life of a format: If there was no Spike input, the format would be unpopular and unplayed, and would eventually die away altogether. There is, however, one fundamental problem with this argument, at least as it pertains to Magic Online: The casual formats flourished for years before Wizards even thought of giving prizes for them. Take a look at this pair of articles by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar from five years ago: At this point the format had been around for a solid year and a half, and it was going very strongly indeed. Jay also touched upon why that was: The appeal of building a deck around a cogent theme is something that draws in a lot of players. It's very Timmy, it's very Vorthos, but first and foremost, it is fun, and that, more than anything else, is key. It's worth remembering that there wouldn't have been any prize support for any MTG spikes at all if the game itself hadn't been fun and compelling enough to be successful. People do not on the whole start playing magic because there are prizes on the line, but because the game is fun and interesting. Being able to craft a thematic deck is a part of that appeal, and one of the strengths of Tribal Wars was that it gave a place where themes could have their day, where synergies or interesting challenge tribes could go against one another.

Iron Myr

Ogre Leadfoot

Phantom Nomad

In short, Timmy and Johnny were having a field day with it, and their support was more than enough to keep the format thriving and popular. There were no prizes on the line, but there didn't need to be: It was fun just to see who had the more interesting deck theme, enjoyable just to play your personally selected tribe, with enough variety to maintain plenty of interest. It didn't appeal to Spikes because of the lack of prize support, so the pressure for maximum efficiency, the drive to win each game in as most definite and infallible a way as possible wasn't there. Look at the variety of decks from the time: This as a format whose players chose diversity and challenge, competing not against their opponents but the limitations of their tribes. Look back at what was available pre-Kamigawa and imagine putting together an Ogre deck or a Dwarf deck back then. You have the ingenuity of a wall deck built around Shared Fate rubbing shoulders with Onslaught tribes, up against the Nightmare Horrors of Torment or the Spirits of Judgment. Variety, but not just that: The nature of the creatures in the tribe is usually a key and relevant part of the deck. But then, what happens when we introduce prizes and the Spikes who covet them into the picture?

Sanctioned Format

Tooth and Nail

Lion's Eye Diamond

Umezawa's Jitte

Up until some time in 2005, Tribal was a purely casual format. No prizes, no spikes, be they Achilles, Agamemnon or Aristophanes. It was markedly popular: It kept the prices of casual rares such as Coat of Arms fairly high, not all market forces being driven by the tournament players. (Indeed, some of the most expensive rares at the time, such as New Frontiers, were expensive solely as a result of the casual 1/1/1 Emperor games). This was to change as Tribal events with prizes became a reality: You lost the diversity of opposing decks, replaced by a variety of standard, extended and classic decks shoehorned into sixty cards. From being themed around their constituent creatures, the deckbuilding restriction was reduced to an impediment as the format calcified into a handful of known decks. The situation really wasn't helped by the ubiquitous Umezawa's Jitte: Toshi's fork could go in any deck, and dominated games. The big secret of Tribal is that it is inherently broken: It has access to the full Classic cardpool, but without the benefit of sideboards. If a successful classic deck can get around the need for 20 creatures, then it can be played in the format. Tooth and Nail combo kills were grafted on to Shaman decks. The combination of Lion's Eye Diamond and Auriok Salvagers had a handful of artifact-related humans brought in, most notably Trinket Mage. Timmy began to get crowded out by Spikes.

spike drone

spike drone

spike drone

spike drone

Prodigal Sorcerer
"This is boring, I'm going."

spike drone

The abundance of cutthroat, top-tier decks had a negative effect on the original core support of the format: Fewer players could see the appeal of a format becoming too similar to Classic, where their thematically-driven decks didn't really stand a chance against people testing for the next premier event. Far from spikes maintaining or increasing the popularity of the format, it was being eroded, something that led Wizards of the Coast to take drastic action, in June 2006:

Tribal Wars
Deck construction rules change:

A third of the cards in your deck must share a creature type.
Your deck must be Standard legal.
There is no banned list for this format.

This was a solution that pleased no-one: Tribal Wars with only a fraction of the available tribes stymied the options available to the original player base, and without access to a bigger card pool it had less to grab the tournament crowd. The uproar over this was a thing of legend, and succeeded in doing something not seen since someone was disqualified for not tapping lands and casting spells in the right order in the finals of a paper event: We got Wizards to rethink the DCI decision and offer a new option. The outcome was to create two formats: the tournament supported one would be Tribal Standard, and the casual one would henceforth be Tribal Classic. Ever since then, the Tribal Classic format has continued on in the casual room.

But what of Tribal Standard? This was a format which, right from the off, was designed to be fully cutthroat and competitive, a haven for Achilles and Agamemnon to test their prowess. For a while, it continued on as a supported format, but support was patchy: Between the release of Time Spiral in Autumn 2006 and the end of January 2007, there were just a handful of events, as Frank Karsten related here. One thing you'll notice in that article is the tribe breakdown: The ubiquitous Humans had the most flexibility, and so it is to them that most deckbuilders turned, with good results. However, although the format was doing reasonably well for itself for most of 2007, something happened that caused it to nosedive later that year. Ever since then, you simply don't see Tribal Standard games start, even though Tribal Classic still has a fairly healthy casual following. Why? I'll let Lord Erman spell this one out in his own words:

Since now all I was talking about was Classic Tribal Wars but during the last of its days,
the only officially supported version of the format was the Standard one and it was also the one version I was playing a lot.
But of course that was before Lorwyn/Shadowmoor came and ruined the format.
I like playing Tribal Wars in Standard but when Standard as a whole becomes Tribal Wars, it becomes unbearable.

Now the interesting thing here is it pretty much undermines the whole premise for reinstating Tribal as a tournament format. Even for Achilles and Agamemnon, when a format is no longer enjoyable to play, even if there are prizes on the line, they stop playing. Lord Erman found Tribal Standard unbearable because the key cards were indistinguishable from normal Standard: The problem Wizards had with Tribal Classic was that the key cards were indistinguishable from normal Classic. The trouble is, this is the natural consequence of competition: Building the best deck, the most efficient win, no matter what. Agamemnon would be pulling in the most effective deck components from Classic decks, or even just importing them wholesale for decks like Goblins, Elves combo or Dredge. This is where the disadvantage of a lack of sideboard hits hardest: Instead of a fun, thematic format, you basically have a truncated classic-lite where you pray your opponent doesn't resolve something you need to magic bullet before you can tutor for it. Where is the appeal? A format being supported does not guarantee players will flock to it: Look at what happened to Prismatic and most recently Standard Vanguard. Tribal Classic is a broken format, and whilst Timmy and Johnny have the werewithal to ignore that and still have a good time, Spike cannot afford to. He must exploit the broken parts as much as he can to ensure he has the greatest chance of success.

Knowledge Exploitation

Price of Glory

Ambition's Cost

Back to Casual

The fate of Tribal's status as a supported format was largely decided on metrics at Wizards HQ and on the contents of this thread, which fortunately survived the transition to the new forums. The call was made to drop support for Tribal Standard, and that's where we are today. The failure of Tribal Standard is a pretty thorough repudiation of the idea that spikes and sanctioned competition alone drive format popularity. Tribal Standard was practically identical to actual standard when Lorwyn was in town, which meant that it was essentially a less fun standard without sideboards. Ironically, it was this lack of enjoyability that spelled the death of the officially supported format: Because it was more fun and just as rewarding to simply play Standard, that's what the majority of Spikes did.

I put it to you that Tribal Classic raised to a tournament format would be a less fun and truncated version of Classic. Classic spikes already have a format that they enjoy playing and which has a reasonable expected value: Classic itself. The widely acknowledged flaws in Tribal Classic, namely the ease of shoehorning in decks and the lack of a sideboard, are still there, and the instant someone puts a prize up, those flaws will be blown wide open once more. It's all very well asking for individual cards to be banned or unbanned to make the format more viable, but that simply isn't feasible as a means to solve the shoehorning problem. Aaron Forsythe put it best in his comments on the attempted ban here:

We always have to assume that prize-driven Spikes will exploit any and every rule, card interaction,
and format deficiency to win, and that has to be addressed whenever it pops up.

Tribal Classic is riddled with deficiencies. It is a thoroughly poor choice for a format awarding prizes. Not because I want it for a Timmy-Johhny playground, not because of any misguided beliefs on what the spirit of the format is or isn't, but simply because it was never designed to cope with the stresses a really good deckbuilder can put it under. It's all very well having a 3-mana tutor for a 4-mana answer, but decks such as Imp Dredge, Elemental Bidding, Flash Hulk Slivers, Cephalid Breakfast Wizards and LED-Salvager humans will kill you before you even get a chance to transmute. When money is on the line, you really do need the flexibility of a sideboard.

The way forward: Player-Run Events

There is one area where Lord Erman and I are in full agreement: There is definitely room for player-run events in the Tribal formats. One of the best-run examples of this was the old Natural Selection, a massive player-run Tribal Wars event where people were formed into teams, and won or lost territory each week in scheduled matches. Even Bennie Smith, in his capacity as the MTGO writer for Into the Aether, took part in it and wrote of it numerous times. There were some restrictions in place: The most egregious tribes of the time were outright banned. The extra structure around the long-running event kept things interesting week by week. It was, however, a massive investment of time, effort and energy.  If you care about these formats, if you want to see them flourish, and maybe even see prizes won in them once more, if you want to explore the most broken recesses or simply set up something semi-competitive and entertaining, then by all means, now that Lorwyn is about to go through the Aurora and emerge as extended- and classic-only, grasp the nettle and seize the day.

And finally...

My last article, as well as sparking this two-part debate and inspiring the excellent Paul Leicht to expand on archetypes here, also had in its comments section a simple request:

"I remember one of my first games of magic: I was beaten by a friend who had a spike deck. Any hope of seeing spike tribal for real from you, AJ?"

Given the content of this article, I think it would be most remiss if I didn't give that a go. Besides, what would the Art of Tribal Wars be without at least one deck?

Spike Tribal is the one tribe crying out for Doubling Season. Every member of the tribe basically becomes a Daily Regimen, to say nothing of what Spike Breeder does with token generation. Another card that's a shoe-in for the deck is Llanowar Reborn: In addition to having some of the most beautiful land art in the game, grafting on to your counter-happy tribe is a big plus. Perhaps the most interesting interaction it has is with Spike Tiller: The Time Spiral spike not only turns the land into a viable creature, but it still has graft with its new counter! It can also be reloaded by any passing spike.

Doubling Season

Llanowar Reborn

Spike Tiller

With the exception of the sub par Spike Drone, our curve starts at three, so Search for Tomorrow gives us something to do early on. Monogreen decks are traditionally somewhat removal-shy: However, they are not entirely without means of removing opposing creatures. Snakeform turns any opposition creature into something eminently blockable, or it can even serve as a pump spell for the entire tribe. Another pump spell that removes opposing creatures is Tower Above: The sorcery speed isn't pleasant, but being able to selectively kill or cripple key opposing creatures is vital to the deck. Our path to victory is straightforward: Power out efficient Spikes and attack, shifting around counters for best effect. For the long game, resolve a doubling season and go for quality by building up your spikes or quantity by making tokens with the breeder and powering up lands with the tiller.


Spikes are good for the game
Tribal Classic Spike deck
4 Spike Breeder
4 Spike Feeder
4 Spike Soldier
4 Spike Tiller
4 Spike Worker
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Doubling Season
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Snakeform
4 Tower Above
16 cards
20 Forest
4 Llanowar Reborn
24 cards

Spike Breeder

The deck can have problems with fliers, with its only out the removal spells. The mutable nature of your creatures means you benefit from having more in play, so always beware overextending, and don't underestimate the value of having counter transference mana up. An alpha strike with Spikes is an exercise in mathematics for you and your opponent: Make sure he has no good options.

That pleasant diversion wraps things up for this week. My thanks go to Lord Erman for his collaboration and the compelling first article, let us know what you think of this whole debate. Would you like to see more of this in the future, or would you prefer our usual fare? Until next time, may you be willing to make a stand and speak up for what you believe in.


I definitely agree with you by StealthBadger at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 10:36
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I definitely agree with you w.r.t. sideboards, otherwise it just becomes a case of "which broken deck has nobody pre-sideboarded against this week?".

On the other hand, I'm not sure about the "spikes driving everybody else away from the format" theory. I mean, you still get lots of people playing standard, or pauper, for instance (although I agree that you don't see as wide a range of decks). It's a difficult point to argue with tribal though, because as of now there is nobody playing tribal, so there isn't really anybody to drive away? I tend to just play my tribal decks in extended, as it's impossible to find a tribal game.

Anyway, I'd definitely be interested in taking part in a PRE.

It's a question of format by AJ_Impy at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 12:18
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It's a question of format diversity: The pressure to win shrinks the range of decks beng played. Since getting a Tribal Wars game in Tournament Practice was unlikely, everyone ended up around our communal kitchen table in the casual room.

100 card Singleton by Scartore at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 13:52
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100 card Singleton has the same problem right now.

100 CS by First_Strike at Fri, 09/11/2009 - 11:18
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I agree. If you want to practice 100 CS at all, you have to do it in the casual room.

Excellent article. by one million words at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 10:48
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Very well done - niice history.

I agree completely with oyur analysis.

I posted my long response under Lord Erman's piece, and I'll probably write a full follow-up Real Soon Now.

Great Article by Laughinman (not verified) at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 12:31
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Well chosen cards in the Text.
Ambition's Cost *laughter*

Moving Forward with Tribal by kalandine at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 12:42
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I think the crux of the situation is that for Classic Tribal to remain a beloved format, the populace of Classic Tribal players needs to expand.

Once upon a time I worked part-time for a ccg company (not WotC) and the biggest wisdom of the orientation boiled down to, "It doesn't matter how good the game, people play the games for which they can find opponents."

There have been other ccgs with designs that would clearly fit the personalities of many Magic players better than M:TG (e.g, Magi-Nation, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, Legend of the Burning Sands, Warhammer 40K, Warlord, 7th Sea, etc.). The failure of each of these games boils down to an inability to develop a large enough fanbase to support the cost of producing the game.

Formats in MTGO have a similar challenge. They need to develop a critical mass of supporters so that any potential players (i.e., the rest of the MTGO players) can see sufficient reason to devote their resources (time, cards, lost opportunity to pursue other formats) to playing that format.

Classic Tribal Wars has lost that critical mass. As MTGO seems to be growing its player base right now, it is terrible timing for Tribal Wars to floundering right now.

If tournaments help expand the format, I can live with spikes. Both articles seemed to agree that Player Run Events are one avenue to pursue this, but PREs seem to take time to grow and I am not sure how many new players they bring into a format.

On v2.5, I always thought one of the great things about Pauper was that there was a chatroom where many of the pauper players congregated. Some of that format's staunchest supporters hung out in that room and where willing to answer questions and play games when someone drifted in. My v3 knowledge is still underwhelming, so I don't know if that is even a possibility now.

The other difference I see is that AJ wants to maintain the self-policing of the current Tribal players while LE was willing to codify these policies through the Banned/Restricted list. I actually think LE's approach works better when discussing the expansion of a pool of players. Unlike meeting at the local gaming store or in someone's house, each new player will be bringing their own perception of what is fair in a format like Classic Tribal and that can lead to players who are unhappy with shifts in the "fair-use" card pool of their favored format.


Vampire.. by Scartore at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 13:55
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Has Vampire TES (or Jyhad as I prefer to call it) really failed? They just released a new expansion. From their website (http://www.white-wolf.com/vtes/) it looks like it's still pretty popular in Europe and Asia. Kind of like Jethro Tull... ;)

*loves old Tull* Not sure of by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 15:07
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*loves old Tull* Not sure of the new stuff, haven't heard it but Ian Anderson is the best rock Floutist ever.

I have enjoyed... by Scartore at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 13:48
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I have enjoyed both of these articles immensely, no surprise since I think you guys are two of the best Magic writers on the intertubes. Its probably no surprise that i agree mostly with AJ. I've been playing tribal since I got back into Magic (around 9th edition/Mirrodin block) and I've always gravitated towards Tribal because it allows a Timmy/Vorthos like myself to scratch his Johnny itch without straining too many brain cells. I think the "Tribal Classic is broken" theory is about to get a lot worse soon. I already run into Hymn to Tourach turn 2 all the time in tribal classic casual games.

As for a Player Run Event, I concur that that would be a great way to expand the tribal playerbase. If I could make a suggestion, if we can agree the classic card pool is too "polluted" with broken cards for Tribal, then how about Extended? Basically the same card pool as K-scope, ban Jitte for sanity's sake, and have a somewhat competitive but still fun environment. Plus with the new rotation rules in place, one that will not become stagnant?
Just my 2 tix.

The Extended card pool should by Lord Erman at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 14:25
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The Extended card pool should be examined before saying say or no to Extended Tribal Wars. But when I hear the word Extended, immediately I think of Elves. Is there a way to stop them without a sideboard? Are there equally strong tribes? If yes, then why not?


Elves die to removal just as by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 15:16
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Elves die to removal just as well as any tribe. The problem is normally outracing them to board control. If they get the fatties online before your defenses are up it is usually game over.

Plus... by Scartore at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 17:19
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Plus the Onslaught Elves are rotating out at the end of the month.

If you ban Jitte, the swords by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 15:18
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If you ban Jitte, the swords have to go too. They are just as offensive, particularly the one that kills an extra creature and gives you a card each turn.

Jitte has been banned in all by AJ_Impy at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 17:45
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Jitte has been banned in all variants of Tribal since the original classic/standard spilt.

That doesn't mean I'm wrong. by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 23:18
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That doesn't mean I'm wrong. :)

This is true, except for the by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 08:13
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This is true, except for the 'if' clause. ;) 'Given that Jitte is banned'?

OK I guess I didn't really by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 15:15
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OK I guess I didn't really have the full picture before when I suggested that sideboards be allowed. I can see now that this format is really designed for the enjoyment of very casual playing. Not meant at all to be competitive. But how do you deal with competitive players (builders) who enjoy "slumming" and bring their superior decks to PREs? It seems like a recipe for disaster since the competitive player has such an edge already? Or is it ok to just go to a PRE and lose because it was fun?

Interesting and engrossing read. I had no idea the format had such a rich history. (I was rather oblivious of most of the activity on MODO for the first 3 years because I locked myself out of my beta account.) I imagine Master Edition must have had a huge impact on the format but no one seems to mention it much.

(The link to my article is broken, though thanks for the mention. :p)

The Spike deck makes me laugh. I had a spikes deck when spikes were new fangled and it was immensely fun to play but got run over pretty quickly by faster decks. Doubling Season always strikes me as a card I want to be something else unless it fits in with a combo engine and even then it makes me cringe. Having to wait a turn and hope my opponent doesn't drop anti-enchantment on my head.

"Not meant at all to be by Reaper9889 at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 19:18
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"Not meant at all to be competitive. But how do you deal with competitive players (builders) who enjoy "slumming" and bring their superior decks to PREs?"

I am properly guilty of that, but:

Try to look at it from the other side... If you really like building competitive decks (and playing them only comes in second) ISN'T PREs/offbeat formats a obvious way?

A very important part of deck building is testing. You build a initial deck, than you see if it is any good, change a few cards and try again until you build another deck or the format changes.

The problem is that testing requires decent opponents with decent decks. You can't really expect to get that outside tournaments like e.g. PREs. PREs are also often free which naturally is quite a good setting to test decks in (since you often won't win the first many times)... Also ppl do not get THAT annoyed about losing to a powerful deck/combo if they are in a tournament (usually they won't ban you anyway... :P).

As a summery: decent opponents/decks + no entry fee + less sore losers=heaven for (competitive) deck builders...

That's an interesting by Paul Leicht at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 23:24
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That's an interesting response though it doesn't even come close answering the question at hand. Also As a formerly competitive player I know from slumming and yes it is a great way to test but it is also like shooting fish in a barrel.

Baleeting someone because they played a combo you didn't like is silly (though understandable from the emotional aspect of it) but I just wonder if combo is really so strong in Tribal then isn't the format moot? (No rock/paper/scissors because the sideboard doesn't exist...does this make the format predictable at higher levels of play and thus just gameable?) (Different questions from my first which is: How does the CASUAL player handle slummers in PREs without just calling the whole thing a wash?

"Baleeting someone because by Reaper9889 at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 04:29
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"Baleeting someone because they played a combo you didn't like is silly (though understandable from the emotional aspect of it) but I just wonder if combo is really so strong in Tribal then isn't the format moot?"

I was actually speaking more generally than Tribal wars (because I understood your question to be about any PREs) - to be excat I mainly do that in Commander (singleton multiplayer) where - I think - combo is at the weakest (in a format with classic-style card legality) if your commander can't find it. I suppose Tribal Wars does have a problem with combos...

"How does the CASUAL player handle slummers in PREs without just calling the whole thing a wash?"

To answer your question I do not really think they can. I suppose you could ban all previous winners (it is quite subjective how far is to far in most other measures) but a lot of PREs ain't large enough for that to be a possibility.

On the other hand even if none is slumming, how does that prevent all but 1 casual player from not winning? Is it still a wash for the others?

Just because the winners casual deck is in the spirit of the format does not mean that anybody else got a great change of winning against that deck (e.g. a expensive deck got a greater chance to win - simply because the deck is constructed from a deeper pool). Is that unfair/slumming?

@article: Hear, hear! by Anonymous #65 (not verified) at Wed, 09/09/2009 - 22:23
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@article: Hear, hear!

Join me in /join TRIBAL, by ShardFenix at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 01:07
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Join me in /join TRIBAL, Saturday September 19th at 1:30pm EST for the newest PRE on MTGO.

Tribal Apocalypse
1v1 Classic Tribal Wars
Sponsored by:MTGOTraders.com

*This tournament will be held promptly at 2:00pm EST in order to accomadate as many time zones as possible.
*Registration will begin at 1:30pm EST.
*Matches will be played in the Casual Play > Anything Goes room. Match results and drops must be reported to the host via PM.
*Matches must be timed for 60 minutes, must be watchable, and must have "Tribal [Round]" in the description. It is the responsibility of both players to ensure matches are set up correctly.
*If a player doesn't join their assigned match within 10 minutes of pairing announcements, their opponent will be awarded a match win.
*The deck used in the first round must be used for the entire event. Deviation from the deck used in the first round will result in disqualification.
*Please don't talk in other player's games unless both players agree that it is alright.

* Prizes will be awarded to the top four finishers every time with 1st place taking home 50% of the total prize pool, 2nd receiving 25%, with 3rd and 4th splitting the remaining 25%. The prize pool will be determined weekly by attendance at a rate of one MTGOTraders credit per player.
8 players would yield a split of 4,2,1,1
32 players would yield a split of 16,8,4,4

*Tribal Wars is a casual Magic Online format that emphasizes creature combat: one- third of every deck must be of a single creature type.
Constructed decks must contain a minimum of sixty cards. All cards named Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and Forest are basic.
Tribal Wars is based on the Classic format, so all sets in Magic Online, including promo cards, are legal.
The following cards are banned in Tribal Wars games:
Circle of Solace
Demonic Tutor
Endemic Plague
Engineered Plague
Imperial Seal
Mana Crypt
Peer Pressure
Strip Mine
The Abyss
Tsabo's Decree
Umezawa's Jitte
Unnatural Selection

I'm in! Most definately! LE by Lord Erman at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 03:05
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I'm in! Most definately!


I should be able to play at by StealthBadger at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 04:40
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I should be able to play at that time, I think. It's fair to say that for Classic purposes, my mana-base will be shaky as hell!

I wholeheartedly support this by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 08:11
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I wholeheartedly support this endeavour. Regrettably, I'm going to be rather busy this saturday with prior commitments, so good luck to everyone attending!

It's actually next Saturday. by Lord Erman at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 08:19
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It's actually next Saturday. Will you then be busy too? I think that you should be there (if you can of course).


Darn it by Scartore at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 08:33
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I can't make next saturday, its my wifes company trip to Kings Island, home of the worlds best wooden roller coaster The Beast. But if its weekly I'll try.

Saturday week might be by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 11:50
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Saturday week might be possible. I have my weekly online D&D scheduled for 4:30 Eastern, but that should be enough for a 0-2 drop.

Noooo! I think I speak for by StealthBadger at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 09:48
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I think I speak for everybody when I say that we were secretly rooting for a video of the awe-inspiring AJ v Erman Horses v Goblins (or something) final to end all finals.

Haha! That was nice. Just by Lord Erman at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 12:48
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Haha! That was nice.

Just for the record, I won't be playing Goblins. I like more elegant yet ruthless tribes!


Firstly I'd like to say how by paul7926 at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 03:50
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Firstly I'd like to say how much I've enjoyed both of the articles in this debate. Both have been thought provoking and as yet I'm still undecided as to who I'd vote for, if there was a vote. It couldn't be done all the time but I think this style of article writing should be used every time the situation allows.

Moving onto the topic under discussion...

The facts, as I understand them, are that tribal is in danger as it's player base has shrunk to a point where very few players are looking to experiment in the format. However much the current players like the games they are playing at the moment the vicious cycle of few players, making it difficult to get a game, meaning less people play is in motion. Tribal itself is basically not designed for or able to support proper competative play. I'm not sure if this is just a function of the lack of a sideboard and a banned list that requires a review or if it's an issue with some tribes being far superior in the card pool they can draw from. Nobody wants to see Tribal dissapear however we have two opinions of the effect on the format that starting competitive play would introduce.

The closest thing that I can draw on as a model is Pauper. I got interested in and started playing Pauper before it was sanctioned. There is no doubt in my mind that Pauper has changed since those days. Pauper decks have evolved as a direct result of the sanctioning. They have become more tuned, more focused, more expensive. If your measurement of a deck is it's raw power then they have become 'better'. I've never fully understood the Spike/Johnny/Timmy clasifications but there is no doubt that Pauper has been Spiked. That is not to say that there were not competative (and good) players playing in the Pauper PRE's before the sanctioning. The players doing well in Pauper now are a lot of the names that were doing well in the PRE's. They have just had to 'step up' from playing 20 person tournaments where nothing but honour is available to playing 100+ person tournaments with tangible prizes. The players, I beleive, have evolved as have the decks required to compete in that environment.

I'm sure that making the format competitive will increase the player base. I'm with LE on this. The chance to win prizes in a previously non competitive format with no defined meta will interest the competitive players, competitive deck designers and those looking to pick up 'easy' prizes in the formats infancy. What I'm not so sure of is how long this increased player base will last. It will see the definition of some of the 'best' decks available and people will look at those as the decks to beat. A lot of the 'new' players will play nothing but those best decks. There will be more games available but less diversity in the decks played in those games. The less well represented tribes will be unable to score many 'wins' and therefore be played less and less. This will drive away some of the 'casual' players of the format. If Tribal as a format can't sustain a healthy metagame because of flaws in it's basic concept then the competitive players will drift away also.

The 'what is casual' debate has been going for years and will never have a resolution so it is pretty much meaningless to include it here. All competitive formats still have a casual following it's just that the 'line in the sand' that separates the two is impossible to define. On a personal note I simply don't play casual anything (apart from my recent look at the commander format). I have very limited MTGO time and I get my enjoyment from close games that matter. I'd rather spend my 2 Tix on a queue entry fee and see my Goblin deck go down to a Painter/grindstone combo on turn 2 and 3 in a 0-2 match than sit there for 15 minutes waiting for a game that ends on a turn x concession because I played a card that my opponent doesn't think should be played in 'their' version of the 'casual' rules that are defined only in 'their own mind'. That might just be me however.

So for my money the question that should be being asked is not 'Does Tribal need a non casual environment to help it survive?' it's more important to be asking 'Would a non casual environment save Tribal or just put it into remission?'

Rambled a bit (as usual) and it's not structured or edited (as usual) but there you go.

EDIT: Small edit here. I was under the impression that Tribal, as a format, was loosing it's will to live. If that is not the case then I fall much more into the AJ camp of 'the people playing are having fun leave them the format they are having fun playing' than the LE camp of 'Change is needed and perhaps it's competitive play'.

Tribal is not as popular as by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 08:07
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Tribal is not as popular as it was: Partly this is a factor of the greater variety of available formats, partly history, partly Lorwyn. However, I've still been able to log on at any time of day and get a tribal classic game going shortly after asking for one, and if I'm willing to spend a few minutes, get one going in the multi room as well. It is not in the best of health, but neither is it on its last legs.

Well in that case I think I by paul7926 at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 08:55
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Well in that case I think I move more to your side of the debate.

Given the impending PRE and the publicity from this debate and your articles I'd be tempted to leave it at that. I'm not sure Tribal is a viable cometative format to be honest. Not once the real 'Spikes' turn their attention towards it. Regardless of the number of new players it would bring I'm not sure it's a good idea. I think I agree with LE in principle but I'm not sure the format would support it.

For my benefit, and also anyone else who doesn't play Tribal but has been following the debate and thinking about giving it a try, how should a person build a deck or advertise their game to get an opponent.

At a basic level I don't want to spoil anyones gaming experience by going Mountain, Lackey, pass when they are holding a grip full of Myr however I don't want to be the one marshalling the Myr against Forest, elf-dude, pass or Island, Merr-dude pass, either.

Perhaps it's just me but I find the minefield of unwritten laws in casual far worse than any rulebook or game mechanic. At least in full blown competitive play there is no doubt that you are both playing to win and can use whatever card, rule, combo, etc that the formats rules allow.

I have reentered MTGO in the by kalandine at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 09:38
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I have reentered MTGO in the last month after a year's virtual absence. With the intent to play 3-4 times per week and usually having about an hour to spend on-line, I am averaging one night per week where I can not find a Tribal game within 10-15 minutes.

Other nights I have been able to squeeze in three games against three different opponents in an hour.

It is not on life support yet, but I feel like I am standing at the edge of the spiral staircase.

Personally, I can't get a by StealthBadger at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 09:42
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Personally, I can't get a game of tribal to save my life! Maybe that's to do with my GMTing or something?

I'm a GMT player too but then by paul7926 at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 09:47
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I'm a GMT player too but then so is AJ.

I know sometimes I find it hard to get Pauper or Classic games to fire when I'm online never mind a lesser supported format. That may however be partly down to the fact that I look in the TP room because of my uncertainty and previous bad experiences with 'Casual'.

I'm on GMT as well and I have by Flippers_Giraffe at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 20:43
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I'm on GMT as well and I have no issues finding a game of classic tribal at the most its a five min wait.

For the record, I'm GMT+2 and by Lord Erman at Fri, 09/11/2009 - 02:02
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For the record, I'm GMT+2 and the beauty about GMT+2 is that when I'm online, all the fareastern plus Australian players are online as well as the whole Europe. So one game I play against a Chinese player and the other against a French player. Definately fun.


My basic guideline is 'play by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/10/2009 - 11:42
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My basic guideline is 'play what you want, concede when you like'. Even a bad tribe can win with good support cards and skilful piloting.