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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Apr 18 2013 2:04pm
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 In Tribal Apocalypse, 2012 has certainly been the year of slug360 (whose interview you can read here), the unexpected winner of the Invitational tournament between the Top 16 players of the year. But ranking-wise, there was another player at the top of that top list: the man named Gašper Gnezda and simply known as mihahitlor. And just like his predecessor NemesisParadigm one year earlier, miha actually came very close to take both titles, reaching the final round of the Invitational. With 10 event victories under his belt (a feat equaled only by Ranth), and more Hall of Fame points than everyone else, mihahitlor is currently the most successful tribal player in the Blippian Era (i.e. since January 2011). Let's find out who's the guy who keeps beating you out, and how is he doing that.

 First of all, care to share something about you, your heritage and your experience playing MTG and MTGO?
  My name is Gašper Gnezda, I am 27-year-old, and I am from Slovenia. I have been working on a couple of web development and design projects lately, and I guess I'll keep doing this for some time. Before that, I used to get my income from online poker — I played for around 3 years and then quit, because I pretty much hated the game.
 I started playing paper Magic when I was 11, with Portal, 5th Edition and Tempest block. For the most part, I was a very casual player — I had been going to local tournaments (prereleases were by far my favourite ones), but I was pretty bad/average. I stopped playing when Mirrodin came out: I kind of got bored, plus I really didn't like the new look of the cards (and still don't, I think the modern card design is terrible). Then in late 2010, I stumbled on some LSV drafts on YouTube, regged on MTGO and have been regularly playing since.

 Wait, you seriously like the old frame better than the modern one? C'mon, the old one used a white font on a white-ish background! And a brown color pattern! That's like a graphic artist's big no-no.
 Agree on that point, some elements of the old frame could indeed  be classified as a bad design. The text was harder to read, the art was smaller and the text-box patterns were kind of cheesy. But such analysis doesn't tell us how the cards are experienced as a whole. Not only aren't such mistakes necessarily decisive, meaning that they don't make a design worse on its own, but they can in some cases actually enhance the overall feel of the product. The old cards, with all their imperfections, feel to me like they have a soul, a history and a place in the Magic universe. If we compare artifacts, for example: the old frame, in my opinion, was much more successful in conveying that these are mysterious magical objects or unique ancient machines, built in caves and castles by goblins and wizards (and as such not perfectly designed, but lots of times improvised and hacked together), whereas the modern frame feels more suited for some robots or objects assembled in a production line of some space factory. Something similar can be said for instants and sorceries: the old cards, with all the imperfections that you mention, look organic and rich to me, when the new ones look stylish and almost futuristic. I find the former to be much better at creating an illusion that we are looking at some parchments from a wizard's spellbook, since of course such books won't be impeccably designed, they will look beaten and torn, and the contrast between font and background probably won't be 100% optimized for reading.
 The one argument in favor of the new frames that I actually find convincing is that they are more flexible, so that it is easier to do more stuff with them, like creating planeswalkers and so.


Trinkets vs. Robots

 Being from the North side of Italy, I know Slovenia by proximity (I spent quite a few time in Venezia Giulia years ago). Where exactly do you live down there? Can you describe your city?
 I live in Ljubljana, which is the capital of Slovenia, and I don't really know what to say about the city, besides offering some boring (and extremely brief) facts. It has less than 300,000 inhabitants, so it is a relatively small place, which, like many other Slovenian and European towns, consists of an old center and a suburbia (in our case, mainly socialistic flats.) One thing that I like about the city is that it's small enough that with a bike you can get pretty much anywhere in 30 minutes, so I have a sufficiently good excuse not to get a driver's license and a car. Overall, it's not a really exciting city, but I quite like it.

That's what a "same old, same old" city looks like to us snob Europeans.

 In MTGO, and especially in Tribal Apocalypse, we have people from a vast range of different countries. How do you think Slovenia is seen by foreigners, especially non-Europeans? (Do you think Americans even know where it is?)

 I would be very surprised if there are more than 5% of Americans who know where we are – I mean, you would be hard pressed to find a European who knows every small U.S. state too. Even in Europe we get mixed with Slovakia on a regular basis, to the point that this has become kind of a joke here. The best tactics for giving people *some* idea what and where we are to say that we were a part of Yugoslavia and that we are located next to Italy. I would guess that foreigners (many Europeans too) generally think we are a poor, Eastern-European country, which is partly true, to the extent that we certainly aren't rich, but the standard of living is completely fine for the vast majority of people here.

 What else do you like to do, other than playing Magic?
 I have lots of interests, but I guess the only other things that I truly like to do — meaning that they don't at least partly feel like a job/chore – are watching movies/TV series, reading books and playing videogames.

 American TV series? That's one of my things, lately. What do you watch?
 American and UK ones, yeah. I mostly watch comedy shows (with drama series, I have a tendency to get un-hooked somewhere in the middle, which then feels like a huge waste of time, so I don't risk with them anymore), and the ones that I can think of that I particularly liked were The Office (both the British and the U.S. version are worth watching), Extras, Peep Show, and Curb Your Enthusiasm (plus Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, and South Park in the animated department.) I am also a big sucker for reality shows like Survivor, Ultimate Fighter, and Apprentice.

 Out of curiosity: where does the name "mihahitlor" come from?
  My MTGO screenname is the reference to one of the fake Facebook profiles I made with a friend. We thought it would be kind of funny to make one with a "Hitler" surname, but to our surprise, Hitler was banned from Facebook (which made us think: does no legitimate person with such name exist anymore?), and so was “Hitlar”. “Hitlor”, on the other hand, wasn't, so we chose that. I added a common Slovenian name Miha when registering to MTGO, hence “mihahitlor” (by the way, the pronounce is: mi as in “milk”, ha as in “harpoon”, and well, “hitlor” is kind of obvious.) If I could go back and choose a nickname again, I wouldn't go with mihahitlor for the second time, since I have a feeling lots of players think I am some Hitler fan/nazi!

Pictured: a couple of disappointed, fake Hitler fans.

 Which of the psychographic profiles you'd say it defines you better?
 I guess I am mostly Spike in the sense that I am a competitive player, who plays to win, and enjoys winning. I also try to only play good decks, but I don't necessarily want to play with whatever the best deck is, nor do I generally copy decks off the internet (which doesn't mean my decks are very original, though.) Deckbuilding and understanding the reasoning behind all the deck choices are very important to me and I wouldn't have it otherwise, even if that means (and it does) not playing the best decks.

 What's the Tribal Wars format for you? Why are you playing it?
 I started playing Tribal when I discovered the Player Run Events forum. The concept of PREs (i.e. you get to play for free, and can win real prizes) really appealed to me, so I tried to play in most of the events (unfortunately, most starting times are not very European-friendly, so I could play only in a small subset of all the tourneys), which also meant Tribal Apocalypse. I've been really enjoying it, it's actually my favourite PRE, and it also has an ideal starting time for me, at 6.00 PM CET (Central European Time, my local time.) The main thing that I like about Tribal Wars is that you get to play with lots of creatures and that you know that your opponent will also be playing lots of creatures, so you can prepare accordingly. And of course, it's nice playing in a Legacy format  — I have been playing for 2 years now, and the vast cardpool allows for so many decks and card choices, that the tourney never feels stale to me.

 Judging from your deckbuilding style and collection, you seem essentially a budget player, which is amazing considering your rate of wins. How do you feel about spending money on MTGO to better one's collection? Your successes might indicate it's somehow overrated.
 I don't like spending "real money" on MTGO. I think the approach where you're slowly but steadily building a collection only through the client interactions is a viable one and for me even more fulfilling, since it adds an RPG element to the game in the sense that you're slowly progressing through ranks and getting better and better cards (the analogy with RPG is not mine, I think I saw it somewhere on PureMTGO, and thought it was really good.) It's not the same if you simply deposit $1,000 and immediately buy all the cards you need. For the past year or so, I haven't made a deposit, and my only source of tix have been Player Run Events and speculation (and almost none of that goes immediately into the cards that I buy for decks. I invest all the tix that I get from PREs into the cards that I think I will be able to flip for profit sometimes in the future, and from that profit, I put half into decks and half back.)
 As far as spending money on cards being overrated —  depends on what your goal is. If you only want to win a lot in Tribal Apocalypse, then yeah, you most definitely don't need a lot of money. 10 dollars gets you, amongst other possible options, a solid Goblin or MBC (Vampire/Assassin) deck, which should be well-positioned to win against the average deck, so the players who complain when they lose to "money decks" are wrong if their rant implies that it's hard for a budget player to win in this environment. Of course, not everybody wants to play Goblins, MBC, WW, Elves etc., so they are right if they imply that it's hard to win in Tribal for a budget player who likes to play certain strategies or tribes which don't translate well into a budget version. But even then, looking at most decks, I think they could be doing much better if they made some different card choices, so I think overall the reason why some players lose is not so much because of the money, but because they're deliberately (or not-so-deliberately) playing bad cards.

 Your performance in Tribal Apocalypse has been exceptionally steady and without any subsiding: you're currently the #1 Player of All-Time and in 2012 alone you got a record twenty Top 4 placements (five 1st places, seven 2nd places, three 3rd places, five 4th places.) Is your secret the careful choice of the more efficient tribes and cards available?
 Partly this (though most of my decks are far from optimal, due to the mentioned budget constrains) and partly the fact that I played in almost every tournament. Relatively efficient decks plus consistent attendance will almost surely net you a lot of points and high finishes.

 Let's review your creations. Your most successful tribe to date is Assassin, from which you even did a deck tech video back in Event 78 (the same I repeated above here.) You had seven Top 4 results in 2012 with the murdering crowd. Any new consideration about their strengths and weaknesses, and the evolution of your list over time?
 I still like them and think they are a powerful budget choice for players who like to play control, but lately I have been less impressed with them. I mean, they are good versus straightforward creature decks, but a single hexproof creature, a pro-black sword, Punishing Fire or Teferi's Moat are enough to completely destroy you, not to mention that the deck sucks against combo and decks that have non-creature winning conditions. That's why it would gain a lot from a white splash, which would give the deck access to Vindicate (among others).

by mihahitlor - 2nd place in TribAp 70 (May 5, 2012)
4 Scarblade Elite
4 Guul Draz Assassin
4 Murderous Redcap
3 Garza's Assassin
2 Royal Assassin
2 Nekrataal
1 Kiku, Night's Flower
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Skinrender
28 cards

Other Spells
3 Go for the Throat
2 Corrupt
2 Profane Command
7 cards
24 Swamp
1 Bojuka Bog
25 cards

Scarblade Elite

 The deck hasn't gone through much of an evolution – one notable change is the riddance of Corrupt, which can be really powerful and turn games that would be otherwise lost into winning ones, but it's also terribly slow (it's essentially a dead card against Elves, for example.) At times I've experimented with a graveyard hate in the form of Faerie Macabre and Relic of Progenitus, but these cards just weren't useful often enough, so I think I will stop playing them and rather move all-in on creature removal. Sporadically I've also played mass removal like Damnation and Marsh Casualties — the latter seems situational, but is much more universally good than I thought. The majority of the decks have 1- or 2-toughness creatures, so the Casualties will almost always be effective, and there are many decks against which this card is just insane. It's also one of the best ways to get rid of Geist of Saint Traft, Mother of Runes, and so. Damnation can be seen as redundant, with all the removal I am packing, but I've learned that I am rarely sorry to have a Wrath effect in my hand. One inclusion that I've been very happy with is a singleton Volrath's Stronghold, a great late game card, which in combination with Garza's Assassin (or Shriekmaw, where played) makes sure you never run out of removal.

 You frequently deal with mono-black, anyway. You used Vampire a few times, then also a Rogue list that you placed Top 4 in Event 94.
 Yeah, I like mono-black. 2-for-1 creatures like Gatekeeper of Malakir that provide card advantage without sacrificing tempo are probably my favourite spells, and black is really good in this department. The Rogues that you mention weren't mono-black though, but rather WB with Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Ajani Goldmane, Zealous Persecution, Vault of the Archangel and Mirror Entity. Plus, due to their aggro orientation, they were quite different from the black decks I usually play — to me the deck almost seemed more white than black.

 Indeed your other signature tribe is Kithkin, that you also used quite consistently with great result in various Modern PREs (about this, and the Kithkin deck tech in general, you can read miha's "Diary of a Kithkin Player" bit from his 1st place back in Event 80). What about them, and what's the basic difference in building mono-black and mono-white, which somehow seem related?
 Well, Kithkins are just a good white aggro tribe like Soldiers, Knights and Humans. And with the exception of Figure of Destiny, all of their best members are really budget-friendly, so if you own the essential noncreature spells (Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Honor of the Pure, Spectral Procession), the rest of the deck is dirt cheap and basically builds itself. There really isn't much to say about the deck: as far as I am concerned there isn't a lot I can improve without adding another color (I've just bought 4 Figures of Destiny, and recently I've added Karakas and a playset of Windbrisk Heights, so I don't know if there is anything more I could add to make it better; Wasteland seems greedy with Spectral Procession and 4 taplands).

by mihahitlor - 3-1 score in TribAp 117 (March 30, 2013)
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
4 Wizened Cenn
2 Thistledown Liege
2 Mirror Entity
4 Mother of Runes
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Path to Exile
4 Spectral Procession
2 Honor of the Pure
14 cards
3 Rustic Clachan
1 Karakas
18 Plains
22 cards

Wizened Cenn

 For me the biggest difference in building mono-black and mono-white is that so far I've used these colors for different purposes: I've mainly used black in control/midrange builds, like Vampires or Assassins, and white in straight aggro lists, which all followed pretty much the same recipe.

 Another successful mono-white tribe of yours is Soltari.
 Soltari are an especially aggressive tribe by design — the shadow mechanic doesn't left you with much of a choice but to race your opponent. The problem, though, is that while they are very aggro-oriented due to them being unblockable and unable to block, they are a little slow, since they only have one one-drop. To remedy this, I included 3 copies of Beckon Apparition (supported by Marsh Flats) as another possible evasive one-drop that could also serve as a reanimator hoser.

White Shadows
by mihahitlor - 2nd place in TribAp 92 (October 6, 2012)
4 Soltari Foot Soldier
4 Soltari Monk
4 Soltari Priest
4 Soltari Champion
4 Mirror Entity
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Path to Exile
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Spectral Procession
3 Beckon Apparition
19 cards
4 Marsh Flats
17 Plains
21 cards

Soltari Champion

 However, I wouldn't play Beckon Apparition anymore, and would rather replace it with some powerful, unconditional one-drop (probably Figure of Destiny.) Spectral Procession fits well with the evasive theme of the deck (while also providing blockers if necessary), and here the evasive creatures are especially good due to Mirror Entity (which if let unanswered, usually wins the game), Soltari Champion, and of course, Honor of the Pure. I also used to run Mirrorweave, but found it too situational.
 I have discontinued playing the deck lately, because the Endangered events where Soltari was the best WW choice was replaced by the Underdog events, where I rather play Soldiers (of course, this might change anytime, since it's just a matter of time before they win an event therefore becoming illegal in the sub-format.)

 Given your passion for these two colors as standalones, do you plan to build an entirely Orzhov deck at some point?
 Well, I have played Rogues which were quite heavily supported by white. Generally I like the idea of supplementing black with white, since the latter offers better spot removal, and is also great at removing non-creature permanents. I think Vindicate is a card that, if I owned it, I would play 4-of in every WB deck — it's just a great and versatile card. White, on the other hand, doesn't gain much from black, in my opinion. Red makes for a much better splash (as well as blue and green, for that matter.)

 You also have some good track record with red and green, anyway. Despite generally feeling like a very dedicated Assassin/White Weenie player, at some point you decided to try the Hamtastic Award, winning the 3rd edition after using these 10 different tribes in a row: Assassin, Rogue, Rat, Soldier, Elemental, Kithkin, Goblin, Vampire, Human, Elf. Not all these builds were as successful as the abovementioned, but you got 1st places with both Elemental and Goblin, and finally with Elf too, which brought you back to the tribe you were actually using and winning with when you first came to Tribal Apocalypse in 2011. What can you say about the RDW tribes? And why you progressively stopped to play Elf since those beginnings?
 The RDW tribes are a powerful choice, since they don't need to sacrifice a lot to be eligible for the Tribal format. Elementals are more of a burn deck than a RDW, though, and as such they are actually a little too slow and unreliable (too many 3-drops and other creatures that don't guarantee damage when resolved.) I don't like playing them (so I probably won't anymore), they are a high-variance tribe and it's very frustrating to get bad draws with a deck like that.
 I stopped playing Elves because I felt bad about their power level and also got a feeling from players that I was doing something wrong. This resulted in me almost having a bad conscience every time I would win a match. Now I no longer think they are too powerful, I just think lots of players decline to play decks that are good against them or good in general. Actually, in theory, the Tribal format should be a bad environment for Elves (especially with the ban of Glimpse of Nature in Tribal Apocalypse, which makes them much slower), simply because they fall apart against removal and it's correct to run a lot of removal in this format. I am always happy when I get paired against Elves, and I think I've won a vast majority of the matches against them. And as far as players not liking to play against some tribes or decks, I have also gotten a thicker skin over time, so now I don't care anymore if someone deems my deck choices inappropriate. So I would definitely play Elves again, but I probably wouldn't go with a combo route this time, but rather a more robust midrange/control one, with a splash of red or white. I think Elves are unbelievably underutilized in this respect.

 The Invitational tribes: any comment on your choices there and how they went for you?
 As per rules of Round 1, we had to choose an Underdog tribe (a tribe that either never won an event, or which was played very rarely, or which has fewer than 50 members.) I went with Soldiers, which can be built basically as a Human deck, and it is kind of surprising that they're still an Underdog tribe, considering how powerful they are. I guess the reason they never got a 1st place is because in regular events, it's better to play Human instead, and it has been only recently that the monthly Endangered event, where Soldiers were not eligible, was replaced by the Underdog event.
 The second limitation was that we weren't allowed to play the top 9 cards that were most often used in Tribal Apocalypse events. In my case this meant I couldn't play Swords to Plowshares nor Path to Exile, so I had to go with a much worse removal suite in the form of Journey to Nowhere and Unmake

Invitational Soldiers
by mihahitlor
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Precinct Captain
4 Field Marshal
4 Ranger of Eos
1 Dryad Militant
1 Student of Warfare
22 cards

Other Spells
4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Unmake
4 Spectral Procession
3 Honor of the Pure
15 cards
1 Karakas
22 Plains
23 cards

Precinct Captain

 There is actually not much to say about the deck — which also holds true for the other decks I played — since it's pretty much a straightforward white aggro list. Champion of the Parish is an extremely good, early 1-drop: he’s almost always at least a 2/2 by turn 2, and if left unchecked, he will almost surely grow to like 4/4 or 5/5, so in this sense he's a 1-drop that almost has to be answered, which is always a nice deal for one mana. He is of course much worse in the late game, though. Doomed Traveler, on the other hand, is not that imposing, but is still a solid creature, especially considering I play Honor of the Pure. The other 1-drops are singletons Student of Warfare and Dryad Militant. The first is not a Soldier but I still wanted him in the deck, because it's a great target for Ranger of Eos. Dryad Militant is there only for the purpose of this deck meeting the Soldier quota (with her, there are 21 Soldiers and 21 Humans, and since the Soldier is the smaller tribe of the two, it counts as a tribal identity of the deck.) Precinct Captain is a nice addition from Return of Ravnica: he's quite hard to block profitably because of first strike and because he can be followed by either Field Marshal or Honor of the Pure, or by a removal spell. And the tokens that he produces are, again, made more relevant by Honor of the Pure and Field Marshal. Ranger of Eos is a great middle-to-late-game card, and combined with Spectral Procession he makes the deck not just an early threat; plus he works well against sweepers. I'm not sure 4 of them is the right number, though; that’s probably too much. The Honor of the Pure/Spectral Procession package is something I have already praised a lot, so let me just briefly repeat myself that they form a very powerful combination. Now, if I knew I would be playing against Slivers round 1, I would surely play Day of Judgment out of the fear of Crystalline Sliver, which single-handedly blanks all my spot removal and allows the opponent's army to undisturbedly grow out of manageable proportions. Luckily for me, my opponent ellmaris didn't draw into it.

 While I was quite confident I would win Round 1, I was definitely not that optimistic about Round 2. I would either play last year's Ultimate Champion Ayanam1 or I would face Chamale, who racked wins like crazy during the year, and if he played in more events and concentrated more on winning than on clearing achievements, I'm sure he would be seeded much higher. I hoped I would be playing against Ayanam1, because he only had one eligible deck for Round 2, where we had to play the deck with which we achieved our best result. This means he would have to play his Cleric lifegain deck with Bitterblossom, and I would answer with my Assassin deck with Dread of Night and Curse of Death's Hold, hoping that Ayanam1 wouldn't predict that and destroy me adding Light of Day or so. But then Ayanam1 lost to Chamale in Round 1, so I knew I would play against a tough combo deck. The problem is that I didn't know which one Chamale would choose: he had won events with both a Dream Halls deck and a Dredge deck, which need different answers. So I decided to go with a fast Goblin deck that had a chance of racing Dream Halls and which packed 4 Relic of Progenitus in case he would play Dredge. Luckily he did just that, and luckily I drew the Relic both games, so it wasn't much of a contest. 

Invitational Goblins
by mihahitlor
4 Goblin Guide
4 Goblin Cohort
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Goblin Wardriver
4 Goblin Chieftain
28 cards

Other Spells
4 Goblin Grenade
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Relic of Progenitus
12 cards
20 Mountain
20 cards

Mogg Fanatic

 The deck was a very straightforward Goblin list, that can consistently win on turn 4 if left alone. One thing to mention is Mogg Fanatic, which is good versus Dredge since it removes Bridge from Below from the graveyard on its own and without requiring you to leave open mana.

  For Round 3 we had to use both a tribe and a deck different from those with which we achieved Hall of Fame points last year, with an additional rule that the Top 16 tribes weren't eligible. This was a real limitation for me: I couldn't play any of my good decks and I had to find a tribe that was both powerful and that didn't require me to spend a lot in order to build a deck. I almost built Clerics but then figured that Warriors had some pretty good members for RDW, and that it would cost me only around 5 tix to buy cards that I didn't already own. 

Invitational Warriors
by mihahitlor
4 Goblin Fireslinger
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Ash Zealot
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Ashenmoor Gouger
4 Goblin Guide
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
4 Searing Blaze
3 Flame Javelin
15 cards
21 Mountain
21 cards

Goblin Fireslinger

 Three of the six different creatures in the deck have haste, and an additional one guarantees at least 2 damage upon resolving. Combined with 15 burn spells, such a lineup can put an opponent on a pretty fast clock. I played Goblin Fireslinger a lot during last Standard, and was quite impressed with it. It comes down fast and starts doing damage each turn, and since other creatures present a bigger threat, it tends to stick around. Goblin Guide had to be included, regardless of it not being a Warrior. I would play it in every RDW, it's just an essential piece of the archetype. Keldon Marauders are also great in such decks — as I said, they deal at least 2 damage, and potentially 3 more, and there are some situations where it's very handy to be able to leave them on defense for 2 turns and stopping an opponent from attacking. Ash Zealot is a worthy creature regardless if an opponent plays flashback spells: 2/2 with haste and first strike for 2 are definitely good enough stats to warrant an inclusion in any red aggro deck. Then there are two different 3-mana creatures from Shadowmoor, Boggart Ram-Gang and Ashenmoor Gouger, with the former being clearly better than the latter. I think it would be wiser to change the Gouger with something cheaper, since the deck doesn't want to have too high of a curve, especially with Flame Javelin in there. Speaking of removal, the inclusion of Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning is pretty standard, and I really like Searing Blaze in Tribal since it's almost guaranteed to have a target. It would be better with fetchlands, but I don't own any that search for Mountains.
 I played vs. gbagyt who was running mono-blue Illusions, and both games ended very quickly.

 In the finals I found myself paired against slug360. Before the on-the-fly deckbuilding process started (we were asked to put together our final decklists in 20 minutes), we had to take turns in choosing which colors our opponent would have to play. I went first and chose green, hoping that Slug won't choose blue. To my surprise, he chose white, which was probably the best color for me, and I then chose blue, putting him into colors without good removals. Slug picked red, and the deckbuilding began. 

 We had to play at least 1 card from each of the chosen colors, and I went with a mono-white aggro Human deck with Master Warcraft as a red card. I almost played Gut Shot instead, but changed my mind at the last second. In the final game I had Master Warcraft in the opening hand and if that was Gut Shot I would have probably won, since I would be able to kill his turn 2 Priest of Titania, which would delay him for at least a turn. I don't actually remember why I made the change, maybe I predicted that he won't play a lot of small creatures. For some reason, I definitely didn't think he would choose to build Elves. Another mistake that I made is that I didn't fill all my non-tribal slots with removal. 20 is more than enough threats considering he was in non-removal colors, and I should have switched Spectral Procession and Honor of the Pure for Journey to Nowhere and Unmake, or probably even Day of Judgment in case he decided to go overboard with some hexproof creatures. 

The misguided final game that gave slug360 the Ultimate Victory

 As far as creature choices go, they are similar to the ones I made when building the Soldier deck for Round 1. The changes are the inclusion of Mother of Runes, which is a much superior 1-drop than Doomed Traveler, and has synergy with lots of cards, from allowing Precinct Captain to connect and make tokens, to letting pumped Champion of the Parish or Student of Warfare go through. In the 3-drop slot, Field Marshal was replaced by Mirran Crusader, a hard-hitting creature with a relevant protection.
 I won the first game and lost the second one, then in the final game I made a big mistake by not mulliganing a hand with one land and no removal. I don't know what I was thinking – I put myself in a position where there wasn’t a draw that was good for me: land would mean no removal and removal would mean no land, and a creature would of course just dig me into a deeper hole. Despite slug360 mulliganing to 5, he managed to win by having his creatures unanswered then resolving a Sword of War and Peace.

 You think that aggro defines your building and playing style?
 I wouldn't say that aggro is my definitive playing style, I simply mostly play aggro decks because they are the cheapest to build correctly. I don't have to sacrifice much in terms of card power if I want to play Goblins or Kithkins, whereas if I wanted to play a cheap Wizards control deck, I would need to make a ton of suboptimal choices. My deckbuilding and card-acquiring philosophy is that I try to play with the best cards for a particular deck. I don't wanna build a multiple-color Legacy deck without the Master Edition's dual lands, and I would hate building Faeries without a Vendillion Clique, for example. So right now I am slowly optimizing my existing decks, and when there will be nothing more I can change in my MBC Assassins, WW Soldiers etc., I will start building new decks, probably getting into dual colors.
 So no, I don't like playing aggro the most, actually I prefer control where the meta is sufficiently clear — and in the Tribal Wars it is, almost by default. Tribal is a great environment for a control player, because you know that at least 20 of your opponent's cards will be creatures.

 What's your deckbuilding process? Do you usually start by picking a tribe and work a concept around it, of by finding the right tribe for a concept you want to try?
 When I am building a deck, I start by looking at what each tribe has to offer, if its members are of the right color (meaning if I own good support cards in their color) and if I have enough tix to buy the best members of the tribe for a particular deck. WW tribes are easy in this respect, since I both own good support cards and their members are usually affordable enough. If the tribe doesn't have enough good members for a particular strategy (control, aggro, combo), I automatically discount it from the consideration.

 Some people feel you're an overly serious player during the games, to the point of being seen as a bit intimidating (I honestly never had this impression myself, but I think I can see where those opinions came from.) Do you think this description fits you? Who's the real Gašper behind the screen?
 Judging only from my actions, I don't know how one could come to that conclusion. I would understand if someone said I was too serious in my deckbuilding approach, but I don't know what it means to be too serious "during the games" if we remove from the equation the social aspect, which I think in my case is at least average (I'm not the guy who doesn't say “good luck”, “good games”, doesn't respond to chat, and so.) That I don't intentionally blow up my Goblin Chieftain with Lightning Bolt for fun? I can see, though, that I can be seen as a bit intimidating due to the fairly cutthroat nature of my decks (I see players like romellos or DirtyDuck intimidating too in this respect), and probably also because of my unfortunate nickname (and ugly Phyrexian Metamorph avatar that I'm constantly reminding myself to change since I got it in pre-release.) I guess I would be intimidated too, if I sat next to an Assassin-casting Phyrexian Hitler! 

A younger Gašper trying his skills on a less intimidating game, against a less intimidating opponent. Maybe.

 Which other players from the Tribal Apocalypse crowd do you like, both for their building and playing skills, or just as guys you get along with?
 I like players who play lots of different yet strong decks. Ayanam1 is such a player, for example. If I remember correctly, last year he never ran the same list twice yet his decks were always very powerful. To me, this is a proof of a very good deckbuilder, a guy who can make a different deck every time and get it right most of the times. You and AJ_Impy are kind of like "Ayanam1 lite" to me: you two tend to play different decks every time, generally have some success, but make them (for various reasons, I suppose) less powerful. Then there are folks who don't really bring as much variety to the table, but are very brilliant players who play very strong and tuned decks: romellos, Ranth, Chamale, etc. Those are the players who are the real deal — it's very hard to win against them, and I think it's good for a PRE to have at least a couple of guys like that in the mix every week. It's always a challenge to play against them.
  And of course, I really admire you for the way you run this tournament and all the work you and vantar6697 have put into it. It's bar none the PRE which offers the most additional incentives to play — from leaderboards, to achievements to several different categories of prizes — everybody can find something that fits his deckbuilding style and at the same time challenges him. It almost feels like it is ran by someone whose paid job is to make it good.

 You're succeeding as #1 Player to NemesisParadigm, which was a bit of a legend and also seemed as hard to decipher as a person somehow. You were already around in 2011 when he was still playing in TribAp, do you have any memories of playing against him?
 NemesisParadigm is a player who I really respect. He was clearly the strongest player of that time and would win very constantly with his carefully tuned Wall list. As I said, I like players who always play something new, but I also appreciate the approach (which I share) where you are refining a deck through a longer period. I played against him a couple times, but I only remember one outcome: a loss against his Seismic Assault Druids. 

 Your #1 Rank and slug360's win at the Invitational mark a change at the top from American/Asian-American players (NemesisParadigm, Ayanam1) in 2011 to European players in 2012. What's the main difference between European and American MTGO players in your opinion?
alt= I tried pretty hard to think about something, but with no success. If I had to guess, all player types are distributed quite equally between the two groups. 

 What are your thoughts about the current status of Tribal Apocalypse? Something you would change, some opinions on endless debates like "the true spirit of tribal", or "money builds vs. budget builds"?
 I am very happy with the PRE, there is nothing important that I would change. As far as I am concerned you're doing a great job running it. 

 Concerning the debates of "the true spirit of tribal": they are not really interesting to me. It's obvious that different players have different ideas on what constitutes an appropriate deck, what the environment should be like, what is fun etc. Some people (me included) see nothing wrong in playing whichever deck, as long as it's legal for a given tournament, and some people think there are also additional, unwritten rules that should be respected, and if a player doesn't, he is doing something wrong. It's impossible for these two types of players to agree on this. I see nothing wrong if a big enough group of players enforce their ideals on others as long as they make them explicit. If there was, hypothetically, 90% of players who shared an idea of what the "true spirit of tribal" is, of course they should have the right to make the tournament according to their ideals, but if they expected the other 10% to comply, they should define those ideals as clearly as possible and make them into rules. I know this goes against the idea of "unwritten rules", but you just can't realistically expect that all players will know such rules, care about them, agree with them, and comply with them if they don't have to. Of course, if there is an inclination supported by the majority of the players and a host (and I know and I am glad there isn't), it is possible to simply start excluding players who "don't get it", but this gets more and more hard the bigger the tournament gets. Tribal Apocalypse is not a kitchen table, where a group can relatively successfully create and maintain an environment where everybody is on the same page as what can and should be played.
 As for the "money builds vs. budget builds" debate: as I said before, you definitely don't need expensive decks to win in Tribal Apocalypse. And apart from the unjustified feeling that you somehow can't compete against money decks, I don't understand why you would be annoyed if an opponent plays an expensive card.

 Finally, as the 2012 Top Ranked player, you have to make a gift to your fellow Tribal players: a decklist for the Champion Challenge.
 I decided to go with a control version of Zombies, which means no cards like Gravecrawler that are only good in aggro or combo builds. When I am building a tribal control deck, I want each creature to provide either card advantage or to serve as a blocker (and maybe have one or two of them as a win condition, but actually that's not necessary, since even 2/2s are good enough if you manage to run your opponent out of cards.) Skinrender (which is a fantastic creature that sees almost no play) is great in both roles since it both kills a creature and provides a body on your side of the table. Phyrexian Crusader is great as a blocker, since it is *very* hard to attack into it, plus it has both of the most relevant protections —  pretty much only black spells can kill it. Lotleth Troll looks like it has no place in a control deck like this, where the discard outlet is pretty much irrelevant, and that's true, but I think the deck needs a 2-drop, just so that you can trade with some early creature. Maybe Stromgald Crusader would be better in this role, since protection from white is quite big, I don't know. Fleshbag Marauder is more like an additional removal spell than a creature, since it will never stick on the battlefield; but that is cool, we have enough threats, and removal is always handy. It also has a very good synergy with (Unholly Grotto) and Lord of the Undead. The latter serves as a card advantage machine, and is especially good with Nameless Inversion (which is guaranteed to land in the graveyard, as opposed to creatures, which might get exiled.) Chameleon Colossus is there as a finisher and as an incidental win card versus mono-black (and if you decide to play this deck in order to complete the challenge, protection from black might definitely come handy in the final game versus me!) The removal suite is pretty unexciting, except for Maelstrom Pulse — I like ways of dealing with non-creature permanents, especially when I am playing a slow game. There actually aren't that many guaranteed 2-for-1 spells in this deck, so 4 manlands serve as a way to finish the game, when both players are out of cards and creatures.

 While the deck is not really original and exciting, and it could definitely be improved a lot, I think it is sufficiently positioned in Tribal, so going X-1 with it shouldn't be too hard. Good luck!


Bring the old frame back! by slug360 at Thu, 04/18/2013 - 15:49
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Bring the old frame back! 100% agree with you mihahitlor about that.
I know nothing about chess besides moving the pieces, but wouldn't mind playing agaisnt you sometime. Always liked the game.
Good interview Kumagoro.

I would definitely be up for by mihahitlor at Thu, 04/18/2013 - 18:57
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I would definitely be up for a game (and btw, I also have pretty much zero clue about how to play correctly.)

Excellent article in an by Paul Leicht at Thu, 04/18/2013 - 17:05
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Excellent article in an excellent series Kuma. Good to get to know the player behind the masque. :) Miha has given me a couple bad impressions stemming from his name. One because of the name itself and 2) Yhe initial explanation ("we were trying to find a way to emulate Hitler..." (which was probably a problem with translation) that rubbed me the wrong way. That he sees it as a mistake and not a good thing makes a big difference imho. Hitler was not someone to willingly emulate.

Miha on the other hand has turned out to be a pillar of the PRE and has fielded some very strong decks. I remember when he started he was merely average out of the pack and now he stands at the top so congrats to him for that. As for chess...watch out! That old man has a pocket knife... :p

I have to say I also am not a huge fan of the new borders/frames. Even less so since I have recently played some paper magic again and they really don't feel like M:TG cards to me. The frames really do spoil the mood of the game. On the other hand they are much easier to read. (I was recently looking through my Ice Age stockpile and man those cards had tiny fonts.

Strangely enough, I never by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 04/18/2013 - 17:40
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Strangely enough, I never associated "hitlor" with "hitler" (btw, I think every legitimate family with that surname changed it after WWII). I figured "mihahitlor" was some reference to a character or something. People use the most obscure things for their nicknames.

Judging from Gašper's YouTube account, I assume one of the possibilities for a nickname do-over would be Slovenian_Bobby_Peru. :)
(For whom doesn't remember, it's Willem Dafoe character in Wild at Heart)

I honestly have no idea what by mihahitlor at Fri, 04/19/2013 - 03:49
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I honestly have no idea what explanation of the nickname youre referring to since I am 100% sure I never said anything about "trying to emulate hitler" haha. The facebook character Jaka Hitlor that we created had nothing to do with Hitler/nazism apart from the name.

My rebuttal to the Frame by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 04/18/2013 - 17:44
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My rebuttal to the Frame Debate (which I didn't put in the interview, since it was just a collateral thing):

Yes, the new frame looks futuristic. By design. MTG isn't a D&D type of universe anymore, it incorporates a lot of different feels, so the concept of ancient machines made by goblin in dark caves is good and all, but that's not what the MTG background is anymore. Mirrodin (not accidentally the first block to adopt the new frame) is a sci-fi world. They actually are robots from a production line (and the Phyrexians are techno-demons.) The Esper, Izzet and Simic are linked to sci-fi concepts, or steampunk at best. The Eldrazi come from Lovecraft. The modern planeswalkers, which drive so much of the current background, are superheroes; they dress as superheroes and act as superheroes (and supervillains), whereas the old ones (when there were no cards for them) were more like ancient gods.
Of course they needed a better way to represent all of this.

This said, miha's answer is the first that succeeded in giving me a reason I can relate to for liking the old frame better. Rather than the usual "It was better when it was worse" and "It reminds me of my childhood Magic games with my friends". :P

Yeah, I have to agree with by mihahitlor at Fri, 04/19/2013 - 04:28
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Yeah, I have to agree with this point - the new frames do allow for more different themes. And I actually like the look of hybrid mana cards and Planeswalkers. Dryad Militant, Deathrite Shaman, Garruk Primal Hunter etc. look good enough that if other cards looked similiarly "rich", I could forget about the general dislike I have about the switch to more modern and polished design.

I also think the artwork is now much more important to how the card as a whole will turn out. In old frames even cards with a bad artwork looked good enough, while now there is a much bigger variance.

Yeah, the artwork is an by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 04/19/2013 - 04:38
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Yeah, the artwork is an important element to consider in this. Among the original artists there were a few pretty bad ones, bless their souls (and/or simply doing art that didn't receive enough reason to be super-polished — the main reason being how much they paid for it.) You could even say the new frame, or in general some kind of change of frame, was necessary once they wanted to invest more effort, money and, therefore, focus on the artworks.

Great Interview, Kuma. I by romellos at Fri, 04/19/2013 - 07:26
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Great Interview, Kuma.

I %100 agree about the artwork. As I'm missing the arts of Rebecca Guay. She is the reason I started to play MTG. As, I saw a card (Gaeas Blessing) at my friend illustrated by her. And her art make me interested about this game and then everything follows. I wish for her return one day...

But still I like the arts of some new generation illustrators; Igor Kieryluk, Volkan Baga or Cynthia Sheppard.

I think Rebecca is still an by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 04/19/2013 - 07:34
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I think Rebecca is still an option. Her last cards were in the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block, which with the dark fable theme was very suited to her style. It's probably a matter of finding the right block. Admittedly, stuff like Zendikar or SOM wouldn't have felt right. If there will be a return to Lorwyn (which I very much hope for), I'm sure she'll be in the team. After all, fans have given WotC hell over her exclusion one time already.

Every time I mentioned miha by RexDart at Thu, 04/18/2013 - 18:20
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Every time I mentioned miha in a video for the last several months I wondered about the Hitler thing. I just wasn't ever going to bring it up because the whole thing is really touchy, and I didn't know if Hitler references were as taboo or carried the same connotations in his culture (for instance, in India they're apparently not that unusual for some reason) so I guess I'm kind of glad to get the actual story here.

It was very interesting to get more complete explanations of his deckbuilding style. Specifically, I have always advocated splashing red in Kithkin and other white weenie decks for reach against control/midrange, plus you get Lightning Helix for aggro mirrors. He suggests a red splash for Kithkin, and I wonder why it has never been popular to do this in the event. Are people really wedded to keeping their white weenie decks pure white? The mana fixing options are actually pretty affordable for red-white: Plateau is the cheapest dual land, and you can always use painlands which are pretty good for aggro decks.

AJ and I have toyed with a by Paul Leicht at Fri, 04/19/2013 - 01:35
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AJ and I have toyed with a number of boros variants (with any number of tribes) involving mostly a splash plus Valakut or Emeria or in a few cases both. My general lack of involvement in the PRE in the last few years has reduced the appearances of those decks. But the idea has definitely been toyed with a number of times.

I've run Boros style several by AJ_Impy at Fri, 04/19/2013 - 08:34
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I've run Boros style several times: they tend not to do well for one reason or another. Ran into a few Price of Progress burn decks, if I recall.

I very much like you because by Gq1rf7 at Sat, 04/20/2013 - 14:24
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I very much like you because of the style of your play, decks, and card collecting, because in that way I am similar to you. That RPG element you mentioned (you get cards only by winning, and so you get stronger and stronger) describes my gameplay too. The only difference is that you are ahead of me by a year or two, and so you have bigger and stronger card pool. And because of that, you usually win against me, and since I hate losing (especielly when there is clearly a price difference in the decks, to the oppoments' favor), in the end that symphaty quickly disappears every time. I'm sorry about that, but that's how I feel.

I played poker too, but it's not my game. I can't stand losing, and I get mad quickly, which isn't healthy in that game. Magic is quite same too, and is not always equal either (because of prices of decks) like poker, but with PRE's there is nothing to lose.

The odd thing is there are by Paul Leicht at Sat, 04/20/2013 - 14:45
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The odd thing is there are some very common decks out there that win that are not expensive. They just need a good pilot and some luck with matchups.