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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Feb 03 2012 8:19am
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 Last week we had a nice little chat with NemesisParadigm, the Tribal Apocalypse Number 1 Player of the 2011 Ranking. Yet in the end Nemesis failed to attain Grand Slam status by winning the Invitational showdown as well. Another player defeated him in the final round, one that had been achieving great results all year long (ending at the #4 of the Ranking) but somehow found himself much less under the spotlight. His MTGO name is Ayanam1, and you better pay more attention to him from now on, because he will probably crush you on sight. Also, he's the Ultimate Tribal Champion now, so you'll have to salute him before every match by striking your clenched fist against your chest, or something.

 First of all, as usual, something about you: real name and profession (if you like), nationality/heritage, when/how do you started playing MTG and MTGO, psychographic profile.
 My name is Josh Tran, I'm a 28 years old Vietnamese American. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a degree in law. Currently I am working in the legal department of a company negotiating and drafting language for contracts. I started Magic when I was in middle
 school, and got hooked instantly when some friends of mine introduced me to the game. I started playing around when Revised was released, but I think I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some Unlimited packs, as I recall owning a few Moxen and some Unlimited duals. I made the migration to MTGO around my freshman year of college, around when Odyssey block was released online, when most of the friends that I played paper with went to different schools. I sold off my paper collection near the end of college to move to MTGO since it was so hard to find people to play with or was restricted to going to card shops to play some games. I would describe myself as a Johnny/Spike as l love the card interactions in combo decks, but I really enjoy competition as well.

Dr. Johnny and Mr. Spike

 Your deckbuilding style and collection show you're a Legacy/Classic player first. Do you play Legacy or Classic events often?
 I started playing MTGO relatively early, when there was only Invasion and Odyssey online, I was able to continue expanding my collection through being somewhat successful in drafting, sealed deck, and Extended events. I am a very big fan of Legacy. I used to play in Legacy queues but never played in any Premier or Daily Events. I help my clan mates playtest from time to time, but I haven't been playing in any constructed tournaments lately. I do play a lot Legacy for fun in the Tournament Practice room. For prizes, I spend more time playing sealed decks and drafts more than anything else.

 What's the Tribal Wars format for you? Why are you playing it?
 It's a very rich and diverse format. During the first Blippian year of Tribal Apocalypse, there were 27 people who placed first and 30 different tribes that earned the #1 deck spot. In a given event, you rarely see people running the same deck. For me, it's a place where I can have fun competing with others while challenging myself in deckbuilding. One aspect that makes Tribal Wars interesting is that you don't get to sideboard. I really like this aspect, because it makes you think a bit harder, as you need to account for all deck types: Combo, Control, and Aggro decks. You can tap your creatures sideways all you want with a very streamlined aggro deck, but you would be easy prey to people who play combo or run artifacts and enchantments, which people rarely account for.

 Your performance in this first Blippian season of Tribal Apocalypse has been the most eclectic: you didn't show up too frequently but when you did, you didn't go unnoticed, and you ended at 4th place in the Ranking thanks to just 6 placements (of which, 4 were 1st places), each time running a different tribe and concept deck. Why you never feel the need to revisit one of your deck again? What pushes you to change every single time?
 I try not to play the same deck again due to AJ_Impy's influence. He inspired me keep playing something new with his constant brew of decks. The other thing is I really enjoy deckbuilding, playing the same deck all the time gets boring. I would play a deck again if it didn't do so well and try to refine the deck so that it can place. I do have a pretty decent online collection, so I'd like to keep on trying new things.

 Not counting the decks from the Elves vs. Goblins event (both of which you took from my creations: did you really like them so much?), we are left with 5 successful decks in your TribAp career: Aluren Human, Golem, Lhurgoyf, Construct, then, after a long absence, Treefolk. Can you describe each of them for us?
 Aluren Human is based on the Aluren combo deck from Legacy. It is a deck where you strictly do the following:

  1. Play Aluren to cast creatures with converted mana cost 3
  2. Play Imperial Recruiter for free to fetch and play more Recruiters
  3. Fetch and play a Dream Stalker to bounce a Recruiter
  4. Play the Recruiter to fetch a Cavern Harpy
  5. Play the Cavern Harpy to return the Dream Stalker into your hand
  6. Play the Dream Stalker and return Imperial Recruiter to your hand
  7. Play Imperial Recruiter to fetch Parasitic Strix
  8. Play Strix to gain 2 life and make the opponent lose 2 life
  9. Return Cavern Harpy to your hand and play it again to return the Strix to your hand
  10. Repeat 8 and 9
Aluren Human: a combo deck
by Ayanam1 - 1st place on TribAp 14 (April 9, 2011)
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Sage of Epityr
4 Imperial Recruiter
3 Sea Gate Oracle
2 Wild Cantor
2 Eternal Witness
2 Dream Stalker
1 Cavern Harpy
1 Parasitic Strix
1 Bone Shredder
1 Stern Proctor
1 Coiling Oracle
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Aluren
4 Intuition
4 Brainstorm
12 cards
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Tropical Island
2 Taiga
2 Havenwood Battleground
2 Forest
2 Island
2 City of Traitors
22 cards



 The Humans in the deck either help accelerate Aluren or find the combo pieces by allowing you to look and rearrange cards on top of your library or draw. There are also singletons Bone Shredder and Stern Proctor, which are usually in the sideboard of the Legacy Aluren deck, to plan for worst case scenarios when the opponent has something to give themselves shroud, such as Solitary Confinement or True Believer, or something like Qasali Pridemage which would need to die before you can place Aluren on the field. The deck is very fast, consistent, and hard to deal with. 

Golem Prison: a control deck
by Ayanam1 - 1st place on TribAp 16 (April 23, 2011)
4 Lodestone Golem
4 Precursor Golem
4 Brass Herald
3 Platinum Emperion
3 Sundering Titan
2 Mycosynth Golem
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Sphere of Resistance
3 Smokestack
3 Crucible of Worlds
3 Mox Diamond
17 cards
4 Cloudpost
4 Glimmerpost
4 Vesuva
4 Wasteland
4 Ancient Tomb
3 City of Traitors
23 cards

Mycosynth Golem


 The Golem deck is a Prison deck. The point of the deck is to lock your opponents out of being able to cast anything by making their lower cost spells unplayable with Chalice of the Void and raising the cost to play spells with Sphere of Resistance and Lodestone Golem. Wasteland and Crucible of Worlds chip away at your opponent's non-basic resources, while ample Locus lands help you cast Sundering Titan to get rid of the basic lands. Many players use some form of non-basic lands and play cheap spells so I would say this deck is very effective in competitive play. Having a Chalice set at 0 also stops all Living End/Hypergenesis-based decks. At 1-3, it shuts down most aggro creatures and removal. 

'Goyf-Loam: an aggro-combo deck
by Ayanam1 - 1st place on TribAp 22 (June 4, 2011)
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Lhurgoyf
4 Terravore
4 Detritivore
4 Taurean Mauler
1 Eternal Witness
21 cards

Other Spells
4 Punishing Fire
4 Life from the Loam
3 Seismic Assault
3 Devastating Dreams
14 cards
3 Wooded Foothills
3 Bloodstained Mire
4 Taiga
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
3 Forgotten Cave
2 Tranquil Thicket
1 Badlands
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Volrath's Stronghold
3 Wasteland
25 cards

Devastating Dreams


 Lhurgoyf is based on the Aggro-Loam archetype. There are several card interaction within this deck. You have the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows package to deal with creatures. You have Life from the Loam to get your lands back to play or chuck at the opponent by using Seismic Assault. And you can practically wipe the board of creatures and lands with Devastating Dreams while floating 3 mana to drop down a very fat Terravore.

Constructed Affinity: an aggro deck
by Ayanam1 - 3rd place on TribAp 28 (July 16, 2011)
4 Memnite
4 Phyrexian Walker
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Steel Overseer
4 Master of Etherium
4 Snapsail Glider
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Cranial Plating
4 Mox Opal
4 Springleaf Drum
4 Thoughtcast
20 cards
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
16 cards

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

 Construct is an aggro-based deck that uses elements from the pseudo-Affinity deck of yesteryear. I remember seeing Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas as a spoiler and immediately starting to work on an Affinity deck with the planeswalker for extra reach. Constructs fit the deck pretty well as it has free crits like Memnite and Phyrexian Walker, while using Steel Overseer and Cranial Plating to pump your crits for very explosive starts. The mana base is a bit shaky with only 16 lands and some moxen and Springleaf Drum for additional resource support.

Lone Giant Sleeping in a Grove of Trees: an aggro-control deck
by Ayanam1 - 1st place on TribAp 49 (December 10, 2011)
4 Bosk Banneret
4 Treefolk Harbinger
4 Dungrove Elder
4 Timber Protector
3 Leaf-Crowned Elder
3 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 Wickerbough Elder
1 Primeval Titan
24 cards

Other Spells
2 Swords to Plowshares
2 Damnation
3 Pernicious Deed
3 Vindicate
3 Green Sun's Zenith
13 cards 
3 Verdant Catacombs
3 Windswept Heath
4 Murmuring Bosk
4 Bayou
4 Savannah
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Temple Garden
1 Taiga
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Kessig Wolf Run
23 cards

Doran, the Siege Tower


 Treefolk is a pretty strong tribe. You are able to go turn-1 Treefolk Harbinger, tutoring for another Harbinger, and then turn-2 Treefolk Harbinger, tutoring for Doran. Having 0/3 walls at 1 mana also helps against fast aggro decks. And having access to white, black, and green allows you to have answers for almost anything. Pernicious Deed and Vindicate can deal with pesky artifacts and enchantments most tribal decks are ill prepared for. Using the power of Timber Protector allows you to be able to use sweepers to control the board without affecting your creatures. The addition of Dungrove Elder really made Treefolks stronger. Most of the lands in the deck count as forests to power him up and the fact that he is hexproof makes him extremely hard to deal with. Green Sun's Zenith can fetch all of your crits including a singleton Primeval Titan to get Kessig Wolf Run and finish the opponent off with any Treefolk, in case Doran is down for the count.

 How was the deckbuilding process that led you to play these decks? Do you usually start by picking a tribe and work a concept around it, or rather by finding the right tribe for a concept you want to try?
 Since I play a lot of Legacy, I am largely influenced by the Legacy decks that I play with. I would take an archetype that am I familiar with and try to find a tribe that would fit best to make the deck work. There are other times when I see a card that I really want to play with. In that case, I try to build a deck around that card. I recently picked up some Geist of Saint Traft, which makes me want to play Spirits. I've been working on a token spirit build as well as another more focused on grabbing auras to enchant him with.

 Your first deck for Tribal Apocalypse, the Aluren combo, caused some player to complain and ask for a banning, due to the power of the combo and the fact that it was a porting from Legacy. Is porting a challenge for you, or just a way to rebuild decks you liked?
 I find it fun and challenging to port Legacy decks into Tribal. Most combo decks run little to no creatures. Having 20 slots taken up by creatures and 20-24 slots taken by land makes it often challenging to make the deck work right. For most combo decks to work, you have to take out all cards that would normally give your deck protection against any disruption to your combo. I remember I played against an Ally deck and my opponent had Bala Ged Thief. I had a real hard time winning because I didn't have anything that could save me from all the discard. The thing is: combo wins often because most people only play aggro. When more people start playing combo, I think people will start bringing in more control-oriented decks to the events or at least maindeck some cards to help account for combo.

 And yet you never played that Aluren deck (or any other, for that matter) ever again, even as you had (and still have) high chances to score a good result again with it. What your inner Spike has to say about it? And how do you manage to just shut him out?
 My inner Spike probably was saying, "abuse Aluren too much and the card might be banned." I think I am satisfied with the deck placing once. I can then move on and try to play another deck and win with that. Challenging myself to be able to succeed with something different is something that I enjoy.

 In some ways, your approach is the opposite of NemesisParadigm's one, who often builds a deck he likes then proceed to refine it more and more through a series of events. Do you think your way is the best to dribble other players' hate? After all, in my experience, even budget players are fascinated by a killer combo or powerful design they never played against, it's seeing it again and again and losing to it week in week out that becomes frustrating, don't you think?
  I think one of the things to help expand the popularity of the tribal format is to not constantly take a winning deck in and win over and over with it, as I think this will drive players away. I really want the format to thrive so I don't want players to be disgruntled and want to quit the format from frustration. Once I've shown that a deck can win, I try to move on to another and do the same. Not all my 1st place placements are based on combo. Golem is a strict Prison control deck, and Treefolk, which is an aggro deck with control elements, also won me a 1st place spot.

 Someone also says that bringing Legacy deck to Tribal Wars is against the "tribal spirit". Is there such a thing in your opinion?
 I would have to disagree! The only Legacy decks that can be ported almost one for one from Legacy are the Tribal-based decks, such as Goblins, Elves, and Merfolk. For the other decks, you are generally bringing in card interactions that Legacy players have contributed over the years. You still have 20 of your card slots taken up so you have to figure out how to make the deck run with a handicap. Its also unfair to just target Legacy: what about decks that do well in Standard or Extended? Don't people get mad at opponents throwing in Stoneforge Mystics to drop down Batterskull)s or swords? What about Splinter Twin? I think this question might stem from debating if people should be allowed to run combo decks in Tribal Wars. But how fun would it be to see who can tap their creatures sideways faster to kill the other person? The reason why combo decks are succeeding is because most players are focused on blazing fast aggro decks which are streamlined for the quick kill. It's a tradeoff, you get a faster deck, but your deck is a bigger target for combo. The combo decks that are hardest to deal with have pieces that aggro decks typically do not prepare for, such as artifacts or enchantments. Who's fault is it that they would rather run more additional burn spells over, let's say, 4 copies of Chaos Warp, to help them deal with these situations? I think as more people play Combo, more people will start to play Control and packing discard and counters to account for combos.

 Let's talk about the Invitational. How did you decide which deck to bring to each round? And most of all, what the hell happened in the final round? You managed to win with a deck that had almost no real way to win?
 The first round I knew I was going to play Golems. It’s my favorite tribal deck and I was itching to play it since people hate it in the Just for Fun room. It was a shame that it didn’t get to play it because of the bye.
 The second round we had to use the deck that we placed the highest with, so I was able to pick from the remaining Treefolks, Aluren Humans, or 'Goyf-Loam. I decided to run Aluren since it was the first deck that I placed with in Tribal Apocalypse.

The Bane of Kuma
by Ayanam1
4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Merfolk Sovereign
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Coralhelm Commander
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Force of Will
4 Daze
4 Counterspell
4 Vedalken Shackles
16 cards
17 Island
3 Wasteland
20 cards

Force of Will


 For the third round, I was planning to play a new Construct deck that I was working on, but since I knew you were my opponent, I immediately thought you were going to play combo (groan... — Editor's Note). The fact that I didn’t see you play your Dream Halls deck in previous rounds made it as clear to me that you were going to play it in the semifinal as NemesisParadigm was going to play Wall-Drazi. I switched to Merfolk as a meta-call knowing that even if you didn’t play combo, I would still have a good chance since Fish is a good aggro deck in its own right.


 The final was interesting…. I had my new Hakkon Knights deck ready to go but halfway through, Blippy declared both my deck and Nemesis’s deck illegal (they believed they were allowed to use any tribe they didn't place Top 4 with, rather than tribes nobody placed Top 4 with — Editor's Note). We were told that we had 10 minutes to come up with legal decks…. You and Blippy can tell everyone I spent most of the 10 minutes trying to figure out what the heck I can and can’t play. That spreadsheet was anything but clear… I just CTRL-F'ed and tried to guess a tribe that didn’t show up on the sheet. I found Shapeshifters weren’t taken so I decided to run with that. My original idea was to play a bunch of clones, bring in counter magic in case Nemesis had a combo deck, and steal things with Vedalken Shackles since I would be playing mono blue. Then I noticed that there were some colorless shapeshifters. Seeing as how I really wanted to play Golems but didn’t get the chance to, I decided to strip my Golems deck and replace them with shapeshifters. I just tossed in any colorless shapeshifter I could find in my collection. I kept on messaging Blippy about the list I sent him to switch in and out cards at the very last second. Thus… I didn’t have much time to contemplate throwing in Eldrazi or some kind of big burn spell. I know Nemesis usually plays very efficient spells and has a nice low mana curve so I thought Chalices would be able to lock him down. I also knew he likes to play a lot of non-basics so Wasteland/Crucible would be effective in the final as well. My lack of “big” finishers came from me thinking I can clone my opponent’s finishers or kill them with Duplicants to use them as my finishers. I also thought Karn would be good as well since I could wall up with my guys and try to lock out the board while he does his thing. However… I didn’t expect Nemesis to not have at least a fatty or two (you can look at NemesisParadigm's deck here — Editor's Note). My first game I was holding 2 Phyrexian Metamorphs and 1 Duplicant with no good targets. To be honest, my original plan was not to clock my opponent, however, I remembered looking at our clocks sometime during Game 1 and noticed that I had almost a full 10 minutes on time over Nemesis. It was then that I started to stop playing crits and utilizing Wasteland on my Glimmerpost to drain his clock some more. I wanted to keep just above 28 life or so in case he had a full hand of lands to chuck at me via Seismic Assault. I know from playing my own Loam deck that the deck can end games quickly if I didn’t get my Chalices out, so I wanted Nemesis to have to play quickly and have some mental pressure as well to give me an edge in Games 2 and 3. To be fair, he could have conceded any time in Game 1, and it wasn’t like I was neck and neck with him on time. He somehow fell 10 minutes behind me. I was on the edge of my seat the last game, though. I was looking for a Chalice to set at 2 or some Glimmerpost to get further out of burn range. All in all, I really enjoyed the final. Thanks Nemesis for the great games!

 Among all your constant change, do you still have a favorite tribe? Maybe the colorless ones, as the only true (if microscopic) pattern among your creations has been the amount of pure brown (Golems, Constructs, artifact Shapeshifters).
 I never considered colorless creatures as being favored over other creatures. I think the colorless tribe chosen for a deck I built just fits the deck better than another tribe. Yet I must say that Golem is my favorite tribe so far. I really love to play my Golem deck, but I tend to get blocked for playing it in the Just for Fun room and no one plays Tribal in the Tournament Practice room. Many golems have really powerful abilities. And the fact that they are colorless means you can run a variety of lands that produce more than one mana to accelerate them out.

 Finally, as the 2011 Champion, you have to make a gift to your fellow Tribal players: give us a decklist you feel it would be badass, but that you'll restrain to play in the event (let's hope someone will play it against you!).
 To my fellow Tribal Apocalypse players, I gift the deck I was going to run in the third round of the invitational if Kuma was not my opponent. I give you Forgemaster Constructacons!


 This deck can either be aggressive or a combo deck. With the power of Metalworker, in most cases, you are able to empty your hand with the amount of mana produced. You have access to an infinite mana/draw card combo which requires Metalworker, 3 artifacts in hand, and a Staff of Domination in play. You tap Metalworker with 3 artifacts in hand for 6 mana, untap Metalworker with Staff of Domination, tap it again for more mana, untap it again with the Staff, rinse, repeat. With the infinite mana, you can tap down all your opponents creatures, cast Blightsteel Colossus or summon him with Kuldotha Forgemaster, (exploiting Lightning Greaves or Thousand-Year Elixir). Equip the Colossus with a pair of Greaves and swing for the win. This can be achieved as early as turn 2 by playing a turn-1 Metalworker with a 2-mana-producing land, a Mox, or Grim Monolith. You also have an aggressive route where you can drop big creatures early or fight with Myr Battlespheres and pump the Myr tokens up with Steel Overseer. Originally, I was going to run 4x Wasteland but Kuma has given me a price cap on cards (no more than 25 tix: not that this ended up being a very budget-friendly deck, anyway, as it currently costs $311.43 — Editor's Note), so I have replaced them with Tectonic Edges. Since you are not playing any colored spells, having the option of getting rid of pesky lands or disrupting your opponent’s mana base is a plus. Maybe I'll see this played against me sometime, I'll welcome it!