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By: Tribal Apocalypse, Tribal Apocalypse
Oct 06 2015 12:00pm
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 For the fourth year in a row (albeit this time awfully late into the year; it's been busy times!), after Tribal Apocalypse appoints its best players of the season, we then proceed to try and know them a little bit better, to never forget those aliases and avatars on your MTGO screen are actual people with lives and all. We start with the reigning Ultimate Tribal Champion (yeah, it's October 2015 now, but so what, he's still reigning!), aka the winner of this year's Invitational, MisterMojoRising.

 And he did keep on risin' in 2014, until he qualified for the Invitational with the #2 seed, and then proceeded to smash all the competition on his way to the title. Let's get to know a little better this fan of Jim Morrison and Spike strategies, coming right from the US of A (and the last time a Tribal Apocalypse interviewee was American was 2011's NemesisParadigm).

 So, who's MisterMojoRising and what does MisterMojoRising do?
 My name is Miles Hulsey, I'm 29, and I've lived in Springdale, in the northwest Arkansas, for the last twelve years. I was born in Mississippi, my family moved to Arkansas when I was eleven. I am currently unemployed. I've been caring for my disabled mother for the past... seven years.

Probably looking different these days.

 I'm very sorry to hear that about your mom.
 Your MTGO name intrigues me. Does it come from you being a fan of The Doors? But with the G at the end, it doesn't actually spell the anagram of Jim Morrison, so what gives?
 That's right. I'm a big fan of The Doors. This is a fairly new account, I had just come back to playing the game in 2013 and made this new account. After a decade of users signing up, most of the good names on Magic Online are already taken. I must have tried ten or fifteen other names before I found one I liked. And I did try the name without the G on the end, but of course that one was long gone.

Now I won't be able to read MisterMojo's chat messages without hearing a Southern accent (I always love it in movies!)

 Do you have any intensive non-Magic-related hobby?
 I play the guitar, and sometimes RPGs. Tabletop. I'm a huge Call of Cthulhu fan. Mostly I stick to Magic.

 And I guess you're also a music fan. What genres do you listen, aside from psychedelic rock from the counterculture era?
 I'm a big music fan. Most of what I listen to is in that one hereditary line that either spawned the psychedelic rock of the Sixties, like the blues music of the Forties and Fifties, or that evolved from psychedelic rock. It's all one big natural progression from one thing to the next. I'm a huge progressive rock fan (we'll get that new Tool album eventually).

 Any non-mainstream bands you like and suggest?
 I'm not even sure what the mainstream is anymore. Maybe check out Bohren & der Club of Gore? They're cool. Oh, and I love surf music too. There's this cool surf band called Daikaiju that might be worth checking out. I don't listen to a ton of new music.

I still own and cherish this very handbook myself! Go Cthulhu!

 How did your first approach to MTG and MTGO happen?
 Well, originally I was a Pokémon player. I used to buy the InQuest magazines back in '98 and '99, so I would see their articles about Magic, and it seemed interesting, but it wasn't until they included a booster pack of Nemesis that the game really caught my eye. I remember that first pack had... a Stronghold Zeppelin, a Flame Rift, and the rare was a Parallax Inhibitor (which I thought was the coolest thing ever). I didn't switch over right away, but I was playing pretty seriously by 2001. That lasted until the Champions of Kamigawa prerelease, when someone stole almost my entire collection. I continued to play a little, but I just wasn't able to keep going at the same pace. By about the time Lorwyn was released (October 2007 –Kuma's note), I quit playing entirely. I didn't come back until 2013 when I registered a new Magic Online account. So there was a hiatus there that really lasted from the original Ravnica up until the release of M14. This is why I tend to favor decks and cards from before that time – I'm just not as familiar with the cards from the period when I wasn't playing.

 Man, they stole your collection? That really sucks big time. How did it happen? Do you have an idea of the economic damage? I mean, you had P9 and stuff in there? Did you report the theft to the authorities?
 No power nine, but I had almost every Standard and Extended deck at the time. I'm guessing it was somewhere between five and ten thousand dollars. I didn't report the theft to the police. It was far away from home and I needed to leave, and I didn't feel there was really any chance of those cards being recovered anyway.

 Let's talk of something lighter. So you were a Pokemon fan as a kid? :)
 Oh yeah, I loved the card game, the video games, not so much the anime... but that was what led me down this path.


 What would you say is your Timmy/Johnny/Spike percentage?
 Probably... 99% spike, 0.5% Timmy, and 0.5% Johnny.

 How did you end up playing Legacy Tribal Wars? And how did you find Tribal Apocalypse in the first place?
 Well, after I made my new MTGO account, I had 20 new player tickets. Each of those was good for one "new player draft". Having only played around ten games in the previous five years, I managed to win about fifteen of those drafts. I used my winnings to build a Pauper affinity deck. I thought the Pauper format was something I would enjoy, but the cards in that format just didn't do the sorts of things I wanted to be doing, and this was before Temporal Fissure was banned, so the format was really stale at the time. The other thing was that I just didn't have the money to keep playing in official events. Those cost tickets. And I could remember the Goblins and Elves decks from Onslaught block, and looked forward to having the chance to play with those again.

 Something I'm not clear about: your MTGO account in 2013 wasn't your first? Was there an old account from the time you used to play paper Magic?
 I did have an old account, but it didn't have any cards on it. I had sold off my entire collection when I quit playing. When I made that new account, I hadn't played a game of Magic in years. I needed to jump into those new player events to familiarize myself with the controls and get used to playing the game again.

 Are you satisfied about your current MTGO collection? It seems you're still somewhat of a budget player.
 I have to admit I'm not thrilled with my collection online. I don't have very many cards! That's largely due to me not spending any more money on the game than what it originally cost me to activate the account.

 What's the kind of deck or strategy you like playing the most? And what's the archetype you find you're really good at piloting? I'm gonna predict you'll say aggro?
 No, I think the answer is either control or combo. It's just a lot harder to build those types of decks on a budget. If you look at the decks I tend to favor, they all have control or combo elements. The red Elemental deck with its Earthquakes, the various cascade decks, even the Goblin and Elf decks I enjoy so much. They all have heavy combo or control elements. Just turning guys sideways hasn't ever been all that appealing to me. That seems too much like playing fair Magic. I've always tried to follow the maxim, "Never play fair Magic."

 Last year you won 9 events (in a 3-man race with mihahitlor and romellos for the seasonal ranking, with romellos eventually ending at the top). Would you like to review those winning decks for us?
 Sure. Let me see...

Myr Affinity
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 157 (Underdog)
4 Hovermyr
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Myr Retriever
3 Gold Myr
3 Silver Myr
2 Suntouched Myr
4 Signal Pest
3 Memnite
2 Frogmite
29 cards

Other Spells
4 Cranial Plating
4 Thoughtcast
2 Springleaf Drum
2 Steelshaper's Gift
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
13 cards
4 Ancient Den
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
18 cards
Myr Enforcer


 I played a lot of Magic during Mirrodin block. I must have played five thousand games with the original Ravager Affinity deck. I played it first with Skullclamp and then, after it was banned, with Cranial Plating. I did well at Regionals in '04, then I won a Darksteel-Mirrodin sealed PTQ playing with Myr all day and then drafting an affinity deck with six or seven Myrs. I had a lot of success in the past with this style of deck and it was something I felt comfortable going with when I started playing again. It seemed like the natural place for me to pick back up. This deck was the result of that natural inclination, of me asking myself, "How can I play affinity here?" Of course at the time I had no idea that Spectral Procession was a card, or I never would have attempted this. I got lucky this first time and didn't run into any of the little Spirits, and the deck tends to do quite well when that happens.


 This deck was the result of me going through my collection and clicking every Goblin I had. I had recently been trying to assemble a cheap Goblin deck for use in Regular events, and I wound up having a lucky streak in Singleton. It seemed like after that time the metagame then shifted against the Goblin decks.

Soltari Procession
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 170, 183 (Underdog)
4 Soltari Foot Soldier
4 Soltari Monk
4 Soltari Priest
2 Soltari Champion
2 Soltari Trooper
4 Mirror Entity
4 Mother of Runes
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Spectral Procession
3 Battle Screech
11 cards
25 Plains
25 cards
Spectral Procession


 Okay, so I've talked about the affinity deck. This was the result of me getting absolutely smashed by mihahitlor's Soltari on my second outing with the Myr. So I decided I had to try it for myself. Seems like that was a good idea! I had tried Soltari unsuccessfully once before, playing an exact copy of miha's deck, and I found it just didn't have enough lands, or enough Mother of Runes. The most important thing in this deck is hitting your land drops. It has a lot of expensive spells it's trying to cast, and if you can get to the mana to start casting those and making tokens, then you're probably going to win. The only change I made between the two events I ended up winning with it was replacing the two copies of Kjeldoran Outpost with just Plains. It's a minor difference, but I wanted to make sure I would have my mana on time. I was never able to achieve the same level of success with the Soltari after this. Now the Changelings are bugged on Magic Online, and having to run additional Soltari instead of Mirror Entity really hurts this deck.

Umbral Elves
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 171 (Regular)
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Priest of Titania
4 Quirion Ranger
2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
2 Joraga Warcaller
1 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Wirewood Symbiote
33 cards

Other Spells
4 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Umbral Mantle
8 cards
18 Forest
1 Dryad Arbor
19 cards
Umbral Mantle


 I believe this was another exact copy of a deck by mihahitlor. I don't really love crafting decks. I would rather just grab something and play, relying on my technical ability to get me through. I had no idea Umbral Mantle was a card. The real engine that makes this deck tick is Wirewood Symbiote paired with Elvish Visionary. After playing both with and against this deck, I felt like I knew what needed to be done to win.

Elemental Sparks
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 175 (Regular), 191 (Pure)
4 Ball Lightning
4 Hell's Thunder
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Skizzik
4 Spark Elemental
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Chain Lightning
4 Cursed Scroll
4 Earthquake
4 Rolling Earthquake
16 cards
20 Mountain
4 Mishra's Factory
24 cards
Hellspark Elemental


 This was the very next Regular event. I knew the Elves would be out in full force. But I was locked out of Elves. What was I to do? I thought about it for a while and came to the conclusion that I couldn't beat the Elves head-on. I needed to build a deck that could kill the Elves and still allow me to win the game. So I needed a bunch of wrath effects that I could afford to purchase on Magic Online. Then I started looking through the available tribes and trying to find creatures that would survive those wraths. All at once it struck me that Ball Lightning doesn't care if you kill everything. And thus this deck was born. My initial version was overly aggressive. The later builds have all replaced the Fireblasts with something else. All in all, this deck was a metagame play designed specifically to attack the Elf and Goblin decks that were prevalent at the time.

Devoted to Goblins
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 180, 190 (Regular)
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Mogg War Marshal
3 Goblin Matron
3 Goblin Ringleader
3 Mogg Fanatic
1 Goblin Chieftain
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
1 Krenko, Mob Boss
1 Siege-Gang Commander
33 cards

Other Spells
4 AEther Vial
4 cards
23 Mountain
23 cards
Goblin Warchief


 This is just regular old Goblins, exactly how I remember it from the Good Ol' Days. This is what I wanted to play when I started playing in these events. Maybe they're not the best deck, but I feel like I play the best when I'm using them, since I enjoy them so much. It's always a sad couple of events when I'm locked out of Goblins. These guys always feel like what I should be doing, even when I'm winning with something else.

 Is there a deck or tribe you played but never won an event with that you wish you had?
 Oh, yeah. The cascade decks. They feel so powerful when they work that they deceive you into thinking they're winning more than they really are. I tried and tried, but I never could win a single event with Living End or Restore Balance. I got close. I'm sure if I had kept at it, I would have gotten there, but those decks just aren't as strong as I thought they would be.


 Are there more times when you feel pushed into trying something new compared to the times when you just go with what you already have at hand?
 This all comes down to my collection. I have lots of ideas I would like to try, but it can take many months for me to collect the cards, so unless the deck is really cheap, I can't do anything spontaneous. The first time I played that Elf deck, I had to sell almost my entire collection. This is why you see me copying mihahitlor's successful decks so much early on here. I need something that I know can win, and that's not going to cost me very much. I do try to get creative when I can.

 Is there a deck that didn't perform as well as expected? Or one that in the end made you go, "What was I thinking?"
 The only real failures I think I've had were those cascade-based decks. The one-sided board wipes turned out to not be as powerful as I had expected. The first couple of times I ran them, they were great, but then people learned how to play around them and they never worked well at all after that.

 In these cases, are you more likely to try and fix these experiments until they perform acceptably, or just abandon them and switch to something else?
 When I build a deck, it's because I want to play it, and I think it will be successful. I do tend to stick with decks that are losing until I can figure out why they're losing. I don't want to abandon a good deck just because I was doing something wrong. But I will eventually give up and move on.

 You came to Tribal Apocalypse last year and immediately positioned yourself as one of the top players, even going as far as winning the Invitational. How do you feel about that, and why do you think you've been so successful in this meta?
 I really don't know. A lot of those matches have been against players who didn't have the same goals. I think, for the most part, it comes down to me consistently trying to be more competitive, and more willing to keep playing with the new client. It's more about those great matches. Like the Soltari mirror match against mihahitlor, the first time I won an event with that deck, that was a great match. A lot of the time, the matches are over before they even begin.

 About the Invitational, how do you remember your path to the victory? You got a BYE round 1, then faced, in order, ScionOfJustice, Gq1rf7, and arcbounddaylabor. Do you feel like you had it easy or hard?
 It did feel pretty easy. I don't think any of my matches were close. The deckbuilding rules were largely in my favor. I had a lot of decks to choose from and that gave me a big advantage.

 Which other players from the Tribal Apocalypse crowd do you like, both for their skills in building and playing or just as a guys you get along with?
 It's a small group of players to choose from, and I'm sure it's easy to predict what names I can throw out here. I definitely respect mihahitlor the most, since it's his decks that I was piloting in half of my wins. AJ_Impy's weird brews are a lot tougher than they look; he's lured me into a false sense of security enough times that I've had to make sure I don't pull any punches. And I've pretty much resigned myself to never beating romellos again. I get along with everyone quite well. I don't hang out with anyone outside the tournaments, so it's just the little bit of chatter in the #Tribal room.

 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"?
 I think it's fine how it is right now. I've never liked the Pure format and would have gotten rid of that instead of Singleton, but that's just personal preference. I do think it's gotten much more difficult to build Underdog decks since the Changelings stopped working, and with the introduction of new, more powerful cards in tribes like Monks and Berserkers. The "true spirit of tribal" stuff bothers me. At the end of the day, it is a competition. It's a tournament with winners and losers, and there are prizes on the line. And the cards are really expensive. It's not as though we can just sit down and play with whatever casual brew we've come up with. We have to then go out and acquire these cards. It's the same problem they have in Modern. If you make changes to the format, then that affects the players' collections. If a more casual tournament was the goal, then we would need a different tournament and prize structure, and ultimately I think, due to the nature of Magic Online, and the types of players attracted to the game, it would still end up about as competitive as it is now. You would need to do something zany like introduce a flavor judge to meet the high standard of the "true spirit of tribal." (Don't give AJ ideas! – Kuma's note)

 Which other formats do you play other than Tribal, and which PREs other than TribAp?
 I play a lot of Cube when that's online. I'm usually able to win enough to keep playing until I'm bored of that. I do play the other PREs when I can. There's the Modern event on Thursdays, the two Heirloom events on the weekend, and Standard Pauper on Mondays. I'll occasionally do those other events, but they don't have the same appeal to me as Tribal.

 You sound like you could have been a pro or semi-pro if you kept playing paper. Do you think your MTG career could have been different if you didn't lose your cards back then? Ever try MOCS or other high-profile online events?
 My intention had always been for me to get on the pro tour and be a pro player. I do think the loss of my collection, combined with some other events that happened in my life at that time, did keep me from achieving that dream.
 I'm just not in a financial position to play Magic Online seriously. I would love to do that, but I can't keep up with Standard or Modern.

 Where do you think Magic and MTGO are going?
 Other than to Zendikar, I have no idea. I hope they can fix the Magic Online client, but I'm not holding my breath. It seriously makes me not want to play. As for paper magic, I just hope they find some way to reprint key cards in sufficient quantities. All it's going to take is a few strings of bad Standard formats to drive a lot of players away. They won't be able to turn to Modern, since it's too expensive. I think Magic needs that outlet of somewhere else for players to turn when they don't want to play Standard, and Wizards is failing to provide that.


 We're almost through your tenure as Ultimate Champion. Is there something you never tried before that you're going to try in the final stretch of the season?
 I don't know. I think the interaction between Earthquake, Firestorm, Squadron Hawk, and Boros Reckoner is really neat, and I would love to try that out, but I would have to sell off a good portion of my collection to get those Firestorms, so that seems unlikely to happen. I do have a few ideas for new decks, but I want them to be a surprise. You'll just have to wait and see. :)


Cool interview, enjoyed by mihahitlor at Tue, 10/06/2015 - 12:38
mihahitlor's picture

Cool interview, enjoyed reading it.

I think MisterMojo is besides Bazaar of Baghdad the only active Tribal player where I think I will most likely lose going into the match - he plays strong decks, doesn't make any big mistakes, takes time to think complicated situations through, etc., so it's almost always an interesting and uphill battle.

I'm a terrible player, at by Bazaar of Baghdad at Tue, 10/06/2015 - 22:49
Bazaar of Baghdad's picture

I'm a terrible player, at least in G/25 time controls. Setting your decks as the metagame standard, however, allows me at least to be competitive.

The comment about flavor by Paul Leicht at Tue, 10/06/2015 - 13:27
Paul Leicht's picture

The comment about flavor judging bounced an idea into my head so thanks for that MMR. Good interview. It gives an insight into what makes those decks tick in your hands where we've seen them (or their ilk) in others hands and they haven't done as well. A belated congrats on the title.

I too love the Doors (though I am not a fanatic. I spread my love across most of the classic rock spectrum and somewhat into prog rock (Yes, Queen,ELP, Rush etc).

By the way, the image that by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 10/06/2015 - 16:27
Kumagoro42's picture

By the way, the image that for some reason doesn't show up, was just a map of the area of the U.S. with Springdale, Arkansas highlighted.
There, somehow it works here.

And now it shows up in the by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 10/06/2015 - 16:28
Kumagoro42's picture

And now it shows up in the article, too. Mysteries of HTML.