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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 27 2018 12:00pm
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 Last January's Invitational gave us our 7th Ultimate Tribal Champion. And it's not some up-and-coming new sensation, it's someone who's been with the event since at least the beginning of the Blippian Era in 2011. After missing out the latest couple of years, he made a surprise comeback in 2017, to finally claim a spot among the best of the best. Ladies and gentlemen, meet (or meet again), Nagarjuna.

 First of all, as usual, let's hear something about who you are when you're not logged in.
 My name is Mario Schulte, I'm 35 years old and I live in AugsburgGermany, a lovely town in Bavaria, close to Munich. I studied philosophy at the university, finished that in 2006. But working as an academic is not easy, at the university itself you only have room for a few paid people and beyond that, close to nothing. So I now work for the German Railways as a Chief of Train Dispatching in my area. I used to work in social services, but that came to an end and I searched for something with a long term perspective. So the German Railways did that for me!

Mario is pictured during a recent trip to Florence at the top of the page, but Augsburg is not too shabby either.

 Where does your screen name come from?
 During my studies, I researched Indian philosophies, because they're as important as the Western philosophies of the antiquity, even if the Western world does not realize this today, sadly. And a Buddhist philosopher named Nagarjuna became one of the most important figures in my life. Not only his ways to explain the world, our life and spiritual questions. It's about reaching beyond theory and wanting to transform into something beyond ordinary life. By avoiding extremes and focusing on the so called "Middle Way". It implies practices like meditation to realize this goal. It is a task for life!

 Aside from playing Magic, do you have any other intensive hobby? What do you like to do in your free time?
 I'm a fan of uncommon sports cars like older Jaguars. It's more than driving from point A to point B with such cars. You enjoy the heritage of those brands, the feeling, smell and sound of a car like this. If one tries it, you will see the difference. Polishing the cars with fine cleaning agents and talking to other enthusiasts about them, that is part of it.

 So old Jaguars are cool, is what you're saying?
 The brand belongs to the premium segment of the car world. Luxury leather, wood panels, and performance parts and electronics were used. And of course the prices are premium, too. And the heritage is insane! On par with Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche. For instance, a Jaguar won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race three times in a row between 1955 and 1957!

One of Mario's past loves: 1996 Jaguar XK8 coupé, a retro design close to the legendary Jaguar XK-E, he says.

 How many do you own?
 Only one at a time. First a XJ8, then a XK8, currently none. They were cheap when I bought them, after they were 15-20 years old, as those kinds of cars lose value fast. Unfortunately, when cars like those get that old, they tend to rust, plus they have issues like every other car, but the prices for repairs are as premium as the brand itself. Besides, I live in the old part of town where there are no garages, and keeping a special car outside on the street all year long is a bad idea, sadly.

 But enough about Zen and the Art of Car Maintenance. Let's get back on track: first approach to MTG?
 I started playing  MTG in 1995, right after the golden days. Fallen Empires, Chronicles and 4th Edition were around at the time. I was, like, 12 years old and we didn't get the rules right, as there were only English instruction booklets, so you would rely on friends to tell you how to play. We didn't get how interrupts worked at all, and we did sideboarding like this: you could exchange any card of your sideboard during your turn with cards in your hand! But the moment no one of your friends knew how to build good decks, the broken ruling wouldn't matter at all. We played without sleeves on the floor of our playground, and Lord of the Pit with Breeding Pit was my big killer combo back then. Mono black with the Sengir family and Terror was the first deck I played for a while. Later RG Land Destruction with cheap creatures like Erhnam Djinn and Balduvian Horde, which was a more competitive deck, I guess.


Timmy from day 1.

 Do you still play paper Magic?
 No, I stopped around 2006, I think. At the end I was playing unpowered Vintage Orchard/Oath with Darksteel Colossus and Pristine Angel. Then in 2010, I stumbled upon MTGO by accident, don't remember how, and found it to be the perfect solution for me: playing at home when I have time for it.

 What would you say is your Timmy/Johnny/Spike percentage?
 40/20/40. Half of me is still that kid who thought Leviathan was fine and impressive! To make those decks work, decks with big guys that aren't just Griselbrand or Emrakul, that's a challenge for me. Winning big feels much better than winning with Goblins, Merfolk or Slivers. And when you get older, you feel like you don't have to win every match anymore, and that somehow makes it easier to be successful.

 Are you satisfied with your collection? How do you manage your MTGO resources?
 I am fine with my collection. I tend to buy in low when formats are not played that much, like Vintage right now, and sell some cards I do not need right when they peak.

 What's the Tribal Wars format for you? How did you end up playing it? And how did you find Tribal Apocalypse in the first place?
 Tribal is the only format I'm playing right now. The Legacy pool with the extra restriction of the required 20+ creatures is the perfect balance for my interests. I checked a lot of PREs back in 2010 and Tribal Wars is the most thought-out format, thanks to your commitment.

 Last year you came back into the tournament late in the season, but you still won 3 events. Would you review those decks for us?
 Right now I really enjoy cheating Timmy creatures into play. Reanimation strategies, Show and Tell and Sneak Attack help powering out fatties you would otherwise never see on the battlefield.


 Back in October I was rebuilding my collection and ended up with a BR reanimation shell. Cathartic Reunion and Tormenting Voice are not my favorite looting spells, so I would later change those with Careful Study and Chart a Course, thus adding blue to the deck. Angel is one of the obvious choices of tribe for a reanimator deck. Angel of Despair gets rid of anything that bothers you, pesky creatures, Ensnaring Bridge and other stuff. Angel of Serenity deals with the 20 creatures each opponent inevitably runs. Chancellor of the Annex slows down your opponent's plan and helps against counterspells and such. Empyrial Archangel helps you stabilize and is a fine beater with shroud. Iona, Shield of Emeria is just broken against a lot of decks. Avacyn, Angel of Hope puts your opponent under more pressure, although she rarely changes the game completely. And those reanimation spells are simply the best you can play in my opinion.
 I also have Archon built and ready, naturally! But othern that Ashen Rider being better than Angel of Despair, the tribe as a whole feels much weaker than Angel to me, the Archons don't interact much with each other.

Naga's Demons
1st place in Event 355 (Halloween Special)
4 Demon of Dark Schemes
4 Griselbrand
4 Rune-Scarred Demon
4 Sire of Insanity
3 Spirit of the Night
1 Sol'kanar the Swamp King
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Animate Dead
4 Careful Study
4 Entomb
4 Exhume
4 Faithless Looting
4 Reanimate
1 Chrome Mox
25 cards
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
3 Badlands
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
15 cards


 So for Halloween I brought my updated reanimation shell with Demons, of course! Griselbrand is just everybody's favorite, Sire of Insanity destroys your opponent's gameplan, Rune-Scarred Demon helps you find more cards you need, and Demon of Dark Schemes helps against aggro decks. Sol'kanar the Swamp King is just one of my heroes from when I started playing Magic, and so is Spirit of the Night. The artwork is one of my favorite of all time and people today cannot image what a beating that guy was back in the days!

Cliff Nielsen's artwork for Spirit of the Night also happens to be one of my all-time favorites.


 In general Kamigawa block is one of my least favorite, but some of the Spirits are just awesome! Iname as One is 12 CMC but in a Show and Tell build, it just shines. The Myojins work great with Omniscience and the Dragons are truly legendary! And of course O-Kagachi had to join the team as well. Personal Tutor made the deck more consistent for me so I'm really happy with the shell as it is.

 Of course you're a veteran of Tribal Apocalypse, with your first recorded result a 2nd place all the way back in Event 5 of the very first season, with a Vampire deck. Do you remember that? Which decks you think they represent your tribal career best?
 That Vampire deck, I do not remember exactly, but I guess it was monoblack with hand disruption and Vampire Nocturnus. For a while I tried to play Hypergenesis decks. Reanimator and Show and Tell effects are what I really like to tinker with, though. I played Splinter Twin a bit. More traditional tribes with linear synergies that I really like are Ally and Sliver.

Mario's home in Herwartstraße.

 Looking back at your results, do you think you have a strategy or archetype you like playing the most or are better at piloting? You seem to like a lot reanimator and Show and Tell/Eureka/Omniscience lately, but those weren't always your go-to builds, were they? Also, do you feel your tribal games have improved over time?
 Right now my time to spend on MTGO is very limited, so I prefer fast and effective decks like those you mentioned. The typical synergistic tribal deck with some removal just doesn't do it for me right now. But I have a Monkey deck ready to go one day!
 In general, I either try to be prepared for whatever my opponent may bring to the table or I go with a non-interactive deck that just wins fast or loses.

 Any favorite tribe?
 I like the big Timmy combo tribes like Demon, Angel, Dragon and Dinosaur. While for linear synergistic tribes at the other side of the spectrum, I'd go with Ally, Kor and Sliver.

 I remember losing to your Allies quite a few times. Ally Encampment aside, you think Battle for Zendikar block did anything for the tribe?
 I think WotC was afraid to turn Ally into the best tribal deck in Modern, so the new printings avoided the previous Ally mechanic from Hada Freeblade and such. Expedition Envoy is just a filler and Lantern Scout is okay, but other than that, nothing interesting for me.
 5-color creature decks are strong these days with all the new tribal lands, but they always lack interaction, as you have to commit to creatures, because that's what the lands want you to play. The mana base can't sustain colored noncreature spells, I think. Maybe Human can do it, but Ally, Sliver and others are not quite there yet for me.

 Is there a deck or tribe you played but never won an event with that you wish you had?
 I really liked hexproof Rogues with auras or swords, I need to bring those back to the field!

 What's your process to build a new deck? How often you feel compelled to try something new?
 Right now I enjoy looking for more uncommon tribes for my cheat-into-play shells. Like Dinosaurs, Leviathans and Bringers. Some of these have great effects in those kinds of decks.

 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?"
 Monored Sneak Attack. It's just plain worse than any Show and Tell builds.

 In these cases, are you more likely to try and fix these experiments, or do you just abandon them for something else?
 I tend to try those 2-3 times and drop them afterwards.

Another one of Mario's past beauties: the Jaguar XJ8.

 Let's talk about the Invitational you took by storm! Were you feeling like you could win coming in? What do you recall of your games there?
 I really wanted to do well that day and brought strong decks for each round. For a while I expected Deonmag to be my round-1 opponent so I built a dedicated hate deck (Dwarf with land and artifact destruction) as he tends to bring his Scarecrow deck to Underdog events. But then the seeding changed, so I just opted for a strong reanimator build. I had very good hands and the deck performed very well. In round 2 I was forced to bring my Angels, and it really helps to play decks you know well and are straightforward in such a long event! Versus Golden_Lin's Slivers in round 3 I expected some Force of Will but didn't face any, so my Eldrazi could go ahead and win. As for the final, Pauper is not really my favorite format so I just built a safe and fast aggro deck. It wasn't easy against ML_Berlin's Rats, as Pauper is really balanced, but I really wanted to take the crown home!

 Which other players from the Tribal Apocalypse crowd do you especially like?
 AJ_Impy of course, he is all you want from a gentleman player and he creates such awesome decks for tribal, it is always fun to see what he'll bring! In general, my experiences with our players are very positive. Even now, when I tend to bring those cutthroat combo decks, nobody is really complaining and I have a lot of very close and interesting games.

 What caused your "leave absence"? You just couldn't find the time?
 There where three reasons. First, the new client: my PC couldn't handle it! I used that PC until 2017 just fine, but MTGO is such a bad piece of resource-sucking software! Also, I was working as a train dispatcher myself back then, which meant working in a three-shift system, it wasn't easy for me to work in a fixed schedule that way. Besides, my girlfriend's mother got leukemia and we took care of her for two years before she passed away, it was a very sad time for us.

 I'm so sorry to hear that. Did you miss us a little, though?
 I missed you guys, of course! The first thing I did when I installed MTGO again was searching for the tribal room! It surprised me to see how many people left before I came back.

 You seem to have been away from Magic entirely in that period, judging from your reaction to my Assault Formation deck. Let me say I was very proud to be able to beat your Show and Tell deck so thoroughly with just some Plants!
 Unfortunately, the Show and Tell builds have no room for interaction: win big or go home! And yes, I was away from Magic completely, I missed card spoilers and everything. Rest assured I immediately built a "Kuma's Garden" Plant deck, making some tweaks to your list, and I will run it one of these days!

 Is there someone else from the old era who's not around anymore and you particularly miss and wish was back?
 A lot of great guys are missing, but RexDart did a lot for the format, where is he?!

 What are your thoughts about the current status of Tribal Apocalypse?
 PREs in general tend to lose players, that is very sad. To me Tribal Apocalypse is fine, I do not see that many debates. But people have to realize that this is Legacy with 20 creatures, so it is broken from the beginning,  and every strategy Magic offers is part of it – that is why I love the format!

 Which other formats do you play other than Tribal, and which PREs other than Tribal Apocalypse?
 I was very active with Heirloom when it started, but right now I don't have the time, it was different back in the day. I try to do some beta testing for MTGO and I'm waiting for my invite to MTG Arena.

Mario says "Prosit!" with his Bavarian beer.

 Where do you think Magic and MTGO are going? Does Magic Arena excite or concern you?
 Arena will be fine for my everyday 20-minute needs, nothing more. I would not spend money there. MTGO is really outdated and I wouldn't know how to transfer all its content to a new client that is up to date. Time will tell!

 Finally, is there something you never tried before that you're going to try this season in Tribal Apocalypse?
 Yes, there's some of the New Kids on the Block I want to enter (specifically, Monkey and Camel) and I'm also going for the Hamtastic Award!


Danke schön, Naga. :) by AJ_Impy at Tue, 03/27/2018 - 15:16
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Danke schön, Naga. :)

I can't think of a player I'd by Paul Leicht at Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:03
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I can't think of a player I'd rather play than Nagarjuna, always pleasant and interesting. Kuma I am really glad you are still doing these interviews. They really bring out highlights we would otherwise never know about our favorite players.

Congratulations Nagarjuna. I by romellos at Tue, 03/27/2018 - 18:41
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Congratulations Nagarjuna. I have missed to playing tribal format with you guys.

Come back, then! :) by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 03/29/2018 - 07:52
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Come back, then! We miss you, too! :)

Thank you guys by Nagarjuna at Wed, 03/28/2018 - 05:30
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Cool to have you guys comment on here! Thanks Kuma for transfering my rough answers to this nice read! Will be a document to remember later for myself!

We also found out that you by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 03/29/2018 - 07:50
Kumagoro42's picture

We also found out that you look cooler than the ID photo you're using as avatar here. :)

Also, too bad you're not into video games, it would have given me the chance to title the interview "Super Mario". :)

Common, all of us could by Nagarjuna at Thu, 03/29/2018 - 13:58
Nagarjuna's picture

Common, all of us could update their avatar picture, right? ;-)

Actually I am into video games, forgot about that for the interview, but I am a Playstation guy, grew up with 1 and 2, and not a Nintendo guy. So that would have been missleading!