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By: Tribal Apocalypse, Tribal Apocalypse
Oct 14 2015 12:00pm
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 After hearing all about the last Invitational winner, it's time to complete the duumvirate of Tribal Apocalypse reigning champions (during the final stretch of their reign, I guess) with the current Tribal Player of the Year, aka the player who scored more points in the Tribal Apocalypse events of the 2014 season. He's someone I shouldn't even have to introduce to most of the people who'll read this, because he writes for PureMTGO and shows up in the #Tribal room almost every week. Like his direct predecessor, he's currently living in the Asian continent, albeit far closer to my own Mediterranean location. Ladies and gentleman, Ahmet Atasoy, better known as romellos.

 Do you want to go ahead and introduce yourself?
 Hello everyone! Some of you might know me from my articles on PureMTGO and from various PREs I played in. Actually, today I’m in front of you as a Legacy Tribal Apocalypse player. First of all, let me properly introduce myself. My name is Ahmet and I was born in Bulgaria in 1981. Currently, I’m living in Turkey and working as Supply Chain Manager. We still have a house in Bulgaria, so I also spend time there. It wasn’t like a permanent leave, just a re-location for job opportunities.

 What exactly does a Supply Chain Manager do?
 Basically, it is about the management of the flow of goods (raw materials, work-in-process and/or finished goods) and services, that includes supply & demand, purchasing, logistics, warehouse and planning transactions. I used to work in the mobile phone accessories segment, but I’m currently on the verge of changing jobs.

 And you're living in Istanbul, right? I've never been there, but I think it might be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
 Istanbul is a very big city. And like other metropolises, there are lots of amazing places and buildings. Personally, I like to visit and walk in the Sultanahmet area where most of the historical and significant places are all around.

 Aside from playing Magic, what do you like to do in your free time?
 Like everyone, I love to watch movies, TV shows and reading books in my free time as general occupations. Besides that, sometimes I like to write fictional stories, so that's my second hobby after Magic.

 I seem to remember that's where your romellos nick comes from?
 Yes, I first used the name Romellos in one of my old short stories, nearly 15 years ago. Then I have continued to use it as one of my main nicknames since then.

 Any of the stories you wrote is available online?
 Unfortunately, those websites are not around anymore. I have one short story that's been published in an anthology book, nearly eight years ago. After that, I didn't write much. Recently, I started to write again. I hope it will become a more permanent part of my life this time.

 Being a big movie and TV buff myself, I can help but asking more about that. Name three TV shows and three films you loved lately.
 I like to watch TV shows of different genres. The most recent ones that I have watched are Doctor Who, Ray Donovan and True Detective. As for movies, I'm currently re-watching Alejandro González Iñárritu's films: Amores perros, 21 Grams and Babel. [Oh, so we share a love for Iñárritu! – actually, I love all the three "Amigos", Del Toro and Cuarón as well – Birdman was a blast! – Kuma's note]

 When did you start playing MTG and MTGO?
 I discovered MTG during 1998 through a free introduction booster of Portal Second Age. I was impressed by the illustrations on those cards. I still remember some of them: Prowling Nightstalker, Alaborn Trooper and Wild Griffin with the same exact art they have in ME4. Those cards might be nothing now, but they will remain as my spark to start playing Magic. And, I have continued to play paper Magic actively until 2002. Precisely, I stopped playing just before the Odyssey set was released. Life intervened and flowed in a different course for me until 2010. At that moment, I didn’t have the flexibility to go back to play paper Magic. So, I have decided to try its online version instead. And with that decision, I blindly dived into a new era of Magic, at least for me. Lots of things had changed since my last time, the rules were different (now there was the stack and no more mana damage) and also there were these new cards, the planeswalkers. That day, I learned in a hard way that Day of Judgment can’t kill planeswalkers, even when they can act as a creature (like Gideon Jura). And I played and played in the casual room until I refined my knowledge about the new changes, learned about all the new cards printed during my hiatus and their interactions with other cards. During my first year, I only focused to develop a collection with a very limited budget and to read a lot; especially PureMTGO, that was my top source of learning about this online world. The only thing that I regret from that time is that I never played in any PREs until March 2012 [Event 61, romellos played Werewolf and ended 3-1; Event 62 saw romellos's first published list; Event 65, his first event win – Kuma's note.] In some ways, deciding to play in the Tribal Apocalypse as my first PRE closed my long delayed beginner stage and opened a new door for me.


 How's the Magic scene in Bulgaria and Turkey?
 I know there are local communities, but I have not been following any of them since 2002. In that regard, I love the luxury of MTGO of being a global game without any boundaries.

 Turkey makes me think of another successful MTGO player: Lord Erman. Did you ever meet him in person?
 I’m a huge fan of Lord Erman’s article series. And I can clearly say with an open heart that, reading about his deck brews and how and why he designs them that way, gained me a unique perspective about how to brew a deck and its purpose. One of my biggest suggestion to the new players will be, read Lord Erman’s old articles. You won’t regret it. Unfortunately, on my side, I never managed to meet with him either in person or in the MTGO environment.

 What's your Timmy/Johnny/Spike percentage according to you?
 I think I’m 70% Spike, 20% Timmy, and 10% Johnny. Like every Spike player, I aim to win. But more importantly, I like to win with creatures, without much combo shenanigans.

 How did you arrive to Tribal Apocalypse?
 Tribal Apocalypse was the first player run event I have ever played and the only PRE I have continuously played since 2012. It's because I love the creatures and Tribal Wars is the best suitable way for me to enjoy Magic. First, I read about Tribal Apocalypse in one of Lord Erman’s articles and around that time you had also started to write the Diaries of the Apocalypse series. And I since then I follow Diaries of the Apocalypse regularly.

 Are you satisfied about your current MTGO collection? How do you feel about spending money on MTGO to better one's collection?
 This is quite a philosophical conundrum that may vary based on every person’s perspective. Personally, I choose to shape my collection for Modern and Eternal formats. Still, I don’t harbor any fantasy of getting every staple card. I just focus on the key deck strategies of these formats. And at the other side of the scale, my Standard card pool is really undeveloped to play competitively. I mostly buy Standard legal cards when I think they will impact the Modern or Legacy formats. The current MTGO economy is quite different than five years ago. And there is also the fact that MTGO is not really about card collecting, but an environment mainly for testing and having some fun with casual formats (Commander, PREs, etc,) in our free time. In that regard, people with limited budget should first focus on what deck they want to play with and its longevity in that format. And with small modifications, you can start to develop a decent collection to support more decks from that point on. Briefly, I believe the integrity of the collection should shape around the main deck types and the secondary and maybe tertiary deck implementations of the cards. And then continue to expand your options step by step with a systematic approach.

 I know from your series on PureMTGO and from our occasional chat that you devote some time every day to follow the prices and try and speculate a bit. Do you find you're successful at that?
 In MTGO, there are various different ways to improve our financial resources in order to advance our collections. We can choose the path of grinding at the official games and/or focus on the financial side. Either way any combination of these methods is good enough to support us to play more. Technically, you can go infinite, but it is really really hard. Because it is not a fixed step that you can reach at one given point, but a continuous process that you should continuously tune and feed with new cards. All this may seem a little complicated, but actually its core is quite simple. As long as you’re gaining more than you lost, you’re doing fine. In my financial articles, I like to discuss about cards’ price potential. And when I see an opportunity, I freely share all my thoughts about that. In that regard, most of my M15 buy suggestions were quite profitable to the ones who followed them. And starting with Khans of Tarkir, I have changed my approach, so that we can catch cheap cards before they gain their initial values. So far, I only reviewed four sets before their pre-releases. And I believe my Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins predictions realized quite close to what I expected. Still, there are and there will be mistakes to make. It is important to learn from them and accept them as a part of the whole financial process.

Rebecca Guay is, as you'll find out below, romellos's favorite Magic artist.

 You certainly have experience with a vast range of different decks and strategies. What's the kind of deck you like playing the most? And what's the archetype you find you're really good at piloting?
 I don’t think my experience with different type of decks is anything special. I just follow every format (Standard, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Pauper and Commander) and read a lot of articles about them. I’m also watching Standard, both limited and constructed (even if I don’t play it), and Modern tournament coverages a lot. After some point, you will start to see new interactions. Tribal Apocalypse is also very helpful, as I get to play against lots of different and creative decks. There are competitive players like mihahitlor, MisterMojoRising, Ranth, Robin88, slug360, ScionOfJustice, Bazaar of Baghdad, RexDart or Gq1rf7 that focus on strong strategies. And there are also pioneer players like AJ_Impy, _Kumagoro_, Chamale or vantar6697 that are brave enough to test any new deck ideas. I always find myself lucky to play against all of these players in Tribal Apocalypse. And I think I feel most comfortable when I’m playing with either a Bant or an Abzan Human deck. Both of those decks might be a little worse against fast aggressive decks, but they are excellent at midrange and later game phases.

 Last year you ended first in the Tribal Apocalypse final ranking, with a record 12 wins across the entire spectrum of the type of events, including special ones like Plants vs. Zombies and Halloween. Would you review those decks for us explaining what made them tick?


 I believe the Monk deck was my best design among all my decks from last year. Actually, it all started unintentionally: I was looking for an Underdog tribe that had a mana guy at 1 cmc. And once I have found Avacyn's Pilgrim, suddenly the deck’s core became clear. After a few test adjustments, it was tuned. Later, I had to replace Mirror Entity and Chameleon Colossus due to the Changeling bug. And the arrival of Khans of Tarkir really helped find new members for the Monk tribe.


 The core of my Singleton Knight deck last year was nearly the same as the one I used to play two years ago, I only made a few changes by including Land Tax and Enlightened Tutor to increase consistency.


 I have written about a casual mono-black Pod deck in my Modern article series and when I saw this Plants vs. Zombies special event, I wanted to explore Birthing Pod on the Zombie side. And it was entertaining.


 My Human decks are always in constant change with every new set release. In this version, I was testing Yisan, the Wanderer Bard as a Hibernation's End on a stick. Later, I have found him a little slow and replaced him with Yasova Dragonclaw in following events. And now, with the release of Magic Origins, there is a new member on the team that'll take over Yasova’s place.

Selvala's Expedition to Vakalut
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 192, 201 (Underdog)
4 Borderland Ranger
4 Sylvan Ranger
4 Veteran Explorer
4 Viridian Emissary
4 Wood Elves
3 Primeval Titan
23 cards

Other Spells
4 Punishing Fire
4 Scapeshift
3 Moment's Peace
3 Rolling Earthquake
14 cards
7 Mountain
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Stomping Ground
4 Taiga
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
1 Forest
24 cards
Veteran Explorer


 The core of my Scout’s deck was designed by you [I won Event 27 with it, so many years ago – Kuma's note.] That deck was on my to do list for a long time. And when I have managed to gather all the required pieces, I finally gave it a chance.

 Selvala is in the deck's name, but not in the list? I seem to remember you playtested her. Not good enough, but the name remained?
 I like Selvala as a card, but she is really hard to utilize efficiently in a Scapeshift deck due to her white mana requirement. Overall, Scout is working much better with just green and red cards.

True Name of Atlantis
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 193 (Regular)
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Master of Waves
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Silvergill Adept
4 True-Name Nemesis
2 Coralhelm Commander
1 Thassa, God of the Sea
27 cards

Other Spells
4 AEther Vial
4 Force of Will
2 Vedalken Shackles
10 cards
15 Island
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Mishra's Factory
23 cards
True-Name Nemesis


 There's nothing special about this version of a Merfolk deck, except for Master of Waves. He really shined in that event due to his protection from red. This year, I have tested the same deck core with Collected Company instead of Master of Waves. And once again, the result was excellent.

Corrupted Beauty
1st place in Tribal Apocalypse 199 (Pure)
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Glistener Elf
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Viridian Betrayers
4 Viridian Corrupter
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Berserk
4 Invigorate
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Rancor
4 Vines of Vastwood
20 cards
8 Forest
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Pendelhaven
2 Verdant Catacombs
1 Yavimaya Hollow
21 cards
Glistener Elf


 This infect-themed Elf deck was another one from my to do list. And its performances were above my initial expectations, since in the end, I only test and adjust my decks in solitary mode. Currently, this deck type lost some blood due to the purification of (Inkmouth Nexus), but it is still operational.


 That Vintage Tribal event was a total craziness. I had lots of different ideas for different type of decks. Luckily, Ranth and I had played some test games during the week. And those games gave me good ideas to adjust and finalize this deck.

 Bonus comment: your first event win, with this Wizard deck.
 As I remember, the core of that deck came from Ayanam1. Isochron Scepter with Orim's Chant or Silence can be a back-breaker.

 Your first tribe ever in Tribal Apocalypse was Werewolf, though. You had tried it before? And why you don't play them much anymore?
 I brew that deck as soon as Innistrad came to MTGO. And I was playing with my Werewolf deck in the casual room, mostly in Classic format back then. And I continued playing with it and its adjusted versions in Tribal Apocalypse until Werewolves have been banned from Underdog events. After that, I have played with Werewolves in a Pure event for RexDart’s deck building challenge during week 178.

 Is there a deck or tribe that you never won an event with but you wish you had because you like it?
 I don’t remember when it was, but I have played a couple of times with a B/W Horror deck with some Phyrexian Negator and Phyrexian Obliterator. And I really wanted to win an event with that deck. Maybe one day I'll give it a new chance.

 You seem to take the time to think and give elaborate names to your decks, which I for one appreciate.
 I believe every tribal deck has its own unique stories to tell, based on the cards we choose to include. And their gathering is also telling us about the concept of the deck, with all the main and side actors and what role will they play. That’s why I like to give proper names as a title for the decks, at least most of the times.

 Not for "Bant Humans", though. How so?
 I mostly like to give title names to new decks. But that is not the case for the older decks that I’m playing regularly. And the reason is simple: Gatherling. Gatherling is a great source for playing PREs. But there, all the decks that we named will become unique decks. And after some time, your deck section will start to become crowded, making hard to browse through past decks' details. And that's why I continue to use the original names of my old decks. This way, I can collect all the history and accomplishment details under one roof. Just a practical reason.

At the Grand Place of Brussels, with a nice shirt and terrible pants. (The header image was Paris. Also nice shirt).

 I noticed you often include in your decks good rares that didn't find a home in Standard and were neglected, like Yisan or Yasova. Is that a conscious attempt on your part to reevaluate them in the tribal arena?
 I like to try every new possible candidate for tribal games after every new set is released. In that regard, I had few good moments with Yisan, as he performed mediocrely most of the times. On the other hand, I’m really impressed with the performance of Yasova and her Threaten ability so far.

 What's your process to build a new deck? How often you feel compelled to try something new vs. the times you just go with what you already have tried and tested?
 That depends on my mood, actually. Sometimes I want to brew a new deck, or modify one that's been a failure, and sometimes, I just want to play with a deck that I enjoy. If I’m brewing a new deck, first I look to the related tribal subformat’s requirements and the cards I have in my collection. After its 60-card raw version is shaped, I start to test it in solitary mode for 30-40 games in a row, sometimes even more. This is a good method to adjust the flow of the cmc curve and to see the frequency of land draws.

 When you're in full Spike mode, you use to add off-tribe powerhouses like Knight of the Reliquary, Tarmogoyf, True-Name Nemesis, Baneslayer Angel, and Scavenging Ooze. In fact you're the main reason I eventually restricted some of these to their tribes only. It's probably your more questionable Spike-oriented move. I think most of these are just strong beater, or strong answers like the Ooze, but you seem have a particular predilection for Knight of the Reliquary; what do you like so much about her?
 For me, Knight of the Reliquary is a double win card with her synergy. You can build a very specialized toolbox land base with her that can be fetched against various different cases. And the best part is, she will continue to get bigger and bigger while you utilize your land base to maximum performance.

 Let's talk colors. You don't play red a lot. You seem to favor green. And white when you want to be safe. Do you think white is the Spikiest color in Tribal?
 I think the spikiest color combination would be U/R. On the other hand, GW/x-colored decks tend to be better in midrange and long game phases. That’s the main reason why I like to play with them. In that regard, there are only differences of approach between Bant and Abzan versions with the same end goal.

 As for the tribes, you don't play Elf ramp or Goblin at all, am I right? You just don't like them, feel they're too abused? Not playing them may be the reason you tend to win less in Regular events than in other types of events.
 I don’t feel much comfortable with the linear tribal decks, except Merfolks. I know they can be unstoppable with the right hand draw. But the opposite is also true. Maybe I like the decks where I have the options to control, improvise or adapt to different situations.

 You recently took back the all-time 1st place for numbers of win (it's a race between you and mihahitlor). How do you feel about being the #1 in the 5-year history of the Blippy-reformed Tribal Apocalypse? The one that people, even AJ_Impy, refer to as a paragon of success?
 I think it's all about dedication and what you want to achieve. There are lots of very good players in Tribal Apocalypse and if more of them played pure Spike decks, the results could be very different. And because of their efforts to achieve something different, I really respect them a lot. I was very happy when AJ_Impy has become the 2013 Tribal Champion. Because he is one of those players that really deserve the title. And more importantly, he has achieved it with his unique deck brewing style. And about mihahitlor, he is a better player than me and the true paragon of success. Even according to Gatherling, my win ratio against him is only 34% percent. I'm always thrilled to play against him. And at some point, I know he will pass me there. [In fact, it happened after this conversation: mihahitlor currently leads over romellos 28 wins to 26 – Kuma's note]

 In 2013 you almost ended up first place as well, but had to miss several events at the end of the year when you relocated. Were you upset to have missed that chance then, and happy that you managed to vindicate yourself the following year?
 Actually, no, I wasn’t upset. Maybe because my 2013 performance as a whole was not satisfying. But the race in the last quarter of 2014 between MisterMojoRising, mihahitlor and me was amazing. Points were so close and they were changing very swiftly, week by week. It was a really entertaining experience for me.

 You seem to like very much the Tribal Apocalypse crowd, don't you?
 We got a good community in Tribal Apocalypse. And I really respect every one of those players separately. And as I mentioned in previous topics, more than half of these players inspire me a lot, in different ways. I enjoy to play there as a part of it and I hope we will continue to see more and more new faces around. And I was lucky to be able to play many times against some of the older tribal champions, like NemesisParadigm or Ayanam1, during my first or second year.

 Nothing you would change, then?
 Like everything, the community of Tribal Apocalypse is evolving. This is my third season of tribal wars and in my opinion, the current diversity that we're seeing this year is the closest thing we can have to the true spirit of tribal. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like that to me.

 What you can say about Robin88, your predecessor as Tribal Player of the Year? He's more combo-oriented than you are, but I think you have a similar style.
 Yes, our playing styles are quite close. Still, I’m trying to avoid combo decks as much as possible in Tribal Wars. Because Tribal Wars is about the creatures and winning with creature damage will be always my top aim.

 I noticed you started using 62-card decks. It was because of Robin's theory?
 Actually, it is a separately developed concept as I've been using 61- or 62-card decks in tribal for years, in some of my specific builds, such as Bant Humans or other midrange decks. 60-card deck is the golden ratio, but sometimes it is not enough to wrap things up.

 Which other formats do you play other than Tribal, and which PREs other than TribAp?
 I’m mostly playing Modern but just Tribal Apocalypse as a PRE. I used to play Heirloom, too, but that was before the V4 switch. Still, that would be the second PRE I liked the most.

 Favorite Magic artists?
 My all-time favorite MTG artist is Rebecca Guay. Beside her, I also like the art of Terese Nielsen, Nils Hamm, Igor Kieryluk, Volkan Baga and Cynthia Sheppard.

Path to Exile, promo art by Rebecca Guay.

 Where do you think Magic and MTGO are going? Where do you see Magic in the next 5 or 10 years?
 Magic is a great game and I think its popularity will continue to grow. On the other hand, MTGO is in a limbo. I’m not talking about the V4 software, because that is just a technical matter. It can always be upgraded. But the mismanagement of MTGO and not keeping the word they give, that's more concerning. From my side, though, I will continue to play MTGO, no matter what.

 Next deck you're going to try?
 I’m going to update some of my old decks. I already adjusted my Bant Humans and after that I might modify my Ally deck with a new interaction from Khans of Tarkir block. Otherwise, there is no new deck project on the horizon. I guess I’m going to wait for Battle for Zendikar to give us more tribal cards.


Great interview, was looking by mihahitlor at Wed, 10/14/2015 - 16:26
mihahitlor's picture

Great interview, was looking forward to it, as I really like Romellos both as a player and as a person.

We've battled in a lot of matches over the years and I hope we get to do that even more in the future.

Fantastic interview from both by Bazaar of Baghdad at Wed, 10/14/2015 - 16:33
Bazaar of Baghdad's picture

Fantastic interview from both parties. I feel articles like these can really help recruit new blood.

The player whom current and by AJ_Impy at Thu, 10/15/2015 - 06:39
AJ_Impy's picture

The player whom current and former champions alike laud as the toughest to play against. An excellent interview for a player whom, despite missing half a year this season, still has over a hundred points on the board.

Thanks for the compliments, by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 10/15/2015 - 13:27
Kumagoro42's picture

Thanks for the compliments, guys. And to romellos and the previous interviewee MisterMojoRising for being so available despite the busy times in real life.

And since I ultimately forgot to include it in the article, here's a couple views of Sultanahmet, romellos's favorite district in Istanbul (which is fitting as it takes its name from an Ottoman Sultan bearing his same real name, Ahmet).