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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 28 2013 12:33pm
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 Welcome back to Tribal Apocalypse, the PRE where... meow! Woof woof! Meeeeow!

   Table of Contents 

  1. Last Week on Tribal Apocalypse...
  2. The High Price of Winning
  3. RexDart's Show and Tell
  4. The Impy A.J. Richardson: A Legend Outside the Box
  5. Announcement Time!
  6. What's Next

 The treat is finally here! The godfather of all the tribal players, AJ_Impy, is celebrated with a Show and Tell: Special Edition by RexDart followed by a brief interview by me. The theme: building outside the box. No more words needed: Enjoy!


  • Event Number: 3.24, Week 129 BE
  • Date: June 22
  • Attendance: 16
  • Rounds: 3
  • Special Rules: Duel Week: players listed first played a Cat deck, their opponents a Hound, Wolf or Werewolf deck
  • Winner: romellos (Cat x4)
  • Other undefeated: AJ_Impy (Cat x2, Hound x2)
  • 1 Loss: milegyenanevem (Hound x3), Nagarjuna (Cat x2, Werewolf), vantar6697 (Cat x2, Hound), Robin88 (Cat, Wolf x2), SekKuar Deathkeeper (Cat x2, Hound)
  • Tribes: Cat (x16), Hound (x4), Werewolf (x8), Wolf (x4)
  • Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is (Dog decks here

 The eternal battle between Cats and Dogs has been fought last week, and this is how it ended:

  • Round 1: Cat 5 — Dog 3
  • Round 2: Cat 7 — Dog 1
  • Round 3: Cat 3 — Dog 5
  • TOTAL: Cat 15 — Dog 9 

 So the felines rule the canines of the tribal world for the time being. Fun fact: almost nobody who had built a Werewolf deck (and they were the vast majority, half the registered players) ended in the money. The only exception was Nagarjuna, who played it once. And I guess we should count romellos, too, who registered a Weredeck, although he never got to play it all tournament. He played this, instead, 4 times, for 4 overall match wins:


 Lots of other lists were fairly conventional, if generally well-thought, but this is AJ's week, so let's see what HE was playing, especially considering he went very close to the ultimate victory:


 That was his yang mono-white Cat deck, this is the yin mono-black Hound deck.


 Both these decks are commented at length in AJ's special issue of Show and Tell below. See? You didn't necessarily need to run Lightning Bolt to be successful in this event! Or Kird Ape. Or freaking Tarmogoyf! (Okay, next time, you can fully expect a Duel Week to be played with Pure Tribal rules!). 

 Finally, let's feature a Wolf deck (yeah, Werewolves are grounded, given the poor report card they brought home). And who better than Winter.Wolf at this? This list showcases all the best Wolves, which compose what I believe may be the potentially best tribal base of the event. I had a similar one, except with a full set of Wolfir Silverheart, and for some reason (read it as "I was using an old, non-updated build"), I completely forgot of the existence of Young Wolf.


 Question for Winter: What's the reasoning behind Krosan Grip here? I get that facing dangerous equipments was a very real possibility, but what does split second add in a meta that didn't appear likely to feature countermagic at all? Maybe something like trying to stop Pernicious Deed or Ratchet Bomb on their tracks? (Which is a kind of thing split second rarely gets credit for, even if to pull it off you need to have priority first, so you need to do it on your turn, this way negating a response activation.)


 Also known as: how much do the top decks cost? As of June 28, 2013, here's the answer (MTGO Traders prices; mtgGoldfish charts and analysis; the cheapest version of each card is always used; basic lands count zero):

  • 1st place, romellos's Cats: $472.61 (nonland cards: $276.42; tribal base: $1.16)
  • 2nd place, AJ_Impy's Cats: $28.41 (nonland cards: $28.12; tribal base: $8.00) 
  • 2nd place, AJ_Impy's Hounds: $24.26 (nonland cards: $9.11; tribal base: $0.76)

 Of course, a full-accessorized Cat deck like romellos' is bound to cost quite a few of tickets, but that's not because of the Cats involved, although you can argue that's inherent factor in the greedy manabase (worth $200 alone with all those Taigas, Savannahs and Plateau, and Misty Rainforest being currently over $15) needed to make them work, what with all those multicolored members or interactions with several basic land types. Going mono-color drastically cuts all of this, even if AJ's Cat base actually ends up being the more expensive of the event, due to the big mythic Cat, Felidar Sovereign. Hounds, on the other hand, are all mostly worth 2 cents apiece, so that's hardly a deck that will cost you a fortune, unless you build it with Tarmogoyf, of course.



 Welcome back to Show and Tell, where we cover the Legacy Tribal Wars format, and the Tribal Apocalypse PRE, with deck techs and replay videos every week! This past week's event was "Cats vs. Dogs", one of the occasional "theme weeks" that are held when a month has an extra Saturday in it. 

 Cats, quite predictably, dominated Dogs. It wasn't hard to predict Cats being a heavy favorite. After all, Cats are already a tier-1 deck in regular Tribal Wars, being the best sligh-aggro deck in the format. Cat tribal was very popular in the event during 2011, and has enjoyed a resurgence in 2013 thanks to a new group of devotees taking it back to the top. The traditional Cat tribal list is a variation on Naya Zoo from the Legacy format, using the following 16 creatures (4 per playset)
 as its core: Steppe Lynx, Loam Lion, Wild Nacatl, Qasali Pridemage. The arrival of Dragon's Maze has added a playset of Rubblebelt Maaka to the mix (as I predicted in my DGM round-up for the tribal format) to make the deck ruthless and efficient in its aggression.

 The other Cat tribal deck to see play over the years has been the variation which AJ_Impy piloted this week (check below for a video of this deck). That version is mono-white and runs the humanoid Leonin sub-tribe from the plane of Mirrodin. Between the two trips Magic has taken to that plane, you can assemble a decent white weenie aggro deck (assuming you think that archetype is a "real deck" — I'm in the apparent minority who believes mono-white fast aggro isn't a good archetype despite its persistent popularity for 20 years.) The Leonin deck has evasion, disruption, and relevant combat abilities, and has enjoyed some marginal success over the years in Tribal Wars.

 In the first video this week, we take a look at 1st place player romellos, with his Naya Cat deck. The innovation here is 3 copies of Domri Rade. I have been trying to find a place for Domri in Tribal Wars myself, after enjoying the card greatly in Standard for a few months.

 By contrast, the "Dog" side of this contest seemed rather lacking. First, let's look at Hounds. The most obvious Hound deck to build — the one which has been attempted most often this year — is the Isamaru / Jackal Pup / Wild Dogs deck. But that is really just a bad version of the Naya Cats, with creatures that are overall worse than Cat's 1-drops. Even worse in the context of this event, those 2/2 Hounds were going to be fighting directly against 2/3 and 3/3 Cats at the same spot in the curve. In a match-up pitting those decks against each other, Hounds can't profitably attack into any of the Cat blockers and are forced to use spot removal to clear the path, or else rely upon auras and combat tricks to push through damage. And I certainly would not want to be playing 4x Jackal Pup in an event where I expected tons of Nacatl decks running 4x Lightning Bolt! So the aggro Hound deck is emphatically NOT where I would want to be in this event. But what alternatives were there? There are 3 Hounds with discard abilities (Wild Mongrel, Patrol Hound, and (Vampiric Hound)), so perhaps some variety of a Madness deck? We'll see in a deck tech below that AJ_Impy went with mono-black Hounds and played a control game, with a minor reanimation subtheme, and that strikes me as a strong solution to this problem — a solution that has been employed before during the Elves vs. Goblins event, when mono-black Goblin control caught 90% of the field with their pants down.

 Wolves and Werewolves were also permitted, so most players avoided the Hound conundrum entirely. Werewolves were a tier-1 deck in the Endangered/Underdog metagame, so good that they were banned from those events last year. In the deck below, we see winner romellos built a Naya Werewolf deck that was almost a direct port of his Cat list. It doesn't appear that he ever had to actually play this deck, having the good fortune to be selected as the Cat player in every round. The deck has some obvious power in it, but for reasons I will describe in the video, the Werewolves he included can't reach their full potential when matched up against aggro Cats, and the best anti-aggro lycanthrope available is missing from the list entirely.

 Romellos uploaded replays of his matches to his YouTube channel, however my computer can't seem to run CamStudio well while replaying a HD YouTube video — even with the fancy new video card. If anybody has a solution, let me know in the comments. So in lieu of that, here is a replay of romellos' Cats versus AJ_Impy's Hounds from the finals of the event, taken from AJ's perspective:

So how about that Hound deck of AJ's? As discussed above, I think this was a solid metagame call, demonstrating a real attention to what the expected field would be. It also helps to play to your strengths, and Cabal Coffers decks with 6-8 board sweepers are a staple of AJ_Impy's repertoire. Take a look at the full list, commented in this deck tech:

 Wrapping up the Show and Tell feature this week are two replays of AJ's decks in action — only fitting on this week where we take a deep look at his deckbuilding style. In the first video we have his Leonin Cat list swarming quickly over a mana-starved Naya Werewolf deck:

 And here we see his Black Dog deck gradually cast a depressing pall over romellos' Cats in the finals — though the Cats would ultimately prove to be too fast for AJ to handle in the other games, and romellos took the victory.


 This week is Pure Tribal, a great time to try your hand at the Army of Telim'Tor Deckbuilding Challenge! If you want to win the challenge and claim your prize, all you have to do is follow the rules below...

  1. Build a Knight tribal deck.
  2. Every creature in the deck must have the flanking ability.
  3. You may NOT use any card that turns into a creature, or creates a creature token, unless the resulting creatures or tokens also have the flanking ability. (For example, you may not use Spectral Procession, Kjeldoran Outpost, or Sword of Body and Mind, but you may use Riftmarked Knight.)
  4. Your deck must include at least 3 copies of Telim'Tor, if allowed (it won't be allowed during Singleton events, of course: in that case, you'll only need the one allowed copy).
  5. You must enter a Tribal Apocalypse event with your deck and obtain at least 2 match wins, not counting forfeits or byes. 

The prize this time is one nonfoil, digital copy of Wilt-Leaf Liege, worth just under 3 tickets on MTGO Traders!
 DISCLAIMER STUFF: Only one prize is available. In case multiple players accomplish this in the same event, the player with the greater number of valid match wins takes the prize. If the players are still tied, a random choice will award the prize. Also: please note that the winner will be determined by reviewing decklists AFTER the event. This means that the winner will not be officially chosen until the announcement is made on the following Friday, within this article here on PureMTGO.com. If you are the winner, you may collect your prize from me by messaging RexDart on MTGO after the winner is announced.
 That's all for this week, good luck tomorrow in Pure Tribal!

 Check the complete archive of RexDart's Deck Techs here.


by RexDart


 AJ_Impy's deckbuilding is among the most interesting in the history of the Legacy Tribal Wars format. Although I sometimes pigeonhole AJ as the "8_sweepers.dek" guy, we can't forget that he helped pioneer mono-red Hell-amentals, showing a lot of range in play style. But it isn't his run-of-the-mill aggro or control decks that catch the eye — though he usually has a firm grasp on the numbers and curve for those decks — but we really enjoy what happens when he tries something crazy and outside the box. Some of his decks have complex interactions and seem underpowered and "durdle-y" on first glance — I myself don't have the knack to pilot that sort of deck or perfectly balance it, but AJ has plenty of experience in that department.

 Recently, Magic has become about "all upside" cards, in the never-ending quest to avoid "feel bad" moments for new players. In the long run, this will just turn the game into some ugly hybrid of Duels of the Planeswalkers and AVR sealed deck. But it wasn't always that way. If you played Magic in the early 90s, one of the first "Johnny" decks you built was likely some attempt to take a card with a devastating symmetrical effect and break the symmetry. Many of AJ's best decks take an obscure card from days long gone and do just that.

 In this first video, I have a deck tech for AJ's monoblue Wizards deck from two weeks ago, where he incorporates Fade Away into a solid blue tempo shell. (Please note that this video, like a couple of the others, was originally recorded to be part of the Show and Tell feature two weeks ago, before my computer crashed, so a few remarks may seem out of context.)

 Another example of this symmetry-breaking tactic is his Spreading Plague deck, using the Scarecrow tribe. Playing with mostly colorless artifact creatures already suffices to break the symmetry of Spreading Plague, but he adds in a combo to make it truly devastating. I also like the use of sacrifice outlets and recursion.

 See the Scarecrows in action in this replay:

 Perhaps the most radical departure from normal deckbuilding ever attempted in Legacy Tribal Wars, the landless Avatar deck that hardcast Progenitus stands out as AJ's crowning achievement in my mind. Other landless, or nearly-landless, decks have been attempted by other players. These usually are attempts to port Legacy decks such as Charbelcher or Dredge into the format. AJ's Avatar deck has no obvious parallels and had to be built entirely from scratch with very little to guide him. Sensei's Divining Top allows him to set up the top of his library to powerful effect, with the Legacy staple Terminus doing most of the board-clearing work, but the Top is also integral to his Progenitus plan. See how it all fits together in this deck tech video:

 And see how the pieces work with each other in this replay:

 I like a powerful deck as much as anybody, and I'm not one to shy away from using boring old format staples when they're what I need. Not every deck has to be novel, and conventional power decks are not necessarily bad for the format. Competition is always exciting, and even a Goblins vs. Elves match can be entertaining under the right circumstances. But that isn't all there is to Magic, and a semi-casual Legacy format like Tribal Wars is a great place to experiment. This is a format for deck builders, and each of us favors a different set of tools — but we should always be looking to add a few more things to our toolbox. The more we create new decks, the more we refine existing decks, the better we get at it, the more cards and deck styles we truly learn how to use, these things broaden our enjoyment of the format and the game. So cheers to AJ for putting his imagination into this format for many years and doing his part to keep it alive and strong!

 And finally, a few words by the man himself, as collected by Kumagoro:

 What's your general approach to deckbuilding for Tribal Apocalypse?
AJ: My general approach to building for Tribal Apocalypse is to ask, "What would be fun, interesting and devastating within my budget/collection"? Coupled to this are questions such as what haven't I played lately, if there are any particularly nasty combos I'd come up with, the rules for a given week and if there was an achievement I wanted to target.

 Your lists often try to achieve specific strategies in ways you don't see every week. Would you qualify this approach as "outside the box"? How do you come with these ideas? And why you pursue them?
AJ: "The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom." — Danny Blanchflower. In that quote is the inspiration for my approach towards the game: Always try something new, something that will make people go "Wow, cool", or "I've never seen that before." As for how I come up with the ideas, I have a good sense for the rules, how certain cards interact, and knowledge of individual cards that verges on the encyclopedic. I would not enjoy plodding along with the same deck every week, no matter how good or powerful it was, just because it was good or powerful. Anyone can take an established deck concept and pilot it into the money, but where's the fun in playing with someone else's toys, or obeying someone else's blueprints? There is also the advantage of formlessness: If I know what my opponent is trying to do whilst they can only guess at my strategy, I have the upper hand.

 Can you give us some example of decks born this way?
AJ: I spent years creating decks in this manner, and writing about them. First for the benefit of the Johnny columns on the WoTC mothership site such as this, killing people with Aura Barbs and Sky Swallower. Later, in my own column here on PureMTGO, doing everything from stealing every creature my opponent had with Kobolds of Kher Keep to building colorless decks in Kaleidoscope.

 Are there builds of this kind you wanted to try but just didn't work?
AJ: Not every clever idea is practical. There are always failures, nearly-theres, not-quite-its. If it doesn't work, then there's always the next idea.


     Just to remind you of a few things:

     The Tribal Achievements: welcome to the second season of the Tribal Achievements! Find new ways to have fun within Tribal Apocalypse, challenge yourself to complete all kinds of strange MTG feats, and make some tix in the process.

     The Hamtastic Award: the Biodiversity Prize dedicated to the memory of Erik Friborg has started again, for its 6th edition: be the first to run 10 different tribes in a row and you'll get 5 tix on SBena_Bot! You have to play all the rounds of an event in order for the tribe to be added to your sequence. If you repeat a previous tribe, your whole sequence resets. Vantar6697 is almost there! Only 1 tribe missing to get the prize!

     The Mongoose Pride Prize!  As the last tribe standing after everyone else had been played at least once, Mongoose has become the protagonist of a dedicated prize that will remember forever that you all neglected them despite Nimble Mongoose being featured in high-profile, tier-1 Legacy decks. The Mongoose Pride Prize will permanently award 1 tix (at SBena_Bot) to everyone who'll just... play Mongoose. That's right, you just have to play them and you'll get 1 tix, till the end of times. Well, there's just one clause: you have to win at least one match with them within the event (byes and forfeits don't count). Let's show them all what the mighty Herpestidae can do, shall we?

    Hard to kill, hard to play (apparently)

     The Champion Challenge: challenge one of our Tribal Champions, and win an Egg of Tarmogoyf (aka a Future Sight booster, courtesy of SBena_Bot) and 20 points in the seasonal leaderboard! In order to do that, you must: 1) choose one of the Challenge Decks; 2) end X-1 or better with it in a Tribal Apocalypse event; 3) beat its creator in a challenge! Follow this link for the complete ruling and the decklists.

     The Top Players Lockout: every time a Top Player (either a Google Era Top 8, an Ultimate Champion or a seasonal Top 8) will end undefeated, they will not be allowed to register the same tribe and deck again for 4 events (i.e. they'll have to register a different deck or decks 4 times before coming back to the undefeated one). With "deck" is meant a specific, recognizable archetype (e.g. Wall-Drazi), which in some case will be linked to a specific combo card (e.g. Helm of Obedience). A list of the current lockouts is maintained here.

     Videos: Send RexDart replays of your games and we'll feature them in these articles! Don't know how? Read this quick guide in 6 easy steps and start saving your tribal feats for posterity!


     The upcoming Tribal Apocalypse events of the Blippian Era (every Saturday at 17:00 GMT):

    • 3.25 (Week 130 BE), on June 29: Pure Tribal (no off-tribe creatures, no Big Shot Tribes nor T9 cards allowed)
    • 3.26 (Week 131 BE), on July 6: Tribal Underdog (only Underdog Tribes allowed)
    • 3.27 (Week 132 BE), on July 13: Regular Tribal (just plain old Legacy Tribal Wars)
    • 3.28 (Week 133 BE), on July 20: Tribal Singleton (only 1 copy of each nonbasic land)

    Check out the full Tribal Calendar for 2013!

    Take the Tribal Survey!

     See you all in the Tribal room!



AJ, is as I wrote a few moons by Paul Leicht at Fri, 06/28/2013 - 17:43
Paul Leicht's picture

AJ, is as I wrote a few moons ago, a living legend in the game. Thanks for bringing that to light again. :D http://puremtgo.com/articles/magical-legends-players-profile-ajimpy for those who wish a refresher.

As for my dogs deck... well Krosan Grip's handy for the things you mentioned and those are real threats. But also for stuff like Robin's Isocron Scepter which I have seen him playing with in every deck lately. I figured get out in front of that problem and it will go away. Unfortunately grip didn't pan out to be the bullet I needed vs my opponents so perhaps I shouldn't have stuck them in. By the way: Split Second negates the ability to respond to it. Which means you don't have to wait to use it on your turn. It is also quite effective in killing Sensei's Divining Top and other repeat activation artifacts if done at the right moment. (Hint: After your op taps it to draw a card is too late.)

I was not pleased with either of my Cats & Dogs decks. Neither performed well mulliganing all but 2 games out of the 8 I played, and double mulliganing twice. It really takes the fun out of the game when your deck throws you for a loop. That said, the blame for those bad draws is entirely in the realm of bad deck building and complete lack of testing. And that is one reason I stopped playing before. The inability to adequately prepare decks for the PRE means that unless my opponents also suffer from this problem I will lose and losing no matter what AJ may say is not fun for me. Not unless, there is at least a game there first.

Split second needs priority by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 06/29/2013 - 00:35
Kumagoro42's picture

Split second needs priority to stop an activation. Meaning, like I said, you can't stop them to blow up a Pernicious (or Nevinyrral's Disk or whatever) unless you have priority before they do it, in which case they can't respond to the Grip. But if you wait until it's their turn, priority will go to them first, and unless they let you have it before activating (unlikely, since 90% of the times when one drops one of those effects, they want to use it asap, not wait and see what happens), Krosan Grip becomes useless.

And even the very turn they drop Pernicious and co. (of course not the Disk, since it'd be tapped), if they have the mana to activate it right away, you can't Grip it away, because they'll give priority to you only when it's a spell in the stack, therefore still not targetable by the Grip, then they'll get priority back immediately as the active player (rule 116.3b).

Against the Scepter, the only advantage of Krosan Grip vs. Naturalize when countermagic isn't involved is that Gripping the Scepter prevents them to activate it one last time. I'm a split second enthusiast in general, but experience more and more told me that most of the times isn't worth those 3 mana, especially considering Nature's Claim is 1 mana (which means in many builds I can cast it with the off-turn mana of a Wall of Roots, which sometimes the opponent doesn't even realize) and my builds are often very mana intensive elsewhere.

This seems a little like a by Paul Leicht at Sat, 06/29/2013 - 00:50
Paul Leicht's picture

This seems a little like a pointless argument as you asked a question and I answered it. Regardless of priority rules questions.

If you wait until it's their by AJ_Impy at Sat, 06/29/2013 - 01:20
AJ_Impy's picture

If you wait until it's their turn, you put a stop in their upkeep.

And they will still have by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 06/29/2013 - 02:15
Kumagoro42's picture

And they will still have priority before you as the active players, and will use it as soon as they untap it unless they're fools. Look, there's no way you can stop someone to crack a Pernicious Deed in another player's turn (short of a Stifle effect), unless they actively let you do it either by mistake or careless/overly optimistic strategy.

You're forgetting the quirks by AJ_Impy at Sat, 06/29/2013 - 02:18
AJ_Impy's picture

You're forgetting the quirks of MTGO. Priority is automatically passed unless a stop is set. So, set a stop where they haven't prior to the ones they have, and you can take out the offending artifact or enchantment. When was the last time you saw a deed or disk player on mtgo set a stop in their own upkeep to prevent someone else getting a split second jump on them?

That falls into the case of by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 06/29/2013 - 02:28
Kumagoro42's picture

That falls into the case of bad playing. I was discussing rules. The game stops at every phase by default. Not putting a stop on it equals to the player automatically saying, "I pass priority" to their opponents.
If cracking a mass destruction permanent is crucial to me, you can bet I'll set every possible stop. When I don't, it's because I'm playing badly. It would be the same if I'm the Krosan Grip player and I forget to set a stop on their upkeep. (Except, if I was the Krosan Grip player, it would be a bad play for me to wait their turn at all, like I said. Wouldn't even see the reason to.)

To clarify my thinking, I try by Paul Leicht at Sat, 06/29/2013 - 02:48
Paul Leicht's picture

To clarify my thinking, I try not to generalize too much about tactical plays. There are times when it is 100% right to play an instant even one with split second on your own turn. There are also times when the right play is to wait for your op to give priority, not knowing that they are walking into a split second response.