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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Dec 13 2013 12:51pm
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 Welcome back to Tribal Apocalypse, the PRE where new winners are born week after week.

   Table of Contents 

  1. Last Week on Tribal Apocalypse...
  2. The High Price of Winning
  3. Show and Tell: Vedalken
  4. Tribal Lab: The Hydrapedia
  5. Announcement Time!
  6. What's Next

Check the full archive for the "Diaries of the Apocalypse" series


THOUGHTS OF A TRIBAL HOST

 It's Christmas in Tribal, all the goblins sing! It's Christmas in Tribal, hark, hark, those temple bells ring!

 This Monty Python's paraphrase is to remind you that we only have 3 TribAp events left to play this year (and we already set the new record of annual attendance, with 965 players vs. 910 in 2011 and 889 in 2012: Tribal Apocalypse is stronger than ever!), and on December 21 we'll celebrate Yuletide by making a tree in our decks. It'll be a regular event for all means and purposes, but if you play with a green Plant in your list, you'll get a gift. If the Plant is actually dropped on the battlefield during a game, you'll get a better gift. And if the Plant actually resembles a tree (rather than, you know, something like this), you'll get a seriously cool gift. It's up to you, will you be naughty or nice? Santa Kuma will judge.

 Also, as a gift from WotC, we're finally getting Commander 2013. Woot! The cards are already in the editor, so I will update our Creature Types Reference Table before next event. Among the new goodies, there's this guy:

 A legendary Rhino! That's a first! And it interacts nicely with other Rhinos. Well, with this other Rhino, at least.

 But with a few others, too. Play Rhino! It's a nice, little tribe.

 Finally, another Christmas gift will come December 28, right after the final Tribal Apocalypse of the year, in the form of The Art of War, the new Classic PRE where you play with one-artist decks. Registration is already open on Gatherling. Give it a try!


LAST WEEK ON TRIBAL APOCALYPSE...

  • Event Number: 3.48, Week 153 BE
  • Date: December 7
  • Attendance: 17
  • Rounds: 3
  • Special Rules: Tribal Underdog (only Underdog Tribes allowed)
  • Winner: milegyenanevem (Satyr)
  • Other undefeated: _Kumagoro_ (Vedalken)
  • 1 Loss: AJ_Impy (Hydra), pk23 (Mongoose), Gq1rf7 (Archon), Gonzzy (Troll), Kingritz (Kobold), Deonmag (Bat)
  • Special Prizes: True Underdog Prize and Up-and-Coming Prize to milegyenanevem (Satyr), Mongoose Pride Prize to pk23 (yay Mongoose!)
  • Tribes: Archon, Bat, Boar, Hydra (x3), Kobold (x2), Mongoose, Myr, Ooze, Rebel, Satyr, Troll, Unicorn, Vedalken, Whale
  • Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is

 I did it! Almost. My Vedalken deck, inspired by the acquisition of a playset of Vedalken Shackles (and where should you play them if not with their creators' tribe?) paid dividends by almost winning an event. After a perfect score (helped by a weird birthday present from the pairing randomizer in the form of a turn-1 bye), I faced  milegyenanevem's Satyr in the last round, and that was a very bad matchup for me (the randomizer giveth, the randomizer taketh away), because his Satyrs featured anti-air warfare and built-in anti-artifact warfare, plus a collection of anti-blue blades.

  

 In the end, it was a fun ride, though, as documented in this week's Show & Tell, where I show and tell everything about it. This was my list:

 

 Vedalken kind of build themselves. You got three great artifact-related accelerators in Vedalken Engineer, Etherium Sculptor and especially the instant-classic Grand Architect. Then Vedalken Certarch gives you a 1-drop that becomes relevant later, if you play enough artifacts (and of course you do). And Ethersworn Adjudicator is your basic evasive finisher with amazing abilities to boot, even if those force you to include both white and black sources, and that was a little annoying in a build that was all about Vedalken Shackles, therefore needed those non-blue sources to still be Islands, therefore either very expensive Tundras and Underground Seas, or slightly self-punishing shocklands.

 The Satyr list by milegyenanevem, coming in complementary colors, also shared some built-in acceleration, because two of the new Satyrs from Theros (Voyaging Satyr and Satyr Hedonist) do that. Plus Xenagos, the Reveler, of course, which is flavorfully and mechanically to a Satyr deck what Vedalken Shackles is to a Vedalken deck. Both the tribes had never won an event before, so there were the 3 tickets of the Up-and-Coming Prize at stake in the final. And the Satyr ended up with the loot. Congrats, my horned friends. And congrats to milegyenanevem for his first win in Tribal Apocalypse. I'll try and do a spotlight about him next week, so we'll finally find out what that name actually means.

 

 For the rest, it was sort of a Hydra week, with three players taking the big, multi-headed monsters for a ride. Which is why I made a little Hydrapedia in Tribal Lab in their honor. AJ_Impy was the one who brought them higher, up to the Top 4, using Crystal Quarry in a Cloudpost base to cast Progenitus.

 

 Also Top 4, and absolutely needed to be featured: Mongoose! Woot! It took pk23 to bring back the Mongoose Pride Prize (and previously, it was Ranth: winners play Mongoose!), with this list:

 

 What would tribal players do without Chameleon Colossus?


THE HIGH PRICE OF WINNING

 Also known as: how much do the top decks cost? As of December 13, 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, milegyenanevem's Satyrs: $67.61 (nonland cards: $39.65; tribal base: $8.66)
  • 2nd place, Kumagoro's Vedalkens: $133.17 (nonland cards: $32.53; tribal base: $7.40)

 Both the undefeated decks were cheap enough, with my build's cost being almost entirely made up by Misty Rainforest (which is now the most expensive fetch land in existence, I believe), just because it's the one I happened to have kept back when I sold my collection, and the 20 tix total of the Vedalken Shackles. Most of the Vedalkens and Satyrs cost just 2 cents, with Ethersworn Adjudicator and, well, Chameleon Colossus as the only slightly pricey members of their tribes, at little less than 2 tix apiece (which is good because they both used to cost three times that). The only element of the Satyr deck that brings its price a bit up are Xenagos (who crashed hard because he still has to really find a home) and the swords, and even those don't cost as much as they used to be, with Sword of Light and Shadow having been in recent times the most chased upon at about 6 tix.

 The Top 10 Cheapest Decks that Went Undefeated

  1. morpphling's Goblins, $2.35, 2nd place on Event 102
  2. Gq1rf7's Goblins, $3.70, 1st place on Event 145 (cheapest event winner)
  3. Gq1rf7's Goblins, $4.12, 2nd place on Event 141
  4. Gq1rf7's Assassins, $4.18, 1st place on Event 147
  5. Trickerie's Golems, $4.31, 1st place on Event 138
  6. arcbounddaylabor's Goblins, $4.46, 1st place on Event 111
  7. Coolcat1678's Elves, $5.13, 2nd place on Event 149
  8. ellmaris's Goblins, $6.52, 2nd place on Event 103
  9. Heureka's Weirds, $6.53, 3rd place on Event 140
  10. kokonade1000's Rats, $7.55, 2nd place on Event 140

 NOTE: not adjusted to current prices; data collected since Event 85.


SHOW AND TELL

 

 Here's the chronicles of the Vedalken Wars. First against the mighty Hydras, played by hexalite. With a Tron base, for some reason. Game 1 was simple enough, in game 2 I needed my big guys to bypass Mistcutter Hydra's relevant protection.

 Then I faced Archon by Gq1rf7, another ramp deck, this time with an Emeria, the Sky Ruin plan supported by unusual cards like the Commander staple Journeyer's Kite and the very cool Endless Horizons. The deck also featured Story Circle. In game 2, you can see what the combination of Vedalken Shackles and Trading Post can do, once I remember to exploit it.

 Final round, against milegyenanevem and his insidious Satyrs. The first game is a perfect win for the Vedalken, total control of the board via Shackles that leads to a grinding game where Satyrs are neither seen nor heard. Clan Defiance is not enough to get me at that point. Lux Cannon even manages to do its job of killing Swords and stuff, very very slowly. In the second (not featured) and third games, the anti-blue, anti-artifact tech of the Satyr deck takes its toll, as does the best Satyr ever printed, Chameleon Colossus. The fact that my entire ramp points to artifact is also sorely felt, with Curse of the Swine reaching relevant mana too late, while I could have cast powerful stuff via Vedalken acceleration in its place. In the end, this pushed me to take the Curses out to reinforce the Wurmcoil Engine/Steel Hellkite department (since I also needed more stuff that could circumvent protection from blue), while adding Thousand-Year Elixir to get immediate and repeatable activations out of my Engineers, Certarches and Adjudicators.

 Check the complete archive of Show and Tell here.


TRIBAL LAB: THE HYDROPEDIA

 Hydras! So hot right now. Especially considering that the 3 decks played last event brought their total popularity to... 8 appearances. And they had another one the week before, so they doubled their exposition in the space of two weeks. And they still have to win an event, of course. Let's give them a hand by doing a quick but thorough examination of their ranks.

 There are 22 Hydras in the game, all of which are available online. Their color distribution is as follows:

  • Mono-green: 11
  • Mono-red: 5
  • Gruul: 3
  • Selesnya: 1
  • Colorless: 1
  • Penta-colored: 1

 Their intersection with other tribes and types is as follows:

  • Legendary: 3
  • Artifact: 1
  • Avatar: 1
  • Beast: 1
  • Hellion: 1
  • Plant: 2

 The history of their printing is as follows:

  • Core sets: 5 (Alpha: 1, Magic 2010: 1, Magic 2012: 1, Magic 2014: 2)
  • Starter sets: 0
  • Special sets: 1 (Commander: 1)
  • Ancient sets: 0
  • Ice Age block: 1 (Ice Age: 1)
  • Mirage block: 0
  • Tempest block: 1 (Stronghold: 1)
  • Urza block: 1 (Urza's Legacy: 1)
  • Masques block: 1 (Nemesis: 1)
  • Invasion block: 0
  • Odyssey block: 0
  • Onslaught block: 0
  • Mirrodin block: 0
  • Kamigawa block: 0
  • Ravnica block: 3 (Ravnica: 1, Guildpact: 1, Dissension: 1)
  • Time Spiral block: 1 (Time Spiral: 1)
  • Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block: 0
  • Alara block: 3 (Shards of Alara: 1, Conflux: 2)
  • Zendikar block: 1 (Rise of the Eldrazi: 1)
  • Scars of Mirrodin block: 1 (Mirrodin Besieged: 1)
  • Innistrad block: 0
  • Return to Ravnica block: 1 (Dragon's Maze: 1)
  • Theros block: 2 (Theros: 2)

 Important bit of trivia: contrary to common belief, the Hydras with X in their casting cost are just 9 (Apocalypse Hydra, Balduvian HydraFeral Hydra, Mistcutter Hydra, Primordial Hydra, Protean Hydra, Savageborn Hydra, Vastwood Hydra, and the original Rock Hydra). However, the Hydras that somehow put counters on themselves are 18 (only Hydra Omnivore, Khalni Hydra, Progenitus and Sprouting Phytohydra don't do that, and only Khalni Hydra and Progenitus don't have a mechanic whose flavor is about having or growing multiple heads). Also, only the 3 Legendary Hydras (Polukranos, World Eater, Progenitus and Ulasht, the Hate Seed) don't have the word "hydra" in their names.

 And here's all of them, divided into 4 groups from least relevant to most relevant.

THE ROBO-HYDRAS: 1

 Clockwork Hydra: Time Spiral gave us the Hydra take on the always clumsy clockwork mechanic. It makes for a fixed-cost Hydra that can go in every build and comes with a form of limited removal capability. It's very, very clumsy, though. It doesn't even exploit its colorlessness by being a mana dump, because you don't get to actually dump any mana into it other than the initial 5. Forgettable.

THE FIERY HYDRAS: 5

  

 

 Hydras used to be red, originally. These five are in fact the oldest Hydra ever printed, with Rock Hydra being the progenitor from Alpha, the first to use the "pay X, get X/X" mechanic. After Ancient Hydra in Nemesis, Hydras would stop being printed for years, then came back in Ravnica as multi-colored green-based creatures, or more frequently mono-green (the first mono-green Hydra is actually, and weirdly, Sprouting Phytohydra from Dissension).

 So, is there anything good left among the mono-red Hydras? Not much. In general, Hydras deck want lots of green mana these days, so overcommitting to red seems a bad idea (splashing red isn't, of course). But these old souls are also bad, to boot. Rock Hydra's mechanic is still acerbic, and it requires an impossible 3 red mana to grow back each and every counter (with one of those typical, maddening upkeep-only clauses of yonder). The take on the remove counters/regrows counters approach will be redefined entirely by Primordial Hydra, and even that's not the strongest Hydra anymore. Ice Age's Balduvian Hydra is an useless rehash of Rock Hydra with a more complicate wording. Then Stronghold tried to make a Hydra with a fixed cost that can deal damage by hurling its heads at the enemy or something. Too bad Spitting Hydra only has 4 damage available (for 2 mana each), after which it just dies.

 From there the red experiments went even crazier. Urza's Legacy gave us Molten Hydra, a Hydra that starts tiny as a 1/1 for 2, then can grow counters, then shoot them all at once to deal damage (to the opponent's face too, which is always nice). It's arguably the best Hydra of the red lot, but still terribly slow and clunky in its execution. And it's not even useful as an early presence (unless you want to just chump block with it to buy you time), because it can't even be Natural Order-ed to fetch Progenitus. Finally, there's Masques block's insane Ancient Hydra, that is a 5/1 for 5 (?!) with 5 fade counters (because God forbid a 5/1 for 5 can stay on the battlefield longer than 5 turns), and you can discard them, thus shortening the Hydra's life expectancy, to deal 1 damage for each of them. Which means you can cast the Hydra and kill it right away to deal 5 damage for 5. A discounted Fireball! Okay, now you can see why they stopped making mono-red Hydras.

THE PRISMATIC HYDRAS: 5

  

 

 Phytohydra is the only Hydra requiring white mana (except for Progenitus, of course, who requires every color of mana). Along with the other Plant Hydra, Sprouting Phytohydra, also from Ravnica block, it seems to be a homage to Little Shop of Horrors, for whatever reason (and for whatever reason, they're Selesnya-aligned). The built-in Vigor ability is nice, and this one doesn't even have defender, unlike its mono-green companion, but 5 mana for what begins as a 1/1 (therefore fulfilling the role of a defender at least initially) is too much to really feel playable. Plus, the 2 white mana required doesn't make for an easy splash.

 I don't need to say much about Progenitus. He was the scariest creature in the game before the Eldrazi rose, and he still makes for one of the most inescapable endgames. The typical way to drop him on the battlefield is via Natural Order. The Hydra deck isn't the most fitting build for that gameplan (but it's one of only two available in Tribal Apocalypse, where Progenitus can only be played in Hydra or Avatar decks). Nonetheless, Bazaar of Baghdad successfully attempted it two weeks ago. The thing about those X-costed Hydras is that X might well be 1, thus providing green sacrifice fodder. Of course, the NO-Prog plan is also a 200-tix investment at the moment. AJ_Impy exploited the cheaper Cloudpost/Crystal Quarry strategy in the last event, with even better results.

 Apocalypse Hydra and Savageborn Hydra are the Gruul take on the popular X-costed Hydras. I like them both and think that both deserve a place in the average Hydra decks. Here, red contributes two useful things: direct damage (even if Apocalypse Hydra, as big as it can be right away, doesn't grow any further, so the damage it deals also weakens it), and a very scary double strike (this time with some growth capability). Of course, this is the kind of X that calls for ramp decks, something every Hydra deckbuilder will end up considering sooner or later. I, for one, also love to use Doubling Season with them, but it's less effective strategically because it takes non-tribal slots and it's a card that doesn't impact the board right away. But it's also one of the coolest cards in the game, so there's that.

 Ulasht, the Hate Seed: the first Legendary Hydra. Not a bad creature, flexible enough in what it does. For just 4 mana, it can even end up big, even if having a lot of creatures on the battlefield when you hit 4 mana isn't something a Hydra deck can really be expected to do. You can use Ulasht as a midrange presence that doesn't entirely suck, while you keep your X-costed Hydras for later, when they can be really huge. But you'll be probably better off just having another X-costed Hydra in his place, casting it as a 3/3 for 4 or something like that. I like Ulasht as a general in Commander, though. He seems expressly made for multiple casting. Fun fact: he was so clearly a hybrid Hellion/Hydra in the art and mechanic that they retconned it by adding the Hellion type.

THE NATURAL HYDRAS: 11

   

   

  

 This is the really juicy section. I'll get Sprouting Phytohydra out of the way by saying that it's cute as a defensive barrier, and somehow playable (it requires only 1 green mana so it's easy to cast out of a Cloudpost or Tron base), yet feels too slow for what it does. Considering that what it does is NOT attacking. The remaining 10 can be divided into 5 X-costed Hydras and 5 fixed-cost Hydras. Going with the latter first.

 The fixed-cost Hydras: Hydra Omnivore has been very obviously conceived with multiplayer in mind, but as AJ_Impy pointed out once, it's a 8/8 for 6, which is a body/mana ratio none of the X-costed Hydras can provide right away, so you might want to consider it. Even if with the recent new injection of fresh members in the tribe, it seems unlikely to find a place for it. Khalni Hydra is another creature that doesn't work well with its siblings, because what Khalni Hydra really wants is untapping with 4 Elves on the battlefield on turn 4, or something like that. Trying to come up with a plan to make this happen in a Hydra deck seems pointless, because what you'll get at the end of the day is just a Terra Stomper. Phyrexian Hydra is strong, instead, and should be put in the All-Star Hydra list. It's fragile, but it's just 5 mana, it's scary to attack into, and scary not to block. It can wreak a lot of havoc by itself. Polukranos is also a good card, a few copies of him (being legendary, maybe 4 is too much of a risk) ensure an early presence that can end up bigger and also provide some degree of removal later on. It's not essential, but not dismissible either. And of course there's Kalonian Hydra. What can I say about it that it's not already evident by looking at the card? You pay 5 and get to attack with a Force of Nature the following turn, then you give the opponent one turn to deal with it or, very likely, just die. And in a Hydra deck, it makes almost every other Hydra grow bigger and bigger. It's pretty much insane not to play it. The Core sets had one new Hydra every other year since Magic 2010 started printing new cards, and they were always the best Hydras of their era (Protean Hydra first, then Primordial Hydra, then Kalonian), with the following one always being an improvement on the previous one. At this point, I look forward to see what they'll come up with in Magic 2016.

 The X-costed Hydras: These are easy to evaluate, as they're all the basic concept ("pay X, get X/X"), with specific variations. Feral Hydra is the most basic one (and interestingly, it's a Beast too). It only costs 1 green mana beside the X, and you get the chance to grow it bigger over time (your teammate in multiplayer team formats got that chance too, which is a bit bizarre but welcome). Protean Hydra adds a Phantom-like, counter-based damage prevention that doubles as a body increment, provided the Hydra survives the combat. It's not bad, but I'm afraid the other options for X-costed Hydras are much stronger nowadays. For instance, we have Primordial Hydra, that doubles its counters each turn all by itself. That makes for the same level of inevitability as Kalonian Hydra, but even not considering the fact that Kalonian essentially doubles every other Hydra you might have as well, the comparison goes like that: to have a 4/4 that becomes a 8/8 trampler the following turn, you'd need to spend 1 more mana with Primordial Hydra (6 rather than 5). It'll become 8/8 in the upkeep rather than in the combat phase, which seems irrelevant enough, but has the advantage of being able to grow your creature while keeping it safely in defense. All in all, Kalonian is the superior creature, but Primordial is still very strong and a worthy second-in-command in Hydra decks.

 Finally, we get the latest variants from Theros and M14 (the lesser companions to Polukranos and Kalonian Hydra, respectively). Mistcutter Hydra adds a very useful skill set to the basic X-costed Hydra: haste, uncounterability and protection from blue are all great things for any Hydra to have, because you are bound to invest a lot of mana into them, and you want for that investment to impact the battlefield immediately and not end up entirely wasted thanks to a counterspell or, worse, a well-timed Unsummon. In some ways, Mistcutter is one of the strongest Hydras ever printed. Whereas Vastwood Hydra, with his modular-like ability, is just cute. Playable, but definitely inessential.

THE HYDRA TOP TEN

 The All-Star Hydra List goes more or less like that

  1. Progenitus (well, of course)
  2. Kalonian Hydra
  3. Mistcutter Hydra
  4. Primordial Hydra
  5. Polukranos, World Eater
  6. Savageborn Hydra
  7. Feral Hydra
  8. Phyrexian Hydra
  9. Apocalypse Hydra
  10. Hydra Omnivore ex aequo with Ulasht, the Hate Seed (both would rank higher in Commander)

ANNOUNCEMENT TIME!

 Just to remind you of a few things: 

 The Up-and-Coming Prize is now 3 tix! So go find a tribe that never won an event (the Unhallowed list) and try and be the first to break it!

 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 8th 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. Current leader: AJ_Impy with 8 tribes played. Looks like AJ will get the last Hamtastic Award of the 2013.

 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 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 5 events (i.e. they'll have to register a different deck or decks 5 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 us 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!


 WHAT'S NEXT

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

  • 3.49 (Week 154 BE), on December 14: Regular Tribal (just plain old Legacy Tribal Wars)
  • 3.50 (Week 155 BE), on December 21: A Regular Christmas (regular Tribal Wars with special gifts if you make a Xmas Tree )
  • 3.51 (Week 156 BE), on December 28: Pure Tribal (no off-tribe creatures, no Big Shot Tribes nor T9 cards allowed)

Check out the full Tribal Calendar for 2013!

Take the Quick Survey about the ban list and the event rotation!

 See you all in the Tribal room!