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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Nov 07 2011 12:22pm
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*** Tribal Apocalypse: Week 43 BE ***
Trick or trick?

 So, last time I gave you a Halloween parade, showing the 24 tribes allowed for the special Tribal Apocalypse event due for Saturday, October 29. Such tribes were the following ones: Assassin, Bat, Demon, Devil, Faerie (black only, multicolor allowed), Gargoyle, Hag, Homunculus, Horror, Imp, Nightmare, Nightstalker, Pirate, Rat (non-Kamigawa only), Thrull, Scarecrow, Shade, Skeleton, Specter, Spirit, Vampire, Werewolf, Wraith, and Zombie.

 However, the tribes actually featured in the tournament ended up being just 6: Demon (1 player), Gargoyle (1 player), Horror (3 players), Spirit (4 players), Vampire (5 players), and Zombie (7 players). It looks like a situation where everyone came to a party wearing the same costume, eh? (Yeah, that costume being "Spike", but whatever). It also looks like it all boiled down to a showdown between Vampires and Zombies, but actually the Zombie decks, despite amounting to one full third of the participants, performed very very badly: the first Zombie deck we find in the ranking is ScionOfJustice's at the 7th place; all the other Zombies went 2-2 or worse. In the meantime, Vampires managed to end 1st place, so apparently True Blood beat The Walking Dead here. Maybe we need to find new, more effective ways to build such a classic, glorious tribe as Zombie (more on that later), which currently languishes at the 44th place in our tribal Hall of Fame.

 But it was a fun event, anyway. We had some last minute surprises, party-style. Every player received a Screeching Bat (and the top ranked player a playset of Headless Horseman too), courtesy of our fearless showrunner, BlippyTheSlug himself. But that was actually an "interactive gift": the first player who put the Bat(girl) in his or her deck, and managed to cast it during a game, would have received a special prize of 1 tix. The same went for the first player casting All Hallow's Eve during such a thematically linked event. These prizes went, respectively, to Felorin and acgabs (whom apparently was the only one to actually dare to use multiple All Hallow's Eves in his deck). Both of them were playing Zombie decks, wich is probably to say that most of the Zombie decks we saw were built in a non-cutthroat kind of way. Gentle zombies, go figure.

 Moving on to the Top 4 decks themselves, we find another NemesisParadigm's creation at the first place, as the only undefeated deck of the night:


 Vampire combo deck here, featuring that sweet interaction between Viscera Seer, Bloodghast and Kalastria Highborn which grew up to be an instant classic during the last Standard year. Goblin Bombardment clearly emphasizes the whole thing, while Undiscovered Paradise is Bloodghast's best friend. The new Innistrad vamps also come to lend a hand to the Zendikar ones, especially in the form of the Kalastria wannabe, Falkenrath Noble. Different lineage (and, you know, plane of existence), similar effect. The deck also features a Buried Alive package centered on Extractor Demon, to mill the opponent's deck as a secondary win condition. Here's what NemesisParadigm himself has to say about his deckbuilding choices: "I built 3 decks for this event, this Vampire Bombardment deck, a Jund Zombie deck that made use of Chameleon Colossus and Glissa, and a Saint Traft/Tallowisp/Sovereigns of Lost Alara Spirit deck. The last two were heavily anti-black with a full set of Chameleon Colossi, and the Vampire deck is just very solid. In the end I chose the Vampire deck because I didn't want to go for the obvious route of using anti-black cards in what amounts to be a black deck theme week. Also I really hated the zombie Gempalm Polluter mirror match."

 2nd place holder ended up being, well, me(!), with this fearful Demon deck:


 Heartless Summoning and Demons immediately looked like a love affair to me (flavor-wise too), and Innistrad delivered to us a strong couple of new hell-dwellers, with Reaper from the Abyss being especially sweet in a tribal context. The only question was: how to make sure I will have a Heartless Summoning on the battlefield by turn 4 at worst? The solution came with the always useful transmute mechanic: Shred Memory is my fully legal Demonic Tutor here, being able to "summon the summoning", or some other aptly-chosen 2cc cards like Terminate, Black Sun's Zenith, and (last but not least, given the presence of Cabal Coffers) Consume Spirit. Plus the basic graveyard-hating effect of Shred Memory isn't half bad, especially within a black-heavy meta. All the featured demons shined at some point, either Rune-Scarred Demon creating an unstoppable fetching loop with  Recurring Nightmare, or Pestilence Demon going for the ultimate sweeping kill. Yet the MVP here was definitely good ol' Ob Nixilis, since he didn't care about the -1/-1 from the Summoning, nor about being killed at all, once he scored his landfalling loss of life and just had to wait for another iteration of himself to be drawn, fetched, or recurred. I don't think he actually got to land any combat damage at all during the games. The only match I lost, that was mainly because of me failing my big bad friends with some terrible playing mistakes, while I didn't lost a single game in the other 3 rounds, so I can say I'm very happy with this build (I'll now have to buy an Undiscovered Paradise as a thank-you gift to Ob). And this was an Endangered tribe, mind you.

 The first non-black-based deck was this Spirit deck by DirtyDuck, ended 3rd:


 The Spirits had been allowed access to the event precisely to shake up the metagame a little, and this deck made some meta-calls indeed, like Oversoul of Dusk, Radiant Essence and, to some extent, Guardian of the Guildpact, but it was mainly a solid Sovereigns of Lost Alara/Eldrazi Conscription passive combo deck, with almost all the featured Spirits being strong blade carriers too.

 To complete the list of the Top 4 decks, here's Nagarjuna's Horror deck, inspired by a Pod list of my own, no less!


 In fact, I discussed the concept of a similar deck on the first article of The Accidental Player series (by the way, the new installment will be out soon, have no fear). So thanks to Nagarjuna for having actually tried out my idea, and kudos to him for some great variant choices, like Shambling Swarm, which I had totally missed and it's brilliant in this build.  

 Such a theme-based night was also the right occasion to reflect on a topic some players feel very strongly: when a tribal deck is really tribal? Some players seem to think that a "true" tribal deck should be a flavorful construction, where you can see the featured tribe taking the field and battling out against an enemy tribe. This is all nice and good, and nobody likes flavorful choices more than me, but I believe there's an inherent misunderstanding here.

 Let's start with the fact that this view reflects a linear deckbuilding only: you like Zombies, so you take a zombie, then another zombie that interacts well with the first one, and so on. It's a top-down design, to borrow a terminology that Innistrad recently popularized. But that's not the only type of possible design, nor the absolutely best one. It's just one approach. Take the Pod tribal deck, for instance. In that article, I was discussing Birthing Pod builds within different formats. You can build Birthing Pod decks in Standard, Modern, Legacy, Classic, or Legacy Tribal Wars formats. And when it comes to Legacy Tribal Wars, you have to work within the boundaries of the format, choosing the right tribe, then the right members of that tribe, while at the same time ensuring the portability of the concept through the use of what made the concept worthy to begin with (say, for instance, Sheoldred, Whispering One as the top of the chain in BG Pod builds). This is a deckbuilding challenge, guys, not a way to "cheat" on the format.

 But I also want to oppose, from a flavor point of view, the idea that an (allegedly) "pure" tribal deck is a deck where you exclusively use what your tribe gives you as the deck's creatures. That is supposed to be "flavorful", while a deck mixing Horrors and Birds of Paradise is clearly not. Well, my dear readers, to me the hole in this reasoning comes from looking at the creature base only when considering what's flavorful and what's not. (We're clearly in a territory where the actual "effectiveness" of a deck isn't the issue, but what bothers me the most is that I sometimes hear these type of complainants from players who actually run cutthroat decks which just happen to not use any non-tribal creature). The flavor of a deck, if that's what we aim to, should be conveyed by all the cards of the deck, not just the creatures. Is it flavourful for, say, Vampires to cause a terrain to collapse on itself? Or to convince their enemies to become peaceful farmers? Or to enlist Gerrard's help? And to reverse the questioning, can't be flavorful for, say, white Spirits to fight alongside noble human knights or mystical birds? Or for black Demons to bring ranks of undead imps and black magic practitioners to battle alongside themselves? Or, you know, for plant Walls to be used as barriers and mana sources by powerful Eldrazi? You tell me.

 Finally, since the Zombie performances were so disappointing tonight, let's just review some more Zombie deck ideas.


 This is a Haakon deck, exploiting his well-known interaction with Nameless Inversion, meaning infinite "2: target creature gets +3/-3 until end of turn" activations. The deck doesn't need Haakon to perform, but you really want to have him in the graveyard and not in your hand, so Buried Alive, Overeager Apprentice and Undead Gladiator are all welcome here. Fleshbag Marauder and Skinrender are your removals,  Living Death is your mass removal, backed up by the always strong Withered Wretch, while Stillmoon Cavalier (being a knight) and Vengeful Pharaoh make for other good Buried Alive targets. But it's all highly customizable. I didn't even bother to include a classic Zombie land like Unholy Grotto.


 This build takes the reanimation concept a step farther, relying on the fact that Putrid Imp is, indeed, a zombie. This allows for a turn-2 exhumed Helldozer or, if you're very lucky, Thraximundar. The main engine, though, is still the classic Buried Alive into Living Death. Both Undead Gladiator and Twisted Abomination put themselves into the graveyard while giving you card advantage. This way a Living Death is never going to be wasted.

 Let's try to add green to the Zombie mix, now:


 I especially love both Glissa, the Traitor and Vulturous Zombie and I think they work well together. Glissa is given some toys to play with, like the capsules and the stones, while it's especially fun to see the Vulturous grow while Mesmeric Orb's milling effect does its trick, with Recurring Nightmare supposedly there to salvage things from your graveyard. As you can see, a thing all these Zombie decks have in common is to avoid the zombie lords almost entirely, since when they run rampant within the build, they might turn your Zombie deck into a midrange snoozefest.

 Well, that's all folks, see you next time for an Endangered Week reportage!


What happened to doing this by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 14:38
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What happened to doing this as complimentary articles? :/

Oh my, I was under the by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 16:05
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Oh my, I was under the impression that we were talking about doing TWO different articles/series (in order to have more talking about the Tribal format, and more articles linked from the Hall of Fame page), not one article written together. I want to keep doing these kind of chronicles, with just occasional comments, covering what the events were about and who ended Top 4.
Hope this is fine with everyone, the original reboot of these articles was KaraZolEl's idea, I just expanded on that after I asked Kara for permission, then started an ongoing series (this is the 4th installment indeed).

There are a lot of things I by Lord Erman at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 15:34
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There are a lot of things I can say but I won't; at least not while everyone is watching. I just want to remind everyone (politely) that this player run event is a tournament. It's not a beauty pageant. Players don't win or lose depending on the Johnny-ness level of their decks or how flavorful they are, but they do win by:

a) Building a good and powerful deck.
b) Playing it well.

Also if you only cover the top four decks from the event (which I don't understand as you had lots of other decks posted on the forums (but then again, this is your article, so what do I know)), then you should have at least mentioned Cattavorus' Horror deck as he finished the event at 4th spot. Nagarjuna's deck, which you posted here, finished the event at the 16th place according to the tournament document.

I respect you Kumagoro (I truly do), you're a good pal and a good player but this report was... uhm... well, nevermind.


I'm very sorry, I got by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 16:31
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I'm very sorry, I got Cattavorus and Nagarjuna's decks confused, I was convinced Naga ended 4th place. I will make amend in the next installment for sure, publishing the right decklist. My apologies to Cattavorus.

And yes, my goal is to publish the Top 4 decks every time. But in previous installments I have published other decklists too, including Endangered Prize lists. I don't feel like publishing all the 3-1 decklists (which are usually a lot; besides, they are still linked from here since I link the forum where they are published after all). If there will be a high request for that, I'll do it.

Also, I don't get your "beauty pageant" comment. I think there's a misunderstanding here. Did I say that flavor decks are better or worse than non-flavor decks? (And there's no a single Johnny mention in the whole article).
I was just expressing (badly, I guess) my take on what does or doesn't make a deck flavorful, that's all. It has nothing to do with winning or losing. I said so clearly when I wrote that "the actual effectiveness of a deck isn't the issue" here. That whole aside was just the result of some (totally friendly) private conversations I had about building flavorwise with some players at the event.
I've the feeling you read something else into it, like I was hinting at something or someone, but I can't really tell what, and trust me, I wasn't being allusive or anything.
So please, if this article seems bad to you, just say it, but also tell me why (except for having published the wrong 4th place deck). You know I look up to you greatly as a writer, deckbuilder and player, so just say what you think it was so bad and I'll try to do better next time.

I wouldn't take LE's comments by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 17:37
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I wouldn't take LE's comments too much to heart as I am sure he didn't mean them to be insulting.

But he is right. Flavor has absolutely NO meaning in the PRE. Not when people treat it like high level tourneys and bring $ to the games. It is nice to build a deck that people find to be fun but that does not win any games or points towards awards etc.

In fact there may be no purpose other than leeching tickets off of MTGOtraders to ever play those tourneys.

That seems a bit harsh. Just by ArchGenius at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 20:08
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That seems a bit harsh. Just because the tournament has become more competitive than you like it to be doesn't mean that players aren't having fun at the tournament.

Harsh indeed. My sentiments by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 21:46
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Harsh indeed. My sentiments exactly. And while what you say is partly True, (even if the innuendo isn't) "fun" is ill defined at best. I find the tournament just fine competition wise.

I do think it is fun for those who are winning. Winning is usually a kind of euphoric experience which translate to fun I think. It just isn't fun for the person who comes in casually expecting a carefree tourney and finding grinders and super aggro decks exploiting the many huge holes in the format created by the lack of a sideboard.

I mean obviously given 15,000 or so cards available (minus the 9 and a few handfuls of other cards) broken decks can be shoehorned. It is a lot easier if you have a great mana base (I am getting there with that by the way) and it helps if you have $ cards to throw in the gaps to ensure the extra brokenness needed. But that isn't a guarantee of course. 2x Obliterator didn't stop me from losing miserably (though in close game 3s). And I am guilty of doing the same thing. (Sphinges + Living Death vs budget Samurai a few weeks ago. And that wasn't the first time either.

No matter what I feel about my own decks/performance (abysmal/poor) there are some creative builders and some great players who attend, yourself included. So what I said was somewhat hyperbolic if in essence true as an observation, harsh though it might be; And more about the feeling of it than the facts of it.

The feelings engendered by seeing the same pricy decks win each week are pretty much what I said.

We play this tournament for by ArchGenius at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 21:09
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We play this tournament for many reasons. Some of us like to play to win. Some of us like to play something new and unique each week. Some of us like to play in a casual tournament, whatever that is. Personally I like to go against the crowd and champion unique tribes. However I don't think that a single good performance of an underused tribe really proves much other than that I can afford to make a weaker tribe stronger with money cards. Now helping to get two underused tribes into the top 10 and getting Walls to surpass Goblins, THAT is something that makes me smile. I don't criticize others for what they play, but I can understand why people criticize my decks. I've started out playing as the Mets and ended up becoming the Yankees.

The Mets have been the by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/07/2011 - 21:49
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The Mets have been the Yankees too at times. One reason (amongst many) I don't bother with professional sports much :) And I agree your accomplishments with walls/plants certainly are smile worthy for the sheer feat of doing it. Glad to see the format not dominated by Hellementals or Goblins (even budget Goblins).

games? by BOBBAKAKE at Tue, 11/08/2011 - 00:18
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games are meant to be fun,and if ur not having fun, you should not play the game. I had a childhood friend that would take the football home when things didn't go his way. just sayin.

Wow, I still can't get how by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 11/08/2011 - 03:49
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Wow, I still can't get how this simple chronicle, plus what (in my mind) was a harmless comment about "flavor should be about sorceries and instants too", prompted such a debate.

I get most of what Paul is saying, but I still think Tribal Apocalypse cares about flavor/casual too. (And yeah, I've pushed and will keep pushing for this aspect to be represented).

The Endangered Prize is a 1-tix prize awarded every week to the smallest tribe. It's not about playing or winning, it's just abot deckbuilding. Granted, you can build a small tribe which is also cutthroat (it has been done), but most of the times the award goes to tribes like Noggle, Jellyfish, Aurochs, Pegasus.

vantar6697, which I consider as much a legend and an influential player within the event as Nemesis, won the Endangered Prize 5 times, and keeps coming back every single week with non-cutthroat decks featuring unusual tribes every Spike would consider unplayable. Maybe we should ask him, and the many other players sharing this view, if they're having fun. Maybe I'm wrong here, and they don't, but they have been coming back for months, so I assume they do.

We have given 1 tix to the player putting (and casting) either Screeching Bat or All Hallow's Eve in their deck for Halloween. That's just flavor. We will give 1 tix to the player entering the Christmas event with a full snow deck. Also flavor. And there will be more along the line. That's also a reason I feel entitled to talk about flavor in a Tribal Apocalypse event, even if what triggered the comment was actually a personal discussion with 2 different flavor enthusiasts.

Also consider this: Endangered Prize is 1 tix. Ending 3-1 is about 2 tix (ending 2-1 back when we had mostly 3-turn events was even less, I ended 3rd place and got 1.68 tix once). Ending 4-0 is a little more, but I'm not sure it ever reached the value of a single booster. There're usually two players ending 4-0, and they get on average half the 40% of the prize pool, which is 1 tix per registered player, usually 20 tix-1 tix for the Endangered Prize. That means (19*40%)/2=3.8.
So, it's not about the tix.

The satisfaction of winning, yeah, that's a very real thing. For Johnnies and Timmies and everyone too. I would think ending 3-1 is enough of a "win" for most of the players, since you're awarded the same way regardless of your final ranking position, meaning you are being recognized as a "winner" in the final assessment of the tournament (I will start to list everyone getting that in my future chronicles). Every week, about one third of the participants gets that.
Facts about Tribal Apocalypse: we had 24 different 1st place players over 44 events in the Blippy Era (which is this whole past year since January). And I see 62 different players listed in the Hall of Fame, meaning that 62 different players ended Top 4 at least once during these 44 weeks. I don't know how many players registered, but I'm sure many more players ended 3-1 without getting a Top 4 ranking. I would say the odds of getting a "win" feeling are high in Tribal Apocalypse.

I'm also sure Nemesis being our current Michael Phelps is getting tiresome for some players. Nemesis ended 1st place 7 times, including 4 times in the last 2 months, and 2 times in a row now in the last 2 events. And it's not only about Walldrazi (or Plantdrazi, which, I'm sure, will be banned for Endangered events now), he won with Foundry in the past (then it got banned), and he won with Vampires 2 weeks ago. You ban Walldrazi, he will just brew something else, and I'm sure he will win again, because he's just that good. What we want to do, ban him for being too good? :)

Fun fact. I am not even on by Paul Leicht at Tue, 11/08/2011 - 15:54
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Fun fact. I am not even on the HOF listing :D