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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 08 2012 9:53am
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*** Tribal Apocalypse: Week 61 BE ***
Never Cry Werewolf

 Welcome back to your weekly update on Tribal Apocalypse (follow that link if you want to know what, when, and where Tribal Apocalypse is; I'll just provide the "how" and some of the "why").

 So, as of last week, Stoneforge Mystic is gone (not really, she can still be featured in her very own tribes, Kor and Artificer, but the feeling of riddance/loss is diffuse), and people have started to comment on the restriction, some of them even vehemently protesting against the restriction. Well, "some of them" is actually just apaulogy, but it's only fair to redirect you to the forum posts where he expresses his divergence in opinion, while our official statistician, vantar6697 answers back by citing his new research in the field of "which cards are more winning". I just want to remember everyone that this is enlightened despot Blippy's tournament after all. MTGOTraders trusts him to run it as he sees fit, and he apparently sees fit to make most people happy most of the times (like a one-man Wizards of the Coast). And I still hear the echoes of celebrations for Stoneforge's fall from grace throughout all the Tribal Apocalypse realm, with banquets and dances and fireworks and Stoneforge effigies being burned by cheering crowds. Sorry, apa. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or one.

 Anyway, since this was the first event of a new month, and therefore an Endangered Week (in which both Kor and Artificer can't partake), Stoneforge Mystic's absence wasn't so relevant, wasn't it? I mean, not that there were tribes with, say, all unblockable members who would have taken advantage from the Mystic's equipment tutoring, right?

  • Event Number: 9 (2012), 61 (all-time)
  • Date: March 3
  • Attendance: 22
  • Rounds: 4
  • Special Rules: Endangered Week (only tribes with 50 members or less)
  • Top 4: raf.azevedo (Mutant, undefeated); Nagarjuna (Werewolf, 1 loss); gbagyt (Soltari, 1 loss); apaulogy (Werewolf, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: none
  • Tribes: Advisor, Assassin (x2), Avatar, Centaur, Demon, Hag, Hound, Hydra, Mutant, Mystic, Ooze, Phoenix, Rebel, Salamander, Soltari (x2), Werewolf (x3), Wolverine, Zubera
  • Virgin Tribes: Advisor by RexDart (highest-ranked); Hag by Coolcat1678; Salamander by vantar6697

 Yeah, gbagyt's Soltari deck (along with mihahitlor's one, which had a token-making/Honor of the Pure subtheme in place of the blades) here does not have its best showing despite a strong new entry like Predator Ooze (I decided to develop my four favorite Endangered decks, Avatar, Demon, Sphinx and Ooze, by cycling through them, so Oozes will come back in July. Hope the hot climate will do better for them).

 

 Facing a bunch of blade-carrying, Mirror Entity-pumped shadow creatures at an early turn is good game for any deck that can't find a fast and reliable answer to the sheer beating. To the point I almost wonder if Soltari (and thei dark cousin Dauthi, but especially Soltari) really belong to Endangered events. Too early to tell, probably, since we didn't see a lot of them this past year (according to the Tribe Popularity Survey, they had been used only one other time since in the last 50 events). But I can see them join Ally, Artificer, Eldrazi, Kor, Myr, and Rat among the "Not-So-Much-Endangered" Endangered tribes. And look, a blade deck with Steelshaper's Gift! I can hear apaulogy's "ha-ha!" right now. But I can guess AJ_Impy would say that with Stoneforge Mystic in it, this deck would have been even more problematic, so it's a case of limiting the damage. (Ok, I'll stop making you say stuff, guys. You can just write your comments in the proper section). I, for one, agree with apa that we might see a new proliferation of blade decks using alternative tutors now, just like what happened in Modern after Stoneforge was banned (the very reason Steelshaper's Gift's status changed from obscure, specialized tutor sold in bulk to hot uncommon).

 But we skipped a position, and it's time to congratulate raf.azevedo for his third victory in a Tribal Apocalypse event (a heavy one, with the only 4-0 score of the event), which puts him at the 4th place in the Hall of Fame All-time Ranking. Good job, man! And despite what people would think these days, his past top placements weren't achieved with a Living End deck, but with Dragons and Elves. This one was, though, and we already saw the infinite variations of tribes fitting the Living End shell (during Endangered Week the choice is usually Mutant); for instance, you can see one here from last month's 4th placement. Now that finally the Living End shenanigan attained top spot, can we hope it will be put at rest for a while? Because abusing a tech is all but the best way to have it banned in the long run.

 And now, do you hear that howl? That chilling, bellowing battlecry? That's right, the moment I was telling a fellow player that Werewolves have been popular on Tribal Apocalypse since Innistrad (16 appearances, making them one of the Top 16 most popular tribes), but they never did much so far, here's two Werewolf decks in the Top 4 (and the third one, by romellos, ending 7th place with a score of 3-1 as well)! So, what changed, all of a sudden? The approach to the tribe did:

 

 In Nagarjuna's case the new Werewolf deal is less blatant, but still there: this is a deck that both capitalizes on the undeniable attack power of the wolfmen, yet backs it up in the most efficient ways. First, we have the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows engine, which almost sounds legit in a Gruul deck. Then a full set of Lightning Bolts, with only a limited presence of the "Werewolf spells", Moonmist and Full Moon's Rise. And on top of that, the Werewolves do what the Werewolves do: super-early threats (Reckless Waif, Gatstaf Shepherd), offensive enhancement (Mayor of Avabruck, Instigator Gang), or both (Kruin Outlaw). Daybreak Ranger adds more control elements, while  Immerwolf is the recent addition that helps stabilize the deck and makes it more reliable, which was its main issue so far due to the transformation mechanic. All in all, this reminds me of the structure of a very famous and successful Tribal aggro deck: Cat. Looking forward to see a Cats vs. Dogs showdown one of these weeks. Cat lovers, take on the challenge, don't let the barking overthrow you!

 

 And here is where the Werewolves truly evolve, at least deckbuilding-wise. In apaulogy's take they are just Plan B, a mere shell for a  Seismic Assault/Life from the Loam combo deck. So, why doing it with them? Well, why not? They are the right colors, and as seen above, they provide a very powerful alternative wincon, here particularly exploiting the new and trendy Huntmaster of the Fells and his versatility. Where the combo should fail, the beating will do. And we also have the always efficient Starstorm as a sweeper that plays into the Loam strategy, and the Punishing/Grove combo (again! You people really want to see it banned, don't you?) which takes advantage from the dredge environment as well. It's worth noting that, while Nagarjuna's deck beated gbagyt's 3rd place Soltari and lost to raf.azevedo's 1st place Mutants in the last round, apaulogy had the privilege to prevail against the fellow Werewolves of romellos, and the only deck that was capable of stopping his seismic wolves was this one, a.k.a. the Moral Winner of the week: 

 

 RexDart brought to the field a tribe that has been strangely ignored by the Tribal Apocalypse players (at least since Event 11 of the Blippian Era): Advisors. They are a very varied tribe with several strong members, like the ones from Portal Three Kingdoms (more on that below): Imperial Recruiter and Loyal Retainers, which we're lucky to have both online for a relatively cheap price (they are, respectively, a 200$ card and a 100$ card in the paper world, due to the extreme rarity of the Portal Three Kingdoms boosters). Of course, Advisor isn't a tribe where you immediately know what to build around them, or even which tribal members you should include, and this makes them all the more amazing to me. In RexDart's deck, the plan is like that: Civilized Scholar, Faithless Looting, and the classic Intuition will discard big legendary guys (including an old glory like Akroma, Angel of Wrath, too often neglected these days but still very effective); then, the Retainers and a singleton Unburial Rites will bring them back from the graveyard. I have to say I notice a certain unbalance between the discard engines and the reanimation spells (the ratio is 10 to 5, not counting Jin-Gitaxias's own discard-prone ability), and it would look like Sun Titan could do good here by recurring the Retainers. But the 5th place Rex achieved with this build is enough to make me shut up. To round the Advisor count we find the master hoser Gaddock Teeg, the defensive Masako the Humorless, and also Mayor of Avabruck, making this the third straight deck to employ the lycanthropic politician's services. He's ready to run for a higher seat.

 As already noted, there were three decks competing for the Virgin Prize this week (it looks like we will burn very fast through the remaining 77 unplayed tribes, considering that 30 of them have only 1 or 2 members, so don't even qualify as a non-Shapeshifter tribal deck, which needs more than the half of the deck made of true tribal members). None of them picked up one of the suggestions from me or Eibon (Ogres, Thrulls and Cephalids are still waiting for you!). Indeed, one of the other two besides Advisors was this deck by Coolcat1678:

Ugly Old Ladies
by Coolcat1678
Creatures
4 Nip Gwyllion
4 Harvest Gwyllion
4 Desecrator Hag
2 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
2 Stalker Hag
4 Skeletal Changeling
4 Nightsky Mimic
4 Restless Apparition
28 cards

Other Spells
4 Unmake
4 Edge of the Divinity
8 cards
 
Lands
24 Swamp
24 cards

 
Nip Gwyllion

 

 Hag are a peasant tribe, meaning a tribe with no rare members. So you can't really expect to do much with them, especially because they are also very few: Coolcat uses almost all of the ones available online, only letting out Hag Hedge-Mage. There are two Hags not currently online, but they are off-colored and/or wouldn't do any good in this deck (or any other deck):

 

"Forestwalk is too broken, we can't let the players mess around with that kind of power for a cheap cost!"

 The attempt here is to exploit the Orzhov hybrid nature of most of the Hags by having them fuel Nightsky Mimic and carry Edge of the Divinity (which can result in a turn-2 4/4 lifelink), but the build is aggressively budget-friendly and it doesn't feature the more expensive Deathbringer Liege, that could have provided a fighting chance to this kind of strategy.

 A similar problem was faced by vantar6697 with the Salamanders:

Fire Lizards
by vantar6697
Creatures
4 Cinder Crawler
4 Pyric Salamander
4 Scalding Salamander
4 Flowstone Salamander
4 Fire-Belly Changeling
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Quietus Spike
3 Caged Sun
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Chain Reaction
2 Fireball
1 Koth of the Hammer
1 Bonehoard
17 cards
 
Lands
23 Mountain
23 cards

 
Pyric Salamander

 

 Again, what we deal with here is a peasant tribe with just a handful of members: the four featured here and two blue ones, the abysmal Wormfang Newt and the recently added vanilla blocker, Amphin Cutthroat. All the red ones have quite ridiculous abilities, and it's very hard to make something out of them. Vantar tried with some mana multipliers (Caged Sun, Koth of the Hammer), aiming towards an explosive Pyric Salamander alpha attack. But apparently it didn't work out too well.

 While I am at it, I want to mention a semi-Virgin tribe too, Wolverine, here at its second outing in Tribal Apocalypse:

 

 We see again the strange, semi-random, singleton style RJF67 used for his Elk deck last week as well. I don't know what to make of it, but I find it sincerely fascinating: it's a deck that's able to surprise you at each draw, and this is definitely something, at least as far as fun is concerned.

 And now, a very special, very timely edition of...

THE MISSING ONES

 In the week the first Advisor deck ever featured almost made Top 4, let's take a look at the online state of the counseling tribe. With a 34% of missing members, Advisor is one of the Top 8 most crippled tribes on MTGO, and the ones with the greater absolute number of absences: 11 members out of 32. The first, negligible one of them is from Alliances:

Why is he smiling? He's planning war. And, judging from his ability, he's not even that good at it

 The other 10, like it often happens in these cases, are from, wait for it, the one and only Portal Three Kingdoms, the rarest and weirdest of all the non-Unsets (but also, you'll have to admit, the most flavorful one):

   

   

 

Stupid, stupid Portal wording that makes most of these cards considerably lamer!

 Now, the Chinese names on these cards are surely bizarre, mostly because they came from the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, making this the most gigantic case of conflicting setting since when Magic cards had flavor texts from Poe or Coleridge. And also because it's really hard to picture a beginner player, for whom the whole Portal block was supposedly designed, having a better time navigating the complex set of rules through a bunch of Chinese names (which were still baffling for the Chinese players they were trying to woo, by the way: it was like if, for an Italian like me, Magic suddenly came up with an expansion set during the Risorgimento, with cards like "Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Hero of Two Worlds" and "Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour"). Anyway, we can observe the same mechanics from Loyal Retainers and Imperial Recruiter are there: either an ability activated at sorcery speed in the precombat main phase (and despite what the original wording seemingly says, with summoning sickness fully involved), or an ETB effect. Some of them are mostly irrelevant, but I can see other being considered for a deck (Council of Advisors and Lu Su are draw effects, after all). An amazing 7 out of 10 are also legendary, which could make them relevant for Commander (Diaochan is a repeatable removal, for instance, especially good if protected with shroud/hexproof).

 All right, that's all for today. I'll just remind everyone to choose a partner for the Springtime Two-Headed Giant Special on March 24. Remember: the team has to play two different tribes, with Unified Deck Construction rules (I'd be curious to see if Elves could build two combo decks with only 4 copies of each card within the whole team. Then again, I know they could, so it's probably better not having to stare the horror in its mana-producing eyes).