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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Feb 23 2012 1:22pm
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*** Tribal Apocalypse: Weeks 58-59 BE ***
Girl Power

 Welcome back to the world of Tribal Apocalypse, the PRE for people that like to complain about the weather and the government, and find shady connections between them. Two weeks ago I was going to start this article with my thoughts (again!) about what's fair, what's casual, what's tribal, and whatnot. But now a second event went by, I'm in another mood entirely, so let's just have fun with all the stuff that tribal wars are made of. But first...

ANNOUNCEMENT TIME!

 I'm proud to call attention to the new features of the Complete Creature Types Reference Table, now with a full list of all the creature cards we're missing online (well, almost: I still have to process the Human side of things: that stupid race is huge!). I did it specifically to find out once and for all if the numbers in the table were correct, but it's been an interesting research in its own right. For instance, I realized that a lot of beloved nostalgia cards from Alpha aren't online yet. These twelve adorkable creatures included:

   

   

   

How can you even call it "Magic" with no Gray Ogre in it?!

 And speaking of Walls (as the ones up here aren't even that bad, except for being somewhat hard to explain why ice belongs to green), we also miss tons of those from the Legends era, when apparently the designers thought was cool to have walls made of random dictionary words (that's what you had to endure in order to do a 300-card stand-alone expansion in 1994).

  

  

  

Man, Wall of Caltrops has one of the clumsiest wordings ever, for an effect that's almost entirely irrelevant

 The potential for nostalgic hilarity (and discovery, but mostly nostalgic hilarity) is so high that I decided to devote a section about the Missing Ones in every installment. Prepare to read the words "Portal Three Kingdoms" quite frequently in the near future. But for now, let's go back to these past two weeks of Tribal Apocalypse glory.

 WEEK 58: FOR HER EYES ONLY

 

I like her because she's (somehow) Latina, and minorities deserve respect. No other reasons

  • Event Number: 6 (2012), 58 (all-time)
  • Date: February 11
  • Attendance: 26
  • Rounds: 4
  • Special Rules: none
  • Top 4: mayure (Elf, undefeated); _Kumagoro_ (Spirit, undefeated); NemesisParadigm (Druid, 1 loss); raf.azevedo (Zombie, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: Endangered Prize to Nagarjuna (Turtle)
  • Tribes: Beast, Druid, Eldrazi, Elemental, Elf (x4), Goblin, Horror, Hound, Human (x3), Kithkin, Kor, Merfolk, Monk, Pirate, Soldier, Spirit (x2), Thopter, Turtle, Wizard, Zombie
  • Virgin Tribe: Turtle by Nagarjuna

 First things first: congrats to mayure for his first TribAp victory, which comes just two weeks after a 2nd place, making him one of the up-and-coming players of 2012. Unfortunately, both these placements have been accomplished with a traditional Elfball deck, and my self-imposed rule for this year is: no more showcase for classic Elves and Goblins on these articles (you can still look at the list, along with all the others, here). Sorry, mate.

 This leads us directly to to the 2nd place deck, also undefeated, which, oh look, it happens to be mine! Did I end 2nd and undefeated twice in a row?! What's happening to me? (Spoiler: the following week I managed to do nothing instead; that's reassuring).

 

 As I had already mentioned, I recently acquired a playset of Liliana of the Veil and immediately tried to fit her into every deck I built since. Some of these attempts didn't really work, but these Golgari Spirits proved to be her favored environment so far. I'm convinced she hasn't been played entirely right since she debuted last fall. Mostly we've seen her in Standard or Modern variants of Solar Flare, but even there she was merely used as an additional instrument for the deck's predefined strategy (to the point of not even being necessary, and in fact disappearing altogether from the most recent versions). But Liliana isn't an instrument: she's a centerpiece. She does three important things, and she does them fast and in this exact order: she often kills the first creature the opponent will drop (something that's especially relevant in Tribal); she enables your graveyard shenanigans; and while doing that, she disrupts the opponent hand. And then, she starts over (because let's face it, she'll never reach the ultimate, it's almost entirely counterproductive to waste 4 turns of edict effects, not to mention kill her, in order to let the opponent choose what to sacrifice).

 It's not exactly a case of "build around me", as much as a case of clearly knowing what she will bring to the deck, and build accordingly. The strength of this deck, indeed, which has quickly become one of my favorites, relies on not needing Liliana to win, nor the reanimation engine I naturally put in there in the form of Recurring Nightmare (another of my all-time passions), complete with a Great Whale to occasionally combo out. But out of the 8 games I won in the tournament, no more than 2 or 3 actually required for me to "do the Whale thing", starting to recur Kokusho all the way through. If anything, the dragon has often been the MVP even just as a hardcasted creature: with a full playset of them and enough time bought by Liliana and the early roadblocks, I could swing for 5 with him, then cast another copy and generate a sudden 20-point life unbalance between me and my opponent. And speaking of the roadblocks, there's high quality stuff from the Spirit world there. In order to allow Liliana to do her stuff more than once, "a marriage in green" seemed the right call, since green is able to give her the protection on the field that blue would lack. Carven Caryatid is especially brilliant at that (and good with Recurring Nightmare too; she should definitely see more play), while Phantom Centaur is outright powerful: I actually won the match against raf.azevedo's Zombie deck (see below) just in virtue of the (sometimes recursive) centaur being too hard to deal with for a black creature-based deck. In another good and close match, I've beaten fliebana despite the fact that he showed and told a big Eldrazi on turn 3 in two different games (and in at least one occasion, Liliana came and went all femme fatale on the monstrosity from outer space, which therefore became lovesick and killed itself). Good times. I might try Strangleroot Geist over Bloodghast in the future: the vampire spirit is nice, and I can trust him to come back at any time to fuel a recurring session in the late game; however, this deck isn't so interested in bury alive three of them to apply pressure to the opponent early on, as much as to be able to block consistently with creatures that at some other time will be asked to startup a Recurring Nightmare without giving up the board position, since, as I said, one Recurring shot alone doesn't necessarily mean I'm ending the game right there.

 But I've talked about this deck too much already, so let's change the subject and see what NemesisParadigm was up to this week:

 

 This is one of the current works in progress by Nemesis, and I believe it was first seen back at the Invitational, when it was the deck he hastily concocted for the final round. It's based around Seismic Assault, with the land-tutoring/land-recovering ability of the Druids as a way to enhance the classic Life from the Loam engine. Green Sun's Zenith allows for a couple of complements, namely Nantuko Cultivator to trade all those lands in hand with a way to dig for a missing Assault or some other solution, and Squirrel Wrangler to spawn a little army, while Nantuko Vigilante is the druidic silver bullet of choice against artifact and enchantment threats. The deck also includes the dreaded Grove of the Burnwillows/Punishing Fire combo, which triggered a heated debate after the tournament, since Punishing Fire has been recently banned in Modern to allegedly help the tribal decks. I will only say this: every format deals with its issues in different ways, and Modern is being engineered to be the safest and less broken eternal format conceivable. This is Legacy Tribal Wars, though, and Legacy has to be Legacy. I don't understand why Tribal is being perceived as some kind of a "mellow" format; it is already quite powered down compared to regular Legacy, due to the inherent 20-creature limitation. And Tribal Apocalypse events also implement a ban list that prevents the most annoying plays to be done. Still, annoyance is highly subjective, but it's also strictly connected to repetition. I, for one, would advocate the banning of Punishing Fire (or better, the Grove itself) if it became the tech of every third deck we see. And I speak here as a player that has always disliked that specific combo. I also dislike Ezuri and Goblin Grenade (I lost a decisive match to double Lightning Bolt, doubling Goblin Grenade in the last tournament), but other people don't, and it would be unfair, and ultimately would make no sense for these cards to be banned, despite the fact that they're way more frequently seen than Punishing Fire. (Yeah, I just found again some of that polemic mood from two weeks ago).

 The last of the Top 4 player, raf.azevedo, played essentially the same Living End deck from last week (and I beat him again with a different graveyard deck! :P), only with the focus on the Zombie cyclers rather than the Mutants (and that's the third placement for the deck this year, with three different tribes as a base, given that the Beast version ended 2nd on Week 2). There's no need to repeat the list, but some congratulations to raf are due for being one of the more consistent players in the event right now.

 We had several other interesting decks this week, though. Like this Astral Slide build by Gonzalez_Roberto, whom I welcome back after (I believe) some months of absence from the tournament:

 

 The Beasts here are the framework for the classic Astral Slide/Lightning Rift interaction, usually fueled by the cycling of lands and other spells (like the sweeper Slice and Dice in this case). I have to say I don't entirely understand some of the choices here, like Mold Shambler, who doesn't cycle nor has an ETB effect compatible with the Slide. Maybe the tribal base can use some fixing (off tribe, I find (Trilling Treefolk) to be a blast with Slide, since it takes back the very cycling land that triggered him, plus another one. Also,  it goes without saying that some room for Fluctuator needs to be found in such a deck). But the combo wasn't seen in a long while on these parts, so kudos to Roberto for bringing it back.

 Both Endangered Prize and Virgin Prize (copyright BlippyTheSlug, consult the Tribe Popularity Survey to know which tribes are eligible) went this week to Nagarjuna for this Turtle deck:

 

 The deck did bad (1-3 the final score), but what's interesting here is that you can't blame the result to it being an unambitious budget deck (or the player weak, since Nagarjuna is Top 16 all-time material, if not even Top 8), since this deck isn't budget at all: it got planeswalkers (including a Big Jace), it got blades and Stoneforge Mystics, it got a top-notch mana base with a full playset of Wasteland. And it got a pretty strong removal suite, too. Maybe it's a case of bad luck or hard matchups (it lost to Elves, Soldiers, and Pirates), but my main criticism of this build has to be the fact that it feels like a bunch of strong cards tossed together around a tribal base, without a real edge. Turtles aren't bad per se, they are good blockers and some of them have shroud. But the deck doesn't play around their strengths. Blades on a shroud creature? Yeah, but that's too generic, and the turtles aren't evasive, so they don't strike me as a blade tribe. I would think more of specialized auras maybe, the stuff that you usually avoid out of fear of a 2-for-1 situation. I'm also thinking (Sovereign of Lost Alara) into Eldrazi Conscription, since there was a build back then that used Calcite Snapper for that. But perhaps it's just me and my knack for combos. Anyway, this deck is the proof that cards like Big Jace, the blades, or Wasteland, even in the hands of a capable player, don't guarantee anything in this game. An obvious truth that's worth thinking about, especially before complaining about the brokenness of the money cards, since two of the Top 4 decks this week (but I'd say it happens most of the times) cost less than a single Tundra.

 Anyway, the sensation deck of the week was one by 2011 Ultimate Champion Ayanam1, which ended 5th place with a build that you surely can't accuse of not being edgy: a Manaless Dredge deck.

 

 And for this, I got a thorough description by Ayanam1 himself:

A Guide to Tribal Dredge

   

 "This dredge deck features Horrors as the primary tribe; however, there are also a number of Spirits, Skeletons, Illusions as well, plus a way to create Zombies (can I just say that if I'd accept Woodfall Primus as a haunted tree, Empyrial Archangel and Inkwell Leviathan kinda ruin the flavor? Editor's Note). This actually should be the deck I run for the Halloween tribal event this year, but I really wanted to play it to gauge its performance. The deck runs only three lands and is based on the Manaless Dredge deck archetype. Unlike traditional dredge we don't have Putrid Imp, Tireless Tribe, or any breakthrough to discard our hand. To start our engine, we need to start on the draw, go up to 8 cards, and hopefully discard a card with dredge to start dredging cards into the graveyard. As dredging targets, we have Dakmor Salvage, Golgari Thug, Stinkweed Imp, and Golgari Grave-Troll.

 As additional outlets, we can use (Phantasmagoria) in the graveyard to discard three cards from our hands, or Cabal Therapy targeting ourselves. When we dredge a Krovikan Horror, we can stack our graveyard so that a creature is on top of it. This allows us to return it into our hands in case we need to bring up the handsize to 8 again to discard at the end of the turn.
 We have free creatures, such as Ichorid, Narcomoeba, Bloodghast, and Nether Shadow to attack our opponents with. We also have Bridge from Below to make zombies in case our creatures die blocking; or when Ichorids are sacrificed at the end of turn or by Cabal Therapying ourselves or our opponents; or when we sacrifice creatures to (Dredge Return) to bring back one of our reanimation targets.

 As for these latters, Flame-Kin Zealot is the traditional win condition target: with Bridge from Below in the graveyard, the Zealot can make 3/3 hasted zombies by sacrificing Narcomoebas, Bloodghasts, or Shadows. Empyrial Archangel was chosen because the Tribal format tends to be packed with removal. Having a big creature with shroud means that it may stick on the board long enough to make a difference (the same goes for the Leviathan, which has the added bonus of being unblockable if the opponent is playing blue). I have also been saved during some of my games because she let me survive an alpha strike, or due to the fact that my opponent could never push enough damage over at once to kill her. The tribe member Devouring Strossus is a good target if your opponent is not running exiling spells, instead: it has a nice big body, the ability to regenerate, and to sacrifice the recurring creatures to trigger the Bridge.  Faceless Butcher is our removal for annoying creatures (since we can't count on regular removal spells after all), while Mesmeric Fiend was there to deal with combos (but wasn't so useful). Thought Gorger is another discard outlet, and when it dies, the draw effect can be hopefully replaced with a dredge effect to dredge a bunch of cards instead.

  This was actually the first time I played the deck against a live opponent. Prior to that, I was just playtesting draws. After the event, I found that the deck could use more dredge cards, while Cabal Therapy wasn't actually that useful. I would probably take out all three of them for one more Golgari Thug and two Darkblast. As for reanimation targets, I would probably take out the Mesmeric Fiend for another Devouring Strossus."

 The only thing I can add is that this deck was very fun to watch, and some players found it very amusing and admirable, while others utterly hated it as a Legacy combo contraption that should have no place in a Tribal setting (I picture all of the latters as Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino). I would say it's a combo deck at least partially enabled by a tribe (the key dredge creature has always been a Horror, after all). But the important thing is: yes, this archetype might become really annoying IF it would show up every week. But as far as Ayanam1 is concerned at least, we know we will not see this deck again until Halloween (if at all, because it's quite possible something else will grab his attention between now and next October). Again, to me it's only the repetition that triggers the irritation: everything is cool the first time around.

 And now it's time to get to...

WEEK 59: THE RETURN OF THE KING

 

These two don't look like sisters at all 

  • Event Number: 7 (2012), 59 (all-time)
  • Date: February 18
  • Attendance: 24
  • Rounds: 4
  • Special Rules: none
  • Top 4: Ayanam1 (Cleric, undefeated); apaulogy (Goblin, 1 loss); RexDart (Faerie, 1 loss); NemesisParadigm (Druid, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: Endangered Prize to sadisteck (Zubera)
  • Tribes: Angel, Cleric, Crocodile, Druid, Elf (x2), Faerie, Goblin (x3), Golem, Human (x5), Juggernaut, Kithkin, Kobold, Kor, Merfolk (x2), Rogue, Zubera
  • Virgin Tribe: Crocodile by vantar6697

 Case in point: one week after the Dredge Adventure, here's Ayanam1 being the only undefeated player of another crowded tournament (the attendance has nicely increased these weeks) with an entirely different build he never played before (and will never again?), making them 6 wins with 6 different decks since he started playing in Tribal Apocalypse last year.

 

 The Soul Sisters archetype isn't a classic Legacy deck, for a change (it's also pretty popular: there was another one in this very event, piloted by pelao28), and it finds a natural home in Tribal, given that it needs a vast amount of creatures to begin with. The lifegaining Sisters (plus the most recent addition of Suture Priest: is that their creepy cousin?) create a big advantage in life total, neutralizing most of the fast burn/aggro strategies, then turning the engine into sheer attack power through Ajani's Pridemate. The angle that made this version really powerful is a great number of ways to produce tokens that will trigger the Sisters left and right, generating some crazy board states by themselves or with a Pridemate. First, there's the always fearsome Bitterblossom (and which deck could ignore its upkeep cost better than a heavy lifegaining one?). Then, some white planeswalkers that easily double as token generators: the two version of Elspeth, and especially the new entry Sorin 2.0, here as his first showing, merely two days after the Dark Ascension prerelease. Sorin's second ability turns the faerie tokens into serious beaters, while Mikaeus and Mirror Entity provide the final blows for an explosive endgame. The other Human in the deck, rounding up the tribal base, is Fiend Hunter, as the only kind of proper removal available in the deck.

 And speaking of Bitterblossom, here's another deck that features a playset of the sharp enchantment (which is weird, since it wasn't seen in ages, and now here it is, in two different Top 4 decks of a single event!). Only this time it's in its proper place: a honest-to-God Faerie deck (whose name I took from here, by the way).

 

 RexDart was worried about combo lately, and asked me how he could successfully face a Living End deck (his graveyard-phobia shows here too with the inclusion of Faerie Macabre, which ends up being probably the less convincing choice of the build). The Human deck he was recently playtesting is actually quite powerful, but here's the thing: while it's true you should better be prepared for anything, it's also true you'll never manage to be prepared for everything. Nor you'll ever know what exactly will make a difference in any given matchup (like the Phantom Centaur I mentioned earlier, for instance: I didn't put it in my deck in order to fight black decks, that just happened). Plus, a deck with no bad matchups at all doesn't even exist, that's the nature of the game. This said, I'm glad Rex chose this Faerie build over the Human one, because by frantically trying to fight every possible menace, that deck ended up lacking in personality. Which is something a Faerie deck would never suffer from, since it's one of the most immediately recognizable tribes in modern times, and it plays with a vast array of different weapons, from control (Spellstutter Sprite, Vendilion Clique, Sower of Temptation) to aggro (Scion of Oona, Bitterblossom itself), or even both at the same time (Mistbind Clique). The deck also packs disruption (Inquisition of Kozilek, Cryptic Command), card drawing Ancestral Vision, and a couple of Mind Sculptors to round up the tactical and strategically superiority (am I the only one left with no Big Jaces in my collection? They still feel so elitist to me!).

 I'm especially glad this deck made Top 4 because it's actually the first true Faerie deck to do that in 59 Tribal Apocalypse events, as the deck with which Nagarjuna recently achieved two placements (including a win) was actually a Splinter Twin combo deck with Faerie as enablers, the only card it has in common with RexDart's being Spellstutter Sprite.

 The Faeries ended up 3rd place, but I'm not actually going to show the 2nd place list, because that was apaulogy's Goblin build (with good ol' Goblin Piledriver and a storm backup), and we already said it: no Elves and Goblins will be shown here (but you can still see them here). I'll not publish the 4th place list either, as it's again NemesisParadigm with his Druids (featuring a playset of Wild Cantors to add speed, I suppose). I'll show you this week's Virgin Tribe, instead: Crocodile by our resident animal lover and Tribe Popularity custodian, vantar6697.

Crocodile Rock
by vantar6697
Creatures
4 Grayscaled Gharial
4 Lurking Crocodile
4 Algae Gharial
4 Rootwater Alligator
4 Sandbar Crocodile
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Evolution Charm
4 Snakeform
4 Spreading Seas
3 Prey Upon
2 Asceticism
17 cards
 
Lands
4 Simic Growth Chamber
11 Forest
7 Island
1 Novijen, Heart of Progress
23 cards

 
Lurking Crocodile

 

 As for the Endangered Tribe, it once again was Zubera, once again piloted by sadisteck. It's the 5th time that the death-friendly Spirits got the prize, and when I asked Blippy the Almighty Showrunner if that might mean this will be the last time they'll be eligible for that (while still be allowed to play in Endangered Weeks, of course), he answered this way:

"I'll  over it"

 So, since this might well be my last occasion to showcase them again, here's the Zuberas in all their amazingness:

 

 But what's funny is that there was another tribe tied for the prize, tom073093's Kobolds, and the two decks happened to face off in the last round, with the winner going to get the higher place in the ranking, and therefore the prize. So, as a consolation prize for Tom, here's the runner-up Endangered deck (a storm build which exploits the 0-mana dudes to sacrifice them to mana spells like Infernal Plunge and Culling the Weak and fuel other spells that add to the storm count):

Sturm und Kobolds
by tom073093
Creatures
4 Crimson Kobolds
4 Crookshank Kobolds
4 Kobolds of Kher Keep
4 Kobold Overlord
4 Kobold Taskmaster
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Dark Ritual
4 Infernal Plunge
4 Culling the Weak
4 Grapeshot
2 Ad Nauseam
1 Tendrils of Agony
23 cards
 
Lands
12 Swamp
5 Mountain
17 cards

 
Tendrils of Agony

 

 As for me (hey, I was in this event too! And I'm still leading the 2012 ranking nonetheless, even if I can see both Ayanam1 and Nemesis on the rear mirror now), I decided that my 3rd week of the month has to be Aggro Week, so I ran a Bant Angel deck featuring Jenara, Stoic Angel, and Battlegrace Angel (a.k.a. The Thinking Man's Baneslayer):

 

 It's not a bad build, and earned some good comments. I only wish I got to use Steely Resolve offensively as I planned, maybe against an Imperious Perfect or something. The Resolve was still the only way for me to feel safe investing mana in Jenara, and an underrated card all in all. Yet, the deck ended with a 2-2 score, losing to Ayanam1 in the first round and anotherlim's Goblin Grenade-happy Goblin deck in the final round. Oh well.

 Other notable players watch for the two weeks: AJ_Impy had two bad showings (with Thopter and monored Humans), which caused him some discouragement. C'mon, AJ! Think of all the virgin (tribes) waiting for you! One Million Words brought the Pirates again, then some Golems (with the Grim Monolith)/Voltaic Key combo, that's some great classic stuff), but with poor luck. Two bad weeks for Owain's Merfolks too, while mayure's 1st place Elves didn't repeat themselves in the second event. Elsewhere, acgabs was back in the tournament and grabbed a good 5th place with a Human deck (I believe: the list for Week 59 isn't in the googlesheet, for some reason; in Week 58 it was a build based on Geist of Saint Traft and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV), while SBena was back to his classic Quest for the Holy Relic Kor deck in Week 59, ending 8th with 1 loss. And that's all I have to say about that. Because now it's time for...

 THE TRIBES YOU ARE NOT PLAYING

 This section is becoming familiar, and it attracted the attention of Eibon, a non-MTGO player (so far!) who's been proposing interesting decklists for unplayed tribes. I'll let you read them with his own comments (which I just polished a little). See you soon in the tribal playroom!

 

 "A tribe that Tribal Apocalypse players have avoided is also (in my mind) a powerful one: Thrull. The basic idea of my list is to try and play with the best creatures the game has to offer, and in the case of the Thrulls, that means your opponent's creatures! So the aim is to control them through the Thrull Champion/Amoeboid Changeling combo (Amoeboid is interesting with Cryptic Gateway too Editor's Note), hoping to survive long enough for you to sacrifice your Thrulls to cast Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker or Army of the Damned. Colfenor's Plans is an easy way to find answers to the threats the opponent is throwing at you, and you'll likely get a land drop every turn this way, which is your goal. You can bounce it with Grixis Charm or find another one with Prophetic Bolt; I didn't get stuck because of it (yet!), but I guess this is a risky move against blue control decks. Since I have A LOT of tribal decks, my Thrull manabase is not as good as it should be (with Eibon's permission, I fixed it somehow Editor's Note). A common thing between this Thrull deck and my Ogre deck is that they both are Grixis-colored, so you'll have to assemble only one good mana base for both."
 

 

 "And this is my improved Cephalid tribal deck. The deck contains three different combos. The first one will be familiar to Legacy players: Cephalid Looter + Nomads en-Kor. You basically self mill your deck, then use Dregscape Zombie's unearth ability to get the third creature you need to cast Dread Return with flashback targeting Sutured Ghoul. The Ghoul enters the battlefield as a 20/20 or something, and automatically gets himself Dragon Breath that gives him haste. At that point you can just flashback an Artful Dodge to get it through.

 The second combo uses the Looter to find combo pieces; just drop one Liliana's Caress or two and start using Looters on your opponent: he will die sooner than you think.

 The third combo is a defensive one. Try to equip Cephalid Constable and again use Artful Dodge to get it through. It could bounce even FIVE permanents on turn 4, which is almost a win already. This way you'll also put more cards in your opponent's hand, which he will likely have to discard in the discard phase, triggering Liliana's Caress. Shapesharer can boost the looting, sometimes will even target the Illusionist, but most of the times will copy the nastiest enemy creature. This deck may have troubles against great amount of creature hate, but that's the usual issue for combo decks in the tribal world, isn't it?"