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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jul 27 2012 7:57am
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*** Tribal Apocalypse: Weeks 78-80 BE ***
Double Feature Tribal Show

 Welcome back once again to Tribal Apocalypse! Something just occurred to me while reading Blippy's weekly article on Overdrive! and Eurodrive!, which doubles as a weekly observatory on the Modern scene as a whole, Grands Prix and all: Tribal Apocalypse isn't just a PRE that adopted the Legacy Tribal Wars format; it's the ONLY regular venue for the format at all. Like, in the whole world! Wizards of the Coast describes Tribal Wars as a Magic Online-only format, which makes me think there's no real tribal organized play in the paper world, aside from individual, kitchen-table initiatives of specific playing groups. And even within MTGO, it's a non-sanctioned format, with no scheduled events of any kind. A post dating back to 2008 in the now-deceased official Tribal Wars forum mentions a brief time when Classic Tribal Wars had been sanctioned, then Standard Tribal Wars was created and sanctioned for a while in its place, but is now a fossil. The only chance of seeing a Tribal Wars tournament these days is in a PRE; and the only PRE currently doing it is Tribal Apocalypse. We are the frontiersmen of a whole format, which, fringe as it might be, is actually appealing to a great deal of players out there (judging from WotC's undying propension to design tribal-flavored sets, and the fact that proper tribal decks keep showing up even in the most competitive fields of pretty much every format in existence). Bottom line: what we do here, within this restricted (yet not negligible) community, is maybe not going to matter to anyone else; but at the same time, we can't rely on anyone else to "fix" the format for us, or even just assess its current status. I recently analyzed the official Banned List (something our own AJ_Impy was doing 4 years ago in the abovementioned forum thread), coming to the conclusion that it's mostly outdated. They don't really care about the format anymore (if ever), and when they do intervene on it, they take questionable directions like with the banning of Moat. That's to say that the Tribal Apocalypse Banned List is (or should be) less of a way to make our players happy, and more of a tool to keep this format healthy.

 And now, to the report machine. We got three events to chronicle today. The first of which is...

  • Event Number: 26 (2012), 78 (all-time)
  • Date: June 30
  • Attendance: 14
  • Rounds: 3
  • Special Rules: none
  • Top 4: RexDart (Spirit, undefeated); Leys7 (Nightmare, undefeated); _Kumagoro_ (Druid, 1 loss); mihahitlor (Assassin, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: Endangered Prize and Up-and-Coming Prize to Leys7 Nightmare; Up-and-Coming Prize to RexDart (Spirit)
  • Tribes: Angel, Assassin, Dragon, Druid, Elemental, Faerie, Goblin, Kor, Licid, Merfolk, Nightmare, Spirit, Warrior, Wizard
  • Virgin Tribes: Nightmare by Leys7 (highest-ranked); Licid by AJ_Impy
  • Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is

 Look at that tribe list: yep, this was the first time this year (except for the 2HG Event) we had what I call a Singularity Event, meaning every registered tribe was featured just once. This was also one of the rare regular events where no Humans showed up. And no Elves, too: after the singleton Elf the previous week broke an amazing 7-event streak of absence, we're back to the point-eared guys being a no-show. Still, we had very classic tribes such as Goblin, Merfolk, Wizard, and Faerie, yet in the end it was a Virgin Tribe, the unsuspectingly powerful Nightmare by Leys7, to end up 1st place (wait for a twist on this front), therefore taking a record three prizes at once: the Virgin Prize, of course; the Endangered Prize; and the new Up-and-Coming Prize reserved to tribes that never ended 1st place before. Here's the decklist:

by Leys7 - 1st place/2nd place, Virgin Prize, Endangered Prize, Up-and-Coming Prize
4 Gravegouger
4 Faceless Butcher
4 Soul Scourge
4 Laquatus's Champion
2 Nightmare
2 Hypnox
20 cards

Other Spells
4 False Cure
4 Plunge into Darkness
4 Dark Ritual
4 Heartless Summoning
16 cards
24 Swamp
24 cards

Laquatus's Champion


 The engine here is False Cure, turning the downside of both Soul Scourge and Laquatus's Champion into a brutal ending combo, if necessary fueled by Plunge into Darkness.

 But wait, if Leys7 ended on top (beating the other Virgin Tribe of the week, Licid by AJ_Impy, then KaraZorEl's Dragons, and my own 3rd place Enchantress Druids from the Building Lab article), how is that RexDart's Spirit deck is listed first then? Well, that's because RexDart ended undefeated as well, and with a better Tie 2 (games won) ratio, so he was entitled to challenge Leys7 for the 1st place. Which he did. And he won! Here's one of the games of the final showdown, from Leys7's point of view:

 And here's RexDart's list, a Spirit build with the instant-classic Geist of Saint Traft as the centerpiece, but good work from Tallowisp too, fetching various key auras:


 Also: wow, almost a full playset of Vindicate. That's not something you see often around these parts. (Next time I'll do some math about the tix cost of the most recent Top 4 decks).

 So, congrats to RexDart for his second win after his outstanding Efreet adventure back in April. And strangely enough, this was the first time Spirit ended 1st place as well, so we got a second Up-and-Coming tribe during the very first edition of the prize.

 A very accomplished tribe, on the other hand, is Assassin, especially when piloted by Mr. Gašper Gnezda a.k.a. mihahitlor. In occasion of his further placement in the Top 4 with the hitmen gang, Gašper recorded a special Deck Tech guide to Assassin (yay to audiovisual technology!), with built-in subtitles for anyone whom may have problems understanding his wonderful (but actually perfectly clear) Slovenian accent (yay to European players!)

 And here's a bunch of replays of Assassin games from both this event and the last one, when they finished 2nd: against _BIG_BROTHERS_'s Elves (Event 77, Round 2); Gonzalez_Roberto's Goblins (Event 78, Round 3); jackfrost86's Slivers (Event 77, Round 3); and my own Druids from this week's Round 2.

 The final part of the last game is missing; miha just says that after I played Nevermore on Murderous Redcap with a Teferi's Moat out, he had no ways to win anymore; actually, in Game 1, he came back from a similar situation and took the win thanks to Faerie Macabre being a flyer (which we joked was there for this reason only, after a Moat of mine locked him out of the game in a previous occasion). That last game was actually a bit longer and kinda interesting, anyway, so I'll put it here in its entirety from my point of view, before skipping to the following week's report:

 All in all, I like how the Enchantress is a "soft" combo deck, where the opponent is constantly challenged to find ways around all the silver bullets it throws at you. It's not overly powerful, it's interactive and doesn't cause the pilot to play by himself for 10 minutes a la Storm (although it generates a lot of triggers), and it never wins before midgame at best. What's not to love here?

  • Event Number: 27 (2012), 79 (all-time)
  • Date: July 7
  • Attendance: 20 (40 tribes)
  • Rounds: 3
  • Special Rules: Double Tribal (two different tribal decks joined together)
  • Top 4: Ranth (Cat/Human, undefeated); Nagarjuna (Angel/Human, undefeated); toolazy2stand (Myr/Vampire, undefeated); milegyenanevem (Werewolf/Wolf, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: Endangered Prize to Leys7 (Cephalid/Homunculus)
  • Tribes: Angel (x2), Beast (x2), Cat, Cephalid, Construct, Demon, Elemental, Elf (x2), Goblin (x4), Golem, Homunculus, Human (x5), Merfolk, Myr, Rabbit, Rat, Shapeshifter, Specter, Treefolk (x2), Vampire (x3), Vedalken, Werewolf (x2), Wizard, Wolf, Worm, Zubera
  • Virgin Tribes: Rabbit/Worm by vantar6697 (highest-ranked); Cephalid/Homunculus by Leys7
  • Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is

 This was the first time we tried the new Special Event we named "Double Tribal". It meant playing with two different tribal decks merged together (therefore the resulting mega-deck wouldn't be Tribal Wars-legal, just Legacy); the two decks couldn't share any creature type, even on the off-tribe creatures. Unfortunately, the registration and management process turned out to be almost unbearable for the host, and poor BlippyTheSlug was almost driven mad by the task of accepting and verifying each and every oversized decklist. This means we will not repeat this experiment again, unless someone is willing to step in and replace Blippy for the occasion (I can't: my PC was already risking a crash while hosting a regular event last week). The next scheduled Double Tribal would have been on October 6: if nobody will volunteer as a host by then, Double will be out of the rotation, and Endangered and Singleton will take turns every other month.

 And I'll be honest: maybe it's for the best. This format wasn't really what I was expecting. I realize now that it was a misjudgment on my part: playing with a 120-card deck stroke me as something Commander-ish, with a slow build towards richer and flashier endgames. But of course, that could only happen if we also had 40 life (which, by the way, would perfectly fit the "double theme", but it'd be too complicated to handle, requiring a freeform game structure). As it was, we only pushed players towards even more efficient cards than usual. Look, for instance, at the first-place, super-solid deck by tribal legend Ranth (whom I welcome back to Tribal Apocalypse, by the way!)


 That's pretty much the opposite of a Commander-style deck, emphasizing 1-drops and extreme redundancy of effects to counterbalance the limited access to any given card. A Cat deck normally uses 4 Swords to Plowshares? Well, a Double Cat deck will use 4 Swords to Plowshares and 4 Path to Exile. That doesn't look like an interesting or creative space to explore. On the same line, we saw combinations like Goblin/Human (within a RDW build, so burn, burn, and more burn), or even Goblin/Merfolk.

 Here we can see two of the other Top 4 decks battling each other: Nagarjuna's Angel/Human build vs. milegyenanevem's Werewolf/Wolf alliance:

 Naga had essentially the only midrange build among the top ranked ones. If this special format will find someone committed enough to keep it alive, it could definitely use some retooling. And now for something completely different, another regular week.

  • Event Number: 28 (2012), 80 (all-time)
  • Date: July 14
  • Attendance: 16
  • Rounds: 3
  • Special Rules: none
  • Top 4: mihahitlor  (Kithkin, undefeated); jackfrost86 (Elf, undefeated); DirtyDuck (Kor, 1 loss); Ranth (Rat, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: Endangered Prize to Ranth (Rat)
  • Tribes: Construct, Dauthi, Devil, Elemental, Elf (x2), Horror, Human, Insect, Kithkin, Kor, Leviathan, Rat (x2), Thalakos, Zubera
  • Virgin Tribe: Thalakos by vantar6697
  • Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is

 That was definitely a "return to normalcy", but it was far from a bad week: we had 7 Endangered Tribes and 8 tribes eligible for the Up-and-Coming Prize, which translates into people not playing the same old, same old stuff. There were 2 Elves, one of which, a classic Ezuri build, ended undefeated (but it was relative newcomer jackfrost86, and I'm always inclined to forgive newcomers playing Elves, as it's possibly the most widely known tribe in the game); yet there were also less frequently played tribes that did well, like Nagarjuna's 5th place Insects, which we can see here fighting sadisteck's signature Zubera deck, going off with its Lifeline combo:

 Here's Naga's decklist:


 It's a pretty straightforward Golgari build, but it's nice to see such a nice, honest, cheap enough deck doing well. Especially in a week where among the other 2-1 scores there were two badass combo decks like DirtyDuck's Cephalid Breakfast Kor, which still manage to lose enough matches to dribble serious hate; and a new entry in the watchlist department: the newly liberated Helm of Obedience strikes back, folks! Ranth took the fearsome Helm for its first ride since the unbanning, working it into this Rat build:


 For anyone whom isn't familiar with the combo, if you activate the Helm with  Leyline of the Void on the battlefield, you'll end up exiling the whole opponent deck, as the Helm will repeatedly try to put something in the graveyard, to no avail. With an opening hand containing Leyline, Helm, 2 Dark Rituals and a Swamp, you'll get a turn-1 kill. Which is both amazing and horrifying, I suppose. Here's the deck doing its trick vs. fellow Rats by VIP

 And again, vs. Leys7's Leviathans:

 Speaking of which, here's the Leviathans against the only Virgin Tribe of the week, Thalakos by Virgin specialist vantar6697:

 Ranth's build is actually nicely done, with secondary interactions like Crypt Rats and Basilisk Collar, and good tutors for the combo. But of course, such a quick endgame is scary, and it's a direct cousin of stuff like the abovementioned Cephalid Illusionist or Goblin Charbelcher (which we'll see again in action the following week). And yet, both Ranth and DirtyDuck's hi-profile combo decks didn't manage to score a full 3-0. This deck did:


 To celebrate the most efficient, most surprising white weenie tribal deck, I present to you "Diary of a Kithkin Player", written and produced by mihahitlor:

 "Basically the reason why I play the deck is the same as why I play all my other decks: it doesn't cost much tix and it's relatively effective. One problem with Kithkin in Legacy Tribal Wars is that Goldmeadow Harrier doesn't count as a Kithkin (it's a known bug that still needs to be fixed — Editor's note), so if you play it (which you almost have to if you don't own Figure of Destiny), you have to play 24 Kithkins. This is kind of annoying since in most cases I like to keep my tribal count at precisely 20 and fill the rest with better spells (removal or non-tribe creatures). But luckily it's an aggressive deck, so having 4 more average dudes isn't the end of the world. All-star of the deck is definitely Spectral Procession. It creates sick card and tempo advantage, especially coupled with Honor of the Pure (or Ajani Goldmane if I am playing Modern), which puts most decks in a very tough position. I think I would play Spectral Procession +  Honor of the Pure in any WW deck. It's just too good of a package to pass.

 The weaknesses are certainly the fast combo decks (like Dirty Duck's Kor deck — two Burrenton Forge-Tender help a little, though), fast reanimator strategies, and good control decks (spot removal, mass removal plus card advantage). It's good against aggro — simply because it has bigger creatures most of the time (and card advantage in form of Spectral Procession) — and against midrange/slow decks that play inefficient creatures and pack little or no mass removal. I wish I could play more spot removal, but I only have room for 4 Path to Exile and 2 Swords to Plowshares (otherwise I would have to cut into the Spectral/Honor package). The difference between the Modern and the Tribal build is mainly that the latter is filled with more average cards (it plays 24 instead of 18 Kithkins). This makes it a little more aggro-bad — it doesn't have such good mid-game as a Modern deck, which packs Ajani Goldmane and Cloudgoat Ranger (plus Brave the Elements to push through stalls). The Modern deck is basically designed to beat RDW (for some reason, I  hate losing to burn decks the most), but it seems to do fine against most decks except Melira pod and Tron. It should also lose to Storm decks, but they somehow always manage not to win. I have around 75% MW ratio with this deck in Eurodrive!, which doesn't make much sense to me — I'm surely running far above expectations."

 And, to cap it all, here's a Kithkin game from this very week: the amazing, Burrenton Forge-Tender-assisted win against DirtyDuck's Cephalid-fueled Kors.

 And finally it's...



 Well, it's more of regular programming time. Let's just remind you of:

 The Tribal Achievements: Clan Leys, which is now in charge of any Special Prize, launched the Tribal Achievement: a way to have fun within Tribal Apocalypse, challenge yourself, and make some tix in the process. You can find the complete list of achievements here on the Hall of Fame. Vantar already unlocked the first one. Who'll be next?

 The Kirin Challenge: that's always standing, folks. I'll give 1 tix out of my pocket to the first player who'll win a proper match (no bye, no opponent forfaiting) with a Kirin deck featuring 4 copies of each of them. C'mon, I've already thought of the next challenge after this one will be cleared: Nephilim!

 Videos: Send me replays of your games! It's unbelievably easy: just download a free software like CamStudio and upload the resulting video file on YouTube, or send it to me via WeTransfer (my address is aicardigianluca at gmail.com); I'll embed it here.

 And that's all, once again. See you on the Tribal room!


That Ranth (welcome back by Paul Leicht at Fri, 07/27/2012 - 13:38
Paul Leicht's picture

That Ranth (welcome back dude) came in first with cat-humans isn't terribly surprising to me. Aggro decks tend to do better in unknown formats. There is a place for each of the types in this format I think but sadly because of logistical problems it looks like that was the first and last of its kind.

A shame, since I was unable to attend that due to not having legal decks (I had a different expectation than the rule you and Blippy went with.)

I built a kaleidoscope (60 by RexDart at Fri, 07/27/2012 - 14:39
RexDart's picture

I built a kaleidoscope (60 cards, all gold) tribal deck this week, which I may not get to play anytime soon since it could be 8/18 before there's another "normal" event I will be home for. I think that might be a fun one-off event. There are probably a dozen viable tribes, and maybe a few more legal ones that arent competitive, but that's enough for a one-off event. It's not exactly budget-friendly if you want the optimal manabase and 4-5 colors, but there are always vivid lands and other options, and I don't think it prices anybody out of the event. We likely have plenty of alternative events already as it is, may not need anymore for awhile, but it was fun to build that kind of deck and something maybe to consider for the future, just wanted to throw it out there.

Ive got a kscope legal tribal by Paul Leicht at Fri, 07/27/2012 - 14:57
Paul Leicht's picture

Ive got a kscope legal tribal deck as well but its pretty weak in comparison to the power of normal tribes. Though if it gets going it can get out of hand.

I'd say this is a really tough one to pull off well, and the tribes that are legal for it are quite limited.

Use the kaleidoscope deck to by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 07/28/2012 - 12:11
Kumagoro42's picture

Use the kaleidoscope deck to unlock the achievement!