Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Aug 03 2012 9:57am
Login to post comments


 Hey there, folks! Good ol' Tribal Apocalypse article ahead.

 So, in the second of the two events I'll report here, Event 82, I happened to be briefly the victim of some classic AJ_Impy rant about a supposedly non-purist choice of mine. Now, the thing didn't bother me per se, as AJ is notorious, and somehow even beloved, for these kinds of impetuous, yet exquisitely verbose confrontations (although, I'm trying and coming up with some clever Grudge Match challenge to throw at him at some later point). But it provided me with the a chance to talk some more about my take on the Tribal Wars format.


Yep, the format where you play guys like those

 The casus belli in question was the presence of Bitterblossom, a Tribal Faerie enchantment, in my Shaman deck. This is apparently not what a tribal purist would do. The very concept behind this idea made me ponder, once again, about how much in this format people are eager to tell you how you should be playing it. This really appears to be something unique to Tribal Wars: people often talk at length about the Spirit of the Format, the way it has to be, which is invariably a very personal and biased reading of it, that becomes the Infallible Tribal Truth in the minds of some (most?) players.


Can't put Lignify in an Elemental deck, that's for Treefolk only!

  Even within Commander, that shares some of the (often misplaced) "casual" concerns of Tribal Wars, it's usually more a matter of, "you shouldn't play these cards/commanders/combos", because they are seen as too powerful, or falling under specific "unfun" categories, and that supposedly makes the games with less-than-cutthroat players feel unbalanced (this is a phenomenon that exists in Tribal as well, but it's not what I'm discussing here). I play a lot of Modern too, and I never heard someone there telling someone else that they're betraying "the Spirit of Modern". While, say, Storm is annoying to play against (and with, actually), I can't imagine someone complaining to a Storm player that by choosing that archetype he's playing the format wrong.


What are you doing?! Modern is all about winning with Delver!

 There are several subtexts to this idea. Going back to the basics, and to the working definition I like the best because it allows for the most liberty and variety and creativity, Tribal Wars is essentially the format where you have to put up with two limitations: the requirement to work at least 20 creatures that share a single type into a 60-card deck; and the absence of a sideboard. This is the Johnny definition. Everyone who even just begins disagreeing with the basic truth of it is actively repressing his or her inner Johnny. For some people, though, and that's possibly a "degenerate Timmy" thing, Tribal Wars is a format where you play MTG like it was something akin to Warhammer Fantasy Battle: you build an "army" belonging to a "race" (big Vorthos alarm here!), then bring it to battle against the other players' armies. And of course everyone knows Dwarves use cannons but Elves don't, and so on.

Hey, it's called Goblin Charbelcher! You need Goblins to man it, dude!

 This is a problematic worldview for many different reasons. It's not just un-Johnny-like (to not say outright baffling, as MTG is more akin to chess or bridge than to a tabletop wargame); weirdly enough, if you look closely, it doesn't stand up to Vorthos scrutiny either. Vorthos knows very well Warhammer Fantasy Battle, as it knows The Lord of the Rings. So he knows that every "race" brings other allied species, lesser minions, mercenaries, machineries, and big enslaved monsters to the battlefield. That's the fun part of it, as opposed to just see on the table ranks upon ranks of essentially the same basic dude in different uniforms. So, it's both mechanically and flavorfully elegant to have armies made of wildly different creatures fighting alongside each other.

Avenger of Zendikar  

Sometimes the alliance will feel obvious and spoon-fed, but it's when it's not that things become interesting

 So, let's go back to the objection, "You shouldn't put a Faerie enchantment in a Shaman deck" (that's just the example at hand, of course, you can replace it with any instance of a card belonging to a different tribe, and it's actually more meaningful in the case of off-tribe creatures, since a noncreature tribal card doesn't actually play any role in the Tribal Wars format, the creature type printed on it being as much important as what's depicted on the art). The implication seems to be, "If you wanted to play with Bitterblossom, why didn't you put it in a Faerie deck?"; to which the Johnny answer would be: "Oh my, because that'd be unbelievably boring and predictable and unimaginative, and there will not be anything new and exciting to explore there." As far as I'm concerned, indeed, I'd never even think to put Bitterblossom in a Tribal Wars Faerie deck. What would Bitterblossom do there? It would just add more cheap flyers to a deck filled with cheap flyers. Not exactly the definition of a deckbuilding challenge.

 Sword of War and Peace 

And now I know what I can do with those cheap flyers: strap some blades on them! Gee, I wonder if it has ever been done before!

 But there's a Vorthos answer too. What is Bitterblossom doing in a Shaman deck? Well, if the deck is an alliance of black and green, as in a Golgari deck, those Faerie Rogues are part of a "dark heart of the wood" deal, they come and help the other creatures from the eerie forest in their battle, and of course "dark sylvan magic" has to involve black and green Shamans. Like the Essence Wardens, who balance out the disturbance in the lifeforce caused by this alliance. Or like Thrun, who's an old, battered, lonely, embittered survivor. Plus: a Troll and some Faeries, they are all fairytale-like creatures who naturally belong together. Actually, the Vorthos in me is finding more wrong the presence of these guys:

Vampire Nighthawk Sangromancer

Yeah, they don't look very sylvan to me

 And yet, they would be legit for the "purists", because they're Shamans. Let's be honest, none of the "classes" (Wizard, Warrior, Cleric, and so) really make sense as a "band of brothers", since almost every race got the same classes, but they might well belong to creatures who would never join forces. Do you really see Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Augury Adept as part of the same clique? Or, you know, this very legit, very frequently seen "alliance":

Mother of Runes Snapcaster Mage  Grim Lavamancer

They work together, they don't like each other

   I actually like to see decks who try to explore new dynamics instead, maybe by building around a card, and then adding things also based on the general atmosphere of the concoction. You could take such a deck and create a story out of it. That would be wonderful. I should actually coin a name for this approach: the tribal deckbuilders who try and skip the more obvious solutions. For instance, to stay in the Golgari field, take a card like this one:

One of the best token generators ever

 Where does this guy belong? Exclusively to Horror decks? That seems very hard to believe. Its main ability enhances both black and green creatures, but there are very few green Horrors. And it creates Worm tokens, but it doesn't help Worms in general (it doesn't help Cryptic Annelid, for instance). I see these kinds of cards as support units. They exist with the only purpose of giving support to the main elements of the army. If you care about your inner Vorthos, or even Melvin (and you really don't have to, as they are almost a "perversion"), you shouldn't have any problem to put Creakwood Liege pretty much everywhere its abilities seem useful, because, as a supporting unit, that will inevitably take care of the "flavor" too. Creakwood Liege in a white Human Soldier deck would feel "wrong"; then again, why would you put it there? On the other hand, a Golgari Horror that generates Worms and comes from a place called "Creakwood" fits thematically (almost) everywhere there are Swamps, Forests, or (of course even better) both.

 A last example of this "storytelling approach": Merfolk. No "purist" would ever object to this Merfolk build:

Ye Olde Merfolk
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Merfolk Sovereign
4 Coralhelm Commander
4 Silvergill Adept
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Counterspell
4 Daze
4 Force Spike
4 Brainstorm
16 cards
20 Island
20 cards

Master of the Pearl Trident


 Yes, very legit. But yes, extremely boring and hackneyed, at least deckbuilding-wise. Now, the Merfolks are guys who live under the sea. And what would you think such guys may bring to battle with them? Exactly: big, scary things that live under the sea.

Dreaming Merfolk
by _Kumagoro_
4 Stonybrook Banneret
4 Sea Scryer
4 Cold-Eyed Selkie
2 Rootwater Thief
2 Grimoire Thief
2 Scroll Thief
2 Streambed Aquitects
3 Grozoth
3 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Stormtide Leviathan
27 cards

Other Spells
4 Dream Halls
3 Aquitect's Will
3 Spreading Seas
10 cards
23 Island
23 cards

Stormtide Leviathan


 The Merfolks here use the Leviathans like the Uruk-hai use the Oliphaunts. And sure, the Dream Halls may very well be within an underwater cave. Why not?

  • Event Number: 29 (2012), 81 (all-time)
  • Date: July 21
  • Attendance: 18
  • Rounds: 3
  • Special Rules: none
  • Top 4: DirtyDuck (Wall, undefeated); romellos (Human, undefeated); mihahitlor (Assassin, 1 loss); AJ_Impy (Demon, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: Endangered Prize to jackfrost86 (Vedalken)
  • Tribes: Artificer, Assassin, Construct, Demon, Elemental, Golem, Human, Kithkin, Knight, Rogue, Shapeshifter, Spirit (x2), Vampire (x3), Vedalken, Wall
  • Virgin Tribes: none
  • Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is

 So, all philosophy aside, let's see what happened these past two weeks. Event 81 had no Virgin Tribes whatsoever (they are becoming scarce, aren't they?) and just one Endangered Tribe, jackfrost86's Vedalken, which got the prize automatically. I don't remember when this had happened last, I'd say it's probably the first time this year. But things weren't necessarily the same old, same old (also because Endangered Tribes themselves may very well be "same old, same old" sometimes). The Usual Suspects Survey, for instance, tells us: no Elf, no Goblin, one Human. Which is good, I suppose, especially with 18 registered decks.

 The event unquestionably belonged to DirtyDuck and his Goblin Charbelcher build (with Walls).


 After a long stint with his Kor-phalid Breakfast deck (amounting to two 2nd places and two 3rd places), Dirty continues his quest to have himself blocked by as many players as possible (eh) and takes a page from grapplingfarang's book with this super-hated, super-combo build. Since grappling had won Event 67 with the very same deck, and despite Dirty will just end 7th place playing it again in Event 82 (beaten by Ranth's Delver Wizards), I happily put Goblin Charbelcher in my Watch List. Strike 1, Charbelcher.

 The other Top 4 were some of the players who are dominating this tribal season. The other undefeated was romellos, with a classic Bant-colored Human build based on Knight of the Reliquary, Delver of Secrets, and Snapcaster Mage, plus good stuff like Baneslayer Angel, Geist of Saint Traft, and assorted blades; he even challenged Dirty for the 1st place in virtue of an equal Tie 2 ratio, but to no avail. Also Top 4, mihahitlor with his Assassin (for which I published a deck tech and several videos in the previous article), and AJ_Impy with his strong Demon deck from the Angel vs. Demon event (but, of course, without Gloom).

 My unofficial Deck of the Week Award goes to RexDart, though, for this Goblin Welder deck using Artificers as a shell:

 I love the Welder, and I had played it myself some weeks earlier, but off-tribe, using Constructs and a mana base without basic land types to exploit Sundering Titan; RexDart's build is more clever, and the Golem-making Artificers are definitely not the ones I would have thought to use (I have an Artificer/Welder build with all the artifact ones, to enable the Welder's ability better; but hey, those Golem tokens are artifacts as well). I have to say, this deck feels partly like something I would do, what with all those silver bullets (loved especially the Blazing Torch), and the truly brilliant idea of using a singleton Anger to give haste to both the Welders and their "creations" (being an artifact deck with no Mountains, I was stuck with wasting slots on Lightning Greaves and Thousand-Year Elixir). On the other hand, the Stoneforge Mystic/Batterskull package isn't something I usually put in my decks (I don't even own a Batterskull yet), despite being a very strong alternate wincon. All in all, this deck was ready to face almost everything, and the only area where it could use improvement is in dealing with noncreature permanents.

 RexDart had a great but weird game against me, while I was running this Golem deck based on the interaction between Scapeshift, Amulet of Vigor and the Locus lands.


 Here's the game, that Rex won anyway, after a long, strange stalemate (which I didn't properly exploit):

 Since I didn't receive other videos this week, I'll put another game of mine, this time against Nagarjuna's Spirit deck. As you can see, Sundering Titan may be really really brutal against multicolor decks.

 One week later...

  •  Event Number: 30 (2012), 82 (all-time)
  • Date: July 28
  • Attendance: 14
  • Rounds: 3
  • Special Rules: none
  • Top 4: slug360 (Snake, undefeated); _Kumagoro_ (Shaman, undefeated); Nagarjuna (Kor, 1 loss); AJ_Impy (Angel, 1 loss)
  • Special Prizes: Endangered Prize to vantar6697 (Mercenary); Up-and-Coming Prize to slug360 (Snake)
  • Tribes: Angel, Beast, Cat, Elf, Kor (x2), Mercenary, Mystic, Shaman, Snake, Vampire, Wall, Warrior, Wizard
  • Virgin Tribes: Mercenary by vantar6697 (highest-ranked); 
  • Event link (with all players, pairings, standings, decks, and results): here it is

 This has been a very nice and fun event for me, where a deck I very enjoyed to build (after acquiring a nice playset of Bitterblossom, a card I always wanted and never actually owned so far) performed way better than expected, ending undefeated with an immaculate score. I proceeded by challenging the 1st place deck (that got a better Tie 1 score, due to better opponents), an amazing Snake build by relatively newcomer slug360. I got owned by it but I enjoyed our games anyway because slug360's was such an amazing, clever, fun deck it felt nice to lose to it. Here's my decklist, BG Shamans:


 And this is the Opposition-based Snake deck by slug360:


 As you can see, both the decks have an unconventional token theme, and both have equally unconventional control elements (well, except all those nice Golgari removals I couldn't help but including!). Here's one of the games of our final showdown:

 And here's my deck battling against AJ_Impy's Angels, that ended 4th place (after Nagarjuna's solid and non-tricky Kor build: only the albino dudes and their beloved equipments, including both Cranial Plating and Shuko used "at face value"). You can even see AJ unlocking the Bruna/Gisela/Sigarda achievement (go Powerpuff!), and witness how many Wild Hunt Wolves you have to launch after Gisela in order to kill her.

 Also starring: misterpid ended 2-1 with these nice Gruul Warriors who joyfully mix together Human, Elves, Goblins, Wolves, and of course Centaurs:


 And here's vantar6697 winning Endangered Prize with the only Virgin Tribe of the week, Mercenary.


 They're mostly from the Masques block, and kinda hard to handle despite having an old-time, linear feeling. I like how Cateran Kidnappers, who replicate the Rebel mechanic (along with the bigger Horror ones, Cateran Enforcer and Cateran Overlord), actually "kidnap" their own comrades. Since Mercenaries, for some reason, are more akin to outright criminals (robbers, kidnappers, thugs), you have to love such an insane flavor. And hey, they have their own Demonic Tutor. Which is actually uber-powerful with Changeling cards. Getting a playset of it right now.

 And that's it for today. Now it's time for the usual...


 Just to remind you of:

 The Watch List: I'm putting particular, deck-defining cards in a virtual watch list, and giving them Annoying Levels based on how frequently they show up and their degree of success (I'll lay down the rules I came up with in the next article). Once a card get to Level 3, I'll recommend it to Blippy for banning (after a certain number of months, I'll try and have it unbanned, so it's pretty much the suspension system grapplingfarang had hoped for). So far the list looks like this:

 The Tribal Achievements only wait to be unlocked: Clan Leys, which is now in charge of any Special Prize, is handling the Tribal Achievements: 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. Two unlocked, 48 to go.

 The Virgin Prize is ending its first run: only 9 tribes are still standing (Dryad, Unicorn, Monger, Harpy, Homarid, Mongoose, Scorpion, Squid, and Whale). Hurry up and make these dorks go away, so we can start over with the Almost Virgin Prize.

 The Hamtastic Award lives on: after its first edition ended with Leys7 taking the 5 tix for running 10 different tribes in a row, the Biodiversity Prize dedicated to the memory of Erik Friborg has started again. Currently we have 4 players leading the group, with 2 tribes played so far.

 The Kirin Challenge is still unclaimed: 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. Clear this and we'll pass to Nephilim.

 Videos: Send me replays of your games, please! 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!



Thanks for featuring my by RexDart at Fri, 08/03/2012 - 14:59
RexDart's picture

Thanks for featuring my Goblin Welder deck this week. I spent a great deal more time tweaking that one than any deck recently, way more than my Esper Spirits deck that won a month back.

The main problem with the Artificers, I thought going in, was against linear aggro. The Batterskull plan and the Blade Splicers could buy time against fast aggro (Cat sligh, red elementals, etc), and my finisher was always going to be better than their board presence if they didn't kill me first. But linear aggro (Elves, Allies, Merfolk) was going to get their critical mass of synergistic guys out that my one or two fatties couldn't always trump. Undisrupted, those decks have a better endgame than me. The initial build had ZERO ways to interact with the opponent's board. Bosh and the Contagion Engine were added, and in my final test matches I swapped out a Paradise Mantle for the Blazing Torch just so I could kill a lord or troublesome utility creature in a pinch (and in magical Christmasland, recur it with Argivian Archaeologist.) And the torch randomly won me a couple games, including dominating game 3 of my last match against Vampires. A Germ riding a battering ram and carrying that torch, vampires cowering in fear, aw yeah!

Of course what I ended up losing to wasn't aggro at all, but AJ's demons. As Mike Flores would say, he had "moresies" on me. For every fatty I had, he had 3 of them. He chained them with Rune-Scarred Demons, which is uber-powerful. And I couldn't set up much early, because my shenanigans are creature-based and he had 6-8 sweepers in there.

Per Kuma's remark about noncreature permanents, I did consider Spine of Ish-Sah, but it kind of stinks that it goes back to your hand instead of yard when you sac it, so I thought it would be too much work to include it. I would rather have found some way to run Chrome Mox instead of Diamond, since Chrome Mox runs in land slots not spell slots like the Diamond does, and fit in 3-4 utility removal spells or countermagic. But I had too many artifacts to feel like Chrome Mox would be reliable, and the Diamonds were nice color-fixing against people who, for instance, blew up all my dual lands with Sundering Titan :-)

Regarding the "spirit of the format", I mostly view it like Kuma. That is to say, at the fundamental level it's just a legacy format made more interesting by combining the vast legacy card pool with a novel deckbuilding restriction. Trying to fit interesting cards, combos, and ideas into that restriction is challenging and fun. I certainly have my "Vorthos" moments where I run some card just because I love the art, but most of the time it's me sitting at the bar, idly browsing the Decked Builder app, and suddenly wondering "what can I do with THIS?" And I love it when all the pieces fall together into something that resembles a reasonable deck.

In retrospect, I'm not sure I would even call that odious Wall-Belcher deck outside the "spirit of the format". It's noxious and disgusting and an affront to the game in ANY format, but at least the person who originally designed it a few months ago can claim that he did the work and found a way to fit that ridiculous joke of a deck into the format's restrictions. Anybody copying it now lacks that justification.

The Spine is absolutely bad by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 08/04/2012 - 11:40
Kumagoro42's picture

The Spine is absolutely bad for the Welder: he wants stuff that STAYS in the graveyard. He recurs the Torch too, btw. I an old Legacy build, I liked to put a Darksteel Forge in the deck (and sometimes Platinum Angel, since I already had Lighting Greaves, and that's pretty much a lock if you can pull it off undisrupted).

I'm going to play a Welder build later this month. I reworked my Construct one with your finisher package and Anger. I was shy to use actual Mountains because my package was based on Sundering Titan (plus Duplicant and Bosh). I think I satisfied my Sundering crave with the Golem deck now, so I'm going to use Anger-ed Sphink and Leviathan instead. :) Here's the list:

4 Steel Overseer
4 Serrated Biskelion
4 Cathodion
4 Su-Chi
4 Triskelion

4 Goblin Welder
1 Anger
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Filigree Angel
1 Bosh, Iron Golem
1 Inkwell Leviathan
4 Faithless Looting
4 Intuition

4 Scalding Tarn
1 Volcanic Island
1 Badlands
1 Plateau
3 Mountain
1 Island
4 Great Furnace
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Darksteel Citadel

You can see here a card that has been key in tests (and in similar builds I played in the past): Filigree Angel. Of course, it's directly linked to a mana base very different from yours, with 12 artifact lands. This way, the Angel could give you even 18-21 life per recursion. That's good game for fast aggro and burn, whatever they might do.
I still prefer the Constructs (I built Welder decks around artifact Shapehifters, Goblin with Sharpshooter/Basilisk Collar as a secondary strategy, and even artifact Walls), because they have Steel Overseer that comes very early on and calls for removals (this way protecting indirectly the Welder), plus a lot of control built-in (Biskelion, Triskelion, both interacting with the Overseer). It's a tribal base that doesn't depend entirely on the Welder and can win by itself. And in this latest version, I put Cathodion and Su-Chi in there: they are great blockers with excellent PT/CMC ratios (3/3 for 3, 4/4 for 4), and they got a nice interaction with the Welder, since sacrificing them can fuel the casting of, say, a Triskelion, or even Bosh, or a Bosh activation.

A thing has to be said about your Moxen, in this regard: they are bad Welder targets. When you sacrifice them, you're doing a 2-for-1 on yourself. And they are even more of a nightmare if you want for them to come back.

'I think he doth protest too by AJ_Impy at Fri, 08/03/2012 - 17:09
AJ_Impy's picture

'I think he doth protest too much', as the bard once put it. I asked that Kuma use Thrun, the Last Troll to kill me rather than his faerie tokens, so as to be beaten by his tribe, Angels bested by Shamans. That's it, that's all. I have no beef with him squeezing Bitterblossom in his deck. It's a good card with a strong winning pedigree, Kuma has no more need to justify it than anyone needs to justify Goblin Charbelcher or Helm of Obedience. Good cards that win games are A-OK, and don't particularly need a half-dozen paragraphs trying to say why they fit into a deck or a theme. Bitterblossom was good enough to earn a pre-emptive ban in Modern due to its tournament successes, which is more than enough reason to stick it in a deck which can utilise it.

Seriously, no reason to go on about it nor to compose an apologia on its behalf. It's a perfectly reasonable card choice, you're defending against attacks which aren't being made.

Quoting myself: "the thing by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 08/04/2012 - 11:33
Kumagoro42's picture

Quoting myself: "the thing didn't bother me per se (...) but it provided me with the chance to talk some more about my take on the Tribal Wars format." It was just the trigger for a "storytelling approach" piece I was planning to do anyway, with those two different Merfolk decks as the main example.

Anyway, the "trigger" was this (you can see it in our replay): as soon as I played Bitterblossom, you asked me (quoting verbatim): "Playing faeries or just random good cards? ;)". And no, my friend, that wasn't random at all. My point is that my approach is exactly NOT playing random good cards (that's why I never play Punishing Fire :P). I look at a card, as strong as it may be (I prefer to call them "exciting" :P), only as a function of the general structure and theme of the deck I want to build, or even build around them. That's what I wanted to talk about here. I even thought not to mention you or our game at all, but in the end that would have seemed strange.

BTW, I admit I totally misread your Thrun joke in Game 2 (I just rewatched it): when you said, "Use thrun: Seems better to be killed on-tribe than off. :)", in the heat of the moment I somehow didn't read the "to be killed" part, and thought you were being sarcastic, like an "ad" for Thrun being better off-tribe, or something. Hence my weird-sounding answer to that, about him not being off-tribe. :)

Fair enough. The key function by AJ_Impy at Sat, 08/04/2012 - 15:01
AJ_Impy's picture

Fair enough. The key function of every deck is to defeat the opposition, however: Any card can be justified in working towards that end. 'Bitterblossom is good in this deck' as a phrase is a bit off, as it's good in practically any deck that wins through damage. Innovating with cards that have been in the eyes of the players of the top tables is really, really hard: To take up the example of Punishing Fire, I included it in my Spellshaper deck as a 1-mana recursion engine to feed spellshaping in addition to its role as removal and a finisher. Despite that clever ruse, you'd have been absolutely right to dismiss it as a random good card, because as with Bitterblossom, I can win with Punishing fire/grove and nothing else.

Playing strong cards is absolutely fine, whatever they may be, but playing them and claiming to innovate with them, or building around them, doesn't really hold water: Revisiting extremely well-trodden ground can't be called trailblazing.

I think we're talking by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 08/07/2012 - 12:37
Kumagoro42's picture

I think we're talking entirely different languages here, which probably stems from a very different notion of deckbuildind, or even the game itself (which is, in turn, interesting, but not the right subject for a debate here). Basically, you say "innovating", I say (maybe pompously) "telling stories", meaning with that giving a texture and a structure to the deck that goes beyond the technicalities involved in "beating the opponent". It's seeking (and of course mostly failing) for the unexpected, the twist, and at the same time, those elements that better fit together, that "click". It's an entirely different perspective on what we're doing.

Anyway, Punishing Fire in a Spellshaper deck = very good. Punishing Fire in a X deck = very boring. Mind you, not "bad", or "wrong", or "despicable": just boring. That's my perspective. As soon as I'll start playing Bitterblossom in any deck that could accommodate it, feel free to call me on my bullshit. But you know that's not going to happen. (Also: nobody ever played Bitterblossom these past two years. As of Week 77, zero times. Punishing Fire+Grove of the Burnwillows, as of Week 77, was played 82 times. If the inverse was true, rest assured I would have never played Bitterblossom, strong or not, cool or not. I'm just like that.)

"Bitterblossom is good in this deck" isn't off at all. I can't see how that could be. In fact, again, Bitterblossom wasn't random in that deck, as it's clear if you look at the other components. It feels right for the deck (or better, given the specific deckbuilding process, the deck felt right for it.) Saying that every strong card plays the same in every deck is outright absurd to me.

But it's not even about strong cards or weak cards. That comes after. Also, I assume every single card everyone chooses to play (tribal base of smaller tribes aside) is strong to him, or at least "cool". Why would someone think of playing a card that he considers bad within the specific deck is building? (Of course, misjudgments happen.)

And you can win with Grizzly Bears and nothing else, too.

Kuma, small correction: by RexDart at Tue, 08/07/2012 - 21:23
RexDart's picture

Kuma, small correction: Bitterblossom HAS been played, there were 8 copies in the Top 4 in a single week in fact. Way back in February, I ran 4 in my 4th place UB faeries deck, and somebody that same week ran 4 in a 1st or 2nd place B/W Tokens (soul sisters) deck. It promptly vanished again, as far as I know.

BB is a card that is extremely good in fae decks that take advantage of it for tribal synergies, but also decks that can just use the tokens, or can use triggers off creatures entering play. But I don't think it's just good in every deck that might want small black fliers, the way Punishing Grove is good in nearly EVERY deck that wants to kill small creatures. BB is above the power curve, but legacy is a huge format and you could say that about alot of cards.

Anyhow, just my opinion, but if BB is the card that brings your deck to life, it would be silly to leave it on the shelf just because it happened to say "tribal enchantment - faerie" on it. And personally, I just love that Rebecca Guay art and I will always take an opportunity to have one of her cards sitting in play all game :-)

You're right, I just by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 08/08/2012 - 04:15
Kumagoro42's picture

You're right, I just remembered Ayanam1 playing Bitterblossom (for his first time ever in any format, like me) in his Soul Sisters/Sorin 2.0 deck. (I think I subconsciously took inspiration from that, since the mechanic of lifegaining+token generators was there as well, and it was a great build.)
I was looking at vantar6697's statistics in the Popularity Survey, that don't show any Bitterblossom as of Week 77. I assume there's a mistake there. The week you mention was week 59. Weird that Bitter was at zero and then two different decks came in the same week, anyway. :)

Bitterblossom for me is the go-to card when you need a fast, reliable token generator, mainly for defense purposes (if you watch the game I linked, the faerie tokens have been used almost uniquely as chump blockers vs. AJ Angels, keeping them in check long enough to achieve card advantage and board superiority.) In this specific case, I worked backwards, because Bitterblossom was the latest addition to my collection and I wanted to take it for a ride. But I could have started with wanting a token deck in Golgari colors (Golgari is possibly my current favorite guild, and the one I spent more efforts collection-wise, to the point of having 4 Bayous and 2 Pernicious Deeds even.) Off the top of my mind, it would involve either Bitter or Awakening Zone. Initially I had the Liege there too, and Awakening wouldn't be right for him.

I'll definitely play Bitter again because it's very fun, and poses some interesting questions, like what you do with all these early tokens? Just expecting for them to land some damage on their own is a bad, or at least unexciting battleplan. (Blades? Never!) And how do you stop the life hemorrhage? Against burn decks that's bound to make you lose the game. Essence Warden, the "green soul sister", is both an easy answer and one that opens interesting scenarios, first of all going with Shamans, a strong tribe overall that's mainly used in red. Also: what do you do as an opponent, you kill the Warden on sight to dismantle the interaction with Bitterblossom? Only to remain without removals when Master of the Wild Hunt comes to seize the board two turns later?

"I was looking at by Vantar at Fri, 08/10/2012 - 19:28
Vantar's picture

"I was looking at vantar6697's statistics in the Popularity Survey, that don't show any Bitterblossom as of Week 77."

Huh? I have it recorded as #345 with 14 copies played during the tracked period.
Digging deeper into the source data for the popularity list I can also tell you that the first recorded playing of Bitterblossom in 2012 was done by apaulogy with 4 copies in a Faerie deck on 1/14/2012 then Ayanam1 played 4 in a Human Deck and RexDart played 4 in a Faerie deck in week 59 (2/18/2012), then next week Ayanam1 played 2 more copies in a Spirit deck.

Then Chrome is very bad at by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 08/11/2012 - 05:18
Kumagoro42's picture

Then Chrome is very bad at finding stuff in those sheets, because it still doesn't give me any result for "bitter". :)
How do you interrogate the sheet? Of course looking at a list of 2123 cards to see if the one you're looking for is there isn't viable.

While we're at it, I'd like for you to do what you've just done (number of copies by player with deck and date, possibly even result) for the cards in the watch list. Currently just Goblin Charbelcher and Helm of Obedience, with attention on possible showings of Sneak Attack, Doomsday, and Grindstone. Can you do that?

Control F doesn't work? by Paul Leicht at Sat, 08/11/2012 - 05:56
Paul Leicht's picture

Control F doesn't work?

That opens different search by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 08/11/2012 - 06:22
Kumagoro42's picture

That opens different search windows depending on where you are in the page, I assume - sometimes the "find and replace" query (which I didn't even think about using), and sometimes the Chrome "search in page" window, which is what I was using.

Anyway, it appears I was just being dense, because even the latter DOES find Bitterblossom if you properly click on the up and down arrows. Probably I was always placed ahead of the name and had to click on "search up", or something (still stupid the fact that it reports "0 of 0" if you don't do that, leading to think there's none). On my defense, I only use Chrome for these sheets, Opera instantly finds me anything anywhere by just typing the relevant characters in a small window that's always there.

Regarding Helm of Obedience, by RexDart at Sun, 08/12/2012 - 21:57
RexDart's picture

Regarding Helm of Obedience, I think it's at least possible that having Helm of the Void combo available in the format might be a good thing to the extent that it creates a very real possibility of a deck having to face Leyline of the Void in an event. Graveyard strategies are very popular, and with the lack of sideboards they can easily run amok. While most of them can be fought without dedicated yard hate, there are, as we know, some very all-in dredge decks that are possible and quite difficult to interact with, and having Leyline played could help discourage that. Helm of the Void combo can at least be interacted with much easier than dredge can, through counterspells at least. Helm of the Void is capable of winning quickly, but the version I'm familiar with in regular legacy relies on Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors and perhaps Dark Ritual as its fast mana and can't usually win as fast as Charbelcher can. Whereas the only hope against Charbelcher on the draw is Force of Will, there are plenty of commonly played counterspells that will be online in time to fight Helm.

You have to be careful with by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 08/13/2012 - 13:09
Kumagoro42's picture

You have to be careful with these evaluations, because you are thinking of Legacy here, not Legacy Tribal Wars. The metas of the two formats can't be more different. Essentially, "you can stop this by counter magic" within Tribal Wars means something akin to "only one tier-3 archetype can stop this". There's almost no counter magic in the format, and definitely no Force of Will (for a lot of reasons, not the least being that it's not a sanctioned competitive format, so it doesn't attract players with money collections). We have seen how much of an impact Cavern of Souls had on the format (that is, none at all, even less that I was expecting, it's been barely played). This means we have to be extra careful with turn-1 and turn-2 endgame combos.

Anyway, I'll elaborate on this on my next article.

I think countermagic is by RexDart at Mon, 08/13/2012 - 19:15
RexDart's picture

I think countermagic is criminally underplayed in tribal wars among the control decks. The control decks are playing sometimes as many as 8 board sweepers to prey on the linear aggro decks, and many of the aggro deck pilots are compounding the problem by failing to play anything (like Armageddon) that might seriously punish those decks for relying so heavily on tapping out turn 4. But when you slip a little combo into the metagame, the control decks with counterspells are supposed to be doing the work of keeping combo in check, but those decks aren't picking up the slack.

I just looked at DirtyDuck's Kor combo decklist that won again this week, and you know what ISN'T in it? ANY hand disruption or countermagic. Not a Thoughtseize, Cabal Therapy, or Dispel to be seen in that list. There's no room for all that stuff, which real Cephalid Breakfast plays. And he only has a single Dread Return. That whole combo folds to one counterspell. He has a good backup plan to be sure, SFM/Batterskull does good work, but at that point he's playing what is considered "fair magic" in the legacy world. His entire strategy is based around the fact that he knows most of the field every week is aggro decks that won't manage to kill him before he combos out, and a couple of control decks with no counterspells. The meta needs to adjust to start fighting these combo decks.

I do believe that Belcher, because it's turn 1 and there will never be many FoW in the event, is too good to just "adjust" the metagame to fight. I also think a dedicated dredge strategy would be too good because you can't effectively fight it without dedicated yard hate. But in general I think the control players could be doing more to help keep combo down. If they just refuse to play countermagic so they can keep crushing aggro with their 8 sweepers, it's no surprise combo comes in and stomps face.

Countermagic isn't played by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 08/14/2012 - 14:42
Kumagoro42's picture

Countermagic isn't played because you mostly CAN'T. I mean, how many tribes are able to either account for a strong blue presence or splash for a significant level of blue mana? You know how they always say that blue is the color with fewer creatures? Indeed, the non-Endangered, strongly-blue tribes are just these (in order of decreazing size): Wizard, Bird, Rogue, Merfolk, Illusion, Faerie, Shapeshifter, and Drake. You can add the Endangered ones: Artificer (34 members), Djinn (29), Serpent (23), Sphinx (23), Cephalid (15), Moonfolk (14), Leviathan (13), Fish (12), Crab (11), Ninja (10), Pirate (8), Metathran (8), Thalakos (7), Homunculus (7), Jellyfish (7), Kraken (6), Turtle (5), Squid (3), Whale (3). Most of them are essentially never played. The only consistent presence is Wizard and Merfolk (plus Human of course, as they are essentially a catch-all). Indeed, Ranth defeated Dirty's Kor-phalid Breakfast using countermagic in a Wizard build.

You can't expect for, say, Beast or Cat to splash blue only to fight combos. Because chances are, they will face aggro in most rounds, anyway. On the other hand, that's true for combo decks too: let's assume control decks start packing counterspells like you propose; should combo decks be scared out of existence by the fact that they will have, say, a 10% chance of not meeting aggro or other combos? More importantly: a control deck player who swaps mass removal for counter magic will maybe win the off-chance matchup with combo on Round 1, then lose to aggro in Round 2 and 3. Control decks need card advantage like oxygen, and in Tribal Wars card advantage is mostly attained by going 2-for-1 or more with a mass removal spell. Asking them to renounce this is asking them to give up their better chances of a positive score and just act as kamikazes against broken combos.

Anyway, I just finished the Watch List, with statistics and stuff, and it's pretty interesting to see how much these combo decks actually showed up and how well they actually went. Perception is somehow deceiving. I remand the discussion to the next article when I'll publish that.

I know I'm a little behind on this... by Misterpid at Mon, 08/13/2012 - 15:45
Misterpid's picture

I'm about a week behind in posting this, but thanks for featuring my Warrior deck. I've played it twice now and it went 2-1 both times. It's a fun deck to play and wasn't very tough to put together.