Entangled in Human Tribalism

Posted in Feature on January 17, 2007

By Frank Karsten

Today I have a special feature on the online Tribal Wars metagame, where Humans dominate the scene. But let's tackle Standard first. In the following table I have listed the 20 most popular Standard decks as seen in the Top 8s of online Premier Events last week. You can click on a deck name to go to the corresponding post in my deck-o-pedia forum thread, where you can find a decklist and short explanation of each deck archetype.

Deck namePopularityChange in popularity from last week
1. U/B Pickles■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■ (14%)-1%
2. Mono Green Aggro■■■■■ ■■■■■ (10%)+5% (!!!)
3. U/G Scryb&Force■■■■■ ■■■■■ (10%)-2%
4. U/W Urzatron■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%)+2%
5. Boros Deck Wins■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)+3%
6. Dralnu du Louvre■■■■■ ■■ (7%)+1%
7. GhaziGlare■■■■■ ■ (6%)+1%
8. Dragonstorm■■■■■ (5%)-3%
9. Ignite the Warrens■■■■ (4%)+2%
10. B/G/R Aggro■■■ (3%)+3%
11. W/B Control■■ (2%)-1%
12. Zoo■■ (2%)+2%
13. R/G Aggro■■ (2%)+1%
14. Searing Martyr■■ (2%)+2%
15. Izzetron■■ (2%)-1%
16. Panda Connection■■ (2%)+2%
17. U/R Snow■ (1%)-1%
18. BlinkRiders■ (1%)+1%
19. Black Rack Discard■ (1%)-9% (!!!)
20. Angelfire■ (1%)+0%

U/B Pickles, Boros Deck Wins, U/G Scryb&Force, and U/W Urzatron remain the best decks to gun for, just like the previous weeks. All of those decks are good, solid, and proven choices. I “solved” the controversial naming issue of Katsuhiro Mori's brainchild. TriscuitTron? PickleTron? DemonTron (that's Yasher_Huyasher's deck with a red splash)? How do you tag a deck with so many possible win conditions? Well, I just labeled all these extremely similar decks with one general name: U/W Urzatron. It doesn't sound cool, but at least everyone knows what we're talking about.

Sedge Sliver
The big surprises this week were the rise of Mono Green Aggro and the decline of Mono Black Rack discard. Mono Green Aggro leans heavily on Blanchwood Armor and green creature enhancers to deal a lot of damage with critters like Scryb Ranger and Silhana Ledgewalker quickly. If the online results are an indication, it is a viable archetype that is also conveniently cheap to construct, ticket-wise. The Black Rack discard deck appears to have been a one-week fashion. It has disappeared before I could even start thinking about how good the deck exactly is, but those fast drifts happen all the time in the hectic Magic Online world.

We also saw two interesting new deck archetypes in the Premier Event Top 8s, which I will investigate if they continue to do well in online events:

The State of Extended

In last week's online Extended events, Blue/White Urzatron, TEPS Desire, and Aggro Loam are the big three decks. Next up are Trinket Angel, Affinity, CAL, and Boros Deck Wins. Those are the other major decks to look out for.

Compared to last week, TEPS, Blue/White Urzatron and Aggro Loam taken huge leaps in popularity. Boros Deck Wins and Gifts Rock have declined. I will cover the state of the online Extended metagame in detail again soon, as I understand many eyes are on that format in this PTQ season. For now I'll leave you with the notion that having an answer to Life from the Loam might be the key in surviving Extended this weekend.

The Online Tribal Wars (Standard) Metagame

Coat_of_ArmsTribal Wars is a casual Magic Online format that emphasizes creature combat: One-third of every deck must be of a single creature type. There are no sideboards. Tribal Wars – Standard uses the normal Standard card pool. A Tribal 4x Premier Event took place last weekend, so I figured this week would be the perfect time to cover the format.

So what does the metagame look like? I won't put up detailed tables, simply because there haven't been enough major Tribal events to properly statisticize. Since the Time Spiral release, we've just had a couple small Premier events, and two big 4x Open tournaments (one was last weekend, the other was last month). Focusing on those 4x events, the Top 8 results were:

Tournament 862253, Tribal Wars – Standard 4x, 96 players, Sunday, December 10

1/2.VainisRed Deck Wins (Humans)
1/2.Antivamp MartyrProclamation (Humans)
3/4.ninazina U/W/R Control (Angels)
3/4.wearalegion MartyrProclamation (Humans)
5/8.ith373U/G/W mid-range Blink (Humans)
5/8.DaMiftProject X (Humans)
5/8.o0PraizOrzhov Aggro (Humans)
5/8.PinoPlayer MartyrProclamation (Humans)

Tournament 891633, Tribal Wars – Standard 4x, 96 players, Sunday, January 14

1. prolepsis9R/B/W Control (Angels)
2. Th00morBlue Skies (Illusions)
3/4. Bazaar of BaghdadU/R Snow (Wizards)
3/4. caliban17Red Deck Wins (Humans)
5/8.AlexGierseOrzhov Aggro (Humans)
5/8.vovilon79Mono Green Aggro (Elves)
5/8.LCYSatanic Sligh (Humans)
5/8.RodiusOrzhov Aggro (Humans)

Looking at these results, we can see that over half of the Standard Tribal Wars decks use Humans as its tribe. Humans, of all creature types! Powerful mythical creature types such as Dragons and Elementals don't impress in this creature-heavy format. Nope, blank boring Humans. Disappointing, but with the amount of playable humans in the card pool, that is not a surprise. The tribal rules hardly seem like a constraint when you are adding the likes of Dark Confidant, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Martyr of Sands, and Magus of the Scroll to your deck. While other creature types are scrambling for playables, the humans have all the choice in the world. Here are representative versions of some of the major archetypes:

Martyr Proclamation – Humans

Download Arena Decklist

Magus of the Disk
This deck may look familiar if you have seen Gabriel Nassif's deck in action in the Top 8 of the 2006 World Championships. Just like Nassif's deck, this deck is designed to exploit Martyr of Sands plus Proclamation of Rebirth. Nassif's version already included some Humans in Martyr of Sands and Weathered Wayfarer, so the leap to Tribal was a natural one. In order to get up to the required 20 Human creatures, the deck had to cut staples like Remand and Compulsive Research, replacing them with Magus of the Disk as Wrath of God #5-7, as well as Sky Hussar, which is mostly just a good card drawer but can also function as a win condition if needed. Icatian Javelineers and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV aren't that exiting, but hey, you need something to round out your creature base (and to pay the forecast of Sky Hussar). In a format that is dictated by creatures, this archetype should be strong. Once you are gaining 15+ life per Martyr / Proclamation loop, the opponent has to commit a lot of resources to deal any damage. Then you spring the Wrath of God and win the game. A vulnerability of this deck is to disruption like Persecute.

R/W/B Angels Control

Download Arena Decklist

This is essentially a white control deck with Wrath of God, which remains a commandingly influential card in a format where every deck has at least 20 creatures. The creatures in this deck cost more mana than Wrath of God, which is the way it is supposed to be, since it allows you to first clear the board without any losses on your side and then dominate it with powerful flyers like Adarkar Valkyrie. Easy. Blinding Angel adds a special element to the deck, delivering a “lock” that not every deck has outs against. The deck dips into red for Firemane Angel and black for Angel of Despair to increase the Angel count up to 20. When I saw the black cards, I immediately thought “Why not blue for Lightning Angel?”, but black might still be better because it adds Persecute to the mix. Without that discard spell, this deck would not have a chance against the Martyr Proclamation engine.

Orzhov Humans Aggro

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Dark Confidant
If there is one archetype that has plenty of choice in the creature department, then it's an Orzhov aggro deck with Humans. This is easily seen in Alexander's list, which includes a couple one-ofs. Perhaps he couldn't decide which creature was better, so he just threw in a mix, but that luxury is something most other creature types don't have! His deck is rather straightforward, having a weenie mana curve starting at one and going up to four and a couple support cards. Alexander told me the following about the deck:

“The idea is to beat the opponent with my creatures, while getting more and more cards with the Dark Confidants and regaining life with the Martyr of Sands. Orzhov Pontiff acts like a one-sided Wrath here, especially with a sac outlet, and Mindslicer is versus the Martyr Proclamation deck. I got utterly beaten in the Top 8 by Mono Red, who played Blood Moon in round three in game 2 and 3. If I am to play Tribal again, I would choose a deck that runs Blood Moon as well. It seems so broken against all the multicolor decks with so little enchantment hate.”

Which brings me to…

Red Deck Wins – Humans

Download Arena Decklist

This mid-range good stuff deck is cleverly built, because it can execute any game plan it wants to and switch between them at will. It can run out a fast curve with Magus of the Scroll, Sparkmage Apprentice, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, and Avalanche Riders, or it can go for the control route with Martyr of Ashes and Stuffy Doll. The good thing is that most cards in the deck have a dual aggro/control orientation. In a format where you have no sideboards, such flexibility is invaluable. Martyr of Sands can either attack for some points or clear the board. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage can nug the last couple points to the dome or peck off opposing creatures. A vital part of the deck is Blood Moon, which can destroy certain decks. Urza lands or dual lands there? Not anymore now, let's turn your entire mana base into one giant color screw. Topping off with a snow land engine and Skreds, this great deck might just also finish you with a Skred on its own Stuffy Doll.

caliban17 (Erik Engelhart) told me the following unfortunate but amusing story regarding his experience in the 4x Tribal tournament:

“So I take my red human deck to the top 4. Then in game 3, with the board still undecided, my monitor, working perfectly for 6 years, chooses that EXACT moment to explode. Literally, something burst and smoke started pouring out.”

caliban17 plays Snow-Covered Mountain.
caliban17: my monitor just died
caliban17: eek
prolepsis9: {y}
prolepsis9: back?
Turn 6: prolepsis9.
caliban17: I don't know if anyeon can see this
caliban17: but my monitor exploded
caliban17: literlally
caliban17: that's what ahppened
caliban17 has run out of time and has lost the match.

“So I offer that as advice to all MTGO players – if it's an important tournament, have a backup computer with MTGO already installed handy... you just never know what might happen. Hardware failure – something unique to the online Magic experience... :) ”

Mono Green Elves Aggro

Download Arena Decklist

This deck is very similar to the Mono Green Aggro deck that is putting up good numbers in Standard. The lack of Blanchwood Armor surprises me, but it is clear that this deck emphasizes creatures, critters, and attackers (mostly Elves, of course). With as many as 38 creatures in the deck, that theme is overwhelming. This deck runs the obligatory Scryb Ranger and Spectral Force combination, which seems to show up in every aggressively minded green deck these days. The deck's pilot apparently wasn't that excited by the deck, though. He said “It's a very stupid elves deck. It was very lucky.”

Mono Blue Skies – Illusions

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Krovikan Mist
If you've been playing Magic for a long time, you may remember the Blue Skies decks that were popular in the Mercadian Masques era. This deck builds on the same concept of stunning the opponent's development with cheap counters while it builds up a huge flying army. Krovikan Mist is what makes this archetype “tick,” and it can grow out of hand quickly. Errant Ephemeron and Fathom Seer prove that they are more than just good draft commons. And did you know that Halcyon Glaze becomes an Illusion?

Now that own you've seen a bunch of the top tier Standard Tribal decks, all I am left with is to give my opinion on what the best deck is. If I would participate in a Tribal tournament, I would pick the B/W/R Angel control deck. It has Wrath of God, which just has to be the best card in the format, as well as creatures that are larger than the opponent's. The deck also has Persecute against Martyr Proclamation and can beat everything in the long game with Firemane Angel. Playing control seems like the correct choice in this format, and B/W/R Angel seems like the best option to me.

News Flash…

I'll start with great news: another IPA Championships! When Magic Online first came out, the only available cards were from Invasion block. At that time, there were only a few online players, so the Invasion block cards are relatively rare (and hence, expensive; have you ever seen the online price tag of Orim's Chant?). Since old sets are taken out of the Magic Online store after a while, no new Invasion Block cards are inserted into the market… except for the recurring promotional Invasion Block Sealed Deck Tournament that is being held every once in a while. This special event will take place on Saturday January 27, 9:00 am PST. Admission is free, and there are many Invasion Block packs to be opened and won. Of course, there is a catch. You have to qualify in order to participate. From Thursday, January 18 through Wednesday January 24, there will be 32 IPA Qualifier Premier Events. See the Magic Online Event Schedule for a complete schedule of IPA Qualifiers. The Top 8 finishers of each of these tournaments are invited to the Invasion Block Sealed Deck Tournament, so be sure to join.

In other news, I have a change of staff. As you may know, I base my metagame analyses on the replays of the Top 8 matches of Premier Events. In the last couple months, Adept_Yawgmoth has helped me by watching replays and collecting data. If you had been doing well at Premier Events, you might remember a message from him requesting your decklist. Adept_Yawgmoth is, however, no longer doing this. Instead, we have a new special account, “DeckMaster,” who will do this. So this is just a heads up for those of you who are successful in the Premier Events: DeckMaster will be after your decklists. Based on the information you provide him, I can do proper analyses and present cutting edge deck tech.

Next week I have an interview with Jerry van Hulle, the manager of most of the MTGO beta process. The Planar Chaos Beta sign up application has now been posted and can be found here. Score well on that application and you might be invited for the search for bugs.

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