IntoTheAether Flips For Zuberas!

Posted in Feature on October 13, 2005

By Bennie Smith

Bennie Smith began playing Magic in 1994 and started writing about it shortly after. A Virginia State Champion, he enjoys few things better than winning at tournaments with home brews. Bennie has a weekly column on He also recently published The Complete Commander. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and the occasional Commander games on Magic Online under the handle "blairwitchgreen."

Natural Selection: Civil War!

For Week Five of Natural Selection, Ith turned each kingdom on itself, matching us against players within our own kingdom. I had to play eMRaistlin, who it turns out lives in France, and we had a bit of a time catching up to one another. I was certainly curious to see how the Zubera deck he built would play; Zuberas have always intrigued me, but I never got past the noodlin' stage with the little spirits.

I have to admit to having the initial feeling that my Bringer tribe would overpower his deck in the long run. Unfortunately for me, neither of our games got to the “long run.” Phyrexian Altar helped provide a sacrifice outlet while providing the colors of needed mana. Plunge into Darkness is perfect, allowing the deck to dig deep, gain life and sacrifice multiple Zuberas.

What is the deck digging for? Second Sunrise, of course! Get back all the Zuberas who already died this turn to come back and do it all again.

It was amazing how quickly this deck just won from what appeared to be a fairly innocuous position. I was at 20 life for goodness sake... against Zuberas! What are they going to do? Win on turn 6, of course!

Now, to be a little fair, in both games my shaky mana base prevented me from participating, but I'm not really sure whether I could have done much to stop his deck even if I'd been firing on all cylinders. I was very impressed with the deck and asked if he'd be willing to share it with us.

MTGO handle? eMRaistlin
Real name? eMRaistlin has been my name on the internet for so long I'm not sure I can remember my real name.
Age? 29
Where do you live? I live near Paris, France, in a small town name Cesson (77,240)
How long have you been playing Magic? I can't remember exactly, but I remember the friend who tried to show me the game defeated me in my very first match with a first turn Lotus+Channel+Fireball combo. Maybe it was Beta or Unlimited, not sure about it.
How long have you been playing MTGO? I've been playing mtgo since December 2004, I think.
What's your favorite online format(s)? Online Extended. Extended has always been my favorite Format. Combo meets aggro and control in a nice balance.
How has your Zubera deck done in Natural Selection? Well, you're my second match, and my second victory. That should make something like a non-representative 100% victory ratio :)
Did you get a chance to play in the Tribal Wars Premier Event? No, I couldn't attend to this event, because I have a complicated and full IRL life!
In one of our chats, you mentioned that Zuberas was one of your two favorite decks. What's the other one? In paper Extended format, I used to play, when it was legal, a deck based upon Mythic Proportions and Academy Researchers/Iridescent Drake, backed up by free counterspells, and nothing can be as fun as attacking on second turn with a hasted 10/10.
You killed me pretty quickly in the two games we played. Is that typical for your deck? Actually, yes. The deck used to be played in normal extended, and had a Fundamental Turn of 4. With the extended deck list, in fact, it can be competitive-- it made 17th in a 160 person Premier Event once. The one for Natural Selection is different, I have to change it for the tribal wars format, I had to put all 5 Zubera into it, and I'm trying to play without the Aether Vial, but even still that only added a turn or two to the Fundamental Turn.
I thought your deck was really cool; have you run across any other cool decks in Natural Selection? So far, I only faced another Zubera deck, and yours, so my experience is pretty limited. I've also seen someone (not sure he plays Natural Selection, though) playing a wizard version of Cephalid Breakfast. And I love Cephalid Breakfast.
Do you think there's anything in Ravnica that you might want to add to your deck? I still don't know. Maybe Congregation At Dawn, but it seems to be a win-more card. I will benefit the probable Birds of Paradise new price to buy a play set and add them to the Extended version of ZubAltar, to replace the vial, but I think the Natural Selection version, being casual, doesn't really need to be really worked out.
What's up with the seemingly random Blinkmoth Well in your decklist? It comes from Scepter Chant being a big opponent to deal with in competitive Extended. So I put one Well randomly into the list, just to have a potential answer to Scepter Chant/Lapse. It could very well be useless in Tribal, I don't know.

Turbo Zubera (Tribal Wars) by eMRaistlin

Download Arena Decklist

For those of you who are interested in joining Natural Selection, there are some kingdoms that have “OPEN” slots and can certainly use your tribal warriors!

Clockwork City-States (artifacts) – two open slots
Holy Armada (white) – has two empty slots
Mycothonia – has three empty slots
Pentgärd (5Color) – three open slots
Sewer Dwellers (black) – has three empty slots
Forgedale (red) - has three empty slots
The Far Isles (blue) – has one slot empty

Wish me luck this week as I square off against Henry Crun with his White/Walls deck!

Dipping into the mailbag (of sorts):

Last week I put out the call to see what you all would like to see covered in future columns, and I really appreciate all of you who took the time to respond. I wanted to take a little time to answer a few posts and emails here because I received multiple inquiries on these subjects.

AJ_Impy wrote:

What would we like to see covered? Good question. I'd quite like to see some articles on acquiring individual cards without paying over the odds, with advice for the newer players on what's worth it and, especially, what to avoid. The murky depths of the secondary market could do with a few torches.

Several other people asked about online trading. I actually did a pretty large overview of online trading here, including links to other articles on MTGO trading. If there are some aspects I missed there, or need to expand on, let me know and I'll be happy to dig into it further.

orcishartillery wrote:

Could you have someone update the Magic Online Vanguard page to include the new 9th Edition avatars? Thanks!

I alerted the powers that be about that, thanks for the heads-up! Hopefully they will update that soon. Speaking of the Magic Online Vanguard page... I talk about Vanguard a lot in these pages, namely because Vanguard is one of the things that truly distinguishes the MTGO experience from paper Magic, in addition to being a lot of fun! I try to make sure to include at least one live link to the Vanguard page but on occasion I slip and forget to include it. When that happens, I inevitably get flamed on the boards or email by a few apparently really grumpy players who are angry they don't have the link to read about the Vanguard abilities. I will try to be even more vigilant about including the link each time I mention Vanguard... but keep in mind that the Vanguard page is literally two clicks away. At the top of any page, click on Magic Online hotlink, this will take you to the Magic Online home page. There's a huge Vanguard button right below the Magic Online Card Shop button. Click the button, and you're there.

Reedsnake writes:

Anyone know what the elephant avatar in the draft queue photo is or does??

He's referring to the picture of the Wizards 999 draft queue in last week's article, specifically the avatar that Jake_Theis (on the Brand Management team for Magic) was using. These are old avatars from the early days of MTGO, and they don't have any Vanguard abilities associated with them. The elephant avatar comes from the elephant tokens you'd get from Call of the Herd or Elephant Ambush.

Algona writes:

Things I'd like to see: More background and interviews on the MOL team and facilities. Send Bennie to Renton!

Maybe you guys could start up a letter writing campaign to Scott Johns? I imagine a cost-benefit analysis could help justify the expense, if there are any volunteers! ;)

Algona writes (continued):

What about Adepts? Look up Adept Khurr, he is the Adept contact for the boards. Maybe an in-depth look at MOL Customer Service, from the Adepts and the MaSS room through email and telephone support.

Both are excellent ideas! Others wrote in wondering about the Adepts, who they are, how you get to be one, so look for a feature or two on Adepts in the near future!

staynz70au writes:

I know I'm not the only one who has noticed the face plate on some Kavus, the hat on some BoP's, the difference in helmets between some 2HG's (and differences in helmets in the Serra Angel and different hats on the Prodigal Sorcerer) and much more. I've seen at least 2 varieties of most avatars and more than that of a couple (I'm sure I've seen at least three different FTK's - no adornments, wrist guards and faceplates). What's the deal? Bennie (I'm pretty sure it was Bennie, I have a horrible memory) mentioned it in an article a while back and said that he'd tell us all about it but it's never been brought back up.

Don't worry; I haven't forgotten about this. Getting this information together (along with screenshots) is going to take some time, and there is a lot on the programmers' plates right now (with Mirage and V3.0 coming up). All I can say is “patience” and know that we will do a feature on this eventually. Reedsnake did offer this nugget of information on the boards for starters: “You get the special items added to your avatar when your constructed or limited rating reaches over 1700... this is shown in the help index under ratings. So there would be a total of 4 of each avatar .. Both ratings under 1700, 1 or the other over 1700, and both over 1700.”

FFA – One Year Anniversary Throw-Down!

Back in July I wrote about the Sunday Night FFA (Free For All) and had a great time playing in it. Unfortunately, other commitments have kept me from joining them for another game, and I was sad to have to miss their one year anniversary special event—teams! Luckily, one of the winning teammates, CutToTheChase, dropped me a tournament report/recap to share with us!

Hi Bennie,

In reply to your offer on the forums of a rundown of the 1Year Anniversary Event of the FFA. Well it came about like this, the 1 year anniversary was coming up and we wanted it to be special but we'd used almost every other format in previous weeks, Vanguard, tribal you name it and we'd covered it. However, a while ago, the sponsor, MTGO Traders, had asked if we could do a teams tourney so this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Now there were some inherent difficulties in doing a teams event - you can either do 2HG, 3HG, 2v2 etc but all of these formats mean multiple rounds and a long tourney and the FFA has always tried to keep it 2 rounds and well... FFA, so that means we had to try something different and that was 2v2v2 all at one FFA table with FFA settings.

The problem with this is that the interface does not recognize your partner as an opponent so cards like Gifts Ungiven, Fact or Fiction and Trade Secrets were instantly broken but rather than ban them we just made the following rule "you can't target your partner as an opponent but can target them as a player as per normal". So basically if you played Syphon Mind your partner would also have to discard, but with a Nezumi Graverobber you couldn't target your partner's graveyard because it said "target opponent" but after he'd flipped you could because it says "target player." We also banned the following cards- Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, Tempting Wurm and Seedtime. (The bannings had been discussed for several weeks on the forums leading up to the event). And finally, decks had to be legal as per the new 2HG rules of only 4 of a certain card across both decks and sideboards. To make things easier we asked people to pre-register their teams, this way we could do the tables in advance. A fine feature I've found and that can help tourney organizers is this random number generator. It does groups of numbers as well so in this case I was after 9 tables of 3 teams each.

All in all the turnout was great. By close of registration we had the tables full bar one so we had 26 teams and 52 people set to go. Unfortunately there were a few no shows and a couple of late comers so not all teams made the start. In the lead up to this event I realized that it'd probably come down to one deck being a combo deck and the other being a control deck to stop others combos and protect your own combo. I also read up on what the decks had been like in the new 2HG format and it seemed the best decks were Tooth and Nail backed up by a Control deck...well that's all fine and good if you want to destroy someone's mana base and then swing for 40 but in FFA things are a little different and people may have time to recover before all the opponents could be this is what we ran instead:

Dragonstorm Combo by CutToTheChase

Download Arena Decklist

Backup Control by Sarsem

Download Arena Decklist

The games were timed 120 minutes instead of the normal 150 to keep things running tight as this was over 3 rounds instead of the normal 2 and to be honest I figured that most of the decks would be really broken and that no one was in fear of timing out.

Round one was the toughest for us and to be honest I thought we were going to go out 1st round. The teams were a Biorhythm deck backed up by control, and the other team appeared to be 2 control decks, one mono Blue the other White/Blue, not good times for us...but an early Biorhythm was countered which was countered which was countered (the stacks for these games were just wild, I look forward to the new 2HG format hitting online with bated breath) their early gamble had faltered, so we tried to go off ourselves and tested the waters with a Cabal Ritual but couldn't manage to counter 2 counters... it left us in good position to go off the next turn which we did... but only partially, however Rorix was good enough hold the fort until Kokusho mopped up.

Round two was very short as there was a distinct lack of islands about and we went off for a turn 3 win.

Round three was the Grand Finale - Sleast and Monkeygirl were running Sacred Ground Obliterate, Hootieman and Akin were running Balancing Tings and Control, counters got thrown around on various spells like Wildfire but eventually we had a shot at going off, the problem was my opening hand had a Kokusho in it ...but the rest was perfect so I'd kept it and then later discarded it planning to bring it back when I stormed for Bladewing the Risen, but then things went bad as I drew the Risen on the fatal turn.. but we had to go off...we had enough counters to cover anyone else's counters and went for it, dropping everyone to 10 life or less and in play Nightscape Familiar, Kokusho and Rorix Bladewing. So Rorix attacked Hootieman for just enough to kill him, Akin soon followed and then a few turns later we had the mana to cast The Risen without fear of counters...and that was that, we'd done it, we'd finally won it.

While I'm here, I'd like to thank Bennie for writing the other article on the FFA and for bringing to light and giving support to other player run events such as PDC and Natural Selection. I'd also like to thank the sponsor MTGO Traders for giving us some awesome prizes, and most importantly all the guys who helped set it up every Sunday for the last 52 weeks Sarsem, Gloinoin, and the rest of Full Frontal nOObity...oh and most importantly huge props to Yawgatog for showing me a glimpse of his Dragonstorm deck all the way back at FFA #17:)

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