Tribal Bible #3 – Your Halo Slipping Down to Your Clown Shoes? Then You’re Not Quite Yeti Yet

Welcome to Tribal Bible #3 of the Impossibly Long Title. I’m going to hope the trend of these article names doesn’t continue, or by the time we get to #7 or so, the title will be longer than the actual article itself. That aside, we’ve got three Coldsnap-enabled tribes to do this week, so let’s get busy.

A small room is seen from the outside. Inside, there is clutter, darkness, and Hellish heat. Inside, a lone figure works studiously at a desk, a rapid tapping sound ensuing every few seconds. A catcall is heard in the distance as the figure lifts a hand to banish the sweat from its brow. Somewhere, a clock chimes off another hour. Time seems to pass more and more slowly, and the heat steadily increases. Heedless, the figure continues its efforts unabated…

If you’ve never spent a week or so without air conditioning during the hottest year on record in U.S. history, then let me tell you, it’d make you into a drama queen too. No, not drag queen, a drama queen. There’s a difference.

Welcome to Tribal Bible #3 of the Impossibly Long Title. I’m going to hope the trend of these article names doesn’t continue, or by the time we get to #7 or so, the title will be longer than the actual article itself. That aside, we’ve got three Coldsnap-enabled tribes to do this week, so let’s get busy.

Our first offering today is Angels, but I moved away from the popular R/W pickings including the popular Razia and Firemane Angels. No, as usual, you can count upon me to tread the darker paths available.

Yep, your mana curve more or less starts at five. Technically, the Shining Shoals ought to be Sunscours 3 and 4, but I only happened to open two and so this is what I tested with. So far, Shoal has been good, but I’ve only once ever used it on a haste critter once, so Sunscour would generally be better. I think Sunscour is greatly benefited by not being the only Wrath effect in a deck, though, since it means that you may draw your original Wrath effect first and have time to use it, letting you wait until later game to use Scour for its actual mana cost, meaning you should never need to pitch a Sunscour more than once in a game.

The snow manabase? I can’t really say enough about snow manabases. If your deck can get by without Ravnica duals, do it. Scrying Sheets is like a lapdance from a supermodel, no joke. It can help you make your fourth-plus land drops early, and draws you past dead cards (i.e. land) when you’re looking for gas later. Even in a deck where all it can draw is lands, you’ve still got about a one in three chance of making sure you skip past a late game land draw. Trust me, you’ll appreciate that when Sensei’s Divining Top rotates out. I run snow manabases by default in my decks now, and only switch to the non-arctic lands if I absolutely must. Scrying Sheets is that good. The fact that in this deck it can also draw Coldsteel Heart and Adarkar Valkyrie is gravy. To put it bluntly, Scrying Sheets is the sheet! (Groan.)

The good news: Once you get rolling, you get rolling. Your power level varies between 2 and 5, and your toughness from 3 to 5, and all your creatures fly (duh). You have Fetters to force over-commitment, and Culling Sun/Sunscour to capitalise on their over-committing. Adarkar Valkyrie can perform her shenanigans to save your critters, or steal opposing ones. I won one Angel mirror match (versus a R/W/B version) by aiming Valkyrie at an opposing Firemane Angel prior to Sunscour.

Blinding Angel wreaks havoc against decks lacking sky defence, which of course all of your winged women do, but she does it with enough style and flair that the opposition can’t help but stand and gape at her endo- err, prowess, when they ought to be doing more important things. Angel of Mercy is, of course, more life gain to help you recover from whatever drubbing you took getting to five mana; Serra Angel teams up with the Valkyrie to form your special ops squad for offence and defence; and Angel of Despair makes such an entrance she breaks your opponent’s shiniest toy.

Oh, and for real fun, get Angel of Despair out with Adarkar Valkyrie and Miren and spend each of your opponent end steps trading four mana for five life and your opponent’s best permanent… by targeting the Goth Angel with the Valkyrie, and then tossing your Goth into the Moaning Well. And let’s be honest, haven’t we all wanted to throw a Goth down a well, moaning or otherwise, at one point or another?

The bad news: Sloooooooow. No, slower than that. Sloooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwww. You don’t have any chance of playing a critter before turn 4, and that requires Coldsteel Heart assistance. Actually, without Heart, you can’t do anything before turn 4 other than Sunscour, which is precisely why it’s in the deck – your expensive spells will do no good in your hand if you die before you can cast them. You’ll never, ever block Greater Stone Spirit. You’re probably going to mulligan any hand not including a Heart, Fetters, or Wrath effect, and thus you’ll probably start the game down a card or two. You have exactly twenty creatures, so you’re vulnerable to land clumps a bit more than usual. In most decks, you only want to use Scrying Sheets if you have nothing better to do. In this deck, you probably tend to use it unless there’s something else you absolutely need to do, because you really want to get to seven mana, both for your biggest threat and for hard-casting Sunscour. Oh, and by nature the deck is packed with rares, so expect some complaints on that front.

You’re setting yourself up to be the underdog here, and you’re almost always going to be the control deck. A forum post in the last article questioned my lack of game logs, and it’s come down to this: as all of my decks thus far have been intended to be the control deck, I think it’s more important to convey how a deck should play more than how it does play. If you’re the control, then your job is to make the game go the way your deck wants it to – you should always be striving for the ideal. If you think of it more as nearly-mono-White control than “ZOMG ANGELZ!!!!!!!!”, you’re probably on the right track.

Your win conditions are, well, your proverbial gang of dudes. Nothing fancy here. You’re turning sideways in the air. Oh, sure, I suppose it’s technically possible to just gain a bunch of life and deck your opponent, but I don’t think that’s going to come up very often. Of note is that I see more and more land disruption in the format these days. Fetters will often target Mouth of Ronom or Scrying Sheets… and lands, particularly of the non-basic variety, are being targeted for destruction with extreme prejudice. I hope this trend doesn’t continue, because if it does, decks like this one with huge mana costs will not even be casually viable anymore. Personally, I wish Wizards would stop printing destruction effects for lands that don’t have abilities other than making mana, no matter how many colors, but I don’t think I’ll go down in history as being either the first or last person to unsuccessfully wish that.

Up next, we have some big feet. Really big feet. This tribe was given quite the steroid injection with the release of Coldsnap, which is good, since one of their own members typically neuters his own tribe. Good call, buddy. *smacks Marble Titan upside the head* Yes, folks. That’s giants we’re talking about, and you know what they say about guys with big feet – they need big shoes ya bloody pervert, so…

Yes, that’s Hill Giant in the list. Yes, he’s that vanilla 3/3 for 4 from the Red Ninth Edition precon. What’s he doing here, especially when Hammerfist Giant + Oathsworn Giant = Combo? Keeping the mana curve down, Billy. Now shut up and do your homework, or no desert for you!

Mana curve? Why, the deck’s full of two-and three-mana spells! Not… quite. See, the Brothers Jotun are kind of fake two- and three-drops. I mean, I suppose if you were playing against a Dredge deck, you might be able to get the Grunt to work as a two-drop, but not for very long unless your opponent does stupid things on purpose. And the Owl Keeper is really a five-drop. Well, maybe a four-drop if you’re holding a fifth land in hand. You really want to pay the upkeep at least three times, but you don’t want to lock yourself out of being able to play any Sunhome Enforcers or Hill Giants you draw while keeping the Keeper. And why does keeping the Keeper sound dirty? Never mind that, why is the average power of Giants about equal to the average power of Insects? I swear, Wizards comes up with the silliest things sometimes.

The good news: Your gang of dudes here have pretty respectable numbers here, with power typically in the 3-4 range, the one exception having Spirit Link and slightly expensive Firebreathing. You have a pinpoint removal suite featuring CJ (that’s Craig Jones for you whippersnappers out there) Helix and Char, along with Pyroclasm to, as my secondary squeeze Jaya Ballard puts it, “leaves more room for the big ones.” Your early game should go smoothly here; you’re pretty likely to either get a Signet or a fist full of removal until your lazy oafs can show up and flex for the camera, so the going looks good there.

On a side note, I wonder how these folk appreciate being called Giants. I mean, they’re not Giants, really. At least not in their own perception. It’s like the whole bit with Dwarves – they wouldn’t realistically refer to themselves as such (either Giants or Dwarves) because in their own perception, they’re a regular height, and we’re the anomaly. Maybe I’m just being too sensitive about other cultures or simply have too much time on my hands. I doubt this really bothers anyone else. Heh.

Oh, and why Boros Signet over Coldsteel Heart? I wanted to make sure CJ Helix mana was open as soon as possible, no matter what. You’ll probably curse my name and swear fleas and eternal vengeance upon my armpits every time you Scry a signet, so feel free to swap them out for Hearts instead if you’re less worried about immediate Helix mana.

The bad news: Uh…your guys are pretty stupid. They don’t do anything clever at all. None of them turn sideways except to attack, although they don’t always do it then either thanks to Oathsworn’s presence. You can’t actually block fliers except with perhaps some Bird tokens, so you’re going to want to aim your removal skyward when possible. You have no evasion, no actual combat tricks, and oh yes, I’ve seen fit to give you no way of dealing with enchantments or artifacts either. I know, I suck. At least on the plus side, your gang of dudes doesn’t have to go all the way – you can send a cranially-addressed burn package of love to your opponent.

But don’t overlook the Owl Keeper – not only can he provide you a meager air defence, those little birdies can actually join in the swinging against decks with even less fliers, and that can be oh, so relevant. Don’t ignore this.

Your win conditions here are the Giants themselves (of course. And white isn’t black, either. Thank you, Captain Obvious!), their pet birds, and some ever-lovin’ burn. Again, nothing tricky here. Of course, Jotun the Grunt can help you restock your plan by putting stuff back in the library, but since you can only Sheet up lands here and have no way to shuffle, this isn’t likely to be relevant at all. But, much like the birdies, it’s there, so don’t ignore it totally.

Oh, and speaking of Grunt Jotun, don’t forget he can hose opposing graveyards as well. This seems to be something that’s of increasing relevance these days, what with Kindle Cycle the Third being in print now. And just to have something else to kvetch about, I really wish Wizards would stop visiting this mechanic. It’s cute, but Accumulated Knowledge was good because it let you draw into more copies of itself, whereas the other Kindle knock-offs have been failing to do that, meaning that in a typical game, you’re not going to see more than one or two. Rune Snag is slightly better than the others, simply because it exists in a color with a lot of draw spells as it is. But the others? Meh. Now if they’d do this cycle again with the Aurochs Herd/Avarax mechanic… now that would be interesting.

This brings us to our third tribe of the week, which I’ve prepared you for by first giving you two other decks with exactly twenty dorks. And if that doesn’t prepare you for tribe apparently sponsored by the number three, well, then I guess you’re…

Sweet mother of sorrow, but I’m punny today, aren’t I? Yes, that’s another one, shush. Yes, I am actually a stand-up comedian, and yes, my actual material is much better than a bunch of puns. Well, I think so anyhow. Heh. Let’s not delve too deeply there, shall we?

Where to start? Scrying Sheets is getting its real workout in decks this week, where it can fetch not only land and Coldsteel Hearts, but also two of your creatures. Really, according to Matt Cavotta, it should be four of them, as Yetis, well… live in snow. Although I agree with this sentiment, I’ve spoken to a Wizards employee on the matter and was told there was “never” any chance of Wizards issuing errata regarding a supertype, so I’m pretty sure that’s their final answer, Regis. On the bright side, the same conversation yielded no denial that Carven Caryatid could perhaps one day rightfully join the ranks of Plants to go along with its Spirit type.

3/3, 3/3, 3/3, 3/3, 3/…4. Okay. Did I miss some bit of folklore regarding Yetis and the number three? Hmm. Regardless, those are your men. It’s a lot like the Giant deck, really, except Yetis are clever.

The good news: If Scrying Sheets is a supermodel giving you a lapdance, then Skred is your own personal fluffer. And if you don’t know what a fluffer is, I’ll not be the one to corrupt your innocent virgin ears. Ask on the forums, or better yet, go look on Wikipedia or something. Just don’t ask me, I’m not telling. Skred is just stupidly fantastic. It pantses Electrostatic Bolt in just so many ways. Heck, for most intents and purposes, it pantses Lightning Bolt. Sure, it can’t go to the dome without Ragged Veins assistance (let’s talk about jank baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be) but it really doesn’t need to. One mana for what’s generally 4-12 damage at instant speed is some good. Much better than Red ought to be getting. Or anyone, really. Sheesh. This thing compares favourably to Terror, for the love of Hell!

Oh, there are cards in the deck other than Skred? Yeah, I suppose I ought to say something about those too, shouldn’t I? There’s not much to discuss in the way of my choice of critters, since you don’t have any other choices for a Yeti tribe. But I am more than willing to discuss their attributes.

Karplusan Strider is your most resilient guy, meaning he survives Helix and can’t be targeted by Gasp. I suppose he can’t be bounced or Confiscated either, but you’ll appreciate the anti-Black bit a good deal more, I’ll wager. Ohran Yeti is… lacking. Blah. This is one of those situations where you really wish Karplusan Strider and Drelnoch were properly of the Snow supertype, because they’re the ones most likely to want the First Strike. Sadly, Ohran only interacts with himself and his Stalking brother. Speaking of the criminally-inclined Yeti, I’m not sure what the hype is about. Okay, in Limited, sure. But the only time I’ve made a good use of his self-bounce ability thus far is in preparation for my own Savage Twisters, which I suppose is better than nothing. He’s good for taking out weak fliers, though. Although seeing Gather Courage used as a removal spell is damn depressing.

Next we look at our hybrid Yeti/Cthulhu wannabe, Drelnoch. He’s unblockable, says so right on the card. Well, mostly. No one’s going to block him unless they have a 4/4 or bigger, or they’d lose the game if they didn’t. That’s fine by me, frankly. After playing enough games with Giants, I’ll take any cleverness I can get. Kind of makes me wish I’d included a combat trick in here, but Snow manabases being what they are, I’ll stick with what I’ve got. Lastly, Karplusan Yeti brings us his Arena goodness, and he’s generally your best bet at board control in permanent form. You might think this is a beatdown deck, but again it’s really too slow, even with Coldsteel Heart. You’re the control again, most likely. Don’t worry, aggro’s getting a day in the sun next week (at the cost of part of my soul, but we’ll worry about that when we get there).

The bad news: You rely on that board control completely – you can’t go to the dome with anything in this deck, so manage your men carefully; each is a precious resource. Maintain board advantage whenever you can. Hold off on playing more Yeti out if it looks like you’re going to get overwhelmed and prepare to unleash Savage Twister. Most of your guys aren’t going to survive any mass removal bigger than ‘Clasm, including Twister itself. Would it have killed Wizards to put a couple of more fours on these guys? Ah, well. All in the name of fun, right?

Again, you are bereft of ways of dealing with artifacts or enchantments, but I think the amount of creature control is really quite necessary here. Yes, you pretty much scoop to Paladin En-Vec and Worship, but hey, all the more reason to vote Platinum Angel. Other than that, there’s not much else wrong here that isn’t wrong with any other gang of dudes reliant on turning sideways for the win, so comfort yourself with that. Besides, this deck is a blast to play and easily earns the week’s flavour award. Yes, I know that thus far it’s always been the third deck, but I assure you that it’s not by design. The process is as follows: I build the decks, give them suitably “clever” names (at least in my opinion), and then I play them, trying to get a feel for the decks and decide which one most feels like the sum of its parts. Then, when it comes time to name the article, I fit the three titles together in the least awkward fashion I can manage (and boy is that becoming difficult) and then use my scientific formula to decipher which of the tribes is the most flavortastic. Well, okay. There is no formula, I just put a good five minutes or so of thought into it, but hey. That’s our little secret, okay?

Your win conditions are… your gang of dudes. I know that’s getting old now, but hey, this is Tribal Wars… what do you expect? Your win condition is pretty bloody unlikely to be Eye of the Storm. I’m just telling it like it is, babycakes.

If it helps you feel better, though, your gang of dudes usually does interesting things before turning sideways for the win. Console yourself with that and this bucket of ice cream. Well, okay, really just the ice cream. But it works, no?

As ever, I shall monitor the forum thread like a hawk for input, so drop me a line there or in e-mail.

Signing off,
Rivien Swanson
flawedparadigm at gmaSPAMSUCKSil dot com
Flawed Paradigm on MTGO
GodOfAtheism just about everywhere else.