(Metagame Archive) Adjusting to Vs.: The Curve Dissected

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Welcome to part three of “Adjusting to Vs.,“the series with the noble goal of helping the new player and the TCG veteran get a grasp on the Vs. System as quickly as possible.

The curve. If you encountered Vs. for the first time at a convention or had it demoed for you at your local store by a UDE demo team member or judge, you probably heard about “The Curve.” Ominous, mysterious, and vague, but apparently very important. Comments along the lines of “Stuff starts off small, and then with each turn, there’s bigger hits, more powers, and more risk!” or “It’s sick! Characters are tiny on the first few turns and then they start getting waaay more powerful!”

I had experiences like this. My immediate reaction, being the opportunistic fellow that I am, was something like, “Whoah, sounds cool . . .,” and then the inevitable, “How much more powerful?”

There would be a brief pause.

“Like . . . really powerful!”

“Umm, alright.” At this point I’d always try to rephrase the question to get a straight answer, while still exuding politeness and gratitude. “Is there, like, a percentage or something, maybe, that you could give me? To help me get an idea?”

There’d always be another brief pause.

“Like . . . really powerful!”

At that point, I tended to black out. I don’t know what would happen after that—whatever sort of rampage I went on didn’t have a habit of leaving survivors.

So, here it is, the breakdown of the curve. If you like math, strap in and get ready for a mathy good time. If you’re like me, and can’t stand math but want to continue reading because you know how darn important this is, I promise that I understand your pain, and I’ll keep this as entertaining as possible. Trust me, I just spent a few hours crunching out these numbers, so I’m ready to cut loose. If I could write this article while riding a log flume, I probably would.

I’m going to focus on representing the recruitment cost curve for characters only. Plot twists and locations are virtually impossible to quantify, equipment cards aren’t much better, and really, when people express confusion about the curve and get that lost look on their faces (which I can recognize strictly because I own a mirror), they generally mean character cards. Effects of characters are equally difficult to quantify, so, I’m taking the easy wa—er, the logical way out, and dealing in hard statistics: ATK and DEF.

If we’re going to dissect the curve and extrapolate answers from it, we first need to set the groundwork. There are 120 character cards in Marvel Origins, and their recruit costs range from 1 to 10. The minimum ATK value is 0, while the maximum is 25. The minimum DEF value is 1, while the maximum is 25. The maximum numbers are going to be important later on in this breakdown, but for now, they’re not all that important—just something to keep in mind. Now hold your breath, because we’re about to dive into some serious numbers!

Let’s start with a breakdown of the recruit cost 1 characters. There are 21 recruit cost 1 characters in Marvel Origins. Out of them, three have 0 ATK, fifteen have 1 ATK, and three have 2 ATK (Ant Man, Longshot, and Random Punks). Nineteen have 1 DEF, and two have 2 DEF (Destiny and Forge). The median ATK and DEF values are both 1. The average ATK is 1, and the DEF average is 1.095. This might be a good time to point out that all these calculations have been done to the third decimal. I figured that was thorough without being geeky. Sadly, I was wrong—it’s actually terribly geeky, but it has given accurate results.

There are nineteen recruit cost 2 characters in the game. One has 0 ATK, one has 1 ATK, twelve have 2 ATK, and five have 3 ATK. Fifteen have 2 DEF, and four have 3 DEF. The median ATK and define values are both 2. The average ATK is 2.105, and the average DEF is 2.210.

Noticing a pattern yet? Yup. The average DEF for each cost level is generally slightly higher than the average ATK. This will continue to be a pretty consistent theme through the levels.

There are nineteen recruit cost 3 characters in Origins. Eight have 3 ATK, nine have 4 ATK, one has 5 ATK (Thing, Ben Grimm), and one has 6 ATK (Wolverine, Logan). Four have 3 DEF, a dozen have 4 DEF, two have 5 DEF (Thing, Ben Grimm and Darkoth, Major Desmond Pitt), and one has 6 DEF (Wolverine, Logan). The median ATK and DEF values are both 4, the average ATK is 3.736, and the average DEF is 4. Already, you can compare numbers and see just how much of a standout Logan and Ben Grimm are.

There are eighteen recruit cost 4 characters available. Out of those eighteen, two have 5 ATK, six have 6 ATK, eight have 7 ATK, one has 8 ATK (Wolverine, New Fantastic Four), and one has an outstanding 11 ATK (Sabretooth, Feral Rage). One has 5 DEF, eight have 6 DEF, five have 7 DEF, three have 8 DEF, and one has 9 DEF (Blob). The median ATK is 7, and the median DEF is a split of 6 and 7. The averages for both stats are 6.722

The field starts narrowing as we hit recruit cost 5—only fifteen characters this time around. One has only 7 ATK (Mr. Fantastic, Stretch), seven have 8 ATK, six have 9 ATK, and one has 11 ATK (Thing, Heavy Hitter). Seven have 8 DEF, five have 9 DEF, two have 10 DEF (Mr. Fantastic, Stretch and Scarlet Witch), and one has 11 DEF (Thing, Heavy Hitter . . . again). The median ATK is 8, and the median DEF is 9. The average ATK is 8.533, and the average DEF is 8.8.

There are twelve recruit cost six characters. Two have 10 ATK, three have 11 ATK, five have 12 ATK, and two have 13 ATK (Sabretooth, Victor Creed and Dr. Doom, Victor Von Doom). Two have 10 DEF, two have 11 DEF, seven have 12 DEF, and one has 14 DEF (Master Mold). The median ATK and DEF values are both 12, while the ATK average is 11.583 and the DEF average is 11.666.

There are nine recruit cost 7 characters. One has 14 ATK, three have 15 ATK, four have 16 ATK, and one has 17 ATK (Juggernaut). One has 13 DEF, two have 14 DEF, one has 15 DEF, four have 16 DEF, and Juggernaut has 17 DEF. The median ATK and DEF values are both 16, while the average ATK and DEF values have really shot up, at 15.555 and 15.222 respectively.

There are only five recruit cost 8 Characters available for the time being. One has 16 ATK, one has 17 ATK, two have 18 ATK, and the mighty Apocalypse has 19 ATK. One has 17 DEF, two have 18 DEF, and Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria shares the highest DEF (19) with Apocalypse. The ATK and DEF medians are both 18. The average ATK is 17.6, while the average DEF is 18.2.

There only is one recruit cost 9 character: Onslaught. His ATK and DEF are both 21.

Lastly, at a whopping recruit cost of 10, Dark Phoenix, Cosmic Entity clocks in at 25 ATK and 25 DEF.

So, what do the numbers mean? Well, let’s simplify them a bit to make them a bit more compact and a bit more relevant. Let’s look at how much the average ATK and average DEF grows between each level of recruit cost.

Difference between recruit cost 2 and recruit cost 1:
Increase in ATK average: 1.105
Increase in DEF average: 1.115

Difference between recruit cost 3 and recruit cost 2:
Increase in ATK average: 1.631
Increase in DEF average: 1.79

Difference between recruit cost 4 and recruit cost 3:
Increase in ATK average: 2.986
Increase in DEF average: 2.722

Difference between recruit cost 5 and recruit cost 4:
Increase in ATK average: 1.811
Increase in DEF average: 2.078

Difference between recruit cost 6 and recruit cost 5:
Increase in ATK average: 3.05
Increase in DEF average: 2.866

Difference between recruit cost 7 and recruit cost 6:
Increase in ATK average: 3.972
Increase in DEF average: 3.556

Difference between recruit cost 8 and recruit cost 7:
Increase in ATK average: 2.1
Increase in DEF average: 2.978

Difference between recruit cost 9 and recruit cost 8:
Increase in ATK average: 3.4
Increase in DEF average: 2.8

Difference between recruit cost 10 and recruit cost 9:
Increase in ATK average: 4
Increase in DEF average: 4

Notice that although the curve does tend to increase, it has two major dips—the growth in stats in the jump between recruit cost 4 and recruit cost 5 is less than the growth between recruit costs 3 and 4, by more than a full point in ATK, and almost a full point in DEF. Note the similar stumble between costs 7 and 8.

For a slightly more readable demonstration of this curve and its shape, we can look at the average ATK and DEF values in terms of the percentages they represent when compared to the maximum value possible. In this case, the maximum ATK and DEF values of 25 are possessed by Dark Phoenix, Cosmic Entity. If we let 25 in each category stand for a card’s maximum potential, we can consider this number to be 100% on a scale. From there, we can look at how much of the potential ATK and DEF each recruit cost level represents.

Cost 1:
ATK: 4%
DEF: 4.38%

Cost 2:
ATK: 8.42%
DEF: 8.84%

Cost 3:
ATK: 14.944%
DEF: 16%

Cost 4:
ATK: 26.88%
DEF: 26.88%

Cost 5:
ATK: 34.132%
DEF: 35.2%

Cost 6:
ATK: 46.332%
DEF: 46.664%

Cost 7:
ATK: 62.22%
DEF: 60.888%

Cost 8:
ATK: 70.4%
DEF: 72.8%

Cost 9:
ATK: 84%
DEF: 84%

And of course, Dark Phoenix sits comfortably at the top, with 100% in both statistics.

The growth pattern hopefully looks alot more evident now that you have the above two lists of numbers to compare, instead of a pile of 120 character cards. The drop-off between cost 4 and cost 5 is of particular interest. It’s highly relevant to gameplay because if the growth between two levels takes a dip, it means that the level with decreased growth (which are, for the record, 5 and 8) is less important from a strategic sense. You’re more likely to seriously hurt yourself missing a recruit cost 4 drop on turn 4, than you are missing a recruit cost 5 drop on turn 5, and the same goes for turns 7 and 8. You want to minimize the odds of this happening on the more important turns, so though it was vaguely evident before reading this article that you need more low recruit cost characters than high ones, you now know the specific recruit costs that are the most important (the ones that offer the most growth between levels) and the ones that you can probably afford not to prioritize as much. As a result, it’s statistically important for your deck not to be weighted towards recruit cost 5 and 8 characters, since skimping on these to assure full-cost drops on the other turns is going to give you needed reliability.

As a side note, this can be completely taken advantage of and abused with the Brotherhood team. The ongoing plot twist called The New Brotherhood, which I mentioned in my previous article, gives a bonus of 2 points to the ATK of all Brotherhood team members you control. However, it only works if you have four or fewer resources. Still, looking at the ATK average increases between the earlier levels, you can see that having this card in play can be like increasing your development by an entire level entirely!

Even better than that, you can use the plot twists Ka-Boom! and Foiled to KO your opponent’s resources. When you lose either of those plot twists as part of its effect, you not only reign in your opponent, but you keep yourself within the limit imposed by The New Brotherhood. A Brotherhood deck skewed heavily towards the first four turns of development, with plenty of copies of Ka-Boom! and Foiled, will be able to lock its opponent in the early turns, rendering any cards in their hand with costs higher than 4 or 5 completely useless and unplayable. As an added bonus, compare the ATK average and DEF average of recruit cost four characters (6.722 for both DEF and ATK) to the high-end characters at that cost, and look what we have—Blob at 6 ATK and 9 DEF! Sauron at 7 ATK and 6 DEF! And Sabretooth at a whopping 11 ATK and 7 DEF!

This is just one of the interesting tidbits you can use the above information to divine. Marvel Origins was designed and developed with extreme care, and examples like the Brotherhood swarm strategy I just outlined are testament to this fact.

Now that you’ve had an in-depth explanation of the development curve and how it relates to ATK and DEF stats, remember that effects are the wildcards in the equation. Don’t assume that just because a card is on the losing end of the stat balance for its recruit cost, it’s automatically a bad card: giving a card lower-than-average stats is often a method of balancing a particularly superb effect, so sometimes knowing which characters possess these lower-than-average stats can point us in the direction of prime effects. Sure, sometimes it might be that the card just isn’t very good, but it can provide insight into the opinions of the development team and their testing results.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sitting through all the numbers! Next time, we look at the initiative, both in terms of what it means for gameplay and how best to use it to your advantage. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at Jason@metagame.com.

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