(Metagame Archive) The Curve Dissected: DC Origins, Part 2

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Welcome to the second DC Origins–themed installment of “The Curve Dissected.” The previous article dealt with individual characters at individual points on the cost curve. In contrast, this article will wrap up the series by examining the curve as a whole and relating it to teams and gameplay.

We’re going to look at three pairs of figures for each cost level from 1 to 9. The first pair of figures is the increase in average ATK and the increase in average DEF from the previous cost level. This gives us an actual reference for the numbers—they’re real statistical averages, so they’re easy to understand.

The second pair of figures is the average ATK and the average DEF, in terms of the potential maximum ATK and potential maximum DEF a character in DC Origins can have. The highest printed ATK and DEF values are on Trigon, The Terrible and Superman, Big Blue Boy Scout: 20 for both characters and both values. Since 20 is the maximum printed ATK or DEF any character has, 20 represents 100 percent of the potential ATK or potential DEF a character could have. If a character were to have 10 ATK or DEF, then its ATK or DEF in terms of potential ATK or potential DEF would be 50 percent. This second pair of figures expresses the averages for an entire cost level in terms of potential ATK and potential DEF.

The third pair of figures is a measurement of difference between the potential ATK of the cost level being examined and the cost level that came before it, and same figures regarding DEF.

In short, the first pair of figures shows the increase in stats between levels. The second pair of figures shows where that cost level lies on the curve, expressed as a percentage. The third pair of figures shows growth between levels in terms of the complete curve.

Got it? I hope so!

Let’s get started with the first cost level.

Cost Level 1

Increase in average ATK from last cost level: N/A
Increase in average DEF from last cost level: N/A

Average ATK in terms of potential ATK: 4.47%
Average DEF in terms of potential DEF: 5.525%

Difference in potential ATK from last cost level: N/A
Difference in potential DEF from last cost level: N/A

There’s not much to see, since it’s the first level. It is worth noting that on the first ninth of the curve, we see an average ATK and average DEF that represent approximately one-twentieth of the overall potential ATK and potential DEF. The curve really does move fast enough to cover 95 percent of its growth in just eight levels. This means that 1-drop characters are simply not going to be worth playing in some decks. They should only be used if they fill a specific need, either with one of their own effects or by their interactions with other cards. This may seem obvious, but it’s always nice to see the numbers behind the reasoning.

It’s also definitely worth playing characters that either work well together or fit the theme of your deck. The League of Assassins might want to play 1-drop characters to meet its loyalty requirements, Gotham Knights will want characters to exhaust to pay for Bat-Signals (or they’ll just want Alfred Pennyworth), Teen Titans will want characters to pump up other Titans, and Arkham Inmates will probably want a 1-drop character like Harley Quinn to abuse Kidnapping as early as possible.

Cost Level 2

Increase in average ATK from last cost level: 1.158
Increase in average DEF from last cost level: 1.158

Average ATK in terms of potential ATK: 10.26%
Average DEF in terms of potential DEF: 11.315%

Difference in potential ATK from last cost level: 5.79%
Difference in potential DEF from last cost level: 5.79%

The curve hasn’t actually started curving at this point, which means two things. First, it means that teams or decks with a weak first two turns or decks that miss a drop in either of those turns probably won’t be hurting too badly. It also means that the Teen Titans are astoundingly strong on turn 2, due to the presence of Donna Troy ◊ Wonder Girl. As a 5 ATK/3 DEF powerhouse, Donna beats the curve by almost fifteen percent of the potential ATK and potential DEF, outclassing the average ATK and average DEF of turn 3 by a whopping six to seven percent.

In other words, it’s safe to play with characters that are more concerned with performing tricks, such as Talia and Mad Hatter, unless you’re facing the Teen Titans. Depending on the deck, an off-affiliation 2-drop character can also be a decent option. For instance, Puppet Master has many positive interactions in an Arkham Inmates deck.

Cost Level 3

Increase in average ATK from last cost level: 1.698
Increase in average DEF from last cost level: 1.549

Average ATK in terms of potential ATK: 18.75%
Average DEF in terms of potential DEF: 19.06%

Difference in potential ATK from last cost level: 8.49%
Difference in potential DEF from last cost level: 7.745%

Now the stakes are getting higher. We’ve gone from gains of about five percent in turns 1 and 2 to gains of about eight percent in terms of potential ATK and potential DEF, and though that may seem slow, the momentum will build quickly. At nearly 20 percent of the potential ATK and potential DEF, the average statistic values are becoming dangerous. The Gotham Knights come out strong with Batman, World’s Greatest Detective, and the League of Assassins boasts Ubu. The Arkham Inmates team is fragile but threatening with Charaxes. Though the Teen Titans are relatively weak at this level, Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal can make them difficult to approach, while Beast Boy can take some lumps without complaining. But the Fearsome Five affiliation has the 3-drop character to watch out for in Mammoth, who eats everyone else for breakfast. With…

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(Metagame Archive) Drawing Up the Dark Knight

By Danny Mandel

I’d estimate I designed about ten percent of the cards in the DC Comics Origins set. Matt Hyra probably designed another ten percent, and Mike Hummel did about nine. Other individuals like Dave Humpherys designed some of the remaining 71 percent, but, as always, the majority of the set was collaboration, with all of us bandying about ideas and riffing off of each other. The reason I bring this up (in addition to looking for any excuse to use the word “bandying” in a sentence) is that this article is about Batman, The Dark Knight, and while I may have come up with the initial concept for the card; done all the important testing, theorizing, and balancing; ultimately designed the finished product; and just plain done everything, I wanted to point out that it was a team effort.

All egomaniacal jokes aside, I’m reasonably sure I came up with the initial idea for Batman (if not, Mike or Matt will probably beat me up). It looked something like this:

Batman
Character, Recruit 7
10 ATK/10DEF
Batman gets +1 ATK and +1 DEF for each card in your hand.
(Batman’s second power)

Note: I’m withholding Batman’s original second power because we’re going to be using it as a mechanic a few sets from now, and I don’t want to spoil the fun.

The thing about Batman is, compared to the other heavy hitters in the comics universe, Batman’s just a guy. I mean, sure, he can take any normal dude in a fistfight, but should he really be able to stand up to the likes of Magneto or Raven? I think the answer is a qualified “yes.” If he’s had time to prepare, he should be able to take down anyone. In Batman’s case, I tried to represent his level of preparedness by the number of cards in his controller’s hand. The more cards you’ve drawn and the more information you have, the more ready you (and Batman) are for any given situation. (His original second power was bolstered by his ATK/DEF and so was also invested in the card draw thing.)

I should back up for a moment and explain that when we sat down to define the basic goals and parameters for each of the DC teams, we decided that the Gotham Knights (or Batman Team as we then called them) should have access to consistent card draw. Thematically this was to represent their detective skills like information gathering or digging for answers. Also, as Matt likes to say, “Cards in hand equals training!” I don’t know why, but he really likes to say that. It’s like his mantra.

Knowing that the Knights were going to get a decent amount of card drawing, I thought it would be cool to have the top end Batman act as a quantifiable reward for all those cards. Let’s do some quick math. Batman’s base stats are 10 ATK/10 DEF. You start the game with six cards in hand (after you draw on turn 1). Let’s assume each turn you’re going to play one resource and one character (even though many decks don’t have early plays) and over the course of the game you’re not going to discard cards or play plot twists from your hand, but you’re also not going to draw any extra cards. That means that on turn 7, you’d have four cards in your hand, making Batman 14 ATK/14 DEF. While by no means huge for a 7-drop, that’s still a pretty respectable set of default stats. Now add in the extra cards you can easily store up by forgoing one or two early drop points in your curve or by running some of the Gotham Knights’ many card drawers, like Catwoman or Barbara Gordon (and don’t forget cards like Bat Signal that end up netting you a card in hand), and suddenly Batman’s a monster, easily reaching 20 ATK and above.

Which brings me to one of the early problems in the development of this card. Having lots of cards in your hand is already good. It means more options, more cards you can discard to payment powers or additional costs, and more cool air when you fan yourself. Out-carding an opponent is a basic way to get ahead in the game; if you’ve got nine more cards than your opponent, an easily-produced giant Batman comes dangerously close to being just a “win more” card. (That is, a card that’s useless unless you’re already winning, and, if you’re already winning, the mechanism with which you finish off your opponent shouldn’t matter anyway.) The card advantage is what’s winning you the game—everything else is just details.

Because we really liked the stats-equal-cards-in-hand riff of Batman, the questions became how to balance the card such that it wasn’t too easy to make him enormous, and how to make him more than just a “win more” card. That last part is really important and is connected to Batman’s second power. For a while we were having so much trouble coming up with a workable second power for Batman that we almost cut it out completely (everyone wanted his second power to be awesome because, hey, Batman’s awesome, so we came up with lots of mechanics that were difficult to balance or template). The problem was, if we gave Batman only the single stat-modifying power, he’d be pretty dry, and, as they say, “Nobody likes a dry Batman.”

Let me cut to the chase and skip ahead to the finished product. In the end, we needed to lower his stats even further (dropping his printed stats to even lower than the 5-drop Batman), but we mitigated that by allowing his second power to help fill up your hand. You see, up until that last iteration, while all of the other potential second powers for Batman were augmented by his having souped-up stats, they didn’t actually facilitate his getting souped-up in the first place. By making Batman the Knights’ ultimate card-drawer, there was no longer any concern of his being just a “win more” card. In some matchups he acts as a big finisher, but in some he draws you a bunch of cards so you can take control later on.

It’s probably worth noting that for or a while, we toyed with having Batman’s ATK/DEF function like an on/off switch attuned to a certain threshold number of cards in your hand. Similar to Colossus, Batman’s power was something like, “While you have ten or more cards in your hand, Batman gets +10ATK and +10 DEF.” We just felt having the stat bonus scale up or down was smoother than having the difference between nine cards in hand and ten be so jarring.

Also, and this is a bit of a lead-in to next week’s article, a secondary reason we gave Batman (and the Gotham Knights in general) card drawing was that we knew we wanted the Arkham Inmates to get a healthy amount of discard (they have The Riddler, Riddle Me This, and Professor Hugo Strange, and originally Museum Heist used to be team-stamped to just the Inmates), and it would be pretty cool if in a matchup between a GK card draw deck and a AI discard deck, the primary axis of interaction was all about cards in hand (as opposed to the standard axis of interaction, board presence).

Okay, that’s all I got. Next week: “You’re food now, shirt!”

Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

(Metagame Archive) Ask Not What Your Card Game Can Do For You, Part 2

By Ben Kalman

When there is a community the size of the current Vs. community, and one that is growing as quickly, there is a natural inclination to test one’s skills against those of one’s fellow community members. Tournaments allow for this to occur. This article is a do/don’t guide to tournaments—what you should and shouldn’t do, how you should present and carry yourselves, and what to expect from “tournament life.” There have been one or two articles on this subject in the past (including one by metagame’s own Matt Hyra), but few of them really looked at the audience as a community, so I implore you to ignore everything you’ve ever learnt about CCG/TCG “tourniquette” and start afresh as Vs. community members.

And so, I present you with eight things to think of while preparing for and/or playing in a Vs. tournament.

1) Do Unto Others . . .

I like to think that Vs. is a smarter, friendlier game than other card games. There is less of a vicious streak among the players I’ve played against, in big and small tourneys, whether local or out of town. There is a difference between being competitive and being inconsiderate, between being a player and being a cutthroat. Remember that winning a tournament doesn’t mean you’re not a loser in the end, and vice-versa.

When you sit down across from your opponent, ask his or her name. Shake hands. Wish him or her luck. When you beat someone, say he or she played a solid game, and offer advice on how he or she could do better. Shake hands and thank your opponent for the match. When you’re beaten, take the loss gracefully and with a smile. Even though you may be upset about the loss, don’t take your emotional response out on your opponent, who is trying as hard as you are, and worked for his or her win.

The bottom line is respect. As I mentioned in my article last week, you should return the respect that you command from others. Being arrogant, snarky, or unfriendly only serves to cause tension and make the match unbearable. I once again quote Tom Selleck, in Mr. Baseball, “It’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun!” Even if you’re on the Pro Circuit and looking for the green, be thankful that you are in a position where you are able to play a card game based on men and women in spandex—and for money, no less. Win or lose, it’s still a game when the night is over.

2) Help the Newbies

Do you remember your first tournament? Many people are calm and collected their first time out—they hide their jitters well. I was not one of them. My first tournament was in the mid-nineties and involved a Brand X card game (a colourful game, yet one that is inferior to Vs. . . . but I digress). I made more mistakes than I care to admit in that tourney, but I was very lucky in that I had opponents who were more interested in the game than in winning the tournaments. They called my mistakes and advised me on certain stupid moves I had made. They advised me on which cards I should leave out of my deck in future tourneys, and told me what to substitute,

I still got stomped, but I learned two important things that day. The first was that I had a lot to learn about the card game, but that I would be able to use the advice I’d received to my benefit. The second was that the game I was playing had a great group of players; I’d never felt so welcome in a competitive arena prior to that. I was eventually able to master the game to the degree that I was winning local tournaments, but without the guidance of fellow players, I would likely have never reached that level of skill.

So when you’re sitting across from the noob, who just started playing the week before and is bungling his or her way to a record loss, offer some advice. You don’t have to hold his or her hand to victory over you, but at the very least, you can mention after the fact what he or she did wrong . . . offer a reminder about reinforcement; ask for the reasoning behind attacking the wrong targets; remind him or her about activated powers; explain the chain and how it can be used; and point out mistakes in formation and order of play.

And, most importantly, don’t spit on them because they’re noobs—everyone is a newbie at some point, and just because a player is a noob doesn’t mean that he or she has less of a right to play than you do. I’ve heard people ask, “Well what are they doing playing in a PCQ if they’re so bad?” Good or bad doesn’t make a difference. They paid their entrance fees just like you did, and they deserve to be accorded the same respect as Vs. players that you do. Not everyone can grasp the complexities of the game quickly, and not everyone has wide playing and/or testing circles, so tourneys are often the only chance certain people have to play. Anybody who gets angry at someone who has “the nerve” to play a game is the one who doesn’t deserve to be in the tourney. Period.

3) Don’t Be a Rules Lawyer

In tournament play, everyone is nervous. If someone tells you they’ve never been nervous, or felt even a twinge of anxiety—especially in a tourney with money on the line—don’t believe it. Nervousness is an inherent characteristic in human beings when they are in competition of any sort.

When one is nervous, one is more prone to mistakes. The more nervous one is, the more likely he or she is to make those mistakes. My job, sitting across the table from you, is not to let you win by allowing your mistakes to cost me the tourney. My job is, however, to make sure that I don’t win a match due to technicalities. Don’t nitpick every little move your opponent makes, don’t pull out the magnifying glass to check for marked cards, don’t pull out the Comprehensive Rules and quote, “In Rule 16543.544A, it specifically says that if you sneeze during the first match, you forfeit.”

I’m not saying that you should let your opponent get away with murder—it is a tournament after all. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep a watchful eye on your opponent—there are cheaters out there, and one should not get suckered by one.

What I’m saying is that life is too short to be a passive-aggressive jerk on the battlefield. This is a community, and within a community we should accord each other a certain level of civility when we are face-to-face. If your opponent starts to attack, then changes his or her mind before anyone has played anything, LET IT GO. If your opponent drops an illegal drop due to a forgotten resource, LET IT GO. If an opponent plays the wrong card accidentally from his or her hand and switches it for the proper one, LET IT GO. When the day is done, you’ll feel better for it. After all, do you really want to beat someone due to that technicality? Or due to your skills as a Vs. player?

4) Don’t Cheat

This one should be self-explanatory, and those who do cheat will likely not listen, but if I can turn just one head in my direction, I’ll consider this a success.

Don’t cheat. Why? After all, you can win stuff and be a champion and be cool, right? Wrong. If you cheat, yes, you may receive a tournament prize, but you haven’t won it. In fact, you haven’t won anything. All you do by cheating is lose—your dignity, your self-respect, your pride—because you have forfeited them by being dishonest and disrespectful.

As well, if you get caught, not only will you be banned, and possibly for life, if it’s serious enough, but you will be forever branded a cheater and untrustworthy. My grandmother used to tell me, “It takes a lifetime to build up people’s trust, but only an instant to lose it.” My grandmother was a very smart woman.

So, rather than cheat, why not prove yourself a true winner, and show your skills. You’ll feel better for it, and people will admire you for it.

5) If You Have a Problem, Call a Judge

That’s what they’re there for—to be at your beck and call when problems arise. Judges keep order, enforce rules, watch out for cheating, and so on, but they also answer questions, solve problems, and ease your mind as a player.

If you have any concern, don’t hesitate to call a judge over. Are you unsure of a rule, even though your opponent swears up and down that he or she is correct? Did your opponent make an illegal play? Do you suspect that your opponent is stalling? Cheating? Is your opponent being verbally abusive towards you? Are those viewing your match being verbally abusive? Are there people interfering in your match? Making you uncomfortable? Helping your opponent? Call the judge!

You’ll regret it if you think that it will take to long, make your opponent impatient, or ruin the game, and you may end up losing the game/match/tournament because of it. What’s the worst that can happen if you call a judge over? You’ll be wrong. At least you’ll know for sure, and it won’t gnaw on you later on. In my last PCQ, I called for a judge to ensure that the move I was about to make was completely legal—I was fairly certain it was, but my opponent was a new player and didn’t understand what I was attempting. It took about five minutes to get a ruling from the judge, but we were both satisfied that the move was legal and that the game was kosher.

And remember: If it takes time for the judge to get there and make a ruling, you can always ask for a time extension, and nine out of ten judges will grant you at least a few minutes extra at the end of the round to make up for lost time.

6) Respect Your Opponent’s Right to Call a Judge

Picture this: You’re in a tight match, you’re cruising with the game swinging in your direction—and your opponent calls you on a rule. You know that he or she is wrong, but insists otherwise and calls for a judge. You feel the slowing of the momentum you were basking in, and impatiently tap your fingers on the table, waiting for the judge to tell your opponent the inevitable and let you continue on your merry way. You get frustrated, irritable—maybe make a mistake. You take your anger out on your opponent, by being cross or by bad-mouthing him or her to others after the match (“and then this monkey actually called a judge! Of course I was right, but I almost lost the match because of it . . .”)

The only person in the wrong in this situation would be you. You have to respect your opponent’s right to call for a ruling, even if you know in your gut that you’re right. Now, granted, if it’s a silly question (“What do you mean I can’t attack your protected character!? I have range . . .”) then you’d have a right to get irritated with the person asking it—after all, h or she should at least have a basic grasp of the rules before playing in a tourney.

But I’m not referring to a no-brainer. The comprehensive rules are no cakewalk, and some of them are hard to get one’s head around. Just because you think you know the game back to front doesn’t mean that you do, and even if you do, it doesn’t mean that everyone else has (or should have) the same level of knowledge you do.

Your opponents need to be comfortable, and should not be put in a position where they are unsure of the situation or are made to feel inferior or useless simply because they want official reassurance that the situation is correct. So if your opponent insists on calling a judge, relax and take the time to strategize. Don’t allow it to get to you—you wouldn’t want your opponent to get miffed in the reverse situation.

7) Respect the Judges’ Decisions

When you or your opponent does call for a judge, you must both abide by the judge’s decision. This can be tough, as judges are only human, and the game is still young, with rules constantly changing and being tweaked. There will be mistakes made. In most cases, however, the judge will rule properly, and more important, will rule fairly.

Remember, as well, that in most events, especially the higher-level events, that there is a head judge whom you can appeal to if you feel the decision that the judge made was wrong, unfair, partial, or something of that nature. The head judge will listen to all sides (the players and the judge(s) involved) and will make a final ruling.

However, this ruling may not always be in your favor. I lost an elimination Booster Draft at Origins due to a judge’s decision. I didn’t lose my temper, however, and I still back his decision percent, even though it cost me the tournament. The simple fact was that he made a decision that he decided was the fair and proper decision, and I, as a player, am bound by that decision. I do not have to agree with that decision, nor do I have to like it, I only have to respect and follow it.

So, whenever you call a judge or appeal to a head judge, be prepared to have the ruling go against you. And if it does, suck it up and continue playing with respect and a positive demeanor.

8) Sporting Conduct

This is the sum total of everything I’ve said up until now. The bottom line is that you should conduct yourself sportingly at all times. Even in the face of adversity or wrongdoing, do not fall to the level of the one who is in the wrong.

When the entire community begins to realize this, the overall conduct at tournaments will improve, and the game—and tournament play in general—will become so much more fun! The root of enjoyment is respect and self-satisfaction. If you know you’ve worked really hard, and you have a strong rapport with your opponents, you’ll end the day feeling good about yourself regardless of your performance. After all, what’s more important? The health of the community? Or some pretty cardboard in plastic sleeves?

(Metagame Archive) The Curve Dissected: DC Origins, Part 1

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Welcome, everyone, to the first DC Origins installment of The Curve Dissected. Last time, I took apart Marvel Origins brick by brick and character by character to help readers understand and take advantage of the character curve.

For new readers, or players who are new to the Vs. System, the term “curve” refers to the non-linear progression of characters’ ATK and DEF values from cost level to cost level. In a TCG with a linear character stat progression, the stats of a character will be directly proportionate to the investment required to bring it into play. For creatures without special abilities, a character with 1 ATK and 1 DEF will cost you 1 resource point, a character with 2 ATK and 2 DEF will cost you 2 resource points, and so forth. However, in the Vs. System, the characters’ ATK and DEF values are set on a curve. A character that costs 1 resource point to recruit might have 1 ATK/1 DEF, but a character that costs 2 resource points to recruit will likely be slightly larger than 2 ATK/2 DEF. As the characters’ recruit costs increase, they get bigger and bigger. It’s likely that a single 3-drop character together with a single 4-drop character won’t be enough to take down a 7-drop character.

The result is nothing short of comic-style mayhem, where Thing can burst through a wall and save Reed Richards and Sue Storm from certain Doom, or Professor X can suddenly stop a small horde of Brotherhood characters in its tracks. Gameplay never degenerates to the point of total randomness and unpredictability. It’s a fairly well-balanced system.

The challenge lies in making sense of this mathematically complicated system. A linear progression of character values is easy to crack. A non-linear curve is much more difficult. It requires lots of study, furious calculation, countless little charts, more caffeine than the human body can reasonably handle, and a general disregard for shaving for a couple of days. I won’t lie to you—it’s a fair amount of work. But, because I’m a sucker for punishment, I’ll rip apart DC Origins on behalf of those who’d rather fall down stairs than do math in their spare time. I’m not a big fan of numbers, but they’re a necessary evil if players want to get the most out of their decks. And frankly, none of my editors were willing to pay me to fall down stairs instead of doing actual work.

I asked. There weren’t any takers.

This will be a two-part series, so I’ll be able to go into a bit more depth than in my last Adventure in the Land of Math. In this installment, I’m going to look at the stat divisions, averages, and medians for each cost level, and then talk a bit about the extremes at each point on the curve—the winners and the losers from a viewpoint strictly concerned with ATK and DEF.

Here are the individual numbers for each recruit cost level in DC Origins.

Recruit cost 1: 19 characters

Characters with 0 ATK: 3
Characters with 1 ATK: 15
Characters with 2 ATK: 1

Characters with 0 DEF: 0
Characters with 1 DEF: 17
Characters with 2 DEF: 2

ATK Median: 1
DEF Median: 1
ATK Average: 0.894
DEF Average: 1.105

The breakdown of characters with a recruit cost of 1 looks similar to that of Marvel Origins. The DEF average is a touch higher, and the ATK average is a bit lower, but it’s virtually the same from a broad perspective, right down to the number of 0 ATK and 1 ATK characters.

Lucius Fox, Omen, and Ventriloquist ◊ Scarface are the three cards with 0 ATK. Ventriloquist can quickly boost himself to 2 ATK anyways, while Omen provides a valuable effect with a lot of potential for synergy and a solid DEF for turn 1. Lucius is a bit risky to play and seems like a bit of an over-investment, given that he’s somewhat conditional. Alfred Pennyworth is a more attractive option for the Gotham Knights team in most situations, including turn 1 and beyond.

On the opposite side of the scale, King Snake clocks in as DC’s lone 2 ATK 1-drop character. King Snake is a real gem in an unaffiliated deck, and can also contribute to serious early game aggression and diversionary tactics in Limited play.

When it comes to defense, there really aren’t any low-lights yet, but the clear highlights are the aforementioned Omen and Lady Vic. Lady Vic is a bit awkward to use. As she lacks a team affiliation, her effect can’t utilize the benefit it would get from team attacking. However, she’s a great 1-drop in most cases, and she can work wonders in an unaffiliated deck using Deathstroke the Terminator to give her a team affiliation from which she can benefit. Her 2 DEF is nice to begin with for a 1-drop, but her effect on top of that, and her ability to actually ping for a point of damage (or 4, given her effect) makes her quite solid. There is only one other 1-drop with 2 defense that can actually deal damage based on its printed attack; Lady Vic shares that honor with Forge.

Recruit cost 2: 19 characters

Characters with 1 ATK: 5
Characters with 2 ATK: 10
Characters with 3 ATK: 3
Characters with 5 ATK: 1

Characters with 1 DEF: 2
Characters with 2 DEF: 11
Characters with 3 DEF: 5
Characters with 4 DEF: 1

ATK Median: 2
DEF Median: 2
ATK Average: 2.052
DEF Average: 2.263

It’s at this recruit cost level where we start to see some serious standouts. There are several effect-centric characters that have a low ATK at the first recruit cost level, but the three characters with 3 ATK (Tim Drake ◊ Robin, The Boy Wonder; Firefly; and Black Mask) are all very good, with highly useful effects. Black Mask makes a decent 2-drop in any unaffiliated deck not focusing on Wildebeest. Firefly is a bruiser with flight and range, as well as a stellar effect that can really dictate a game’s pace. Meanwhile, Tim Drake ◊ Robin can be an integral part of a Gotham Knights deck at virtually any time—+7 ATK to Batman, Dark Knight or +4 ATK to Cassandra Cain ◊ Batgirl are personal favorites. His ATK and solid DEF make him playab…

(Metagame Archive) Ask Not What Your Card Game Can Do For You . . .

By Ben Kalman

This is the first in a series of articles on how to be a part of the Vs. community, and how to improve that community and make it work for you. You’ve bought the cards and you want to play the game—keeping it alive and healthy is a good way to ensure that you haven’t wasted your time and money. A big part of ensuring the health and vibrancy of the game is to do your part to keep the community as alive and robust as the game is. Without the community, and by extension, the players, there is no game.

It’s very easy to put the onus onto the company—to say “Hey—the community, the players—that’s not my problem! It’s up to Upper Deck to make sure that the game is healthy!” This is a fallacy; players have the same responsibility as consumers to help keep the product they love afloat—whether that’s signing a petition to keep your favorite television show on the air or telling all of your friends about this great chocolate bar you just discovered, it is the work of the buyer that keeps the business in business.

So here are ten simple ways to do your bit to help keep Vs. a strong and healthy member of the TCG brotherhood.

1) Find a local game store (LGS)

The LGS is the bread and butter of the gaming community. Some readers may be familiar with an article I wrote a while back, entitled “A Call To Arms,” calling out for Vs. players to support their LGS. This is important, as the LGS is the place that not only provides a lifeline between the player and the game, but also provides tournament support, hobby league membership, and, most importantly, a place for members of the Vs. community to gather to trade and play. So, the first step in cementing your position within the community is to find an LGS that suits your gaming needs and support that LGS. Convince it to support the games you love, and then put your money down to back up your convictions.

2) Get your friends involved

Welcome to the wonderful world of gaming circles! Once you’ve found a place to play (like your LGS), your next step is to convince all of your friends that Vs. is a wonderful game, and that they all want to spend their life-savings on it! This shouldn’t be too hard, as the game tends to sell itself, and it is a necessary step to take to ensure that you get the maximum enjoyment out of your cards. Cards may look pretty sitting in a binder, but they’ll do nothing but gather dust within their plastic sleeves if you have no one to play with.

Once you have a gaming circle—or have convinced your gaming club to make the switch to Vs.—then you have provided the Vs. community with new members (you can call yourself a Vs. missionary!), and you have provided yourself with a (hopefully) stable playing environment, made up of friends who can help you test decks, prepare for tourneys, and most importantly—play!

3) Join online communities

Local game stores and gaming circles may provide a lifeline between the player and the game, but they are only a small part of a much larger, global community. There are a handful of online communities that provide the player with a means to get in touch with—and befriend—fellow players from all over the world. I can’t tell you how many great people I’ve met on the various online forums.

The fact that you’re reading this article puts your foot in the door, but the forums are where you can let your own voice be heard—where you can take part in discussions, get inside information, enter Vs. contests, and even interact with the game designers and the rest of the Upper Deck Vs. team. These online communities are also where you can ask questions and voice concerns about the game—and where you’ll find like minds to vent to or rejoice with.

4) Email UDE with feedback

Which brings me to the next step you can take—emailing Upper Deck with feedback. The Upper Deck team is made up of friendly, open-minded individuals that welcome all suggestions and concerns. They are a team of people who are truly interested in what the players have to say, and want to make sure that their public are as satisfied as can be with their product. They will listen to what you have to say, and they will address your concerns. Just go to ude.com and fire off that email—remember that nothing can be done about your concerns regarding the game if you don’t voice them to begin with . . .

5) Start your own website/fansite

Every online community starts somewhere. Now, most of the online forums have well over 600 members—some number in the thousands! So take your ideas and concerns—the ones you’ve been talking about on the forums and message boards, the ones you’ve been emailing to Upper Deck—and use them as the foundation of your own site. If you have the know, reserve a domain and create your own site. If you don’t have the know (or the cash), start up a free site and use software to create your site (or better yet, get someone from those online communities to help you). If you can’t bring the community to you, take yourself to the community!

6) Write articles

This one sounds harder than it is. All it takes to write articles is the will to do so. There are many places out there where you can post them, even in special “journal” and “article” sections on the various websites—and there are a few sites with writing contests where you can win some green for your writing.

Writing articles is a very community-oriented activity. You’re sharing your views and insights with an audience, and promoting criticism and discussion on the topics you’ve written about. Nothing gets a discussion going like a well-written article, no matter the topic. If it’s new and presents an interesting argument, people will read it and will respond. Dialogue and communication are two of the most important aspects of any community, online or otherwise.

7) Enter tournaments

This is not meant to alienate the casual player who has no interest in tournaments; private gaming circles and clubs may be the highest step a player chooses to take in this regard. However, tournaments are a great way to get out and meet some of the other members of the Vs. community and to encounter other deck styles that you may not have seen—or even those that you have seen before but have never seen played by players who are really familiar with them. And there’s nothing quite like sitting down with ten to twenty people who are similarly obsessed with comics and Vs. and getting to say things like, “My Sabretooth stomps your Wolverine!” and, “FLEE BEFORE DOOM, PEON!!!”

Tournaments are a great way to test your game knowledge and game skills; you can put your ideas into practice and see how they hold out beyond your little gaming circle. A little competition always spices up a game—and hey, you could win some cool prizes and maybe even make it onto the Pro Circuit or have a deck named after you!

8) Become a TO/Judge/Demo Team Member

If your local game store doesn’t run tournaments or is having trouble finding people to help run them, then it’s time to take the mantle onto yourself and help out. Upper Deck has the certification program for this very reason—so that people within the community can help to promote the game and give others the opportunity to play it competitively. I quote someone who recently posted on an online forum that his love for the game supercedes his need to play it—which is why he’ll likely be judging at the GenCon PC rather than playing.

This doesn’t mean that everyone should run out and start judging and give up playing. What it does mean is that sometimes there is a need for well-versed TOs and judges in order to ensure that there are tournaments at all. It is more important to ensure that tournaments run smoothly and by the rules than to simply allow people to play the game. This way, everyone leaves satisfied that even if they performed poorly, they did so due to a skills match and not to cheating or poor judging.

Upper Deck provides you with everything you need to organize and run tournaments, and judges are rewarded for their time and effort, so you won’t be “losing out” by volunteering your time. You’ll be enabling others to enjoy the game, you’ll be showing off your rules knowledge, and best of all, you won’t be walking away empty-handed.

Finally, a great way you can help to build up the Vs. community at the grass-roots level is to become a demo-team member. UDE provides you with the tools, and you can go out and ensnare new Vs. players by showing them the game and how fantastic it is. The best way to do this is to connect with your LGS and select an afternoon or evening that is convenient to both of you, set up shop at the shop, and demo the game directly onsite, where they conveniently sell starters (and boosters) for the newly addicted Vs. player!

9) Treat people with courtesy and respect (Do unto others . . .)

I saved this one until now, because it is not only one of the most important aspects of the community, but also one that is pertinent to every other step. In any community, from the lowest peon player to the highest rules guru/designer, the members of that community expect to be treated with respect and to be addressed politely—and should return the same. When asking or answering questions, responding to articles, calling for judges or making a judgment call, demoing the game, or interacting with other community members, you should at all times be pleasant and polite and treat people with the same respect you should justifiably demand for yourself.

This does not mean that you have to accept everything with a stupid grin and nod and smile whenever anyone says/posts anything. You don’t have to agree with everything, like everything, or be 100 percent positive about everything. You simply should put forth any and all opinions, arguments, feedback—or simple dialogue—in a friendly, constructive manner. The game gurus have learned this. They regularly visit the forums and lists, answer questions and concerns, ask for feedback, and welcome all criticism—and they always respond politely and with respect, no matter who they are responding to.

I cannot emphasize how important this is, because everybody wants to be listened to and to know that their comments, concerns, and questions do not go unheard. The simple truth is that people will listen to you if you approach them with courtesy and respect, but people will only respond negatively (if they respond at all!) if you approach them with condescension, anger, or flames. We are all a part of this community, and must treat each other as such.

10) Play the game!

The most important part of being a part of the community is simply to play! Without you, the player, there is no community and no game, so get out there and play—and have some fun doing it!

(Metagame Archive) Design Vs. Development: Decisions, Boost, and Public Humiliation

By Danny Mandel

I like to give readers a heads-up as to what a given article will be like. This is for two reasons. One, if I feel some parts of an article might not appeal to everyone, I can offer a sort of table of contents so readers can skip around. Two, it helps keep me organized as a sort of outline-on-the-go. Not that any of the above is important—just thought I’d let you know. In fact, those of you who don’t like to read about the technical aspects of article writing might want to skip the above paragraph.

So yeah, this article’s pretty much split into three parts. Part 1 goes into some of the differences between strategy and tactics as well as decision points. Part 2 takes a look at the DC Comics Origins set’s only new mono-syllabic keyword mechanic. Part 3 makes me look bad. No, really. Bad. Ungood. Doubleplusungood. Trust me.


Get to the Point
 
Like most games, the Vs. System is a mixture of strategy and tactics. As a quick summary, let’s define strategy as your overall game plan or the end result you’re seeking, while tactics are your on-the-fly decisions that help enact the above game plan or the means to the above end.

For example, when playing an X-Men control/discard deck, your strategy might be to stay alive and pummel your opponent’s hand until you can out-recruit him or her on the latter turns of the game (once you’ve completely stripped his or her hand). A tactical decision you might face would be, should you attack your opponent’s Beast Boy with your Gambit (and possibly face a No Fear or Nasty Surprise), or should you use Gambit’s power to straight stun Beast Boy, no muss no fuss?

Often the line is blurry between what constitutes a tactical decision and what is a strategic one. For example, is trying to decide whether to attack with Professor X, Charles Xavier or use his discard power a tactical or strategic decision? If the discard is relevant right now (as in, you need to knock that power-up out of hand before you launch a potentially game-breaking attack) it’s probably a tactical decision. If the discard is relevant for later turns (as in suppressing hand size over the long game) then it’s probably a strategic decision.

Another way to look at it is that a typical game of Vs. is kind of like a collection of tactical mini-games (one each turn) that are connected across turns by the players’ strategies (strategies that last or sometimes evolve over the span of the game). While a deck’s strategy might change from matchup to matchup, a tactical scenario—such as trying to decide whether or not you need to team attack a character for fear of a defensive trick—exists in and of itself except for potential strategic implications that may stem out of its result. Okay, that was a mouthful, so let me give you an example.

Let’s return to the above case with Gambit either attacking or using his power on Beast Boy. A tactical goal is generally to gain as much as possible while losing as little as possible, right here right now. But whether the greater potential loss (or cost) is Gambit’s getting stunned (perhaps by a No Fear played on Beast Boy) or the card you’d have to discard to use Gambit’s power and avoid direct combat with Beast Boy is actually a strategic question. Strategy is concerned with which scenario will have the greatest effect on the game on the whole. In a sense, tactics is for the short term, and strategy is for the long term. If you have exactly one card in hand and it’s a character you want to recruit next turn, then clearly you can’t afford to spend it on stunning Beast Boy. Then again, if you have nine cards in hand, it’s probably worth it to go ahead and use Gambit’s power to protect Gambit from getting stunned. On the other hand, maybe you’d rather “trick” your opponent into playing No Fear now instead of on a later turn. On yet another hand, perhaps you’re more concerned about Beast Boy getting a +1ATK/+1DEF counter and becoming a more serious threat down the line. (Both of the last two examples are strategic thinking.)

Okay, maybe that wasn’t such a quick summary. And now that I’ve gone over some of the difference between strategy and tactics, I get to reveal that the point I’m leading up to isn’t as concerned with labeling those differences as it is concerned with the fact that there are several different decision points a player will face in a given game. However, before the release of the DC Comics set, almost every in-game (non-deck building) decision a player faced involved the board (or in-play zone)—Which character should I attack? How should I set up my formation? Which plot twist should I play?

Because of the rigid nature of the Vs. System’s resource curve, there often isn’t much of a decision when it comes to deciding which character you want to recruit. That is, it’s usually best to maximize resource point efficiency by recruiting the biggest cost character you can on a given turn, and usually (especially on turns 4 and up) there’s only one character in your hand that fits that criterion. Occasionally you’ll have two characters in hand that it would make sense to play, and that’s where things get interesting as you now have a real decision to make. If only there were some way to simulate a player having more recruit options in hand without actually increasing his or her hand size . . .

Boost(er) Gold!

For those of you just now joining us from the second paragraph of this article, we’ve been having an awesome time looking at some of the types of decisions that exist in a typical game of Vs. However, we decided there just aren’t enough decisions to make on a given turn with regards to which character/equipment to recruit (unless of course you’re eschewing the standard character curve, perhaps by playing a weenie-based deck). Usually, especially on later turns, you’ll just want to recruit the biggest cost character you can. Fortunately the DC Comics set’s new boost mechanic may help change all this.

First, a real quick (and I mean “real quick” this time) summary of what boost means. If a character has a boost cost, you can pay that cost in resource points as an additional cost to recruit the character. Then, when the character comes into play you…