(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…

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