(Metagame Archive) Web of Spider-Man Preview: Decoy Program

By Danny Mandel

I was planning on following up my last article  with a continuation of the mailbag theme, as well as a look at how we set up rarities. But then there was this whole Gen Con Indy/Pro Circuit thing, and things kind of got sidetracked, so I decided to push that article back in favor of doing a post–Pro Circuit wrap-up. But then there was this whole Web Of Spider-Man imminent release thing, and things kind of got sidetracked again (because Toby threatened to kill me and/or make me hang out with Humpherys if I didn’t write a card preview), and I decided to push that article back as well. For those of you keeping track, next week will be the post–Pro Circuit wrap-up, the week after that will be Mailbag 2, and the week after that will be setting up rarities. For those of you who’ve already moved onto the actual preview, you’re not reading this anyway, so never mind.

Doom Triumphant

Everybody knows Dr. Doom can’t be beaten. (I mean in the comics, not in the game. Unless Omeed* is playing Doom, in which case I mean both.) Whenever you think the Fantastic Four finally got the drop on him, it would turn out just to be a Doom-Bot they’ve defeated. And even when it was really, really, really him . . . it still wasn’t him. (That’s what I tell myself when I go to sleep at night. Well, it’s one of the things** I tell myself.) There’s actually this theory on the Internet that says whenever Dr. Doom is written as a powerful, smart, and completely awesome character, it’s actually him. At any other time, it’s just a Doom-Bot, regardless of whether or not the comic actually says it was. This theory allows you to customize and optimize your own personal Dr. Doom.

And now, after months of waiting, you can accessorize him too! Yay!

Ich Bin Ein Latverian
 
Ask not what your Decoy Program can do for you; ask what you can do for your Decoy Program. You can pretty much put it in a sleeve and try not to scuff it up.

Maybe we should talk about what it can do for you . . .

First of all, you can only equip it to an Army Doom character. That means Doom Guards, Tibetan Monks (they were brainwashed, you know), the Robot quadruplets (We Must Obey Doom becomes We Must Be Doom), and of course, the thematically ideal Doom-Bots. But what about team-ups? Might we see Wild Sentinels mystically paralyze their opponents, Gotham Police hiding behind Doomstadt’s massive walls, or my personal favorite, Boris, Personal Servant of Wildebeest***?

Now, let’s answer some of your questions.

Decoy Program turns my character into Dr. Doom?

Yup. The character loses its old name and gains the name Dr. Doom. Plot twists that work for the real Dr. Doom, like Mystical Paralysis, Bitter Rivals, or Doomstadt, will work the same for the decoy.

What happens if I already control a character named Dr. Doom when I equip the Decoy Program?

The game only checks for uniqueness when you recruit a character. Putting Decoy Program on one of your characters won’t get rid of any other Dr. Dooms you control. That’s right, you get to have two Dr. Dooms. Doomstadt affects both of them, Latveria reinforces both of them, and Kraven the Hunter can hunt both of them.


What happens if I have a Decoy Program on a Doom-Bot and then I recruit Dr. Doom?

You get a sad decoy that is put into the KO’d pile when you recruit a new Dr. Doom, just like any other Dr. Doom you control.

What happens if my Decoy gets stunned?

Just like all equipment, when the character to which it’s equipped gets stunned, the equipment turns off. This means the Army character goes back to having its normal name while it’s stunned. When it recovers, it will become Dr. Doom again.

If I put Decoy Program on my Doom-Bot, can I still use Doom-Bot’s payment power?

Yes. When a card says something like “KO Doom-Bot >>> Blah Blah Blah,” the word “Doom-Bot” really means [This card].

Now, if the card said “KO a character named Doom-Bot >>> Blah Blah Blah,” then you would have to KO a character who is actually named Doom-Bot.

Can a Decoy Doom-Bot KO itself to ready itself?

Yes, but the end result will be a KO’d (and probably confused) Doom-Bot.

Can a Decoy Tibetan Monk activate to make itself bigger?

Yes. Yes it can. Three times bigger!

If I spent my 3 resource points to recruit a Doom-Bot this turn and then put a Decoy Program on it, can I play Reign of Terror?

No, you cheater monkey. Reign of Terror checks to see if you recruited Dr. Doom this turn. When you recruited the character, its name was still Doom-Bot. Just because it got delusions of grandeur a bit later doesn’t mean it’s that terrifying.


Why do you guys keep making cards that hurt the Sentinels?

It’s Matt Hyra’s fault. He’s a mutie.

That’s all I’ve got for Decoy Program. Tune in next week for some of the stuff I talked about in that first paragraph.

Please send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

*One of my favorite things about Omeed is that when I use my spellchecker and his name pops up, I get to “ignore” him, which is something I unfortunately can’t do in real life.

**I also tell myself the X-Men are tier 1 and that San Diego isn’t going to fall into the ocean.

***It could happen. You just need Deathstroke and a team-up. And some cooking oil.

(Metagame Archive) Going Titans!

By Brian-David Marshall

Last week, I wrote about drafting League of Assassins. Actually, it was more about being forced to draft League Assassins than choosing to draft them. This week, I’m going to be talking about one of the reasons people end up being forced to align themselves with the Immortal Villain himself.

Teen Titans is my favorite affiliation to draft in the DC Origins set. Unfortunately, it’s also very popular with most of the people I draft with every week at Neutral Ground in New York. After a pack of sharp elbows and shin kicks, one or two people suddenly notice the depth of cards available with League of Assassins written up the left hand side and abandon the Titans—or worse yet, play the dreaded League/Titans mixed bag deck, in which case you had better hope you opened Mirage!

What are the cards that make you want to go Titans and put up the good fight to stay with them through all three packs? Normally we look at the commons in this column, but a pair of uncommons makes fighting for the commons worthwhile.

Tamaran is certainly an important card when drafting the youth movement. I have heard more than one player indicate an intention to steer clear of this card because it put a card into your KO’d pile. That can seem like a disadvantage to the newer card gamer, but what if the card was rephrased to say, “Activate: Target an attacker or defender you control and search your library for a card that shares a name with that character. You must use that card to power-up the targeted character immediately”? Do you think anyone would hesitate to use that card? No, and people should not hesitate to pick Tamaran highly in draft—and use it early and often.

The other card that makes the Titans worth tussling over is Titans Tower. It is similar in power to Savage Land from Marvel Origins, and can completely dominate both the early and late game. Your opponent has to respect that you might be holding any number of 6-drop Koriand’rs and Connor Kents that will devastate opposing defenses.

What makes both locations so saucy is their flexibility to work on both offense and defense. Both cards can only target Teen Titans characters, and the Tower also requires that you discard Titans characters. If you get either of these cards early, you are going to try and fight for the cards that support them and let someone else get stuck with League or a split affiliation.

I am going to go through the commons by drop again this week. When I am drafting Titans, I generally try to draft plot twists and bomb locations (see above); then 1-, 2-, and 3-drops; and then focus on my 4-, 5-, and 6-drops. I don’t worry too much about 7-drops—if all went well, they’ll be accounted for in my 5-drop pile.

One of the things that I overlooked in last week’s column was putting an emphasis on drafting multiples of the same card for the purposes of power-ups. One of the appeals of League that I failed to address last week was the fact that you not only get League characters really late around the table, but you can usually get multiples of all your key commons to make up for their usually underwhelming stats. While it is harder with other teams, I still try to pick multiples of the same character as opposed to diversifying within the drop.

One-drops

You have two choices here, but I think you have to give the clear edge to Dawn Granger ◊ Dove. While they don’t get the kind of marquee billing that the Dynamic Duo get, Hawk and Dove are simply fantastic. The cards are nuts in Constructed and nuts in Sealed Pack—provided you have both pieces of the puzzle. Combined with Hank Hall ◊ Hawk, you can have 6 points of ATK on turn 3. If you are lucky enough to draw them both on the first two turns, it is akin to a New Brotherhood draw. When analyzing your curve, you should treat this duo as 3-drops as well as 1- and 2-drops. It is sometimes scary to make the commitment to what is essentially a two-card combo. Once you have made the commitment to one half, you had better make the second half a real priority because there is not much to write about a 1 ATK/1 DEF for 1.

Now, if that 1 ATK/1 DEF for 1 happens to get a +2 ATK when it attacks, you might find a little something to write about. Pantha is deceptively powerful and also can have that New Brotherhood feeling, especially if your opponent has a slow draw that doesn’t get started for a turn or two. I like this card almost as much as I like Dove, and I try to have multiples of both in my deck. There are very few 3-drops for the Titans, and I try to rely on Hawk and Dove in that slot and leave the 1-drop slot as Pantha’s hunting grounds.

Two-Drops

I have already talked about Hank Hall in the previous section, and I will undoubtedly talk about him in the upcoming section on 3-drops. He is a perfectly ordinary 2-drop without Dove to pump him up, and I take him very highly if I have Dove. I will also take him highly in anticipation of Dove, but not if there is another Titans 2-drop in the pack.

Tim Drake ◊ Robin: Young Detective makes this deck tick. He can occupy the 2 spot and the 4 spot on my curve. He has a sturdy 2 ATK/3 DEF frame to hold off the early beats, and you get to dictate who gets stunned in a team attack. His boost ability pushes Titans decks over the top whether they come in thirty-card sizes or sixty. When you play him with boost, it should mean that every character on your opponent’s side of the table is getting stunned while none of yours are. He can be the catalyst for some very big turns, especially in conjunction with my favorite card for this archetype.

Teen Titans Go! is the source of some controversy in my regular play group. Matt Boccio (of Wizard World $10K and PC: Indianapolis fame) claims that the card is not very good and that you end up trying to hard to have a big turn with the plot twist that it is to the exclusion of other good plays you should be making. Tony Tsai is of the same mind as me on this card—whenever I play it, all my opponent’s characters end up stunned.

There are definitely some misconceptions about this card. First, “you get to ready all characters who participated in a team attack” does not mean they have to team attack again. They can attack individually or as a team—whatever you see fit to do with them. Keep in mind that they do not deal breakthrough damage, so getting to attack with them while all your opponent’s guys are stunned accomplishes nothing. Your goal with this card is to disrupt your opponent’s board so you have an advantage on the board. I have had some amazing turns with this card …

(Metagame Archive) Searching for Equipment, Plot Twists, and Locations

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Last time we looked at the character-searching cards available in the current card pool of Marvel Origins, DC Origins, and the Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock Starter Set. Today’s column has a similar theme: looking at cards that search for specific plot twists, equipment, and locations.

While many teams, especially those offered in DC Origins, have access to cards that search for characters, there are fewer teams that have access to cards that specifically search for plot twists, equipment, and locations. There are only two cards that allow a player to search for a plot twist, four that search for an equipment card, and two that search for a location. The ability to search for any of these types of cards can strongly define a team. Understanding the available options can help a player select what to include in a deck (especially when you’re running multiple teams), and it can also help players understand how best to approach an opponent’s deck.

First, the two cards that can search for plot twists are Boris and Alfred Pennyworth. Both cards provide similar results but are very different in some regards. It’s worth taking some time to look at the similarities and differences of each.

Boris is a 1-drop, and though his effect cannot be activated unless you control Dr. Doom, Doomstadt fulfills that condition and can be played as early as turn 1. Boris has a lot of early-game potential, but his activation cost is to put him on the bottom of the deck, which will happen even if his effect doesn’t resolve successfully. Once he’s been used, he’s out of play until you either draw another one or search for him by combining Doom with a team affiliation that has character search capabilities. His viability in the mid and late game makes him good, but his utility and speed in the early game make him great.

On the other hand, there’s Alfred. Alfred can search for a plot twist or an equipment card, so he’s more versatile than Boris. He also returns to the player’s hand when activated, instead of being relegated to the bottom of the deck. Unfortunately, he’s considerably slower than Boris. Not only does he come into play exhausted, but his effect also requires another Gotham Knight to be on his side of the field. I guess Alfred’s just not used to getting anything for himself. He can be used on turn 2 if he’s recruited on turn 1, but he’ll never have Boris’s surprise factor, and he’s not as strong of a character in the mid and late game.

Boris and Alfred both do what they should within the context of their respective teams. Boris can’t get equipment cards, but a Doom deck isn’t likely to care about equipment. Instead, he can grab any of the deck’s many answers to a variety of situations on command. Alfred is slower and more suited to the Gotham Knights, who rely on a variety of plot twists and equipment cards. While Boris can find the answer to any question, Alfred acts before the question is asked. In choosing whether to combine other teams with Doom or the Gotham Knights, it’s essential to thoughtfully consider those differences between the two characters.

Next up, let’s look at the cards that search for equipment. Besides Alfred, the three options available are Tech Upgrade; Forge; and Mr. Fantastic, Scientific Genius. All three cards search for equipment from the deck, so let’s consider the costs of each card as the primary focus of comparison.

Tech Upgrade is pretty basic. Play it, either from the resource row or from the hand, and exhaust a character. Then, get your equipment. Tech Upgrade is a relatively small investment and doesn’t require a specific team’s field presence.

Forge is a bit more complicated and requires a larger investment than Tech Upgrade. Recruit him for 1 resource point, exhaust him, and discard an X-Men character from your hand. Forge then returns to your hand. If everything goes according to plan, and Forge isn’t KO’d before using his ability, you effectively get to search for an equipment card in return for 1 resource point and a discarded X-Men card. He can be a decent turn 1 play, but his cost may seem pricey. Tech Upgrade only requires the exhaustion of a character if it’s used to its utmost potential (in other words, if it’s flipped from the resource row), but Forge costs a resource point.

In return for this investment, Forge does three things that Tech Upgrade can’t. First, when you do miss a drop, he can act as a decent filler character when you need reinforcement. Second, since he’s a character, his effect is reusable. Finally, he packs his own version of Burn Rubber. If an opponent attacks him and commits to the attack with several offensive plot twists, Forge can use his ability and run the heck away from combat. That attacker will ready and can attack again, but it loses all those ATK-enhancing Flying Kicks and…

(Metagame Archive) Out of their League

By Brian-David Marshall

So Dave Humpherys thinks he can take me in draft?

I confess that he probably can—at the moment. Not only did Dave have a hand in designing the set, but he drafts it constantly. The one time I saw the Upper Deck offices, it seemed that the only two things anyone in R&D does is reluctantly play Moose or Ghost with Danny Mandel and draft. I know they get to claim that they are “doing work” when they draft—I’ve certainly worn a hole in that excuse with my wife over the years—but I’m definitely playing catch up to Dave, who has been drafting DC Origins since months before it was ever even released.

I have been closing ground, though. I have a number of friends qualified for the Pro Circuit, and we have been drafting DC Origins at Neutral Ground in New York whenever possible, trying to get them up to snuff for the big event and preparing me for my eventual grudge match with The Hump. I have learned a thing or three along the way, and I’m going to be ready to throw down the gauntlet the next time I see Dave.

One of the things I have quickly picked up is that no one chooses to be League Of Assassins in a draft—they just end up that way. Other than the huge Ubu, Ra’s al Ghul’s Bodyguard, the common drops don’t match up well with commons at the same drops in other affiliations. At the same time, you do see playable cards—albeit weaker cards than you might find in other affiliations—later than you do with any other sqaud in the set.

I became intrigued with League when I watched Chris Manning (of the same Your Move Games origins as Dave Humpherys) fight his way to the finals of a PCQ that I organized at Neutral Ground. It was one of the first Sealed Pack events, and the Top 8 was draft. Manning lost in the finals but got past two solid Teen Titans decks before an Arkham deck took the top prize. There were actually four players fighting over Titans cards in the draft, while Manning was the only player to draft League, which may be the most compelling reason to draft it at this point.

Chris Manning
League of Assassins Draft Deck
Top 2 at 7/18/04 PCQ at Neutral Ground

3 Assassin Initiate
2 Bane, Ubu
3 Dr. Tzin-Tzin
1 Kyle Abbot
2 Ra’s al Ghul, Immortal Villain
2 Ra’s al Ghul, Master Swordsman
2 Thuggee
3 Ubu
3 Whisper A’Daire
3 Lazarus Pit
1 Airborne Assault
1 Break You
1 Combat Reflexes
1 Fast Getaway
1 Shape Change
1 Tag Team

One of the things that you can do with League that you cannot do with more contested teams like the Teen Titans and the Gotham Knights is take your time picking up characters and instead focus on plot twists. With 4-drops like Dr. Tzin-Tzin and even Ra’s al Ghul, you will need to good combat tricks to survive battle with the likes of Cassandra Cain ◊ Batgirl. With players fighting to establish themselves in other affiliations, you can snag Tag Team, Combat Reflexes, and Break You.

I have drafted the deck a couple of times and found that you can’t really count on team-ups like My Beloved and World’s Finest. In the case of the former, you have two teams with different loyalty issues in the 3-drop and 4-drop spots, which are not, coincidentally, the best common cards in each team affiliation.

Rather than going through the commons in a pick order, I am going to further break it down by the various drops. I have noticed that draft is becoming more and more curve-driven, and you want to have an assortment of the best common drops in each spot along your curve.

One-Drops

Thuggee is the best common 1-drop. His ability allows you to get in for 2 on the first turn even if your opponent has his or her own 1-drop. Like all the 1-drops in League, his most important function is to enable a turn 3 Ubu. There are also Josef Witschi and Maliq in the 1 slot at uncommon, and you can usually count on these guys coming around pretty late if you don’t see your Thuggees. You don’t need to devote much energy to picking these guys early unless you are in the third pack and are short on 1s and 2s for your Ubus (You did draft Ubus, right?) in which case you might want to nab one or two earlier than you would care to normally.

Lazarus Pit is another card that goes round and round the table. With two stunned characters, you can activate the Pit to prevent one from being KO’d and recover the other. The targeted character will not recover, but it will stick around and count toward loyalty even though it is face down. This can be especially useful if you find yourself sporting two team affiliations and want to preserve your ability to cast a League character with loyalty while recovering a non-League character. The sacrifice ability was certainly relevant in Manning’s semfinal match with Rich Fein at the PCQ. The two players were in the late game, and they had a violent clash that stunned all four guys on each team. Rich looked to be advantaged as he was going to recover a huge 6-drop and dominate the board. Chris flipped up three Pits and sacrificed them to save all his guys—including a…

(Metagame Archive) Design Vs. Development: Who’s Running the Asylum?

By Danny Mandel

“You’re food now, shirt!” —Suggested alternate flavor text for Charaxes (who was formerly Killer Moth)

To me, the Arkham Inmates are all about fun. That’s not to say I don’t think they’re a good team for high-end playability, just that when we were making them, we really wanted them to come off as a blast to play. (Unlike the Sentinels—we want playing them to be a chore.*) Don’t get me wrong—I’m only saying we wanted them to be a blast for you to play, not for your opponent to play against. In fact, earlier this week I watched a guy get crushed by an Arkham deck so badly he started weeping tears of blood. (Then again that happens a lot around here. It’s just something that we do.)

Before the DC set came out, there was a lot of chatter on the boards about what the Arkham team was going to be like. (You know, like what their focus was going to be, like how the Fantastic Four are good with equipment, or how the Brotherhood is good at dominating metagames.) One popular theory was that Arkham was specifically not going to have a focus. They were going to be a random collection of crazies with no rhyme or reason tying them to each other. They would be a non-team team (kind of like the opposite of the unaligned guys who, through enablers like Mojo or Deathstroke, can actually function like a real team). 

The funny thing about that theory is that early in preliminary design, we actually considered the very same thing. We tossed around the idea of intentionally forcing a lack of synergy between any of the Arkham characters just to up the chaos factor. In fact, at one point we considered making Arkham the only team whose members couldn’t team attack or reinforce one another. But there was a problem (as there usually are in these kinds of stories—I mean, how interesting is a story that’s like, “Yeah, so we came up with this idea, and it was good, so we tried it, and it worked, and we were done”?).

The problem was that, intentional or not, there will always be synergies or cards that work well together in a large enough collection. What I mean is, sure if you look at two cards in a vacuum, there might not be any synergy directly between them. But if you add in a third card, you have to check all three against each other. As you add more and more cards, natural synergies become impossible to avoid especially if you allow other cards to connect them. For example, there may be no obvious synergy between Storm, Ororo Munroe and A Child Named Valeria, but once you add in cards like Invisible Woman, Sue Storm and a bunch of small, front row FF characters, Storm’s ability to prevent opposing characters from flying over your reinforced, unstunnable little dudes creates a lock on the board.

The point is, it’s actually really hard to avoid creating synergies or to actively combat them, and even if we could, it probably wouldn’t be that much fun anyways, since so much of deck design is finding synergies. The good news is that there were lots of other ways to make Arkham feel chaotic (and that’s the real rub—it’s not important to make the inmates actually chaotic, it’s only important to make them feel chaotic).

One mechanism we decided to go with is randomness. By nature, a card game is random (unless you’re a big cheater monkey you randomize your deck before the game begins). Therefore, we usually don’t want to add too much more randomness, because if things get too random, good decision-making no longer has enough of an impact on the game. However, for some of the Arkham characters, it just seemed too appropriate. I mean, who could resist making Two-Face a coin flip card? It just felt right to give The Joker, Laughing Lunatic, a “pick-a-card” mechanic. For curve-smoothing, we felt that the draw-a-new-hand mechanic captured the chaos of a Prison Break.

A second way we introduced controlled chaos was through mini-games like the Riddler’s power and Riddle Me This. These effects take a quick break from the main game as one player assumes the role of master criminal and the other, hapless victim.

Discard effects in general became a theme of Arkham’s, both because it fit their propensity for stealing and because it made a nice foil to the Gotham Knights’ card-drawing power. It’s worth noting that Museum Heist (in all its horrible-pun-in-the-flavor-text glory) was originally an Arkham-only card, but was made generic when we added the more chaotic Cracking the Vault to the Inmates’ repertoire.

A larger mechanic that was introduced to the team slowly over the course of general design was Arkham’s ability to punish exhausted characters. To me, this represents their ability to take advantage of when the good guys (in this case, the characters controlled by the opponent) are caught napping. This theme is divided into enabler cards (cards that facilitate exhausting opposing characters) and punisher cards (cards that, uh, punish exhausted characters).

Fear and Confusion and No Man’s Land function as enablers, but you should notice that both are only useful during your attack step. The ability to exhaust a character before its controller has had a chance to attack with it can be pretty devastating, and because it feels more controlling than chaotic, we decided to regulate Arkham’s enabler cards’ usage.

Once we had the enabler cards in place, we needed to come up with the punishers. We decided Charaxes was a scary enough guy that whenever he stunned an exhausted character, he would just eat it (which, due to the fact that nobody actually dies in comics, translates to that character getting KO’d). From the beginning, Arkham Asylum had two mechanical functions since it is both the bad guys’ common “home” as well as their prison. Its return-to-hand mechanic represents the bad guys getting taken off the streets (while still threatening to return), and its ATK bonus symbolizes the crazies running amok on the unsuspecting and/or unprepared populace.

Clayface’s flavor is a bit subtler. We wanted his stats to fluctuate to represent his constant shape-shifting and resizing. Keying his numbers off of opposing exhausted characters seemed like a nice fit, especially given that he often operates in disguise and catches people unawares. It was a tough decision whether or not to give him range. He can project himself pretty far, but it was still on the bubble given our stringent policy on doling out range (remind me to tell you about it sometime). Ultimately, we felt that while range often strengthens a character, it was especially useful for Clayface to hide in the support row (forcing an opponent to exhaust at least two characters to get to him) while threatening an attack if he survives to his controller’s attack step.

A couple other characters that indirectly tie into the exhaust mechanic are Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. While neither of them actually exhausts an opposing character or gets bonuses from combating one, Mr. Freeze keeps a character from readying for the next turn (acting as an enabler for the next turn), and Poison Ivy goes one better by keeping one stunned (and consequently exhausted) next turn—and that’s only if its controller chooses to “recover” it.

You may have noticed Lockup, an unaligned character, shares the punish-exhausted-characters mechanic. It’s because originally he was on the Arkham Inmates roster. Unforunately, DC Comics told us he wasn’t really appropriate as an Arkham character, so we moved him to unaligned. (Have I mentioned they send us comic books?)

Another mechanic we introduced with the Arkham team is characters that do something while they’re in your hand. You can discard perennial sidekick cards like Harley Quinn and Query and Echo to pump up their “bosses.” The secondary in-hand power gives added utility to characters that are only good at certain times of the game or in specific situations (for example, in most non-weenie decks, 1-drops are only really only good on the early turns). Unofficially we were originally calling it the “flunky” or “sidekick” mechanic, but it has made its way into later sets onto characters that aren’t just sidekicks, so we’re probably going to have to come up with a better name for it.

Okay, that’s all I got for this walk through the Asylum. Now for a public service announcement.

Several weeks ago, I asked people to send me questions that I could answer in a future article. Well, next Friday, I’ll tackle a whole bunch of ’em. Also, to anyone who’s emailed me in the last few weeks but hasn’t yet received a reply, thank you, and you’ll be hearing from me sometime this coming week.

Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

*Just kidding. I figured it’s been a while since there was any controversy about R&D’s bias against everybody’s favorite** robots.

** I know, I know—they’re not everybody’s favorite. Matt Hyra, for example, hates them. Just the other day he was like, “The Sentinels suck. We shouldn’t print any more.” And I was like “No way, man, the Sentinels rock! They’re steady! They’re steady rockin’ all night long!” And he was like “Nuh, uh,” and then he went on, but I didn’t hear because I was eating a sandwich***.

*** Okay, I wasn’t actually eating the sandwich. I was just pretending so Hyra would stop talking to me.

(Metagame Archive) Pro Circuit Blues

By Ben Kalman

GenCon is right around the corner, which means that the very first Vs. Pro Circuit stop is about to get underway! And so, I thought that I’d give a little Amateur’s Guide to the Pro Circuit from someone who is certainly an amateur—and who is prone to stupid mistakes. This is an article on what to expect from the Pro Circuit, some preparation tips, and what not to do once you walk through those doors.

For those of you who have never played in a tournament this big—especially those who have never played for money—it can be a nerve-wracking experience. Every time I enter the Realm of the Unknown, be it a new game, a new job, or a medical appointment, I tend to choke somewhat early on. In fact, whenever I play a new card game—or even a new level of tourney within that card game—I have a habit of breaking down in my first game(s). For example, I bombed my first Vs. PCQ, finishing 1-4. However, I finished third out of a field of more than 40 people in my second PCQ, after the initial brain-cramps wore off. This has happened to me in other games as well, where my first tourneys would yield devastatingly bad results, and then I’d get better and better until I was winning. Case in point is a certain comic-related miniatures game where I finished dead last during my first few tournaments a couple of years ago, and now I’m on a 6-tournament win streak.

So, whatever you do, do not hold high expectations. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hope to win or even expect to do well, especially if you’re done considerably well in $10K events and PCQs, but keep in mind that the higher you raise the bar, the more disappointed you become when you fail to reach that level. The PC will have dozens of players you haven’t encountered yet, and will likely reveal many surprises, as people bring decks and deck ideas that nobody has played up until now. As well, the metagame is thrown wide open with the DC Comics set, as we haven’t really gleaned an idea of what decks are truly dominant in the tournament scene outside of Marvel Origins.

The best way to counter the surprises in a tournament is to practice, practice, practice. And make sure to work on your drafting in addition to Constructed. In Draft, you can practice by attending Draft tournaments; buying packs and holding mini-drafts with your teams, friends, and testing partners; and simulating drafts using box breakdowns. You can test Constructed by putting your deck against net-decks and various other deck ideas (it’s usually a good idea to test against Top 8 decks from $10K tournaments and PCQs). The more you test, the better prepared you’ll be, and the better idea you’ll have as to what cards you need in your deck, what cards you don’t use, and what cards and decks you’ll have to worry about. If you choose to ignore either side of the coin, you will likely get schooled when it comes to that portion of the PC. Since there is a day of Constructed and a day of Draft before the cut to Top 8, players who perform well in only one of the two are at a major disadvantage. Disadvantages will only hurt your chances of a strong showing.

While you’re testing, you must make sure to get to know the cards. First off, you should know every card in your deck, and the ins and outs of the game text on each of those cards, as well as how they perform in relation to one another. I still kick myself for losing the first round of the X-Men #1 tournament simply because I didn’t properly remember how Annihilus worked. Sleep deprivation was a factor, but it was more of a dumb mistake than anything else (for those who are curious, I forgot that Negative Zone only had to be in play, not under my control, for me to avoid damage). There is no excuse for mistakes like this, and no room for them if you wish to win. This mistake cost me the game—and led to more mistakes, which cost me the tournament. If you don’t know your deck inside out, you will likely falter when it comes down to the wire.

You should also know every card in the game and have an idea of how they work. Now, it’s easy to forget what cards do. You should never hesitate to ask to see a card—take the time to read it carefully and make sure you understand how it works. You should, in theory, be able to test against just about every card at some point while you’re testing your deck, but there are times, under pressure, when you simply forget or your mind blanks. Do not be shy or allow an opponent’s irritation at your caution to hinder you. It is hard enough to face the unknown without being blind while you do it. It’s better to beat an irked opponent than to lose to a smiling one.

And, speaking of taking time, you should also take the time to strategize. I’m sometimes prone to rushing, and this is a very bad thing to be. Do not rush—it will only cost you in the end. Think things over, work out different possible outcomes, and prepare yourself for all possibilities. Do not worry about the time limit. If you’re down a game, you don’t want to run out of time and lose on time instead of skill, but the more you rush, the more mistakes you will make. My second glaring error in the X-Men #1 tournament caused a loss in the second round, when I put Annihilus and Blastaar in the wrong formation, and my opponent beat me by only 2 or 3 endurance. Every mistake you make can be costly, as an opponent needs only to exploit a single, stupid mistake and capitalize on it for the win. I should have been 2-0 in the X-Men #1, and instead was 0-2. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Take the time to think over your formation, your attack strategies, your defense strategies, whether or not to play a card, and what cards to play. You’ll thank yourself for it at the end of the day.

While I’m at it—sleep deprivation, as I mentioned before, really did have a negative impact on my play. I had finished a booster draft in the early morning hours the night before the X-Men #1 tournament, and wasn’t able to get back to where I was staying. I didn’t manage to get any sleep, and I got very little rest, so I was playing without a clear head. One should never go into a major tournament without a clear head. You should get at least six hours of sleep the night before, make sure to eat breakfast (and orange juice is a very good thing to drink lots of . . .), and you should make sure to have a bottle of water with you during the tourney. It’s also a good idea to either bring something to eat around lunchtime, or to have someone who can fetch you something. It’s hard to concentrate on the game at hand when your stomach is rumbling. You shouldn’t gorge yourself, however, especially if you have a particularly nervous metabolism. It’s also hard to perform when your stomach is churning and you’re running to the bathroom between every round.

You should also beware of the cutthroats and jerks who try to psychologically destabilize your game. There will always be people who stall on purpose, who are ultra-anal rules lawyers, who are insulting, condescending, rude, and/or anti-social—all of whom will do anything short of actually cheating to win. Remember that you can call a judge if ever you feel your opponent is being abusive or playing improperly. However, don’t fall to their level—you should not get impatient if your opponent is strategizing or reading your card, you should be pleasant and polite to him or her, and you should never be a jerk or a rules lawyer. Remember that this is the Professional Circuit, and you should therefore act professionally. While everyone should be familiar with the game and cards and be on a Pro level of gameplay, this game is still young, and many of the invitees—and even some of the people who qualified the hard way—have not had time to have truly mastered the game. Each player on the PC has earned his or her first ticket, whether he or she is involved in the community, has a strong history in another game, or qualified the old-fashioned way. We all deserve to be there, so let’s treat each other with the respect we all deserve. This is a time for celebration—it’s the first Vs. PC event! We’re a part of history, so sit back and enjoy yourselves. While there will be other PC events, there will never be another first one, so keep your focus, and, at the same time, keep your dignity. Play with pride and poise, and play to win—but not by being a jerk. So get out there and play, and good luck to everyone!

I’m looking for questions and concerns from the community—if there’s anything you’d like answered or addressed, please send me an email at kergillian@hotmail.com.

 

Also known by his screen name, Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the Vs. community since Day One. He started the first major group in the online community – the VS Listserv through Yahoo! Groups, which now boast well over 700 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG

(Metagame Archive) Gamer for Life: I Come from the Land Down Under

By The Ben Seck

Kangaroos. Koalas. Perhaps the occasional platypus.

That’s what the average person thinks of Australia. Well, I’m glad to say for my sake that my continent can’t simply be distilled into such simple clichés . . . though somehow the most famous Marvel or DC hero that has come from Australia is Captain Boomerang. Why all this rigmarole about Australia? Perhaps I should introduce myself.

I’m TBS. This used to stand for “The” Ben Seck, but over the years it has transcended its original meaning amongst gaming circles to become just a nickname. Sure, I would prefer to have a cooler nickname, such as Dr. Light, or maybe Blastaar, but my superpowers seem to be dormant for the moment, so a more grandiose moniker would be inappropriate. I’ve been a gamer of some sort ever since I was young—on many rainy days, I would play the latest game developed by my brother and myself, from elaborate Lego World Domination strategy games to ones that allowed you to control the financial world (these feelings of megalomania have yet to subside). This pseudo-gamerhood (you see, I’m a sucker for titles and definitions) blossomed fully into ultra-geekdom (hyphens and parentheses are fun!) during my school and university years, when I played every roleplaying and card game I could get my hands on. I live in Australia, which meant that at that time, it was hard to get my hands on some of the games, but my love for it was far greater than the trials it took to get them. I decided to take this gaming thing a little more seriously in the last few years and move myself into essentially what I am now: a professional gamer. The problem that has always been traditionally insurmountable for those would-be pro gamers who live in Australia is that it takes approximately 34 geological ages and the combined fortunes of the Arab sheikhs to get anywhere else on the planet . . . but somehow my love for international gaming has persisted. Which brings us to the here and now.

When I heard that the Vs. System would have a Pro Circuit, I knew that I would have to give this game a go. I’ll save my first experiences with Vs. for another time, but suffice to say that on my second attempt, I was able to qualify in the Sealed Pack portion of a local PCQ (limited TCG gaming has traditionally been one of my strengths). The day after, I discovered that I was already qualified via the special “Most Interesting TCG Personalities” category. I was so interesting that my name had a typo on this list! Now, I’m not blaming any of my esteemed editors for this gaffe, so I think I’ll just change my name to Beck Seck. It certainly has a nice rhyming quality to it.

What had I done to deserve this honor? I don’t think anything, so I’m going to make it up to you, the hard working players out there in the PCQ trenches. I’m going to open up my deck testing process to the people. I will be attending the first Pro Circuit event at Gen Con Indy in a few weeks, and I’d like to do it with a deck that is at least partially contributed to by the players. Each of my articles in the coming weeks will highlight the ideas and decks that have been submitted with full credit to the contributors. I’ve always been a fan of combo/theme decks, so I will be most impressed with more creative ideas. You can email me your ideas at tbsmetagame@hotmail.com. Get cracking!

Now to some actual strategy content. The deck I want to run, but haven’t had the time to test fully, is something I call Cops and Robots:

Cops and Robots (It was a Dark and Stormy Night) V.1
16 GCPD Officer
4 Longshot
14 Wild Sentinel
2 Batman, The Dark Knight
4 World’s Finest
2 Marvel Team-Up
4 Fizzle
4 Combat Protocols
3 Reconstruction Program
3 Clocktower
4 GCPD Headquarters

This deck looks a little crazy, but bear with me. The Longshot engine has been largely imported from the now ubiquitous “Wild Vomit” deck, but this deck has a different strategy for winning. With GCPD Headquarters, it seeks to KO every character, every turn, until it hits turn 7, when an inordinately large Batman comes in to clean up the opponent. Now there are many cards that could fit into this deck that aren’t there, but this is a work in progress. Commissioner Gordon may have a place in here, but I’m finding it hard to have a spare turn where he should come down. Fizzle is mainly there against Flame Trap, something that would destroy this deck if it was played at the wrong moment. I’d really like to run some version of this deck at Indy, so any insights or testing that you do with the deck will be duly noted.

I’ll go into more detail about the evolution of this deck next week, along with the first submissions by you—the reader!

Until next time . . .
Good Gaming!

TBS
tbsmetagame@hotmail.com