(Metagame Archive) PC So Cal: T-Minus Two Months and Counting . . .


There are only a couple of months to go until Gen Con So Cal and the second Vs. System Pro Circuit event! With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at what was shaping up in the world of Vs. System.


There are three things that will affect the Pro Circuit more than anything else: the players, the cards, and the metagame. Which players will dominate? Which cards (especially from the new sets) will make a difference? Will a shift in the metagame turn the tide at the PC?


This week, I’ll start with the players. There are many variables involved in trying to predict who will do well and who won’t. The players who do well in tournaments leading up to the events may have a bad day or buckle under the pressure of the PC itself. Players with no tournament experience might leap out and surprise you. For a great example of this, let’s take a peek at our reigning PC champion, Brian Kibler.



Brian Kibler and PC Madness


—Winner, PC Indy

—Ranked seventeenth in the world in Vs. System Constructed


Magic: The Gathering invaded Vs. at Gen Con Indy. I say that without any hint of malice, sarcasm, or cynicism. The simple fact was that Brian Kibler had not played a single Vs. tournament prior to PC Indy. It didn’t seem to faze him; he took top honors without breaking a sweat!


Now let’s not kid ourselves. Brian is a great Magic player with a ton of Magic Pro Tour experience—including some very close finishes and some high-level wins under his belt. He’s no rookie when it comes to playing with the pros.


Yet every game is a different animal, and a Magic tournament master is not guaranteed to perform well in another game’s tournament. For example, Kai Budde is a Magic World Champion, and yet he didn’t even make the Top 50 at PC Indy.


The key to Brian Kibler’s victory—aside from natural skill and a little luck, which every player needs—was practice, practice, practice. He’s on a top-tier team with Gabe Walls (who took Sentinels to fourth place at Origins and has been successful at just about every game he plays), Neil Reeves (another very successful TCG player), and Nick Little. They drafted and playtested for hours on end.


You can rest assured that Brian and his cohorts will be testing feverishly for a repeat performance at So Cal. He and the other three musketeers are all forces to contend with.



World Rankings Abound!


Now let’s take a look at the Top 5 in the world, in both Constructed and Sealed Pack, and what they’ve accomplished.



Top 5 Constructed Players


1. Jason Green


—Finished 14th at PC Indy (undefeated Day 1)

—Finished 5th at Dragon Con $10K

—Finished 15th at Chicago $10K

—Winner, comic-book tournament, Chicago

—Finished 31st at Origins $10K

—Finished 10th at Wizard World East


There’s a reason that Jason Green is ranked first in the world: consistency. One can argue that his only win (the Chicago comic-book tournament that garnered him a copy of Hulk #181 featuring the first appearance of Wolverine) wasn’t huge. It certainly didn’t have as many players or as high a level of competition as a $10K, especially since Chicago was the smallest $10K in terms of raw attendance.


If you wish to make this argument, please point out another player who has finished in the money in every major tournament he or she has entered. Jason has gone Top 15 in all but one.


At Gen Con Indy, the 21-year-old Jason Green told metagame.com that “The fact that you couldn’t lose due to a lack of resources [in a game of Vs. System] was very attractive.” Apparently, the fact that he couldn’t lose at all seemed even more attractive. Jason is definitely a top seed for So Cal.



2. Wess Victory


—Finished 101st at PC Indy

—Won Dragon Con $10K

—Finished 11th at Origins $10K


After an impressive finish at Origins, Wess was all but forgotten at Indy. Though finishing in the top half of the attendees is certainly not horrible, his finish was far from remarkable.


Still, what a comeback! Two weeks after the PC he smashed at Dragon Con, taking the tourney with a vicious Arsenal Abuse deck. His win solidified the Titans’ well-deserved spot in the metagame and cemented [Twin Firearms]’s status as a power card. Although I wouldn’t put Wess in the Top 8, he’s definitely a threat at So Cal.



3. Patrick Yapjoco


—Finished 23rd at PC Indy

—Finished 20th at San Diego Comic Con $10K

—Finished 68th at Origins $10K


Known as Majestic on VsRealms.com, Patrick is one of the most vibrant players on the Circuit. Always smiling and always performing well, he started winning PCQs early on and then just exploded.


He told me at Origins that his performance was a huge disappointment to him (he just missed Top 64), and he made up for it at San Diego with a Top 20 finish. He then proceeded to storm the PC, leading Team Realmworx to a great Day 2 performance and a Top 25 finish. Look for him to keep improving—he’s a good bet for a Top 10 on his home turf, So Cal.



4. Anthony Justice


—Finished 39th at PC Indy

—Finished 2nd at Dragon Con $10K

—Finished 7th at Origins $10K


Russ Pippin’s arch-nemesis, Anthony Justice, was one Wess Victory away from taking the Dragon Con $10K. He and Pippin have an uncanny habit of meeting in the Top 8. Pippin took him out at Origins, and Anthony returned the favor in Atlanta.


Justice finished a respectable 39th at PC Indy. Like Jason Green, he performs well in every major tournament he enters. He seems to like Common Enemy, so we’ll see if he takes Boris and pals to So Cal. If Russ Pippin is there as well, look for them to play in the quarterfinals.



5. J-F Grondin


—Finished 168th at PC Indy

—Finished 7th at Gen Con Indy $10K


J-F hails from the South Shore of Montreal, Quebec, and we often play at the same store. Although I’ve only played him casually, I’ve seen him pull off some major coups with his trusty Fantastic Four deck (including his superb Top 8 performance at the Indy $10K.) He did as well as I did at his first major tournament, finishing 3-4 on Day 1 and missing Day 2 by a single victory.


Unlike yours truly, however, he rebounded the next day. While I was putting in a sub-par performance, he was moving onto a 7-1 record and a spot in the Top 8 of the $10K. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!


J-F will probably not make the trip to So Cal, but rest assured that if he does make the trip, he will likely nab at least a Top 20 finish.



Top 5 Sealed Pack Players


1. Scott Smith


—Finished 27th at Sydney $10K Constructed


Scott is the only non–North American in the Top 5 of either format. Hailing from Australia (Sydney, if my research is correct), he has not yet hit the North American scene. However, he has won one PCQ and placed second in two others, and he seems to specialize in the Booster Draft format.


If he makes the trip to So Cal, he’ll be a strong wildcard. Most players won’t know what to expect, and he has certainly proven that he is a force to be reckoned with on the Australian scene. Only time will tell if he can be equally strong in North America.



2. Andrew Yip (also 19th in Constructed)


—Finished 10th at PC Indy

—Finished 104th at San Diego Comic Con $10K

—Finished 6th at X-Men #1 Tournament

—Finished 40th at Origins $10K

—Finished 90th at Wizard World East $10K


Also known on the boards as liquidroyl, Andrew Yip is a member of Team VSUniverse.com, where he is a staff writer and a frequent poster. He’s also a good friend of the entire So Cal Vs. System gang, including Patrick Yapjoco, Billy “Foilball” Zonos, and Cap’n Carl Perlas.


Andrew has had his ups and downs on the convention circuit, with a high of 6th place in the X-Men #1 tournament at Origins and an uncharacteristic low of 104th place at his home-turf event, the San Diego Comic Con $10K. His biggest achievement to date, however, was a spectacular 10th place at PC Indy, where he just barely missed the Top 8 on tiebreakers.


He has the distinction of being the only player to rank in the Top 20 in both Sealed Pack and Constructed, and is bound to be a powerhouse at So Cal.



3. Michael Walewski


—Finished 219th at PC Indy

—Finished 138th at Gen Con Indy $10K


Michael is an interesting case, because much like J-F Grondin, he has only been to one convention. The majority of his strength is derived from local tournaments and PCQs. In fact, his showing at Indy is representative of someone who is solid in terms of local game play but can’t hit the high notes when it comes to high-level competition.


He has won quite a few events, though most of the events have gone no more than three rounds and the largest only had 28 players in it. Still, he did qualify for PC Indy, and I’m sure he can do it again for So Cal. Although he’s a long shot to place, here’s hoping that his luck will change, and he’ll turn it all around.



4. Donald A. Grant


—Finished 16th at PC Indy


If Michael Majewski is an example of a Sealed Pack specialist who had a bad turn of luck at PC Indy, Donald A. Grant is the exact opposite. He had played in only two PCQs before PC Indy, one of which he won and another of which he placed second. And when he hit the PC, he steamrolled across the board, finishing in 16th place.


This is the perfect example of someone who doesn’t need to play repeatedly in order to perform. It’s also proof that even with little tournament experience, you can preserve on the Circuit with solid preparation and game knowledge. Expect him to perform equally well come December.



5. Robert Dougherty


—Finished 13th at PC Indy

—Finished 71st at Origins $10K


The owner of Boston’s famous Your Move Games and teammate of PC Indy runner-up Craig Edwards (who played the now famous [Rigged Elections] deck), Rob Dougherty knows his TCGs and is definitely a force to be reckoned with.


Rob is a master at Sealed Pack, going 7-1 and 6-2 at the two PCQs he’s played in, finishing second in both. His 13th place at PC Indy is no coincidence, as he followed a mediocre 4-3 performance in Day 1 with a perfect 6-0 sweep in the day two DC drafts—proving him to be as good at drafting DC as Marvel.


His 71st place finish at Origins and his 4-3 record at PC Indy show that his Constructed game needs a little work, but I have no doubt that he will be back on top at So Cal. If he can get his Constructed game on, he’s an easy pick for Top 8.


International Crisis?


An interesting fact about the rankings is that there are so few non–North Americans in the Top 50. Perhaps the expense of travel has limited overseas participation in major events. This would explain why so few non–North Americans have played in, let alone placed well in, the $10K Convention Championships and the PC.


“The” Ben Seck is the only Australian who has really made a name for himself, and that is more for his pre-Vs. reputation and his article writing. Ben Kreis won the Sydney $10K Championship with a nasty KnightLight deck, and we’re still not sure how he pulled it off!


Europe’s only true claim to fame is Tim Willoughby, who took the Indy $10K Championship using a [Home Surgery]/Arsenal Abuse deck. We’ll see if Europe can make more of an impact in the rankings and the metagame after Gen Con UK.



Other Personalities


I can’t put every top player into an article of such limited size, so here are just a few of the names you’re likely to see on the leader board at PC So Cal.



Russ Pippin


Ranked 7th in Constructed


—Finished 82nd at PC Indy

—Finished 6th at Dragon Con $10K

—Finished 3rd at Origins $10K

—Finished 33rd at Wizard World East $10K


It was disappointing to see Russ Pippin finish so low at Indy, as I thoroughly enjoyed watching him plow his way to 3rd place at Origins a couple of months earlier. Russ Pippin is known for his strategy articles on VsUniverse.com and his always-pleasant posts on my Yahoo! list and other boards. He’s a great guy and a great Vs. player. He also seemed to have created an intense Top 8 rivalry with Anthony Justice that will, with any luck, repeat at So Cal. His record speaks for itself and his ranking is well deserved. He’s definitely worth watching at So Cal.



David Leader


Ranked 35th in Constructed, 24th in Sealed Pack


—Finished 27th at PC Indy

—Finished 9th at Wizard World East $10K


If you’ve spent any time online in the Vs. community, you’ll know David Leader. He seems to be everywhere at once, always making intelligent and well-reasoned comments on every major issue that comes up in the Vs. world.


He’s not too shabby as a player, either!


A Top 10 performance at WWE—missing Top 8 by inches—and a Top 30 performance at PC Indy make for a strong showing by just about any standard. David knows his stuff, and you can be sure he’ll prove it at So Cal.



Kim Caton


Ranked 59th in Constructed, 31st in Sealed Pack


—Finished 11th at PC Indy

—Finished 15th at SD Comic Con $10K

—Finished 8th at SD Comic Con Original Art Tournament

—Finished 90th at Origins $10K


She will likely be forever known as the woman who took down Kai Budde, beating him 2-0 at Indy, but she should be known as a good player, period. In a game where women are few and far between, her strong showings in just about every tournament she’s played in prove that gender means nothing. Humble to the last—I’ve yet to see even a hint of a boast from her in any interview—she barely missed the Top10 at Indy, and took home a nice big check in the process.


In a TCG world where women tend to be ignored as lesser players, she will put anyone stupid enough to underestimate her skill in his or her place. I’m willing to bet she’ll repeat her Top 20 performance at So Cal, and I have confidence that she’ll break the Top 10.



Dominic Gaudreault


Ranked 45th in constructed


—Finished 217th at PC Indy

—Finished 17th at Gen Con Indy $10K

—Finished 23rd at Origins $10K

—Finished 2nd at Wizard World East $10K


Another French Canadian, and another player who plays at one of the local game stores that I sometimes play at, Dominic is one of the sharpest players in the game. Hitting his stride early, he qualified for the PC by finishing second at Wizard World East. He followed with a rather impressive performance at Origins, and seemed to be on the road to a great day at Indy until his strong early performance took a turn for the worse. He, like J-F Grondin, made up for it the next day with a sweet 17th place finish in the $10K, and will likely follow that up with an equally nice performance at So Cal.



A Team is a Wish Your Cards Make


The last section of this article deals with the two major teams who will be competing at So Cal. A friendly rivalry, Team Realmworx and Team VSU each test like crazy and break out tech that defines the game. Each team has had strong performances and each team has managed some nice payouts.



Team Realmworx


Team Realmworx consists of an East Coast and a West Coast contingent. Headed by Realmworx co-owner Anthony Burian, this team includes fan favorites Rian “stubarnes” Fike and David “En-Kur” Spears. It also features such players as Patrick “Majestic” Yapjoco, Billy “Foilball” Zonos, “Cap’n” Carl Perlas, Robert “VS_Master” Leander, Matt “WarMachine” MacLachlan, and—fresh from the Waco PCQ—their newest So Cal qualifier, Shane “Fatalsync” Wendel.



Robert Leander


Ranked 6th in Constructed, 40th in Sealed Pack


—Finished 25th at PC Indy

—Finished 56th at Origins $10K

—Finished 13th at X-Men #1 Tournament

—Finished 19th at Wizard World East $10K


He’s known on VSRealms as “VS_Master” for good reason! He’s ranked just a few steps behind teammate Patrick Yapjoco, and Rob was one of the three Team Realmworx players who silenced his critics with a Top 35 performance and a four-figure check. (The others, for the record, were Patrick and Rian Fike). One of the friendliest, most dedicated Vs. players out there, expect him to play hard at every tournament he enters, be it a Hobby League or PC event.


Team Realmworx broke out at Indy. Expect them to explode at So Cal, with Rob and Patrick leading the way.



Matt MacLachlan


Ranked 15th in Constructed


—Finished 114th at PC Indy

—Finished 10th at Dragon Con $10K

—Finished 6th at San Diego Comic Con $10K

—Finished 92nd at Origins $10K


If his bright red hair is hard to miss, his confident grin is even harder to overlook. This is the man who took a self-proclaimed “X-Men Jank Deck” to Dragon Con just to prove that the X-Men were viable, and then piloted it to 10th place! Just imagine the damage he could have done had Web of Spider-Man been out!


A strong player, Matt is a testing-partner of Dave Spears and Mickey “Rollyted” Ashford. He is also constantly finding effective new combos and decks. He’s one to watch at So Cal.



Dave Spears


Ranked 18th in constructed


—Finished 165th at PC Indy

—Finished 4th at Dragon Con $10K

—Finished 27th at Gen Con Indy $10K

—Finished 19th at San Diego Comic Con $10K

—Finished 29th at Origins $10K

—Finished 154th at Wizard World East $10K


Nobody is harder on Dave Spears than Dave Spears. When he went 3-4 on Day 1 at Indy, he spent the rest of the Con apologizing to everyone on the team and lamenting his performance. Believe me when I say that it wasn’t that bad a performance! But that’s just the kind of guy Dave is. He always works his hardest and gives his best, and when he falls short, he strives to work even harder until he succeeds.


This is why he finished fourth at Dragon Con, and why he’s a surefire threat to finish on the leader board at Gen Con So Cal.



Carl Perlas


Ranked 24th in Constructed


—Finished 91st at PC Indy

—Finished 32nd at San Diego Comic Con $10K

—Finished 2nd at Origins $10K


It may have seemed like a bad-luck performance at PC Indy, especially given his runner-up status at Origins, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to Carl after the PC. He’s a player who is truly passionate about the game, win or lose. He just happens to be damn good at it and keeps winning all the time.


So Cal is Carl’s back yard, as it is for several other players, including his partners in crime (Billy Zonos and Patrick Yapjoco, not to mention friend and VSU rival Andrew Yip). At the PC, win or lose, he’ll be having fun!



Rian Fike


Ranked 48th in Constructed


—Finished 35th at PC Indy

—Finished 86th at Origins $10K

—Finished 41st at X-Men #1 Tournament

—Finished 39th at Wizard World East $10K


If Carl Perlas will be having the most fun, Rian will be the one creating it. There is no player more vibrant, more willing to learn and teach, and more dedicated to the game (or the Sentinels) than Rian. Also known as stubarnes on the boards, Rian is a fan favorite (if not the fan favorite) and has stuck with his precious Sentinels from day one. He received a lot of hate and pity for his insistent use of the Purple Vomit Machine, but he returned those negative waves with a thousand dollar thank-you note at Indy. It’s nothing less than ironic that Rian’s best showing was at Indy, and I have no doubt—especially with the additions to Sentinels in Web of Spider-Man—that Rian will keep improving right through So Cal. With his stunning wife Nina cheering him on, he can’t help but add to his success. And there is no one more deserving of that success.



The VSU Crew


Team VSU is the other major force in the Vs. team zone. Led by site owner Chedy Hampson, Team VSU includes Jason Dawson, Bill Hodack, Andrew Yip, Chris Price, and Eric Wood.



Jason Dawson


Ranked 18th in Constructed


—Finished 113th at PC Indy

—Finished 22nd at SD Comic Con $10K

—Finished 27th at Origins $10K

—Finished 2nd at X-Men #1 Tournament

—Finished 4th at Wizard World East $10K


A solid and consistent player, Jason leads the way for Team VSU. He was an early favorite in the game, finishing 4th at Wizard World East and Top 30 at Origins. His runner-up status at the X-Men #1 tournament at Origins cemented his status as a leading contender at the PC. A couple of bad matches were the difference between a strong finish and a near-miss, but believe me when I say that Jason Dawson won’t make the same mistakes twice. I’m confident that he will bounce back and place high at So Cal. He’s probably testing Web of Spider-Man as I write this—he’s that kind of player.



Chris Price


Ranked 57th in Constructed


—Finished 107th at PC Indy

—Finished 127th at San Diego Comic Con $10K

—Finished 3rd at San Diego Comic Con Original Art Tournament

—Finished 41st at Origins $10K

—Finished 18th at X-Men #1 Tournament

—Finished 38th at Wizard World East $10K


Not good enough yet to hit the leader board in the Convention Championships, Chris is still somewhat of an unknown on the Circuit. That may play to his advantage; expect him to catch people by surprise. He may not place as high as his teammates, but his rating is pretty solid and his final position will reflect that.



Bill Hodack


Ranked 212th in Constructed


—Finished Last at PC Indy

—Finished 101st at San Diego Comic Con $10K

Winner, Origins $10K


Whatever happened to Bill Hodack?


Okay, perhaps it’s a little early to be saying that, but the vaunted winner of the Battle of the Brotherhood final at Origins pretty much fell off the map at Indy. An 0-3 start meant a drop and a last place finish, though he probably should have played out the fourth match. Heck, a four-match win streak would have been the talk of the tournament!


Was it nerves? A bad streak? The wrong deck choice? Who knows? But one thing is for certain: do not count Bill Hodack out! One does not win a Convention Championship if one is not an excellent player. Team VSU has had the jump on the competition once already, and it would not surprise me to see them do it again with Bill at the head of the pack. They, and especially he, are due for a strong performance at So Cal.



Eric Wood


Ranked 65th in Constructed


—Finished 96th at PC Indy

—Finished 34th at San Diego Comic Con $10K

—Finished 9th at San Diego Comic Con Original Art Tournament

—Finished 6th at Origins $10K

—Finished 30th at X-Men #1 Tournament

—Finished 7th at Wizard World East $10K


I saved Eric for last because he’s the perennial underdog. I’ve heard some people badmouth him and I always make sure to correct them, both because he’s a really nice guy, and because few people know more about this game than he does. He always has his head on straight, and he rarely makes technical errors. In fact, it is his tough play that brought him two Top 8 Convention Championship showings—a feat that only Anthony Justice has equaled, and Eric did it first (not that it’s a competition or anything).


Eric is fiercely competitive, but he treats every opponent with respect if that opponent returns it in kind. His performance at Indy wasn’t half bad, but it was uncharacteristic. I had him pegged to make the semifinals. I think we’ll see a return to form for So Cal, so players beware! He’ll be the underdog to begin with—as always—but when the dust clears, he may just be the Top Dog instead.


Next Week: Voices from the field discuss the competitive/casual debate.


In Two Weeks: Another look at So Cal. This time we’ll explore the cards and the metagame and how they might affect the PC.


(Metagame Archives) One Game Match Analysis and Decision

By Jeff Donais

Today, Upper Deck Entertainment officially announced a decision regarding the one game match policy. In this release, Jeff Donais explains how this will affect tournament play, and goes over why this policy was created. One game matches should remedy a lot of the time issues that have come up since the start of competitive Vs. While there can often be resistance to change, this new policy should make tournaments more fair and enjoyable, and I’m confident that the vast majority of players will embrace it.

– Toby Wachter

One Game Match Analysis and Decision

September 28, 2004



One of the things we pride ourselves on at Upper Deck Entertainment is being the best.

Our goal is to design the best games, run the best events, and always think of ways to improve everything we do. We like to think outside the box and challenge every assumption.

When we had a chance to launch a new tournament program from the ground up, we introduced a lot of innovations and improvements such as the “no draws” policy, the Pro Circuit Credit system, the improved Elo rating equation, the personalized judge certification system, and so on. We will continue to innovate and improve to serve our players the best we can.

Over the last few months, we identified a potential area of improvement in the three-game match system. We noticed that with three-game matches, tournaments run very long, and there are problems with extra turns and games decided on endurance totals. For a company like us, the situation wasn’t acceptable.

We originally chose the three-game match system mostly out of tradition. Since other TCGs had used the three-game match system for years, we stuck with the “status quo”, even if wasn’t the best thing to do. We did give tournament organizers the option of running one-game matches at their local tournaments, but we used the traditional three-game matches at premier events.

However, we at UDE want to remember to challenge everything and ensure that we’re making the best decision. That’s the beauty of a company where the decisions are made by long-time players—you can challenge a system and make a change if it’s the best thing to do for the players.

We considered many factors in this decision and conducted a huge amount of research, both theoretical and practical. Many local tournaments and leagues have been running one-game matches for the last few months, and we’ve been in close contact with select locations to monitor the progress. We had several organizers experiment with one-game matches at the local level. This has always been an option in the UDE Tournament Policy since the launch of the game.

We read over 1,000 messages on the topic on email lists and message boards, and talked to hundreds of players and dozens of tournament organizers. We looked at many options, including different end-of-turn procedures, different round lengths, and so on.

Ultimately, we decided there were three main options to consider:

Option 1: One-game matches. Thirty-minute round length. Extra rounds added.

Extra rounds added to the Swiss portion of the tournament, allowing players with worse records to make the Top 8. The main appeal of this option is that it allows more rounds of Swiss to be played, uses time more efficiently, and almost completely avoids using endurance totals as tiebreakers.

Option 2: Two-game matches. Sixty minutes. Current number of rounds.

Each player chooses initiative for one game during each match. The main appeal of this option is that it allows each player to play one game with the choice of initiative. The main weakness of this option is that it creates sticky situations very similar to draws.

Option 3: Three-game matches. Sixty minutes. Current number of rounds.

The main appeal of this option is that it’s the “status quo” and doesn’t require players to adapt to a change. This option also provides a sense of “completeness” to some players.



Evaluating the Factors

We considered six main factors and many secondary factors when deciding which option to choose.

Factor #1: Impact of Skill

This was the biggest factor in our decision, and this is the area we spent the most time studying and testing.

As most players know, Vs. System is one of the more skill-testing TCGs on the market. The luck factor in Vs. System is less than in most TCGs. When you win a Vs. System game, it’s usually because you made better plays than your opponent – not because the opponent got bad draws. Bad draws still happen, of course, but because of the Vs. System game design they happen less than in most other TCGs.

With one-game matches, you can add more Swiss rounds to a tournament. This has the effect of reducing the luck involved with bad. You play more rounds, so you challenge your deck does against a wider range of decks. Every round added to a tournament increases the amount of skill required to do well in a tournament and reduces the luck of extremely favorable or extremely unfavorable matchups.

One-game matches tend to end before the time limit or within the extra turn, which means matches are not decided on extra turns or endurance totals. This reduces the luck factor of those methods of deciding matches. This is a positive for one-game matches.

With one-game matches, you have no chance to “make a comeback” by winning games 2 or 3. This is mostly balanced because you can afford to lose more matches in the tournament, since more rounds are added. With three-game matches, a player in a PCQ who loses two matches would be out of contention for the Top 8. With one-game matches, a player can lose two matches and still make the Top 8 cut. This is very important is reducing the effect of bad matchups and compensating for the inability to recover from a game 1 loss.

To summarize:

  • Vs. System is highly skill testing.
  • Luck is more of a factor in deck matchup than in having a bad draw.
  • A one-game match system enables more matchups (with the added rounds).


Impact: Positive for one-game match. Neutral for two-game and three-game matches.

Factor #2: Efficient Use of Time

The three-game match system does not use time efficiently. Some matches are over in 20 minutes, while others go to 90 minutes using extra turns. Two-game matches are slightly more efficient, but one-game matches are the most efficient because they cause players to end their matches much closer to each other. Most one-game matches are done in 30 minutes, leaving extra time to run more rounds of Swiss

Because of the efficient use of time, one-game matches are superior to two- or three-game matches when considering this factor.

Impact: Positive for one-game match. Negative for two-game and three-game matches.

Factor #3: Initiative


We considered the impact of initiative in our decision. One-game matches and three-game matches are essentially the same in terms of initiative. For three-game matches, a player will decide initiative twice and another player will decide initiative once. One player will be forced to decide initiative for game 1, before seeing the opponent’s deck. This is roughly equivalent to one-game matches. The initiative factor is balanced with two-game matches, as each player would get a chance to decide who has initiative.

As a secondary consideration, we want to reward players who build their decks so they can win regardless of who starts with initiative, and therefore we consider this factor as neutral in our decision.

Impact: Positive for two-game match. Neutral for one-game and three-game matches.

Factor #4: Stalling

Stalling is a potential problem for any TCG. One-game matches hold an advantage here because stalling is much more difficult and much easier to spot with one 30 minute game. It’s very likely a game will come to its natural conclusion with a one-game match and stalling would be almost impossible to pull off with a judge watching.

Impact: Positive for one-game match. Negative for two-game and three-game matches.

Factor #5: Control Decks


We considered the impact on control decks. We studied how long it took a control deck to win, assuming a player with moderate experience played it. We also studied what would happen when two control decks were played against each other. It was obvious that most control decks could win within 30 minutes if played by a moderately-experienced player. The $10K Championship in Sydney tested one-game matches, and control decks were very successful.

One-game and two-game matches allow a full 30 minutes for each game, whereas a three-game match allows only 20 minutes for each game, giving control decks a slight preference for one- and two-game matches.

Decks that require more than 30 minutes to win are generally not healthy for the metagame and would not properly complete a match under any timing option.

One-game matches are helpful to control decks since they usually avoid the problem of unfinished games going to the time limit and being decided on endurance. Control decks almost never win matches determined on endurance.

Impact: Positive for one-game and two-game matches. Negative three-game matches.

Factor #6: Scouting

Scouting is a factor, regardless of the number of games played during a match. Scouting affects one-, two-, or three-game matches. If an opponent knows the matchup thoroughly, he or she could gain a slight advantage in the first game of any match.

Scouting is a part of the tournament system and has an affect on matchups. However scouting a player’s deck is not effective without actually testing against a player’s deck and understanding the matchup. It’s not enough to know what your opponent is playing, you must have prepared yourself to beat the deck and practiced strategies, otherwise the information received from scouting will not be particularly useful.

In our study, we found the impact of scouting alone we not meaningful enough to affect the decision either way.

Impact: Neutral for one-game, two-game, and three-game matches.


The Decision


Evaluating the six main factors above and taking into consideration many smaller factors, the clear conclusion is to move forward with one-game matches, at least with a very serious testing phase.

We have decided to do just that, move forward with one-game matches at the premier event level, while still giving organizers the option to use one or three games matches at local tournaments and leagues.

Testing Period


The next three months, October to December, will be a testing period for one-game matches. All PCQs, $10K Championships and Pro Circuit tournaments will use one-game matches for Swiss rounds beginning October 1. If all goes well, then we’ll continue using one-game matches for all premier events.

Local tournament organizers are welcome to use one-game or three-game matches for their tournaments or leagues, whichever is best for them considering their attendance and available time.

We will be carefully analyzing data from premier events and ensuring that this is the correct decision. We will gather data such as unfinished matches, win percentages of certain deck archetypes, length of tournaments, and so on.

Single-Elimination Top 8

We’ve decided to keep the single-elimination final rounds (usually the Top 8) under the three-game match system. We did this mostly for the dramatic effect and for purposes of tradition. Top 8 rounds can also be longer or be completely untimed without having to impact all the players at the tournament.

Using three-game matches in the finals also reduces the chance of someone losing a huge finals prize due to a bad draw. While this isn’t so much of a problem during the Swiss rounds, it’s obviously something to minimize during the finals, which are single-elimination.

Extra Rounds Added

We will take this opportunity to add extra rounds to the Swiss portion of tournaments in conjunction with the one-game matches. This will provide an opportunity for players to suffer extra losses in the Swiss part of the tournament, but still have a chance to make the Top 8 of the tournament. This is one of the best parts of the one-game match system.

The number of rounds added will be carefully calculated based on the type of tournament. Premier organizers will be sent guidelines for PCQs and $10K Championships. UDE will ensure that sufficient rounds are added to each tournament to allow more losses to be suffered and still make the Top 8 in comparison to the three-game system. The actual number of matches will vary, based on the attendance of the tournament and number of days in the tournament.

For Pro Circuit #2 at Gen Con So Cal, we are strongly considering running at least 21 rounds total (9 Constructed + 9 Draft + 3 Top 8).



Fear of Change


As we know, people fear change. People are sometimes uncomfortable considering new options and trying new things. It’s generally this reason that causes people to argue against one-game matches without testing them thoroughly.

Vs. System has only been released for six months, which is very early in the life of the game. Upper Deck has a lifetime commitment to Vs. System, so we are comfortable making improvements to the tournament structure now, while it’s still in its infancy.

Our research shows that once players actually play in a tournament with one-game matches, they are very receptive to the idea.



Side Decks

This one-game system does not affect our possible plan for side decks. If we ever add a side deck function for Vs. System it will be an “in game” mechanism of some kind that won’t be affected by 1 game or 3 game matches too much. Our R&D team is working on some interesting ideas for this, but we are in no hurry to introduce a side deck concept.

Tiebreaker System

In addition to the 1 game match system, we have a new and improved tiebreaker system that will be used starting with the MANTIS 2.0 release planned for late October. More details about that system will be published in October.



J. J. Jameson

J. J. Jameson was not a factor in this decision. We talked to J. J., and he doesn’t mind if one-game matches will make one version of J. J. useless for high-level tournaments. We did promise him that we would make another version of him sometime in the future.


Although not everyone will initially agree with this decision, I hope everyone will appreciate the amount of time and effort the UDE R&D and Organized Play departments put into study and analysis of this situation. We greatly appreciate the hundreds of players who sent in opinions on the subject, including those with a strong statistics background who supplied a huge amount of data and analysis for us to go over.

At this point, we are certain that using 1 game matches is the best choice for Vs. System. We will continue to evaluate the situation for Vs. System and we’ll continue to consider new and interesting options for other game systems we release in the future.

Thanks very much for your continued support of Vs. System; we will continue to support you as much as you support us.

Many thanks,

Jeff Donais

Director, Game Development Group

Upper Deck Entertainment

(Metagame Archive) Twists and Turns

By Brian-David Marshall

Web of Spider-Man has hit the stores and will be featured both in the Limited portions of PCQs and in drafts at your local stores. Traditionally, this column takes the new set and dissects it, team affiliation by team affiliation. For Web of Spider-Man, that would actually end up being bisection, since there are only two major team affiliations to work with. There’s no rush for us to get into that right away, as we’ll have plenty of time to cover both sides of that issue before it’s time to move on to Superman, Man of Steel in November (pencil in that Sneak Preview Weekend right now—November 13 and 14).

The first subset of cards I wanted to look at in the new set is actually the plot twists. Most players agree that your first pick in a draft should almost always be a combat-oriented plot twist. When you ask someone what went wrong in the Sealed Pack portion of a PCQ, he or she will almost invariably lament not having enough blue cards.

As the theory of Vs. System starts to develop, there is one thing that is clear. You need to stun multiple creatures on your opponent’s side of the table each turn if you want to win. The player who can accomplish this invariably has good plot twists and knows how to use them. Let’s face it—most of the characters you will both play each turn will generally have similar stats. If you are going to win the resulting fight, you need to have an edge. Sometimes that edge comes from locations, and occasionally from a power-up, but more often than not it’s a combat-oriented plot twist that changes the outcome of the game. Ideally, your smaller character can use a trick to take down the freshly played character on your opponent’s team, while your larger character goes to work on his or her smaller character.

Sometimes you get this advantage with an ATK-boosting plot twist, but in Limited it is often DEF-boosting plot twists that rule the day, because they will let you “steal the initiative” from your opponent. The best example of this is Acrobatic Dodge, which is almost always a first pick in Marvel Origins draft. Your opponent has the initiative and sends a character in to attack your largest character. Maybe he or she team-attacks or uses a pair of power-ups; either way, he or she overextends and you save your defender with the Acrobatic Dodge. Now your opponent has not stunned the key character on your side of the table and is probably out of gas. It’s usually a devastating play that leaves your best character ready and able to start destroying the other team.

If you don’t have good plot twists, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to win in Limited. It reminds me of the line from the Untouchables about bringing a knife to a gunfight. If all you have are the same somewhat predictable drops along the character curve, you will not survive battle with a well-armed opponent and his or her magazine full of blue bullets. What are the plot twists in Web of Spider-Man that you should be looking for in Limited?

There are only eight common plot twists in Web of Spider-Man, and you should make sure you know which ones are worth picking early. Last week, we talked about a draft pack where it was clear that the first pick was No Fear. No Fear is a perfect example of a card that lets you get across an asymmetrical attack on your opponent’s board. Last turn’s has-been character can suddenly make a bold attack and take down your opponent’s character on the current turn, clearing the way for your most recent recruit to push around a smaller character on the other side of the table. What’s especially nice about No Fear is that it’s effective both offensively and defensively. It’s definitely the top dog among the commons.

Alley-Oop! can only be used on a defending character, but +1 ATK and +2 DEF is nothing to sneeze at. This is one of the cards that can “steal the initiative,” because it not only saves your character, but it can also boost your character’s ATK to the point where it stuns an attacker. The characters’ stats can be so close in Limited that 1 point in any direction can mean the difference between stunning and not stunning a character. There is the additional limitation of having to use Alley-Oop! on a support row defender, which can diminish its surprise value after the first time. I think this is the second best common plot twist in the set, largely on the potential to swing the initiative around to you.

It’s a close finish between second and third (although there’s a sharp drop after third place) as we get a common It’s Clobberin’ Time! in this set. There is no team affiliation restriction on Crushing Blow, but there are situational restrictions, since it does nothing when attacking a readied character. However, the bonus is so large that you can easily find a way to work around that drawback—if you have Shocker or anything else that exhausts a character, it becomes much easier to see the value of Crushing Blow. Even without that, it allows you to send your smaller character back at a larger character who has already swung into your team’s bigger character, or to smash a character who has reinforced a front row character. Often players will tuck their better character in the back row when they don’t have initiative and force you to beat up on their front row characters first. Crushing Blow will punish that strategy. It should always be a solid pick and should always make it into your deck.

Those three are the only common plot twists that I would take very highly. The bonuses that the other combat-oriented plot twists provide are either minimal or situational. Hired Goons is the next best pick if you are playing Sinister Syndicate, as it will give your drop for the turn + 2 ATK. It does last for the entire turn, which is better than most plot twists. If you look at it as a +2 ATK boost for one character, then it is a fine card that you can pick up in the middle of the pack. It can also help you out on turns where you miss your drop and play out two characters instead. The extra +2 ATK to each character can help you get through the turn in the face of your opponent’s larger drop that showed up on the appropriate turn.

Surrounded is an okay filler plot twist that I expect you can pick up later in the pack. Usually it won’t offer more than a bonus of +1 ATK and +1 DEF, but that is effectively the same as a power-up. Imagine that you played a Spider-Man as a face-down resource and could flip him up as a power-up for your resource row. If you are getting more than a power-up from this card, something has gone wrong with your curve, and this is not going to fix that problem. This is definitely one of the cards that will give you an edge when 6-drop characters collide, but isn’t on the power level of the big three commons in my pick order.

Grounded is another card that you should be able to pick up mid-pack, but not something you will complain about missing. Don’t get me wrong—you should squeeze every plot twist that significantly affects combat into your deck. -1 ATK to an opponent’s character is almost as good as +1 ATK to yours. Limiting your opponent’s options by literally grounding a character is never a bad thing, but I would not pick this over a solid character in a key spot along my curve.

Crowd Control does nothing to change the outcome of combat other than save you a ton of pain in the late game for the low price of one extra card. If this finds its way into your pile, you will find it occasionally useful and it might even save your life. I don’t see this card being picked very highly, so you can take your time. It may warrant being picked higher than the second tier combat-oriented plot twists, but currently I have it down near the bottom, since I have never found myself wishing I had one.

I’m not impressed with Big Bully, as it is something of a “win more” card. If I’m attacking a smaller character, I’m probably already winning the game. This does little to alter combat other than piling on the damage—and not in very large piles. The differential between characters in the later turns is very small, as most of the 1- and 2-drops somehow don’t get recovered. I’ve played with it and even used it to squeak out a win, but it was hard to use and I’d rather have any of the other plot twists already discussed in its place.

One of the biggest mistakes that new players make when drafting is not putting a high enough priority on plot twists. Next week, I’ll keep them in focus as we look at the uncommons. With only two primary teams to work with, we will look at more than just combat oriented twists. There are a few team-ups floating around in the uncommon slot, but they are not your normal team-up cards.

(Metagame Archive) The Casual Player & The Metagame

By Ben Kalman

The metagame is a fickle creature, but not a one-trick pony. It does not revolve solely around the Pro Circuit or the competitive player. There exists a casual metagame, and it is just as important to a TCG as the competitive one. Don’t forget that a good game is designed and developed with both the casual and competitive player in mind. It will include cards that are geared for multiplayer and alternate formats, as well as cards designed for play in fun decks rather than top-tier Pro Circuit decks. Casual metagames exists in every region, city, store, and gaming group that features TCGs.

The popularity of certain decks inevitably leads to counter-strategies, which in turn create a tug-of-war between specific cards and deck types. This affects the metagame, as it creates a pattern of deck construction and card inclusion/exclusion. Sentinel decks, for example, might become less popular if everyone starts playing four copies of Flame Trap. Then, with the eventual fall of Sentinel decks, the need for Flame Trap diminishes. This allows people to revert to Sentinels again, which consequently causes a need for Flame Trap . . . again. The same can happen to individual cards. This is how the metagame ebbs and flows.

The casual metagame is the primary influence on deck construction in casual circles. While the PCQ deck flavor-of-the-month may well have an effect on some casual groups (as many casual players/groups will copy the Top 8 decklists of the week), many simply ignore them in favor of their own deck ideas. This is because casual players are more open to experimentation than competitive players. Casual players are not generally concerned with their ratings, their performance, or their ability to win. While there will always be incredibly competitive casual players who must win every game and who treat games between friends as though $40,000 and a PC trophy are on the line, they are the exception and not the rule.

Which is not to say that there are no casual players who have aspirations towards the Pro Circuit, or who like to play in the Hobby League or LGS tournaments. But when such players participate in casual groups, they’re playing for fun. In fact, those players are the bridge between casual and competitive play, often responsible for bringing ideas back and forth between the two groups and molding the overall metagame into a mix of concepts from each circle.

Another way that casual and competitive metagames interact is through the monetary cost of cards. The competitive metagame affects pricing, driving up the cost of key cards like Savage Beatdown and Have a Blast! This in turn creates a trickle-down effect, forcing casual players to seek out cheaper alternatives. While it’s true that there are plenty of casual players who have the money to spend a hundred bucks on a Savage Beatdown play set, or who buy ten boxes to ensure that they get the four they need, the majority of casual players have neither the cash nor the desire to spend so much on pieces of cardboard when they can just as easily use ten-cent alternatives.

These players have two choices; they can pool their resources with other players and create a massive card pool that everyone can build from, or (and this is one of the most important aspects of the casual metagame) they can find cool combos with unlikely cards. Casual players often find uses for “unpopular” cards, and also frequently build decks around combos and ideas that are nearly impossible to get off . . . but demolish opponents when they work. I’ve played against a local Unlikely Allies discard deck that runs four copies of Overpowered and centers on absolute board control. This deck is extraordinarily hard to get going, but when it does work, opponents can do nothing. Note how I pluralized “opponents”—this deck functions best in multiplayer situations. When an entire table of players loses 20 cards from their decks in a single turn and can’t play anything in response because of Doom’s board control, it can really get ugly.

The Candy Corn Sentinel deck, built and played at Origins by my man Rian Fike, is another example of the casual metagame explosion. It allows people to draw their entire deck—a feat that had seemed previously impossible, given that you barely draw a third of your deck in the average game (even if you cycle through your cards with Longshot, Cerebro, and so on). Rian’s deck spurred a local fanaticism here as players tried to find ways to draw cards, and with DC Origins just released, Wayne Manor/GCPD decks became the popular flavor. Players would gain endurance each turn until Batman, The Dark Knight hit the board, and then draw their entire deck to pump Batman to extraordinary levels. Alfred every turn ensured that you could Fizzle your way out of trouble and Bat Signal for Batman if you needed him. If this deck had been fast enough, strong enough, and consistent enough for competitive play, it would have changed the face of that metagame.

The influence of the casual metagame extends beyond gameplay all the way into game design. The casual player is slightly more important to this game than the Pro player is, as casual players make up the grassroots support system that finances the game through faithful and loyal purchasing habits and spontaneous mall shopping. Keeping the casual player happy with the product is a very important—albeit very tricky—endeavor. To achieve this, the gents from UDE troll the boards, listen to feedback, monitor casual deck designs and combo ideas, and examine casual tech. This allows them to design sets with casual play in mind and work around cards that get tricky or combo-heavy (*cough* Longshot *cough*).

The design team aspires to reach the middle ground between Sealed Pack and Constructed, between powerful cards and intelligent cards, between casual and competitive circles. In the end, the casual metagame—not to mention the non-competitive players who influence it—has as deep and influential an impact on the game as the Pros do.

So, for the casual player: release any inhibitions you may have. Examine the metagame of your area, of your gaming circle, and of the casual playing community. Discard everything you know about this game—ignoring Top 8 decklists and ancient tech—and rewire the game itself! Remember that there’s a depth to the Vs. System that goes far beyond competitive play, and that there are attainable decks and combos that can dictate the way this game is played . . . at least in casual terms. You just have to experiment with your “research” in mind.

And remember, the most important part of this game, especially for the casual player, is to have fun! Never forget that

(Metagame Archive) Stun Effects: Part Two

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Last week, we looked at the cards that have effects that stun single characters and can target characters with any recruit cost. Today, we’re looking a similar group of cards, but the cards profiled in this follow-up column either have finite limits to the costs of characters that they can stun or can stun multiple characters with a single effect.

First, let’s look at the cards that have targeted stun effects based on static recruit costs. There are six of these cards. Sentinel Mark I can stun characters that cost 1 resource point. Terra, Gambit, Electro, and Search and Destroy all stun characters with costs of 3 or less. Finally, Robot Destroyer can stun a character that costs 4 or less.

Aside from Sentinel Mark I, all six of these cards are at least fairly decent. Out of the four characters remaining (Terra, Gambit, Electro, and Robot Destroyer), notice that the pattern established in the previous article continues, albeit in a slightly more complicated fashion. In the previous article, the effects that could stun any front row or any support row character had to be used during your attack step. That’s the case for Electro, who can stun characters that cost 1 more resource point than himself to recruit. It isn’t the case for Terra, Gambit, and Robot Destroyer, which each have a “stun range” that extends just below their own cost level.

In other words, you’ll have to pick one—stun a character that’s one turn behind a card’s level of resource development, or stun a character once your attack step arrives, losing utility during turns on which you don’t have the initiative. It’s a subtle but important point to understand when building decks and considering your options for control-based strategies. The exception to this rule is Search and Destroy, which makes sense, because you’re giving up card advantage to use it. It also happens to be an excellent card.

Note also that all of these cards are team-proprietary. Terra has loyalty, Gambit and Electro require you to discard an X-Men and a Sinister Syndicate character respectively, Robot Destroyer needs Dr. Doom in play to use its effect, and Search and Destroy requires that you stun a Sentinel character. Unlike Blackfire, none of these cards are especially splashable. It would be difficult to build a deck that focused on stunning your opponent’s characters through effects, but we’ll take a look at that possibility later.

Set apart from the aforementioned cards are a group of cards that are slightly more complicated to play, consisting only of A Child Named Valeria and Thing, Ben Grimm. A Child Named Valeria has its uses, but few of them are offensively oriented. While it’s technically deadly in a lockdown deck and can be a boon to a Fantastic Four acceleration deck, it’s not often actually used to stun an opponent’s characters. It’s conditional, and if you’re running a Dr. Doom Control deck, there are better options for early-game plays and for ways to smack around little characters. It’s an astoundingly valuable card in gameplay terms, but that isn’t because it can stun 2-drop characters.

Thing, Ben Grimm is pretty similar to A Child Named Valeria. It’s a great card because of its stats, not because of its stun effect. There currently aren’t any equipment cards with a printed recruit cost greater than 2, so you’ll never be stunning anything that’s Thing’s size. In a matchup against Sentinels, it could be marginally useful since Thing doesn’t have to exhaust to chuck whatever he’s wearing at a Wild Sentinel and stun it, but odds are in most situations you’re probably going to want to keep whatever Thing has equipped. Thing’s stun effect is the icing on the Thing cake, but it’s icing that doesn’t taste like anything—it’s just there. Still, watch future sets for equipment that costs more. If some big equipment cards hit the environment, Thing could easily become a star. In the meantime, we’ll have to be satisfied with the idea of Thing poking people with the front end of The Pogo Plane and giggling about it.

Lastly, there are two cards that have effects that can stun multiple characters at once. These are Onslaught and Flame Trap, and both are excellent cards. Flame Trap is yet another environment shaping card that can turn whole metagames on their heads overnight. It’s the primary card holding the floodgates of Sentinel awesomeness in check, limiting their might to a proverbial raging river of pain, but keeping it from becoming a tidal wave of purple destruction. It has superb combo potential, and several players demonstrated that point at the Professional Circuit at Gen Con Indy by using it with Dynamic Duo and a bunch of small attacking characters.

For anyone who’s never seen it done, it goes like this. Announce a team attack against one of your opponents’ characters that is small enough to get taken out by Flame Trap. You exhaust your characters to commit to the attack, activate Flame Trap, and then activate Dynamic Duo (or have its effect resolve in advance). Because Dynamic Duo states your characters can’t be stunned while team-attacking, Flame Trap doesn’t touch them, but it does wipe out all of the opponent’s little characters, including the target of the original team attack. That resets the attack, readying all of your tiny terrors to launch their normal attacks. It’s brutal, effective, and just one of the many ways in which we’ll see Flame Trap bent, twisted, and abused in the future.

Which leaves Onslaught. Onslaught is obviously slow, and in Limited he probably won’t ever see play due to his high recruit cost. However, he’s viable in Constructed. Frequently used as a one-of for “just in case” scenarios, Onslaught is arguably best used in stall decks based around him. A stall engine similar to the one used for Xavier’s Dream decks fits Onslaught’s needs as well. Four Puppet Master; four Rogue, Power Absorption; and a dash of Banshee are often enough to make sure the game gets to turn 9. With Frankie Raye, the deck is actually pretty viable and has seen some limited success in PCQs. Onslaught can also be played in a Doom Control or Common Enemy deck, but the big risk there is that of the mirror match.

So, there you have it—the intricacies of stun effects. What have we learned? First, most stun effects are only going to be usable once your attack step hits. This keeps stun effect cards from being broken by having tremendous advantage as both offensive and defensive tools. Any card that breaks that rule is one to look out for. Second, the aforementioned rule is breakable, but is normally broken only at the cost of limiting the range of costs of the targeted character to one cost level below the character bearing the effect. Third, most stun effect cards are team-proprietary. Again, anything that’s splashable is going to be worth careful examination.

Fourth, Sentinels and X-Men can be combined to make an effective stun effect deck.

 . . .Okay, so I snuck that one in—but it is possible. A deck uniting X-Men with a horde of Wild Sentinels can give superior hand advantage with Longshot boosting your own card count and Professor Xavier’s Mansion stripping your opponent’s hand (the Mansion being tended to by the unruly purple robotic houseguests, of course). The Wild Sentinels give you plenty of ammunition for Fastball Specials galore while bringing Search and Destroy into your arsenal as well. Cyclops, Slim adds oomph to your attacks and provides a 2-drop character. Gambit fills your need for a main 3-drop character. Colossus fills the 6-drop spot, feeding off the fallen Wild Sentinels, and Blackfire makes for a great turn 5 play, along with the hand-controlling Professor X, Charles Xavier. All in all, the concept has the potential to be a solid and offbeat control deck.

But, that’s only one idea representing the application of several different pieces of information. How you choose to use those pieces of information is up to you. Hopefully this information proves useful—and stunningly so.

I went out on a pun! I feel warm, fuzzy, and ashamed.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer
Want to send me an email? Or better yet, try and name this column? Get in touch with me at Jason@metagame.com.

(Metagame Archive) Choosing Your (Spider)-Friends Wisely

By Brian-David Marshall

I hope you all had fun at the Sneak Preview Weekend for Web of Spider-Man. I know that everyone who showed up this weekend for the event I ran at Neutral Ground had a blast. There was considerable excitement about the new cards. Players kept clamoring to buy some, but since the product isn’t shipping out to stores until Monday, they’ll have to wait until late next week.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the event nearest your hometown, it will be a week before you can try your hand at Sealed Pack or Booster Draft play. We ran several drafts at my event this weekend, and the fact that there are only two major affiliations in the set made for some interesting draft decisions.

I managed to sneak out one pack that didn’t get sent back to Upper Deck, and I’ve opened it for this column to simulate the choices you might face first pick/first pack in a Web of Spider-Man draft.

Draft strategies changed between Marvel Origins and DC Origins. Plot twists were priority one in both sets, but with Marvel, you needed to take 6- and 7-drops early and often. DC Origins shifted that around, making plot twists take an occasional back seat to a formidable location or even a *gasp*, *choke* 1-drop.

There’s no doubt that the unique nature of Web of Spider-Man will have you drafting it differently than the two previous sets. There is very little chance of you falling into the right seat to be drafting a specific affiliation. In DC, you might have found yourself handed a fourth pick Cassandra Cain because the three players to your right were duking it out for Teen Titans, but in Web, it’ll be a 50/50 proposition whether or not the drafter to your left is in the same affiliation as you. In fact, it’s probably even worse than that, because many players simply draft Spider-Friends and Sinister Syndicate and hope for the best.

Enough jabbering, though. The draft is about to start. Lets get to our seats and crack that pack.

Green Goblin, Norman Osborne
Kraven the Hunter
No Fear
Scarlet Spider
Costume Change
Unexpected Mutation
Next Generation Technology
Forced Allegiance

First, let’s take some time to look at each card in the pack and try to figure out the best first pick.

Prowler, Hobie Brown

We’re going to shuffle this guy to the back of the pack. He’s not the worst 1-drop in the world, and he actually offers you some card selection on the early turns of the game, but we are not going to waste a first round pick on him. He is strictly undrafted free agent material. If you get him tenth and you need a 1-drop, he might make the deck.

Green Goblin, Norman Osborne

Now we’re talking. This is a card that’s going to get sorted to the front of the pack when you make your pick. He has reasonable stats for a 5-drop, plus an ability and flight and range. The ability is pretty good, too. I mean, you play Robot Destroyer and you have to stun him to stun a character that costs 4 or less. That’s a lot of restrictions. You can use the Goblin on any support row character, provided that it’s unprotected. The Goblin forces your opponents to make some hard decisions regarding their formations, and they have to adjust to your strategy instead of developing one of their own. Plus, he KO’s the character but still causes the endurance loss—sweet pick. Let’s keep him in mind as a potential first pick.

Kraven the Hunter, Sergei Kravinoff

Solid 4-drop. Not something we’re going to take with a precious early pick, but if this was a fourth or fifth pick, I’d probably be happy to get him. He’ll take out any 4-drop your opponent plays, and he can even take out a 5-drop with a good twist of the plot.


This card has been around for a while as part of the two-player starter set. It’s a solid piece of equipment that does not impair your curve. Probably not a first pick, although I would consider taking it fairly high for a rush deck based around the Sinister Syndicate. With Vulture and Hammerhead, this card packs quite an early wallop. Flying Kick every turn has got to be okay, right? We would probably put this near the front of the pack, but let’s face it . . . we’re looking for a plot twist to make our choice easy.

No Fear

Never fear, No Fear is here! Another card you’re already familiar with, thanks to the two-player set; I can’t imagine taking anything else over this card. Vs. is all about breaking the symmetry of the two boards as they develop each turn. You want to stun more of your opponent’s characters and have a marked board advantage. Plot twists usually decide combat situations, and this allows last turn’s guy to defeat this turn’s attacker, or to attack this turn’s big defender. This is a big card that creates big swings in the game. As an added bonus, you don’t have to commit to one side or the other to pick it.

Cloak, Tyrone Johnson

I previewed Tyrone a couple of weeks back. He’s a mid-round pick that will come around the table. His ability is tricky to use, and as an 8-drop, he’s not so impressive—especially if you’re staring down a Silver Surfer for your opponent’s 8-drop. Send him to the back of the pack and pick one up later; maybe even this one when it laps the table.

Dusk, Cassie St. Commons

Another card that we’re flicking back to hang out with Tyrone and Hobie. Evasion is nice, and Dusk has boost, but do you really want to put out a couple of 2- and 3-drops on turn 5? This is strictly curve filler material that will make its way to us later if we’re Spider-Friends and need help in that area.

Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly

Ben seems like a nice enough guy. He has reasonable stats, helps those around him with a decent boost to their ATK column, and has an intriguing ability. The only problem with his ability is whether or not you’ll ever actually use it in a draft or Sealed Pack match. It seems like something for the mad scientists of Vs. to toil over in their laboratories and break out at the next Constructed leg of the Pro Circuit. This is not the 6-drop I am going to take first.

Costume Change

Meh. You won’t know if this is something you want to have in your deck until after the third pack. To make it work, you need to have multiple versions of the same character, and you need to have the right situation come up. It will get you a 3-drop Spidey on the appropriate turn if you have a more expensive version languishing in your hand, but this is not something we’re going to pay much attention to in the first pack.

Unexpected Mutation

This isn’t better than No Fear, but still gets to hang out near the front of the pack. Anything that boosts an attack is worthwhile, and in a worst-case scenario, it’s a crappy power-up (on the attack side, anyway) if you hit a card with a cost of 1. In light of No Fear, this is not a first pick, but I would happily take it second if I were sitting to the left.

Beetle, Abner Jenkins

At this point, we’re just making sure there’s nothing better than the No Fear. Even with flight, range, boost, and a variable rear-suspension, we are not taking this guy. He is a solid middle pick, however, and seems better than most people at the Sneak Preview expected he’d be.

Boomerang, Fred Myers

This is a staple 3-drop with an ability that can be useful, both in disrupting team attacks and in foiling your opponent’s ATK-boosting plot twists that threaten to do a ton of early damage. Decent stats, flight, and range . . . you’ll be happy with this guy as a mid-round pick.

Next Generation Technology

Rare drafter!

Forced Allegiance

This is an interesting ongoing twist that allows your mixed bag squad to pull it together and finally start acting like a team. You can suddenly reinforce and pull off unexpected team attacks. It’s a good trick to flip up in any aspect of combat. I don’t think I would take it first pick/first pack, but I would certainly take it high in the subsequent packs if my deck was shaping up to have both Syndicate and Spider-Friends with a couple of the minor squads sprinkled in.

For me, the first pick is clearly No Fear, with some consideration paid to Jetpack, Unexpected Mutation, Green Goblin, and Forced Allegiance. What would you pick? You have about a week or so to make up your mind. I’ll be back then to talk about the new set in a slightly different way—call it a plot twist.

(Metagame Archive) Look Out! Here Comes the Spider-Man!

By Brian-David Marshall

If you’ve read my last two columns here on Metagame.com, you’ve probably noticed my unsubtle plugs for the Web of Spider-Man Sneak Preview event that I’m organizing this weekend at Neutral Ground in New York City. There are going to be tournaments on each day, and it will be the very first opportunity players in North America have to play with the exciting new Web of Spider-Man set for the Vs. System TCG.

You have already seen previews for several cards here on Metagame.com, and the two-player Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock starter was released several months ago. Green Goblin, Goblin Glider, Sunfire, Mysterio, Jackal, and Rocket Racer—a personal favorite character from my childhood—have all been discussed, previewed, considered, and dissected here on Metagame.com and various Vs. System message boards.

The time for talk is at an end. This weekend is the time for action. There will be Sneak Preview tournaments all over North America, and players will have the chance to play Sealed Pack with the new Web of Spider-Man set before it goes on sale in most areas.

I’m going to walk you through what you can expect to happen if you decide to attend one of these events around the country.

First, find an event near you by consulting the following list of Sneak Preview tournaments that are taking place this weekend. Some organizers are running them on Saturday, some on Sunday, and some are running them on both Saturday and Sunday. There are even some Sneak Preview tournaments being held at midnight on Friday if you are the impatient, insomniac, or obsessive type.

Once you find out where the closest Sneak Preview tournament is to you, you need to figure out how to get there. If you are reading this, you know your way around the Internet and can figure that part out for yourself. MapQuest, train and bus schedules, and so on, can all help you find that information. Find out what time you need to arrive for the start of the event, and make sure you allow enough time to get yourself there. While most locations will be running small events throughout the day, there are a limited amount of extended-art Jetpacks given away exclusively at these tournaments on a first come, first serve basis.

Once you reach the tournament on time and sign up for a Sealed Pack tournament, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork. This will probably include giving the tournament organizer some information so they can contact you about future Vs. System tournaments. Some organizers only ask for email addresses, while others prefer print mailings and ask you to provide that information. You will also have to fill out some information for a free UDE Membership, and you cannot play in an official tournament without a UDE number. This is a PIN that will be associated with your name, and will help you track your record in tournaments. The rating you receive from playing in official UDE events can earn you invitations to future Pro Circuit events if it’s high enough and is also a great way to track your performance as a player.

Once you have filled out all this information, you will be entered into the MANTIS software program that UDE organizers use to run their tournaments. A player seating will be generated and posted. You will be directed to take a seat and will listen to some announcements from the judge and organizer about how the tournament is going to be run, what prizes will be given away, and give you the ground rules for the site you are playing in. Each player will receive five packs and a deck registration checklist. You will check off the contents of the packs and then turn the cards and the checklist back into the judge staff so that the decks can be randomly redistributed. When the cards are redistributed, the cards you receive will be the cards you paid for when you signed up for the tournament. Everyone is asked to register someone else’s cards so that there is little room for chicanery.

Now it’s time to build your deck. You have to hone seventy cards down to a deck with a minimum of thirty cards. You need to chisel away the extra cards and sculpt the best possible configuration. Keep an eye on how many characters you have at each recruit cost along your curve and try to stick to no more than two team affiliations if possible. Pay attention to characters that have loyalty and make sure you can support them. It does help you to play a subpar character if all the other characters with that affiliation in your card pool are more expensive than the character in question.

Once deck construction is complete, another seating will be posted for your first round of play. Each round will allow you one hour to play three games, and the player who wins two of those three games will win the round. If you win the first two games, the third game is not played. You will also be given a match result slip for you and your opponent to fill out after each round. Many tournament organizers will run these events with only Swiss rounds, which means that you can play every round regardless of your record in the event.

There will also be booster drafts throughout the day and additional flights of Sealed Pack based on demand, but just playing the game is not the only reason to attend a Sneak Preview tournament this weekend. Nothing makes a player better than seeing the best players in your area in action. These events are going to be a great chance for you to get to know your local Vs. System community of players. There will be abundant trading, networking, and playtesting opportunities at these tournaments, and many a long-lasting friendship has its origins in a TCG tournament.

If you have never played in a Vs. System tournament before this weekend, then a Sneak Preview tournament should be just the thing to get you started. If you are a tournament-savvy pro, then you can get a leg up on the new qualifier season by playing with the format that Sealed Pack Pro Circuit Qualifiers will soon use.

I will be running events at Neutral Ground in New York on Saturday and Sunday. The doors open each day at 10 am and the first flight of Sealed Pack will begin at 11 am. Try and be there . . . or at any of the events near where you’re located. Trust me—you’ll have a great time.

Click here for information on the Sneak Preview event near you.