(Metagame Archive) Web of Spider-Man Preview: Sunfire

By Patrick Sullivan

Of the major affiliations released in Marvel Origins, the X-Men have seen the least amount of Constructed play. Slower than both the Brotherhood and Sentinels, less powerful than Doom, and less consistent and synergistic than the Fantastic Four, the X-Men were overshadowed by their more powerful counterparts. One of the large problems with the X-Men was the lack of a quality 5-drop. While Wolverine, James Howlett, Cyclops, Scott Summers, and Professor X, Charles Xavier all saw some amount of Constructed play, they were simply far less powerful than the 5 drops afforded to other affiliations. A quick comparison of any of the aforementioned 5-drops (all 8 ATK/8 DEF characters with average abilities) to say, Thing, Heavy Hitter (an 11 ATK/11 DEF character with basically no drawback) shows the problem pretty clearly.

With the release of the Web of Spider-Man expansion comes Sunfire, a 5-drop X-Man to be excited about. Although not an offensive superstar by any stretch, his 8 ATK at least puts him on par with the 5-cost X-Men released before him. It’s still risky to count on a 5-drop with a body as small as his, but what separates him from the rest of the pack by a large margin is his activated power, which has the potential to truly dominate a game. For the small cost of activating him and discarding an X-Men character from your hand, you can stun up to 3 resource points worth of characters. Against certain decks, this ability has the potential to invalidate an entire strategy.

Consider many of the Brotherhood decks that rely on a swarm of cheap creatures backed up by The New Brotherhood. Decks like these often would rather play two 1-drops on the second turn instead of a 2-drop to maximize the power of The New Brotherhood. Imagine the effect of Sunfire against such a deck. You could very easily stun three characters the turn Sunfire comes out, effectively KO’ing at least two characters. Against decks that count on powering-up small characters several times in one turn, Sunfire is also outstanding. What is surprising to me, and what makes Sunfire an even more powerful card, is the ability doesn’t have the “play this during your attack step” clause attached to it. So even during turns where your opponent has the initiative, Sunfire can still wreck havoc on your opponent’s board. Sunfire’s ability is surprisingly versatile against many beatdown decks’ general plans of attack. Team attacking with a parade of small creatures into a board that contains Sunfire is not a wise plan, nor is using a plot twist to push a smaller character through a larger one. Quite simply, many of the basic strategies of aggressive decks simply do not work, or are severely constricted, with a Sunfire in play.

Futhermore, Sunfire is also very potent against several of the new decks based around the DC Origins expansion. Against a Teen Titans deck, there are no variety of good creatures one can stun. The Hank Hall ◊ Hawk and Dawn Granger ◊ Dove duo, Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Pantha, and Donna Troy ◊ Wonder Girl are all very strong characters that become liabilities once Sunfire enters play. But perhaps most importantly, Sunfire appears excellent against the Rigged Elections deck that debuted at the first PC. Assuming the Rigged Elections deck hasn’t won the game by turn 5, Sunfire can disrupt the deck when it’s going off (by stunning in response to Cosmic Radiation), and by stunning three characters himself (including Alfred Pennyworth, which enters play exhausted), he can prevent the deck from building up enough characters to manually win the game with Rigged Elections

In Sealed Pack or Booster Draft play, Sunfire is an obviously awesome addition to any deck that can reliably use his ability. Most Sealed Pack games get out of control for one player when he or she has multiple characters stunned in a single turn without stunning a comparable number of the opposing characters, and these are just the type of situations Sunfire specializes in creating. And if nothing else, playing an 8 ATK character with flight and range is never a bad use of your fifth turn. In Sealed Pack, I expect Sunfire to be particularly effective if the opposing player has the initiative on the odd turns. Since Sunfire’s ability is excellent at breaking up opposing team attacks and making plot twists less reliable to use inside of combat, he could be one of the best defensive 5-drops ever for Sealed Pack play.

So what does all of this add up to? Sunfire is a high risk/high reward addition to an X-Men deck, and if the metagame is filled with lots of 1-cost characters, he may even become a splash-worthy addition to decks primarily composed of another team affiliation. The risk of the card is obvious: Sunfire’s ATK/DEF is weaker for a 5-drop than even the other X-Men previously available. However, the potential of his ability to totally change the way an aggressive deck has to play the game, combined with his flight and range, make his upside well worth considering. Sunfire, in conjunction with other very powerful X-Men cards to be released in Web of Spider-Man (which I can’t discuss here, but you readers will have to take my word for it that there are some awesome ones) could very well lead to the X-Men being the top dog among the Vs. affiliations, with the others struggling to catch up.

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