(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.


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