(Metagame Archive) Metagame Looks Ahead to 2005

By Toby Wachter

2004 was a great year for both Vs. System and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Metagame was there to bring you all the action. From top level strategy and competition to casual play, we’re happy to be the source for many readers when it comes to top-level TCG articles. Our event coverage continues to expand and improve, and we will bring you all the excitement around the world when the top players battle it out for bragging rights and prizes.

As great as this past year was, 2005 looks to be even more exciting. With the Shonen Jump Tournament Series just underway and $10K Championships circling the globe, top players and strategies will emerge. And of course, the Pro Circuit will continue to maintain its standing as the pinnacle of competitive TCG tournaments. If Soul of the Duelist and Rise of Destiny are any indication, Yu-Gi-Oh! sets will continue to be innovative and powerful as players try to master the Advanced Format. And of course, the Vs. System community is already buzzing over Marvel Knights. Superman, Man of Steel gave us a set revolving around “The Big Blue Boyscout”, so it’s only fitting that the game follows up with the dark, vigilante, renegade characters of Marvel Knights.

On behalf of the Metagame staff, I’d like to thank everyone for making our first year so enjoyable, and I’d like to thank our readers for being so loyal. We will be taking a much needed break over the holidays, but will return in 2005 with the quality you’ve come to expect. We even have a few surprises in store for the coming year, but you’ll have to wait and see what we come up with next.

Have a safe and happy holiday, and we’ll see you in the new year.

Toby Wachter

Lead Content Coordinator, Metagame.com

toby@metagame.com

Advertisements

(Metagame Archive) Totally Freakin’ Broken: Replacement Part Two – Defensive Replacement

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Totally Freakin’ Broken: Replacement Part Two – Defensive Replacement

Last week, we looked at cards that let you wreck your opponent with replacement. Replacement disrupts in two major ways. First, it destroys plot twists or locations an opponent was actively using, and second, it sticks characters and equipment into the resource row, where they’re of no real use.

However, replacement isn’t just an offensive tool. It can be used to your advantage in a few different ways. Replacing a face-up, single use plot twist may land you another plot twist or location. Replacement can also help get certain cards, like Jean Grey, Marvel Girl (ironic, when taken in context) and Path of Destruction, into your KO’d pile where they can act as prerequisites for later effects. Similarly, replacement can get cards that are hurting you out of your resource row. The classic example is Terra’ing away USS Argus in time to save your draw phase. You can even use the mechanic on a wholesale basis to get to important things into your resource row. Let’s look at the options.

There are six cards in this group—four characters and two locations. There is one character with defensive replacement in each set: Jean Grey, Marvel Girl, Ra’s Al Ghul, Master Swordsman, Mattie Franklin ◊ Spider-Woman, and Winslow Schott ◊ Toyman. The two locations are Clocktower and LexCorp.

Jean Grey is a notable card for several reasons. Her DEF is higher than average for a 4-drop, and her presence in the KO’d pile is a pre-requisite for recruiting the game shattering Jean Grey, Phoenix Force. However, on a subtler note, she’s an intricate part of one of the X-Men’s themes—maintaining utility, even while losing in combat. Many X-Men have effects that can be used in response to an attack they won’t come out of, and all of them can be given at least one similar effect via X-Corporation. Jean is a nice wall. When your opponent does punch through her, she can help to refill your resource row with fresh firepower (or characters . . . useless characters . . . but we’re hoping for firepower!). She can help an X-Men deck cycle to key locations and plot twists, and she’s especially valuable when used to dig for Cerebro. For anyone who’s familiar with the TOGIT X-Men deck from PC LA, it used her to great effect for just that purpose.

Ra’s Al Ghul, Master Swordsman creates a very similar effect, but he’s a bit more difficult to play; he’s often superceded by his 4-drop counterpart or a turn 6 Mimic (to copy the effect of turn 7’s Lady Shiva, Master Assassin). That said, if you’re playing a dedicated League deck that wants Merlyn on turn 4 and needs to fuel him with a constant supply of locations, then Master Swordsman makes perfect sense—he allows you to cycle away all of your non-locations in the hope of beefing up Merlyn’s marksmanship. His stats are average, and he’s necessary in a Merlyn-centric build if you want to bring out Lady Shiva on turn 7 (because of her character-specific loyalty). Ra’s Al Ghul’s utility has definitely increased since the release of Superman, Man of Steel.

Mattie Franklin ◊ Spider-Woman, Gift of Power has gotten a ton of attention in Sealed Pack play. She is a definite first pick in any draft environment. It’s only lately, though, that she’s started seeing play in Constructed. She was used to great effect at PC LA. Her replacement effect does one of two things, and often both—it nets you more Spider-Friends to use for her effect the next turn, and it gets you useful plot twists and locations. Either way, her effect can be game breaking. and it is one of the most interesting examples of creative tricks that the designers had in mind when making replacement.

Last up from the character side is Winslow Schott ◊ Toyman, Crooked Craftsman. Mattie Franklin he isn’t. In fact, Schott looks like a big pile of jank at first glance. However, he’s part of a larger, and potentially very powerful, Revenge Squad strategy that focuses on getting out as many ongoing plot twists as possible to abuse the effects of Atomic Skull and Lex Luthor, President Luthor. Schott’s effect is noteworthy because he’s a 1-drop. As early as turn 1, you can start cycling to get to your ongoing plot twists. Once you get a few out, the fun starts. Atomic Skull drops on turn 2, and President Luthor drops on turn 3. At that point, if all three of your resources are ongoing plot twists, Atomic Skull will auto-stun your opponent’s 2-drop. Atomic Skull, and Toyman can then team attack or just provide solo offensives to take out the opponent’s three-drop, and Lex can run over whatever’s left. Turn 4 is where it starts getting interesting. You skip your draw phase, instead drawing three cards for Lex’s effect and discarding one card from your hand to the bottom of your deck. If you manage to hit a fourth ongoing plot twist, Skull will auto-stun anything as big as a 3-drop once you have initiative. You’ll also still have Skull, Lex, and a 4-drop of your choice to attack with. Parasite works nicely, since he’ll be attacking down the curve if everything goes well.

On turn 5, all hell breaks loose. You start getting raw card advantage from Lex’s effect. Skull keeps stunning as long as he’s around, and considering the fact that he’s a 2-drop, he’s cheap to replace if you really need to. The deck gets better and better at finding ongoing twists each turn, because you’re drawing more and more cards with Lex. Eventually, your opponent will buckle under the weight of your card advantage and cost-free auto-stuns. Nasty.

Clocktower and LexCorp reinforce the strategy, as both are capable of replacing a face-down resource each turn to cycle into ongoing plot twists. Even if the deck doesn’t hit the contrived setup I detailed above, it can certainly do some serious damage with a mid-game recruit of Atomic Skull. You’ll miss your drop, but who cares? As long as you have initiative, Skull will take down characters far, far larger than him, anyway. LexCorp is especially good for this, as it can not only cycle face-down resources and plot twists you don’t want anymore, it can also cycle itself. Heck, you can even mill your deck back into itself via Revenge Pact or similar effects, memorize the sequence in which you put the cards on the bottom of your deck, and then use that sequence to manipulate the outcome of LexCorp in the late game. If you get two Revenge Pacts out relatively early, this is actually a frighteningly real possibility.

On top of that, Clocktower and LexCorp are nice little cycling cards for any deck that can use them. League of Assassins can function in the same way, and X-Stall can also benefit from the digging power.

As Vs. System grows, watch for defensive replacement to continue as a subtle, but very powerful, mechanic. In particular, watch for new mechanics that can support the Revenge Squad theme I detailed. Five bucks says it becomes a terrifyingly viable deck in the near future.

Five Canadian bucks . . . so, if you’re American, four bucks.

Check back next time as I round out this series on the replacement mechanic and Gary, Ben, and myself continue to invade this web site, slowly but surely covering it in maple syrup, hockey pucks, and caribou.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

Want to send me questions, comments, or join the conspiracy to fill Omeed’s office with caribou? E-mail me at Jason@metagame.com.

(Metagame Archive) The Twelve Twists of Superman

By Brian-David Marshall

Tis the season to be drafting. Or playing Sealed Pack. Or boning up on Constructed . . . that Titans deck is pretty tough to play, after all. Whatever your bent, school is out (for all you young ’uns, anyway), and the time for gaming is upon us. Ever since I started playing trading card games all those years ago, this time of year has been one of the best for gaming. The kids are on winter break, the oldsters have time off from work, and people you haven’t seen in years drift into the local game shop to shake off the trauma of visiting the family.

For me, this always means drafting and plenty of it! I’ve been doing a lot of drafting with Superman, Man of Steel, and I expect to do a lot more at Neutral Ground over the coming weeks. I had the opportunity to watch a few drafts at PC Anaheim, and although I would have liked there to have been more Man of Steel action, I was still able to watch a few of the game’s top players.

Basically, players were using early picks to accumulate plot twists and late picks to fill out the curve when the twists dried up. It was not uncommon to see a player forgo even the choicest common twists in the third set of packs to assure the presence of a 6-drop in his or her deck. Attention to curve was one of the things that really separated the experienced drafters from the rest of the table.

I watched Nick Little during one draft, and there was a moment when Nick thought that both he and Gabe Walls (sitting immediately to Nick’s right) were looking for 5- and 6-drops in the third pack. Little was very tense until he saw that he’d be getting the characters he needed to round out his deck. He had built up an impressive arsenal of plot twists, but they would only be firing blanks if he could not go toe to toe with his opponents in the later turns of the game.

One of the facets of the game that has become more clear to me over the past few weeks is that you don’t really care which characters you play each turn, as long as they meet the industry standards for recruit cost and ATK/DEF. Obviously, Cassandra Cain ◊ Batgirl is better than any other 4-drop in DC Origins—what I have been calling drop-optimum—but you’ll play Catwoman if you have to, because that’s better than missing your drop. Besides, plot twists are the great equalizer.

Plot twists remain the backbone of a solid Vs. System draft. There are twelve common plot twists in the Man of Steel expansion. I am going to break them down for you and discuss which ones you should not be passing, which ones you should be passing if there are two non-passers in the same pack, and which ones you should be putting into orbit around the draft table.

There is a lot of disagreement over the top spot amongst the common plot twists, but it seems obvious to me that I Hate Magic! makes the most compelling arguments. There are very few plot twists that boost the DEF of a character, so this is a tough one for an opponent to dodge. The -3DEF allows you to jump the curve on any turn of the game, letting you to send 4- and 5-drops into bigger, badder 5- and 6-drops when you control the initiative. It has the added bonus of nerfing invulnerability, which can provide some crucial and unexpected endurance loss.

If you had the ability to see into the future, or at least into your next set of packs, Path of Destruction could easily hold the top spot. It’s remarkably solid on its own and a devastating late game card in multiples. I already chronicled my experience with this against Toby Wachter, when I used three of them in one turn to take him down to 0 from over 30 endurance.

In a booster draft between members of the event coverage staff after the Pro Circuit, Ben Kalman managed to snag four of these for his deck. He was playing against Ted Knutson, and Ted was struggling with his formation on a late turn. We discussed all of Ted’s options for how he could stay alive until his next turn (when he would have the initiative). As we puzzled through Ted’s formation, Ben just sat back and grinned evilly. Known side effects of multiple copies of Path of Destruction include evil grins and excessive winning. If I already have one of these, all subsequent copies step to the front of my pick order.

Sammy Gilly claimed that his playtest group in Indiana chose Heat Vision as the top common in the set for draft, narrowly edging out I Hate Magic! I may simply have had better experiences with Path of Destruction, that color, and my pick order, so you can jockey the two and three slots based on your experiences (though I flat out think the top spot belongs to I Hate Magic!). You can’t, after all, really go wrong with any of these in your deck. What makes Heat Vision vie for top billing is the ability jump back down the curve. When your opponent attacks your 5-drop with his 6-drop, you can burn him with an unexpected stun and 3 extra points of endurance loss to boot.

However you rank these three cards, they are clearly the cream of the common crop, and you want to take them over just about anything else at that commonality. Just a smidgeon below those three is Narrow Escape, which is one of the only DEF enhancing twists in the set. It offers the same stat boost that Alley-Oop! promises, but it requires you to exhaust your defender. However, that defender can be anywhere you want. Basically, this card trumps a power-up when two symmetrical characters collide. It’s still first pick worthy, but I wouldn’t take it over the first three entries.

The next two commons are interchangeable in my mind, so I really can’t separate them in my pick order except to say that they are numbers five and six after the preceding set of twists. Both cards have the same offensive value as a power-up. Up, Up, and Away offers it in traditional form with a flight bonus, whereas Stopped Cold is a power-down for your opponent’s character that negates flight. Both cards last for the duration of the turn. That can be fantastic if you use Stopped Cold to counter a proposed attack by a flying character, since that character’s power-down will carry over to any other attacks it puts forth for the remainder of the turn. They are both remarkably solid, albeit unspectacular, cards, yet they are often still the first card picked for many a deck when there are no better twists available.

I put Female Furies a little higher than most. I really like the solid +3ATK, even if it is at the cost of a character. You can easily KO a stunned character from an earlier combat or a character that could be a liability later on in the turn. I had a really great play with this card in the post Pro Circuit draft that I mentioned earlier. It was turn 6 of my match against Jason Grabher-Meyer, and he had the initiative.

My board featured Forager and Granny Goodness, and a Kalibak lurked in the wings as my turn 7 play. Jason’s Lex Luthor, Power Armor threatened to prevent my Kalibak from hitting play, and that seemed even more likely when he flew Lex into Granny. I looked for some way out—if I could not play Kalibak next turn, I would definitely lose—and then it finally occurred to me. I targeted Granny with Female Furies. When it came time to pay the costs, I KO’d Granny, removing Lex from the attack. Jason sent Lex into Forager, but I had a handful of New Gods characters and was able to pump my 5-drop’s DEF to the point where I took no breakthrough.

Furies is one of the more underrated cards in the set, and it goes around much later in draft than I think it has any business doing. Players are always hesitant to KO their own cards, but the flexibility this card offers by working on both offense and defense makes it a twist that I’m never disappointed to have in a deck—especially with added Sticky Situation trickiness.

I am struck by how many good twists there are in this set. This is my pick order, and as always, your mileage may vary. Super Strength is a solid twist—a Path of Destruction that never adds more than +2ATK, no matter how many you have. You can get a +2 DEF bonus out of it by removing a cosmic counter, but I find that I rarely want to use that end of the card. If you are attacking with Superman, Red; Parasite; or Big Bear, it would be foolish to do so unless you could also put a counter right back on via Mother Box or Professor Emil Hamilton.

I would be content to have any of the twists I’ve already discussed face down in front of me within the first few picks of a draft. After that first wave, you can let the rest of these go by in favor of solid characters for your character curve. You might play with them if they come back, but they’re not worth passing a solid common character for. Both Back to Back and Men of Steel are decent defensive tricks, but not spectacular. Both cards are very situational, and they do not always deliver what they promise based on your board position. I’m usually taking top flight characters over either of these cards.

Boom Tube and Play Time can also be very useful. I wrote about Play Time in my last article (which was written before the Pro Circuit, where Steve Sadin actually won a match on the strength of the impish little card). I would be perfectly content to fit a single copy of either card into my deck if they came around later on, but I would never pass up any of the drop-optimum character picks to take one of these.

Of the twelve common plot twists, you should be making eight of them a high priority in draft. All twelve of them are playable in a deck. Next week, we’ll talk about the drop-optimum characters and how they factor into your pick order.

(Metagame Archive) Totally Freakin’ Broken: Replacement, Part One – Offensive Replacement

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Resource replacement, a.k.a. “that thing that Have a Blast! does,” got keyworded and formalized with the release of Superman, Man of Steel. To “replace” a card in the resource row now means to KO it and replace it with the top card from said resource controller’s deck. It’s a nice, easy-to-use bit of lingo that keeps the amount of text on certain cards at a manageable level, and the keywording emphasizes that replacement will continue as a staple effect in the Vs. System.

Introduced in Marvel Origins via the effects of Avalanche and Jean Grey, Marvel Girl, the theme was expanded in DC Origins. Six cards in that set (Terra; Have a Blast!; Batman, World’s Greatest Detective; Remake the World; Clocktower; and Ra’s Al Ghul, Master Swordsman) included replacement in one way or another. Mattie Franklin ◊ Spider-Woman and Terrax employed replacement in Web of Spider-Man, but other than, that the set was devoid of the effect. With eight new replacement cards in Man of Steel, it looks like the ability is more of a DC theme than a Marvel one, at least for now.

There are currently nineteen cards in the Vs. System that can be categorized as strict replacement cards. From these nineteen cards, three major categories emerge, along with a smaller fourth category. The four categories are offensive replacement, defensive replacement, cost replacement, and Terrax. Offensive replacement refers to cards that force the replacement of one or more of your opponent’s cards. You use it to get rid of cards that you don’t want to see in your opponent’s resource row, as well as possibly cause some disruption by locking cards in his or her row that can’t be used. Defensive replacement refers to the replacement of your own resources to cycle away cards you’ve used, or possibly to cycle towards important plot twists and locations. Cost replacement refers to cards that require you to replace a resource as payment for an effect. Terrax refers to . . . Terrax. He doesn’t really fit the mold for any other replacement effects, since one could argue that he belongs to all three major categories.

In this volume of TFB, we’re going to look at offensive resource replacement. The other types will follow in the coming weeks. There are seven cards in this category; two are plot twists, one is a location, and the remaining four are characters.

Starting with the plot twists, we have Have a Blast! and Remake the World. Have a Blast! is a classic, proven card that is a staple for many players. The fact that it can replace both locations and ongoing plot twists, and that it does so without being team-proprietary, has made it one of the few Vs. System money cards. The fact that its cost can be lessened through recursion, especially in Brotherhood and Teen Titans decks, makes it potent in the current environment. Easy to use, easy to control, and accessibly costed, Have a Blast! is obviously one of the stars of the replacement lineup.

Remake the World is quite different. It requires the exhaustion of a League of Assassins character to play. It also requires you to KO locations you control, and then it sticks you with your opponent’s. In many cases, you’ll end up getting locations you can’t even use (like Optitron or Lost City), and you’ll be out the resources you previously had. In such a situation, the more intricate strengths of Remake the World need to be understood. Not only are you robbing your opponent of locations that he or she was likely counting on, but you’re also making a mass replacement. What lands in the opponent’s resource row could be his or her drop for the next turn or an important equipment card. In addition, because you know Remake the World is coming, you can always load your resource row with extra copies of the locations you wanted. The Demon’s Head makes this relatively easy to do. Also, remember that even if the locations you get are useless in terms of effect, they will always count for things like the bonus from Hassim’s activated ability. That can really add up if, in the mid-game, everything on your side of the field is suddenly green and face-up.

The one location in this group is The Source, and it’s absolutely brutal. The mere presence of The Source in the current environment requires players using team-up dependant decks to diversify—four copies of Common Enemy might not be the smartest choice anymore. Metropolis is unaffected by this card, so it can be an important backup when playing against The Source. However, The Source ruins more than just team-up cards. When facing a New Gods deck, a player must be very careful when deciding which plot twists to play from his or her resource row. Not only can The Source remove important plot twists like Acrobatic Dodge, Teen Titans Go!, and Savage Beatdown, it strips them from a player’s hand, not just a player’s deck. So, not only does that player lose key cards, he or she also loses hand presence.

The remaining four cards in this category are characters: Avalanche; Batman, World’s Greatest Detective; Connor Kent ◊ Superboy, Kon-El; and Perry White.

Avalanche is a decent card for The New Brotherhood. He fills the role of a nice, cheap attacker, and he also offers some flexibility that TNB hasn’t seen in the past. With locations as a whole becoming more popular (especially some great new ones from Superman, Man of Steel), and with the strong rise of Teen Titans in the environment, Avalanche is definitely worth considering.

Batman, World’s Greatest Detective is great. As a 5 ATK/4 DEF 3-drop, he’s one of the few characters at his cost level with a topnotch ATK. His DEF isn’t shoddy, either, and that’s important because Batman needs to make it to the recovery phase before he can use his activated effect (replace a target ongoing plot twist of your choice). A reflection of how Batman often puzzles out and diffuses situations before they blossom into threatening surprises, Batman, World’s Greatest Detective is one of the best options for taking care of problematic ongoing effects. He’s a good card for the Gotham Knights in most metagames, and an awesome one in others.

Connor Kent ◊ Superboy, Kon-El is a nice 4-drop for Team Superman, despite his lower than average DEF. When he attacks, he’s very likely to stun someone, and his flight lets him get at the little guys in the back that can’t stun him in return. He replaces face-down resources, provided that they stay face-down. He’s pretty brutal when combined with Perry White, especially if Perry hits the field on turn 1. Perry White is a 1-drop that, at the start of the combat phase, can look at a target face-down resource controlled by an opponent and replace it. Perry needs a protector for his effect to trigger, but that’s not difficult given the large selection of Team Superman characters that get a boost when they’re protecting someone. If you can get Perry out on turn 1 and use his effect on turn 2, you’ve got some decent disruption going. If Superboy hits on turn 4 and Perry is still alive, you’re suddenly jamming as many cards into your opponent’s resource row as he or she normally draws. The result is solid disruption and deck thinning. It’s a nice strategy for a Team Superman Protection deck. I think it could also be the beginning of a very potent mix with Arkham Inmates, working towards the goal of a victory via The Joker, Emperor Joker.

So, anything totally freakin’ broken? Well, The Source is pretty amazing. It’s certainly not broken, but it has had a huge impact on how players view certain elements of the game. It will continue to shape many metagames on some basic levels. Beyond that, I really like the prospect of Connor Kent ◊ Superboy, Kon-El and Perry White joining forces to make an opponent miss some key drops, especially when the team is backed up by some Arkham power. Whether or not that idea is viable is a bit sketchy, but it’s a fun concept to tinker with. I expect that we’ll see more offensive replacement from Team Superman in future sets, seeing as they got the lion’s share of it in Man of Steel. It will be interesting to see which, if any, Marvel teams get a similar trademark.

(Metagame Archive) A Paucity of Plot Twists

By Brian-David Marshall

Hopefully, all of you have recovered from the family traumas of the holidays and have managed to choke down the last of that desiccated, leftover turkey that no amount of congealed gravy could ever moisten . . .

Hmmm . . .do I sound bitter?

I was trying to stay in character. I have been trying to build my card pool from two weeks ago as if I was participating in a Pro Circuit Qualifier, and I am not happy. The pool is shallow, with not nearly enough plot twists to navigate a deck through six or seven rounds of Swiss. It must be able to do that for you to have any hope of arriving at the draft portion of the event—the first point at which you control your own fate.

Card Pool

 

Unaffiliated and Old Affiliates

1 Charger

1 Maxie Zeus

1 Imperiex

Darkseid’s Elite

1 Darkseid, Uxas

1 Desaad

1 Glorious Godfrey

2 Granny Goodness

1 Hunger Dogs

1 Kanto

1 Shaligo

1 Trox

New Gods

2 Big Bear

1 Himon

2 Lightray

1 Lonar

1 Mark Moonrider

2 Metron

1 Vykin

Team Superman

1 Alpha Centurion

3 Cir-El ◊ Supergirl

1 Dubbilex

1 Gangbuster

2 John Henry ◊ Irons Steel

3 Kara Zor-El ◊ Supergirl

1 Lana Lang

1 Lois Lane

1 Professor Emil Hamilton

1 Rose ◊ Thorn

2 Superman, Clark Kent

1 Superman Robots

Revenge Squad

1 Bizarro

2 Eradicator, Doctor David Connors

1 Mercy

2 Metallo

2 Mongal

2 Mongul

1 Parasite

Equipment

1 Beta Club

1 Supercycle

Locations

1 Armagetto

1 Lexcorp

2 Metropolis

1 Pit of Madness

Plot Twists

1 Back to Back

1 Boom Tube

2 Female Furies

1 Granny Loves You

1 Last Son of Krypton

3 Play Time

1 State of the Union

1 Super Speed

1 Super Strength

With five packs of Superman, Man of Steel to work with, you would expect to get some multiples. Play Time is not the set you’re hoping for when you’re building a Sealed Pack. Although, I have to admit to be being surprised by how potent a single copy of Play Time can be in a Sealed Pack or Booster Draft build. I had initially dismissed the card as nearly unplayable, since you can’t dictate to where the targeted character gets moved.

I was playing in a draft at Neutral Ground over the Thanksgiving holiday against Metagame.com impresario Toby Wachter, and one of my teammates was Mike Clair. Mike was debating over the final card in his deck. If you have ever done any kind of draft with Mike, this will come as no surprise to you. Mike always takes the longest time to make his final cuts and decisions, but I have to say, it pays off for him. He’s found success in multiple card games via his thoughtful approach. He was looking at Play Time, and wanted to add it to his deck.

Both Steve Sadin and I discouraged Play Time’s inclusion, but Mike made a strong case for the innocuous looking twist. He claimed that most games come down to one critical turn where your opponent just hopes to survive your initiative long enough to get to his or her initiative turn (and that turn’s gigantic man). To survive the turn, most players end up setting up their characters in the classic “L” formation, with one guy at the corner in a position to reinforce either of the characters in front of and next to it. Play Time changes that by nudging the corner character. Wherever your opponent moves it, he or she will no longer be able to reinforce the guy up front.

Mike felt that this little disruption would be enough for him to steal a game from an opponent on a turn where he had the initiative, and much to Zev Gurwitz’s frustration, he turned out to be right. Gurwitz could not make it through his seventh turn after his key reinforcement character was mischievously teleported out of the corner. I think that this card will definitely make somebody a lot of money this weekend in the draft portion at Pro Circuit So Cal.

Still, one copy is more than enough. If you are hoping for triples of a common plot twist, you want it to be something like Path of Destruction. In that same draft, I first picked a Path of Destruction, and then managed to pick up two more along the way. In one game against Toby, I killed him dead from 31 endurance on turn 6. I attacked with Big Barda, removed the cosmic counter, played two Path of Destructions, flipped a third, and KO’d a guy to finish off the bloodbath with Female Furies.

It was pretty cool, but in reality, Path of Destruction is just a good plot twist that gets better with each additional copy you pick up. It serves you admirably at all stages of the game. Rather than just throwing them all at your opponent in one fell swoop, you can use them to help you jump the progressing curve each turn. Early in the game, you rarely need to get more than 2 extra ATK points . As the game advances, you really want +4 ATK to effectively send a smaller character on a suicide mission, and in the late game, a +6 ATK Path of Destruction can be a potent finisher.

Alas, there were no Path of Destructions in this pool of cards. In fact, there were only four offensive plot twists in the deck. Two Female Furies were the best the deck had to work with, but they’re nothing to sneer at. As I mentioned in my previous column, many players have eschewed the card, either thinking that it was team stamped to Darkseid’s Elite (a common misconception), or simply unwilling to KO characters. The card plays both offense and defense, and a +3 ATK is a fair trade for a character whose better turns are behind it.

The problem is that, after the two Furies, you’re just about out of gas. Super Strength is a top flight plot twist that will get played in any deck, and Super Speed is quite good if you’re playing with Team Superman . . . sort of a miniature Teen Titans Go! All we have left after that, though, is Back to Back. Uunder more prosperous conditions, Back to Back might not even make my deck. The card is fine, but I find it difficult to use effectively and have left it on the bench in bluer waters. Granny Loves You will clearly be included if we play the appropriate affiliation. While it is potent, I would much rather have a common, combat-oriented trick like Up, Up, and Away, Stopped Cold, or Narrow Escape.

Looking through the locations and equipment, we can quickly condemn Pit of Madness. LexCorp might not be miserable, and Metropolis looks like a solid card for a mixed bag of affiliations. Armagetto, on the other hand, is a plot twist on wheels—without even looking at the characters, we want to think about Darkseid’s Elite. Especially when you see Beta Club sitting on top of the equipment pile.

Despite solid characters amongst both good-guy teams, I opted for the villains when building this deck. I was hoping to maximizing the power of Armagetto and Beta Club and sneak in extra damage with Granny Loves You. One of my favorite decks in this format is an unlikely team-up between Team Superman and Revenge Squad (for the Professor Emil Hamilton and Parasite combo), but I had to pass it up to get my Mongul on.

Here is the deck I ended up with:

1 Metropolis

1 Armagetto

1 Beta Club

2 Female Furies

1 Super Strength

1 Back to Back

1 Play Time

1 Granny Loves You

1 Hunger Dogs

1 Shaligo

1 Desaad

1 Mercy

2 Granny Goodness

1 Charger

2 Mongal

1 Trok

2 Metallo

1 Parasite

1 Bizarro

1 Glorious Godfrey

2 Mongul

2 Eradicator, Doctor David Connor

1 Darkseid, Uxas

1 Lightray

Next week, I’ll bring you the decks that readers suggested, and deconstruct a couple of drafts from the Pro Circuit.

(Metagame Archives) So Many Supergirls

Mike Flores 

You may have noticed that Superman: Man of Steel is chock full of not one, not two, but three characters named Supergirl. While other sets have shown us three versions of Batman, four versions of Wolverine, or so many different Spider-Man variations that we need six extra arms and a sack full of clones in order to manage them, the Supergirls of Man of Steel are not just different versions of the same person, they are actually three different women.

Identity Crisis

Right now, the DC Universe is 6/7 through IDENTITY CRISIS, an epic sweeping the superhero world, hurling happy go lucky heroes like the Elongated Man into 1980’s style rape and murder, and confusing even the World’s Greatest Detective… but the DCU is ALWAYS in the midst of some kind of crisis. Back when the Golden Age heroes of the JSA lived on a separate planet from the main-line heroes of the JLA (just wait until you check out the alternate reality stuff in Green Lantern), DC Editorial would have some sort of crossover Crisis called Crisis on Earth One or Crisis on Earth Two or something, culminating in Crisis on Infinite Earths back in the 80s, probably the most comprehensively sweeping — and confusing — events ever to occur in comics. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a villain called the Anti-Monitor decided to destroy all the many worlds and universes in the DC continuum; he was opposed by his antithises, the aptly named Monitor and the various DC heroes; it was during this conflict that Supergirl’s Identity Crisis began.

Eventually, after many near misses and 12 issues of George Perez artwork, reality was secured, but almost all the DC characters ended up on the same planet. History was re-written and the events surrounding all the important characters were stated to have occured on a single Earth. Hooray!

The victory was anything but flawless.

First of all, how much of a victory could it have actually been if the heroes were only able to save (essentially) ONE world out of Infinite? Secondly, and more relevant to our topic today, what about Supergirl?

Supergirl’s first end began when a strike force of some of the toughest heroes across several DC worlds banded together to take the fight to the Anti-Monitor. Captain Atom, Captain Marvel (the Power of SHAZAM!), the first and best Green Lantern (Alan Scott), not one but TWO copies of Supes himself (Kal-El AND Kal-L), and several other heroes of the same caliber, including then-Supergirl Kara (Linda Lee) went after a Big Bad capable of erasing whole realities at his hizzat. In the climactic scene, Kara/Linda rescues Superman from the clutches of the Anti-Monitor, and ends up in single combat with him herself. Not surprisingly, Kara doesn’t make it.

This ends up giving us the very dramatic shot depicted above, one of the most famous in comics; so famous is this shot, in fact, that later Supergirls would cast themselves in the pic. Here’s one with Kara Zor-El and Linda Danvers, a couple of ladies you may be a little better acquainted with:

So anyway, Kara, the Supergirl from Earth Prime, dies during a conflict that ends most of the multiverse, that few remember. Moreover, she was a member of the Legion of Superheroes in the 30th Century, complicating not just the falling dominoes of the present, but future history.

What was the solution? Make another Supergirl, of course!

MATRIX, whom we generally think of as the “modern” Supergirl was actually an artificial being created by a benevolent Lex Luthor from an alternate reality. She had telekinetic abilities and could change shape, but not the heat vision or “Kryptonian suite” or powers (or vulnerability to little green rocks) that we associate with the Man of Steel. Any Superman-style stunts, like flight or deflecting bullets, are a result of Supergirl focusing her mental powers (this version has been hurt by conventional gunfire, for instance, when letting her telekinetic guard down).

Upon coming to our reality, Matrix actually went out with the non-bald Lex Luthor II (actually regular old megalomaniacal, but pre-Presidential, Lex Luthor, in disguise as his own son). A fine choice for a gal with a bright red-and-yellow “S” on her top, wouldn’t you say?

Matrix tried to make up for this by bonding her spirit with Linda Danvers, a young woman from LEEsburg (check that reference), who was dying of knife wounds. A noble gesture indeed… except that said wounds were inflicted on Linda by her boyfriend Buzz, a field agent for the demon Beelzebub, as part of an equally demonic ritual. Not exactly the situation that Matrix though she was getting into…

After an initial spat of ugliness, the union of Linda and Matrix ended up giving Linda the powers of Supergirl and Matrix what she had been missing… a good old human soul. The result of putting these two lasses together was to make the Linda/Matrix unit an “earth born angel” with wings of flame, more superpowers, ad an officially charged mandate to do good. Linda and Matrix have since split into back into separate entities again, with Matrix taking on the fire angel job

and Linda keeping some powers and adopting the white crop top uniform.

A funny thing about the change in look… For a long time, Linda had difficulty convincing the rest of the super folk that she was Supergirl. Originally, Linda had the benefit of Matrix’s shape-shifting powers. She never needed a disguise: Linda is brunette, Matrix/Supergirl blonde and much taller. After Matrix left Linda to be Supergirl all by her lonesome, she was once again stuck in a shorter, brunette, body. As Supergirl, Linda’s uniform extended not just to her clothes, but to a blonde wig!

Since her last adventure, which saw Linda team up with the original Kara Zor-El (yes, the one who died in the Crisis) land on Earth in a rocket ship only to have to send her back off to her destiny, the Supergirl in the white tee shirt and blonde wig retired from public life in 2003. That’s okay, because 2004 brought us a different Supergirl… who might be the original Supergirl, and even the same one, possibly, from the last Linda Danvers story.

She sure has the same name…

KARA ZOR-EL is tricky, almost impossible to get a good grasp on. The current Kara Zor-El, depicted on the Vs. card if uniforms can be believed, first appeared in just the last year. She is Superman’s cousin from Krypton, learned English in a month, and has caused a great deal of friction between the World’s Finest. Superman, trusting farm boy that he is, is just glad to have someone remotely like himself on the planet for company. Batman, cynical World’s Greatest Detective that HE is thinks there must be something wrong with her.

Kara sure is a bundle of trouble. In the short months since her arrival, she has not just gotten guard dog Krypto to nail her with his heat vision, but brought down a strike force of Wonder Woman and the Amazons, gotten captured by Darkseid, been coerced into joining his team in a some kind of shiny black bondage costume (doubtlessly designed by Desaad), gotten herself annihilated by Omega Beams, said “just kidding, not really annihilated by Omega Beams” the next month, and joined the ranks of the good guys in a welcoming party so star-studded that (according to one member of the Outsiders) “if a nuke went off right [then and there], PLASTIC MAN would be the most powerful guy on Earth.”

Last we have Cir-El. Just like it says on the card, Cir-El is the “fully human” daughter of Superman and Lois Lane from an alternate future. Cir-El is a well meaning gal with such extraordinary Kryptonian traits as Super Leap, Super Strength, Super Speed, and Red Sun Burst. Confusing at best in a world with at least two other lasses named Supergirl, Cir-El has since returned to the future and sacrificed herself there.

In sum, it’s a good thing that UDE design set up the templating rules — at least for DC heroes — listing by real name, THEN superhero name. Before someone thought that up, playing with these three lasses would have been nearly as big a headache as keeping their respective time- and reality-hopping backgrounds straight. It is indeed a crazy name when, of the three girls who carry it, the Kryptonian-powered-yetfully human daughter of Kal-El and Lois Lane from an alternate future actually created by the Futuresmiths, and returned to that future to sacrifice herself and send Supes tumbling off into an alternate past of his own is the least difficult to follow. I just hope that I have made the mantle of Supergirl a little easier to understand, but doubtless, you just have more questions now than when you started, barely acknowledging the fact that there were three different Supergirls. Sorry about that.

(Metagame Archive) Totally Freakin’ Broken – Resource Suppression

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Superman, Man of Steel both keywords and further explores the theme of offensive resource replacement. The theme was first introduced in Marvel Origins with Avalanche, and was further explored in DC Origins with Have a Blast!, Batman, World’s Greatest Detective, and Remake the World. Replacement is great—it eliminates cards that are giving you trouble or that might give you trouble somewhere down the line. However, that’s all it does. Cards like Foiled and Ka-Boom! are often grouped with offensive resource replacement cards, and though they can both blow up cards that you’d rather not see on the table, they really serve very different functions in the long run.

While offensive resource replacement is designed to take care of single cards, cards like Foiled and Ka-Boom! actually provide offensive resource suppression. In addition to being targeted effects that can remove a problematic card in the resource row, they prevent the game from progressing from a resource development standpoint.

There are six cards that provide resource suppression, and all but one of them (Neutron) provides an offensive option by allowing the effect’s controller to target at least one particular resource to KO. These cards are Foiled, Ka-Boom!, Firefly, Apocalypse, and Brimstone.

Essentially, all six of these cards (except for Apocalypse) are used to prevent the game from progressing past a certain point. The advantages of employing such a strategy are two-fold. First, if you keep your opponent locked at, say, five resources, any cards in his or her deck with a recruit or threshold cost above 5 are useless. In addition, if you keep your opponent locked in the early game, but he or she has a deck focused on late game strength (like Common Enemy), not only will your opponent not be able to get to his or her strong point in the game, but the opponent also may not have enough small characters to match your recruiting capabilities. It’s an awesome strategy that isn’t as explored or exploited right now as it should be.

The classic pair, Foiled and Ka-Boom!, are staples in any deck that seeks to lock an opponent out of the late game. These cards are easy to use, and though they are costed (you get locked down, too), you can build around that cost to give your deck a distinct advantage. They are not team-proprietary, do not require a discard, and do not even deprive you of a resource point on the turn they’re used. The tricky part is that they’re dependant on the opponent’s actions. A smart player might just forego flipping locations and ongoing plot twists to make sure your Ka-Boom!s and Foileds are dead. Unfortunately, Common Enemy has a hard time without Doomstadt or its signature team-up, Brave and the Bold needs its team-up and Dynamic Duo, and Teen Titans needs Optitron, USS Argus, and Tamaran (though Terra can cause some havoc using her effect to replace Ka-Boom!’s target). Brotherhood builds need Savage Land, Lost City, and Avalon Space Station. In fact, basically every competitive deck (outside of Gray Stall or Curve Sentinel) is at least somewhat reliant on ongoing plot twists or locations. Not flipping them is always an option, but it’s a seriously inhibiting one.

Firefly’s effect is similar to Ka-Boom!’s. He’s essentially a reusable Ka-Boom! with a respectable 3 ATK, flight, and range. His effect requires activation and a discard of an Arkham Inmates character, but it’s an interesting little trick for Arkham decks. I’ve personally played Arkham for several months now, and I honestly haven’t gotten a ton of use out of Firefly’s effect. The degree of its utility is highly dependant on matchups. Regardless of matchup, he does allow for an aggressive resource-suppression build of Arkham that hasn’t yet seen serious play. With so many decks leaning towards late game power, an Arkham Lock deck could actually have serious potential.

Brimstone, Engine of Destruction is the newest addition to the suppression theme. It’s easy to look at Brimstone and see a 6-drop with an above average ATK, but his low defense is quite a hindrance. The problem is that he’s not just a good offensive 6-drop—he’s either going to take the place of your 7-drop on turn 7 (in order to lock the opponent on turn 7 for the rest of the game), or he’s going to get played on turn 6 and whoop on something that hopefully won’t stun him and leave him exposed to KO effects. If you play him on turn 6, you’ll play another 6-drop on turn 7 so you can pay a resource point to use Brimstone’s effect. So, even though his ATK seems alluring and can be beneficial, it comes with the caveat that, no matter what you do, you’re giving up your turn 7 drop if you want to use Brimstone’s effect to its highest potential.

Whether or not that’s a wise move is dependant on matchups. If you’re playing against a deck that has something it wants to KO each turn, then Brimstone can seriously rock. A team-up or a key card like Tower of Babel will work in Brimstone’s favor. If, however, you’re just locking the opponent on turn 7 and giving up your 7-drop to do so, you might be in trouble. There are some exceptions, though. Jaffar can make up for that lost resource point and then some, provided you’re okay with your turn 7 play being a bunch of small Deep Six characters (which works fine, assuming that Thing, The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing doesn’t immediately bounce them all back to your hand). Brimstone also works nicely when combined with a flurry of Ka-Boom!s and Foileds. If you can get rid of your opponent’s 7 drop, it’ll probably hurt your opponent if the game is suddenly pushed back to turn 3 . . . and that’s a very doable prospect in some games. If your second 6-drop was Darkseid, Uxas, then you’ve actually got a lot of potential for making a game-wrecking move, taking out all the big guys (except maybe one of your own) and KO’ing everything that’s stunned. Hopefully, you’ll leave a weenie horde to mop up on your side afterwards. Time will tell if a strategy like this one, which, though extreme, is feasible in a competitive form.

Neutron is, to me, the border line. Turn 5 seems like a good place to start locking the game if your goal is to keep it in the earlier turns. Neutron, upon his release, was not as viable as he is now—Rise from the Grave is his saving grace. Sure, Rise from the Grave on Neutron is going to cost you 10 endurance, but odds are good that you’ll hardly ever have to use it. Careful positioning and domination during the early game can keep Neutron protected, leaving him conscious for his effect to trigger in the recovery phase.

Beyond that, Man of Steel offers some interesting disruption cards that can hurt an opponent’s plans for attacking. While Play Time’s main use is to disrupt L formations, it can also be used against other formations to make an opponent think twice about how aggressive he or she can be on a given turn. There are some interesting options for keeping Neutron up and about, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an early game–oriented deck that runs Neutron, Ka-Boom!, Foiled, and Firefly making an impact on metagames in the near future.

So, is anything TFB? Well, I think the potential of the theme as a whole is under-explored. Watching Alexander Sacal in the Mexico City $10K rip apart opponent after opponent, locking the player in the early game and flooding his own side of the field with Titans characters, was pretty awesome. Ka-Boom! and Foiled! are under-played in that deck, and the resource-lock variant is brutal against Common Enemy. Similar trends might crop up in Brave and the Bold decks, as well. As for original decks, that has yet to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something original, creative, and focused on resource suppression makes a strong debut soon.