(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.

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