(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.

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