(Metagame Archive) Marvel Knights Preview: Witching Hour

By Danny Mandel

And no, that isn’t the Scarlet Witch—it’s Witch Woman!*

Witching Hour is one of my favorite types of card designs—unapparent in power and modular in deck design.

For argument’s sake, let’s say there are two axes on which to describe a card. Axis one is the card’s power level. I actually don’t find this axis quite so interesting, because often, one card’s strength is only relative to other cards’, and it’s pretty easy for a developer to amp up a card’s overt power (hey, just add +1 ATK/+1 DEF to it!).

What I do find interesting is when a card’s power level is less obvious, even if it’s just at first glance. You see this all the time during previews. Some cards are looked down on as complete junk, but later become solid components of high-end decks. (A Death in the Family is a good example of this. The card was much maligned as a bad Finishing Move when it first debuted, but is now commonly used in aggressive strategies that don’t have time to exhaust a character.) On the other hand, some cards look like they’re phenomenally broken, but later end up being simply decent, or—gasp—stinky. (I blame Humphreys for these.)

So, is Witching Hour hot or not? I’d tell you what I think, but that would ruin all the fun.

A second axis on which to describe a card is how linear or modular it is when it comes to deck design. One way to look at it is that the more linear a card is, the more obvious its role is in a deck. For example, Mystical Paralysis is a very linear card. Not only is its function extremely narrow (exhaust a character), but it’s only playable in decks that include Dr. Doom himself (or possibly a Decoy Program). While Mystical Paralysis is a staple in both Pure Doom and Common Enemy archetypes, you don’t build those decks because of Mystical—rather, you include it in those decks because it’s a good card.

While still somewhat linear, Alicia Masters is a more open ended card around which you might build a deck. While she serves one very specific function (to cheapen the recruit cost of some of your character cards), one could argue that she lends herself towards a Turbo Thing deck, a Turbo Torch deck, and a Turbo Thing and Torch deck. Even though she serves a similar role in all three decks, each of those archetypes owes its existence to her. (She is the “turbo” part, after all.) Further, you might just splash her in a more standard FF build, assuming that in some matchups you’ll have the opportunity to “go off.”

An example of a modular card is Tech Upgrade. Sure, it only works with one class of card—equipment—but it works with any equipment. You can run the Upgrade in an equipment-centric Barbara Gordon deck, in a deck that wants to load up on Fantasticars, or in a deck that wants to guarantee it gets Decoy Program by turn 3.

Which brings us back to Witching Hour. While the card has some pretty specific requirements—it has a threshold cost of 7 and only works on small Underworld characters—there are lots of different ways to build a Witching Hour deck. Let’s talk about some of them now.

Underworld Swarm

 

As you might have guessed after seeing some of the other Underworld previews, a team full of demons and the undead is heavily invested in KO pile interactions. You’ll find cards that efficiently allow you to fill your KO pile and cards that “tax” you by removing cards from your KO pile. You’ll also find cards that reward you for having lots of “dead” characters. And what better reward than to bring them all back to the land of the living?

Traditionally, swarm decks run out of gas in the late game. A swarm player ends up quickly emptying his or her hand to put as many small threats into play as possible. Often, this puts an opponent on the defensive, forcing that player to stabilize the board until he or she can play larger characters that can hold back the swarm. Once the opponent has stabilized, the game’s all but over for the swarm deck, which now lacks a way to “punch through.”

With Witching Hour, the swarm player has a new late game weapon. Just as you’re about to run out of steam, the clock strikes midnight and it’s time for all your dead little buddies to wake up and smell the blood. In this build, Witching Hour acts as a kind of “Plan B.” You’d much rather tear your opponent’s throat out before the late game, but at least now you have a safety net.

’Phisto Food

 

We spoiled the Father of Lies a few days ago, and as one would expect from a demon, he offers you a tricky deal. The upside is that you can’t lose the game. The downside is that you can (and will) lose three characters every turn, which might end up costing you Mephisto himself. But what if there were some way to guarantee that you could feed Mephisto for as many turns as necessary? You guessed it! Witching Hour provides the perfect snack pack. Play it on turn 7 to fill up your board (just make sure you leave three critters in your KO’d pile to satisfy Mephisto’s recruit requirement), and then play the big guy on turn 8 to create the soft lock. Since you can’t lose the game, the fact that you just spent a ton of endurance to recruit your army for “free” doesn’t matter so much.

There are a couple of other things to remember about Mephisto. His start-of-attack-step power won’t trigger if he’s stunned. This means you could conceivably find a way to stun him (perhaps teaming up and using Blackgate Prison?), then recover him later to benefit from his can’t-lose-the-game ability. Speaking of recovery effects, keep in mind that the incredibly efficient but painful Rise from the Grave is a perfect match with Mephisto, since endurance loss doesn’t matter if you can’t lose the game. Just make sure you have 5 endurance to pay its play cost.

A Beastly Combo of Doom

 

Man, that threshold cost of 7 is daunting. But with cards such as Beast and Latveria, maybe we can get the party started a little sooner. This archetype is all about the big payoff. Spend the first few turns of the game filling your KO pile with tons of 1- and 2-cost characters. (Remember that you still have to recruit them, so to make sure uniqueness isn’t a problem. Either use lots of army guys or characters with different names). Then, on turn 5 or 6, bring ’em all back. Mix in some Hired Goons for added spice.

Okay, that’s all I got.

Tune in next week for the who, what, when, where, and how of concealed and the hidden area (bonus “why” section also included).

Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

*No jokes. She works for Mephisto. Also, she used to own a restaurant.

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