(Metagame Archive) Design Vs. Mailbag 3: Mailbag Forever

By Danny Mandel

Okay, you guys know the drill. I post some of the emails I’ve received, and then I answer them. Hilarity and/or insight ensue. Well, maybe . . .

This one’s from AC.

Dear Dan,


First off I’d like to congratulate you guys on creating such a great game. One of the best parts of
Vs. is the simplicity. One problem, though, is that with the simplicity comes the fact that there are only so many generic attack/defense pumps you can make. Right now the top attack pump is far and away Savage Beatdown, and the best defensive pump is Acrobatic Dodge. My question is, since no generic card will ever be directly ‘better’ than these two without making either of these cards redundant (I mean, what can you do? +6 ATK this attack? -4 ATK/+4 DEF this attack?), does the possibility of reprinting either of these exist?

This would solve the design issue, as well as making a $30 card like Beatdown more available to less wealthy players as well as new ones. If that ‘other game’ (the one with the wizards and goblins) is any indication, the original will still retain its value. You’ve already printed one utility card (Marvel Team-Up). Can you do it again? 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s always good to start off an email with something flattering about me or Vs. It’s also acceptable to start off with something mean about Humpherys.

Okay, AC, even though you called me “Dan”, I’m willing to answer your questions.

As you say, there are certain parameter-defining cards such as Savage Beatdown and Acrobatic Dodge. However, I’m not so sure they’ll always be strictly better than future generic cards. While certain generics are clearly better than others at doing similar things (often this is because some are targeted primarily at Sealed Pack play), there are definitely gray areas. For example, one could argue that in the appropriate deck, Flying Kick or Mega-Blast is actually better than Savage Beatdown. Our goal with top-end generics is to make them approximately as powerful but in different ways than what’s come before.

Of course, I haven’t answered what you’re really asking, which is how we feel about reprints. Hoom. We’re definitely open to the idea of reprinting where appropriate. For example, we brought back Marvel Team-Up because we wanted to make Lacuna, and it would have been very sad to have her in a set without it. (Also, Marvel Team-Up’s like, my favorite card, though that didn’t really figure in. I also like World’s Finest.)

Another example is that if we created a set that had tons of non-fliers, I could easily see reprinting Flying Kick for Sealed play. Of course, bringing back Beatdown is another issue. I mean, that was not a card intended for Sealed play. It’s simply a powerful rare.

As you mentioned, there is the issue of collectability. Players invest a lot of money into this game, and I’d hate to ruin their investment. So . . . let’s ask the audience—

How do all of you feel about the reprinting issue?

This next one’s from Bizarro 98. It’s in regards to some comments I made in a recent article regarding the possibility of re-featuring “old” teams in new expansions. It’s near the bottom of that article in case you go back and read it. Bizarro’s email is pretty long, so I’m actually going to insert my responses with cute little brackets that look like these {}.

Danny, I want you to take a good look at two sentences from your article

First, there’s this one.

“While I can’t go into details, I will put forth that we have every intention of doing pretty much every comic character we can.”

You’ve said that before, but I always like to hear you say it again, because it means you haven’t forgotten what you here in the first place. Then I read something like this:

“Plus, there are infinite ways to do different versions of characters we’ve already done.”

Nooooooooooo! You were doing so good! Why did you have to go and say that, Danny? Why?


Let’s stop a moment to talk to talk about versions. Do you know what I think of versions, Danny Mandel? I think they’re a good idea. I think there are two perfectly legitimate reasons for making multiple versions of any given character, and one reason that is a necessary evil.

1. Some characters are so influential in the comics that they need multiple versions to reflect this. Almost every character that’s specifically referenced by another card falls under this category.

2. Some characters are so dynamic that they have filled multiple roles in the past. Every character who appears on more than one team fits this category, as well as characters who have versions from some strange periods outside the status quo (like Red, Blue, and Brainwashed Superman).

3. This is the bad one. Sometimes, if a team is too small to effectively function as a team within the game, extra versions must be given to some of it’s characters (even if they aren’t particularly influential or dynamic) to fill out the team. Every X-Statix character who got more than one version is in this category.

However, outside of these, making multiple versions of certain characters can be dangerous business. The question arises, where do you draw the line? How much of the big names is too much, and how much is too little? You have to put some limit on yourself in some way at some point, or this game will forget its roots and become the Wolverine vs. Batman game. I’ve noticed Upper Deck has never made two versions of the same character with the same cost on the same team. I think this a good rule of thumb that you should definitely stick with.

So I guess the point I’m trying make here, Danny, is that I’m okay with old teams getting the spotlight again in future sets, as long as it’s done with as few alternate versions of existing characters as possible. Remember, I trust you guys to look out for the little names. Don’t let me down.

And remember, no matter what, Vs. should always be moving forward. There’s still so much left unmade, Danny. I’m still waiting on those Metal Men.

{I guess it comes down to our desire to cater to both ends up the comic fan spectrum. On the one hand, there’s the superfanboy who wants to see every obscure character in the history of the Marvel and DC and other universes. (Bizarro and I both fall into this category.) On the other hand, there’s the more mainstream fan who’s more interested in the marquee characters like Spidey or Superman. When it’s time to figure out which characters will fill out a roster of a new team, we try to satisfy both types of fans. My question to you guys is, where do you fit in? Which kinds of characters are you more interested in? Here’s a more concrete question: Would you rather crack a pack and see a new version of Wolverine or Jubilee?}

On a side note, you said you were going to write an article on character selection after Superman came out. Whatever happened to that plan?

Bizarrosworth N. Ninetyeight

{It’s true. I really have to get on that one. Thanks for the reminder.}

This next one’s from Juan. The issue is the composition of new sets.

Hey there Danny, nice article. It’s great to see what goes on in your guys’ heads. Anyways, this is written in response to that question of yours. You know, the one about how many cards new teams should get and old teams should get. Now, I’m very happy to see new teams. That keeps the game fresh and new. I’m pretty sure there aren’t an infinite number of teams in Marvel and DC, but I figure after you burn out Marvel and DC, you’ll release a relatively even number of cards for all teams in future sets while making a new Vs. game (maybe move into Indy or something) to continue to give new teams. For the present, however, I’d like to see maybe a smaller number of teams released. I think that it would be better if you would release maybe two or three new teams per new set. That way, the new teams’ releases can last longer, the new teams that are released have a wider range of cards and are more well-built, and the old teams get enough goodies to keep the players happy. I thought that the Spider-Man set, though it has its many critics, was a good way to release new sets. You get two new teams and all the old teams get lots of new toys to upgrade their decks with. This still opens a lot of strategies because you still have the option of teaming up some of the new teams with the old ones. IMO that would be an ideal release formula. Anyways, keep up the good work. Please give SS a search card or something (though you and I both know that would make them ridiculously powerful) or some other toys.

Sincerely (hope that’s right)

Juan

This is that hot issue I was referring to at the end tag of last week’s article. While there’s a lot of stuff we consider when filling out the contents of a set (like how it plays in Sealed and Draft), the central issues on most players’ minds seems to be how many new teams should be introduced in a new set, and how many cards should be devoted to the older teams.

I’ve mentioned before that we like to experiment. In the Web of Spider-Man, expansion we tried making a set with only two new teams, and I believe in general players wanted more new content. On the other hand, now that there are nineteen major teams in the Vs. Universe (with more on the way), some players are suggesting we slow down on adding new teams, possibly as Juan suggested by only adding two or three new teams in a set, or by bringing back old teams to make up half or so of a set. I’m extremely interested on hearing your opinions on this issue.

This next email is from smokingsocrates. (Don’t worry, that’s not his real name.) As above, I’m going to respond with brackets inside the email.

Thank you for posting a direct line to the designers of this game. I am impressed that you are taking suggestions and responding to feedback. I am on the metagame, vsrealms, and vsuniverse websites daily, and I study and stay on top of the game. Aside from being an avid player competing at numerous 10K and PCQ events, I have already dropped thousands of dollars on Vs. products. 

 

The main reason that I am writing is to give some feedback with the hope that it falls on considerate ears. First, I would like to compliment what you have done well. The Origins sets were amazing and offered the foundation cards, interesting teams, and good effects. I think your sets with greater than four new teams have been your best, while those with fewer new teams have been the worst. The more diverse sets catered to more of your target market, are more enjoyable to draft, and offer a variety that is the spice of gaming life. Your new idea for the Golden Age format is great. However, the idea of using only the last two sets of a given comic set was amazing. It seems like it has taken almost two full sets before a given set becomes playable at a competitive level. These changes may force the metagame to develop at an accelerated pace.

 

Some critiques that may affect the stamina of this game and sales. R&D has a ton of quality multiplayer cards but supports no competitive format. I am a member of a competitive team, I game in a community of 40 gamers, and all of them want to play multiplayer at a 10K or PC level. New people to the game also like the safety of playing group formats. I have noticed that when new players enter a store with an established group of gamers they either sink or swim, but are often turned off by strong players, players with “all the good cards,” or the complexity of the rules. Bring multiplayer to the competitive level. Often times this game divides rather than builds cohesiveness among players. Rather than teaming up with a buddy, players hide their decklists, covet their new tech, and won’t talk honestly about their cards. Two, three, or four player matches may bring about a shift. It will also change the value of team based cards and may expand those interested in the game.

 

In my play group there are a number of players that brainstorm new tech, ideas for cards, and talk about changes in the game if we were named king. Our best idea has been the idea of stealth, being walled, or some other defensive term. In short, a character may have an ability like range or flight, but for the defense. That character may not be attacked through a “distance attack” like flight in the back row or range from a back row character. The character may only be able to be attacked “in a physical confrontation.” A character would only be able to attack from the front row and with no other potential defenders in front of the defender (e.g., front row to front row or front row to unprotected back row defender). Also, you guys should make a card called underload in which “a target character is stunned if its defense is more than twice its printed value!”

 

Thanks for your time and consideration.

 

A versus fan

 

{Thanks for the kinds words. I’m going to cut right to the heart of your email, which deals with team and multiplayer formats.

While I’m not sure about what the correct implementation of multi-players formats would be, let me tell you that we are definitely trying out different ways to play. I believe Humpherys had mentioned in a previous article that Team Sealed Pack is popular around the office. This is where three players split ten booster packs into three sealed decks and play against other teams. Another format we’re testing is Team Draft. This is a two on two or three on three format where everyone participates in a draft, and then the two teams play against each other. Both of the above formats involve working together to create your decks, and matches are still one on one, with the team’s overall score determining which team won the match.

However, what smokingsocrates is suggesting is (in my opinion) even cooler than team formats. What if after a two on two team draft, all four player compete in a team game? Or howabout a six-player draft that ends up getting fought grand melee style?

I’m not sure how our organized play department feels about tournaments featuring multi-player matches (there are lots of other issues that need to be settled, such as collusion in grand melee games and what kinds of signaling or advice are allowable in team games), however, I’m very confident that we’ll have team formats (with one on one match play) sometime in the near future.}

This next email is from Michael.

Hey,

You asked for some feedback, so here is a short one. Great article. I was amazed by all the errata when I printed it out a few days ago. Very unusual for UDE who have a reputation for very thorough playtesting.

 

{It’s all Humpherys fault. No really. He stinks.}

My main opinion is the need to introduce at least a couple of good cards for the existing teams in the new sets too keep them fresh and interesting. MOS was an excellent set for this giving the League and Gotham some very good and interesting new cards. The Teen Titans needed little but got something. A pity the new Arkham cards were so worthless. This was generally a great approach. It only takes two or three playable cards (not Maxie Zeus or Emperor Joker) to lift up a team that has been struggling into the top level. Look at what two cards have done for Sentinels and X-Men.

I hope you continue to support the old factions, especially the ones that are currently badly ignored like Sinister, Arkham, Skrulls, Negative Zone, Straight F4, etc.

Yours,

Michael 

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’ve been posting emails that touch on issues that we’d like more feedback on. Michael is addressing the issue with legacy cards (cards for older teams that are not currently being featured in a set). Some players want tons of legacy cards for their decks (and to possibly help create new viable decks like Curve Sentinels); other players wants legacy content held to a minimum, with everything in a set devoted to that set’s teams. What’s your opinion?

Here are the main issues from this article one more time.

Reprinting cards

Re-featuring teams vs moving ahead with all new teams and characters

How many teams each set should contain (especially how many new teams . . . )

Multi-player and team tournaments

Legacy content in a set.

So yeah, tell me what you think.

Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

*Okay, maybe not Maxie Zeus**.

**Now I’m expecting all sorts of angry emails from Maxie Zeus fans . . . could he be the new Unus?

{I think it’s important to stop here and point out that what I meant in the second quotation is that if and when we re-feature a team in a future expansion, not only will we get an opportunity to add more never-been-done-before characters to the mix, but we can still do new versions of the staple characters. For example, if the Arkham Inmates end up as one of the four major teams in a new expansion, not only can we bring cool-but-obscure villains like Calendar Man, Cornelius Stirk, or Magpie to the Vs. System, but we can do new versions of staples like Penguin, Riddler, and, of course, Maxie Zeus*.} 

Okay, you guys know the drill. I post some of the emails I’ve received, and then I answer them. Hilarity and/or insight ensue. Well, maybe . . .

 

This one’s from AC.

 

Dear Dan,


First off I’d like to congratulate you guys on creating such a great game. One of the best parts of
Vs. is the simplicity. One problem, though, is that with the simplicity comes the fact that there are only so many generic attack/defense pumps you can make. Right now the top attack pump is far and away Savage Beatdown, and the best defensive pump is Acrobatic Dodge. My question is, since no generic card will ever be directly ‘better’ than these two without making either of these cards redundant (I mean, what can you do? +6 ATK this attack? -4 ATK/+4 DEF this attack?), does the possibility of reprinting either of these exist?

This would solve the design issue, as well as making a $30 card like Beatdown more available to less wealthy players as well as new ones. If that ‘other game’ (the one with the wizards and goblins) is any indication, the original will still retain its value. You’ve already printed one utility card (Marvel Team-Up). Can you do it again?

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s always good to start off an email with something flattering about me or Vs. It’s also acceptable to start off with something mean about Humpherys.

 

Okay, AC, even though you called me “Dan”, I’m willing to answer your questions.

 

As you say, there are certain parameter-defining cards such as Savage Beatdown and Acrobatic Dodge. However, I’m not so sure they’ll always be strictly better than future generic cards. While certain generics are clearly better than others at doing similar things (often this is because some are targeted primarily at Sealed Pack play), there are definitely gray areas. For example, one could argue that in the appropriate deck, Flying Kick or Mega-Blast is actually better than Savage Beatdown. Our goal with top-end generics is to make them approximately as powerful but in different ways than what’s come before.

 

Of course, I haven’t answered what you’re really asking, which is how we feel about reprints. Hoom. We’re definitely open to the idea of reprinting where appropriate. For example, we brought back Marvel Team-Up because we wanted to make Lacuna, and it would have been very sad to have her in a set without it. (Also, Marvel Team-Up’s like, my favorite card, though that didn’t really figure in. I also like World’s Finest.)

 

Another example is that if we created a set that had tons of non-fliers, I could easily see reprinting Flying Kick for Sealed play. Of course, bringing back Beatdown is another issue. I mean, that was not a card intended for Sealed play. It’s simply a powerful rare.

 

As you mentioned, there is the issue of collectability. Players invest a lot of money into this game, and I’d hate to ruin their investment. So . . . let’s ask the audience—

 

How do all of you feel about the reprinting issue?

 

 

This next one’s from Bizarro 98. It’s in regards to some comments I made in a recent article regarding the possibility of re-featuring “old” teams in new expansions. It’s near the bottom of that article in case you go back and read it. Bizarro’s email is pretty long, so I’m actually going to insert my responses with cute little brackets that look like these {}.

 

Danny, I want you to take a good look at two sentences from your article

First, there’s this one.

“While I can’t go into details, I will put forth that we have every intention of doing pretty much every comic character we can.”

You’ve said that before, but I always like to hear you say it again, because it means you haven’t forgotten what you here in the first place. Then I read something like this:

“Plus, there are infinite ways to do different versions of characters we’ve already done.”

Nooooooooooo! You were doing so good! Why did you have to go and say that, Danny? Why?

 

 

{I think it’s important to stop here and point out that what I meant in the second quotation is that if and when we re-feature a team in a future expansion, not only will we get an opportunity to add more never-been-done-before characters to the mix, but we can still do new versions of the staple characters. For example, if the Arkham Inmates end up as one of the four major teams in a new expansion, not only can we bring cool-but-obscure villains like Calendar Man, Cornelius Stirk, or Magpie to the Vs. System, but we can do new versions of staples like Penguin, Riddler, and, of course, Maxie Zeus*.}


Let’s stop a moment to talk to talk about versions. Do you know what I think of versions, Danny Mandel? I think they’re a good idea. I think there are two perfectly legitimate reasons for making multiple versions of any given character, and one reason that is a necessary evil.

1. Some characters are so influential in the comics that they need multiple versions to reflect this. Almost every character that’s specifically referenced by another card falls under this category.

2. Some characters are so dynamic that they have filled multiple roles in the past. Every character who appears on more than one team fits this category, as well as characters who have versions from some strange periods outside the status quo (like Red, Blue, and Brainwashed Superman).

3. This is the bad one. Sometimes, if a team is too small to effectively function as a team within the game, extra versions must be given to some of it’s characters (even if they aren’t particularly influential or dynamic) to fill out the team. Every X-Statix character who got more than one version is in this category.

However, outside of these, making multiple versions of certain characters can be dangerous business. The question arises, where do you draw the line? How much of the big names is too much, and how much is too little? You have to put some limit on yourself in some way at some point, or this game will forget its roots and become the Wolverine vs. Batman game. I’ve noticed Upper Deck has never made two versions of the same character with the same cost on the same team. I think this a good rule of thumb that you should definitely stick with.

So I guess the point I’m trying make here, Danny, is that I’m okay with old teams getting the spotlight again in future sets, as long as it’s done with as few alternate versions of existing characters as possible. Remember, I trust you guys to look out for the little names. Don’t let me down.

And remember, no matter what, Vs. should always be moving forward. There’s still so much left unmade, Danny. I’m still waiting on those Metal Men.

{I guess it comes down to our desire to cater to both ends up the comic fan spectrum. On the one hand, there’s the superfanboy who wants to see every obscure character in the history of the Marvel and DC and other universes. (Bizarro and I both fall into this category.) On the other hand, there’s the more mainstream fan who’s more interested in the marquee characters like Spidey or Superman. When it’s time to figure out which characters will fill out a roster of a new team, we try to satisfy both types of fans. My question to you guys is, where do you fit in? Which kinds of characters are you more interested in? Here’s a more concrete question: Would you rather crack a pack and see a new version of Wolverine or Jubilee?}

On a side note, you said you were going to write an article on character selection after Superman came out. Whatever happened to that plan?

Bizarrosworth N. Ninetyeight

{It’s true. I really have to get on that one. Thanks for the reminder.}

This next one’s from Juan. The issue is the composition of new sets.

Hey there Danny, nice article. It’s great to see what goes on in your guys’ heads. Anyways, this is written in response to that question of yours. You know, the one about how many cards new teams should get and old teams should get. Now, I’m very happy to see new teams. That keeps the game fresh and new. I’m pretty sure there aren’t an infinite number of teams in Marvel and DC, but I figure after you burn out Marvel and DC, you’ll release a relatively even number of cards for all teams in future sets while making a new Vs. game (maybe move into Indy or something) to continue to give new teams. For the present, however, I’d like to see maybe a smaller number of teams released. I think that it would be better if you would release maybe two or three new teams per new set. That way, the new teams’ releases can last longer, the new teams that are released have a wider range of cards and are more well-built, and the old teams get enough goodies to keep the players happy. I thought that the Spider-Man set, though it has its many critics, was a good way to release new sets. You get two new teams and all the old teams get lots of new toys to upgrade their decks with. This still opens a lot of strategies because you still have the option of teaming up some of the new teams with the old ones. IMO that would be an ideal release formula. Anyways, keep up the good work. Please give SS a search card or something (though you and I both know that would make them ridiculously powerful) or some other toys.

Sincerely (hope that’s right)

Juan

 

This is that hot issue I was referring to at the end tag of last week’s article. While there’s a lot of stuff we consider when filling out the contents of a set (like how it plays in Sealed and Draft), the central issues on most players’ minds seems to be how many new teams should be introduced in a new set, and how many cards should be devoted to the older teams.

 

I’ve mentioned before that we like to experiment. In the Web of Spider-Man, expansion we tried making a set with only two new teams, and I believe in general players wanted more new content. On the other hand, now that there are nineteen major teams in the Vs. Universe (with more on the way), some players are suggesting we slow down on adding new teams, possibly as Juan suggested by only adding two or three new teams in a set, or by bringing back old teams to make up half or so of a set. I’m extremely interested on hearing your opinions on this issue.

 

 

This next email is from smokingsocrates. (Don’t worry, that’s not his real name.) As above, I’m going to respond with brackets inside the email.

 

 

Thank you for posting a direct line to the designers of this game. I am impressed that you are taking suggestions and responding to feedback. I am on the metagame, vsrealms, and vsuniverse websites daily, and I study and stay on top of the game. Aside from being an avid player competing at numerous 10K and PCQ events, I have already dropped thousands of dollars on Vs. products.

 

The main reason that I am writing is to give some feedback with the hope that it falls on considerate ears. First, I would like to compliment what you have done well. The Origins sets were amazing and offered the foundation cards, interesting teams, and good effects. I think your sets with greater than four new teams have been your best, while those with fewer new teams have been the worst. The more diverse sets catered to more of your target market, are more enjoyable to draft, and offer a variety that is the spice of gaming life. Your new idea for the Golden Age format is great. However, the idea of using only the last two sets of a given comic set was amazing. It seems like it has taken almost two full sets before a given set becomes playable at a competitive level. These changes may force the metagame to develop at an accelerated pace.

 

Some critiques that may affect the stamina of this game and sales. R&D has a ton of quality multiplayer cards but supports no competitive format. I am a member of a competitive team, I game in a community of 40 gamers, and all of them want to play multiplayer at a 10K or PC level. New people to the game also like the safety of playing group formats. I have noticed that when new players enter a store with an established group of gamers they either sink or swim, but are often turned off by strong players, players with “all the good cards,” or the complexity of the rules. Bring multiplayer to the competitive level. Often times this game divides rather than builds cohesiveness among players. Rather than teaming up with a buddy, players hide their decklists, covet their new tech, and won’t talk honestly about their cards. Two, three, or four player matches may bring about a shift. It will also change the value of team based cards and may expand those interested in the game.

 

 

In my play group there are a number of players that brainstorm new tech, ideas for cards, and talk about changes in the game if we were named king. Our best idea has been the idea of stealth, being walled, or some other defensive term. In short, a character may have an ability like range or flight, but for the defense. That character may not be attacked through a “distance attack” like flight in the back row or range from a back row character. The character may only be able to be attacked “in a physical confrontation.” A character would only be able to attack from the front row and with no other potential defenders in front of the defender (e.g., front row to front row or front row to unprotected back row defender). Also, you guys should make a card called underload in which “a target character is stunned if its defense is more than twice its printed value!”

 

Thanks for your time and consideration.

 

A versus fan

 

{Thanks for the kinds words. I’m going to cut right to the heart of your email, which deals with team and multiplayer formats.

 

While I’m not sure about what the correct implementation of multi-players formats would be, let me tell you that we are definitely trying out different ways to play. I believe Humpherys had mentioned in a previous article that Team Sealed Pack is popular around the office. This is where three players split ten booster packs into three sealed decks and play against other teams. Another format we’re testing is Team Draft. This is a two on two or three on three format where everyone participates in a draft, and then the two teams play against each other. Both of the above formats involve working together to create your decks, and matches are still one on one, with the team’s overall score determining which team won the match.

 

However, what smokingsocrates is suggesting is (in my opinion) even cooler than team formats. What if after a two on two team draft, all four player compete in a team game? Or howabout a six-player draft that ends up getting fought grand melee style?

 

I’m not sure how our organized play department feels about tournaments featuring multi-player matches (there are lots of other issues that need to be settled, such as collusion in grand melee games and what kinds of signaling or advice are allowable in team games), however, I’m very confident that we’ll have team formats (with one on one match play) sometime in the near future.}

 

This next email is from Michael.

 

Hey,

You asked for some feedback, so here is a short one. Great article. I was amazed by all the errata when I printed it out a few days ago. Very unusual for UDE who have a reputation for very thorough playtesting.

 

{It’s all Humpherys fault. No really. He stinks.}

My main opinion is the need to introduce at least a couple of good cards for the existing teams in the new sets too keep them fresh and interesting. MOS was an excellent set for this giving the League and Gotham some very good and interesting new cards. The Teen Titans needed little but got something. A pity the new Arkham cards were so worthless. This was generally a great approach. It only takes two or three playable cards (not Maxie Zeus or Emperor Joker) to lift up a team that has been struggling into the top level. Look at what two cards have done for Sentinels and X-Men.

I hope you continue to support the old factions, especially the ones that are currently badly ignored like Sinister, Arkham, Skrulls, Negative Zone, Straight F4, etc.

Yours,

Michael

 

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’ve been posting emails that touch on issues that we’d like more feedback on. Michael is addressing the issue with legacy cards (cards for older teams that are not currently being featured in a set). Some players want tons of legacy cards for their decks (and to possibly help create new viable decks like Curve Sentinels); other players wants legacy content held to a minimum, with everything in a set devoted to that set’s teams. What’s your opinion?

 

Here are the main issues from this article one more time.

 

Reprinting cards

Re-featuring teams vs moving ahead with all new teams and characters

How many teams each set should contain (especially how many new teams . . . )

Multi-player and team tournaments

Legacy content in a set.

 

So yeah, tell me what you think.

 

Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

 

 

*Okay, maybe not Maxie Zeus**.

**Now I’m expecting all sorts of angry emails from Maxie Zeus fans . . . could he be the new Unus?

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(Metagame Archive) Cerebro #5

By Paul Ross

As avid followers of this column (Hi Mum!) may have realized last week, Cerebro will be appearing bi-weekly rather than weekly from now on. But before you begin wailing and gnashing your teeth, I have three additional pieces of news to allay your despair.

1) Starting next week, I’ll be using every second Sunday to do some Marvel Knights draft analysis. As anybody who knows me will attest, “As a player, Paul makes an excellent judge.” So rather than burden you with too many of my own . . . “innovative” views on the format, I’ll be getting the lowdown from some of the best players in Australia. More on this next week!

2) Two weeks could be too long to wait if you need a quick ruling for a killer deck you’re putting together for a PCQ this weekend. From now on, I will personally reply to every question I receive. As a result, Cerebro will become a compilation of the best questions I’ve already answered, rather than the medium through which I actually answer those questions.

3) Since we’re on the subject of best questions, why not make it official? For each column, I will give away three shiny new Marvel Knights boosters to whoever sends in the best question. Why three boosters? So you can practice all of the tech you will doubtlessly be picking up from next week’s draft column! Please include your full mailing address if you’d like to be eligible for this giveaway. As always, the address is vsrules@gmail.com

Now, it’s time for some questions!

First, a couple of astute readers asked some insightful questions about Blob and My Hero prior to Danny’s column about errata. If you haven’t already, you can find all the answers here.

Robert G from Bakersfield, CA, USA, kicks off this column with some questions about costs.

If I can choose two exhausted characters when targeted by Shocker, why can’t I use an exhausted Gotham Knights character to draw a card via Batman, The Dark Knight or play a Bat-Signal?
 
The difference is that the latter are both costs. You can choose two exhausted characters when targeted by Shocker because its effect doesn’t specify that you must choose ready characters. If you choose two exhausted characters, the resulting modifier will simply fail to do anything.

However, in the case of the Dark Knight and his Signal, exhausting a Gotham Knights character is a cost. If you don’t exhaust a ready character, the cost has not been paid.

I control Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, and Jason Todd ◊ Robin, and play A Child Named Valeria choosing the first mode. If an opponent attacks my Batman, The Dark Knight, what happens if I use Jason’s power?

If a modifier says a cost cannot be paid, then you can’t pay that cost. In other words, if Jason cannot be stunned because of the modifier on A Child Named Valeria, you can’t stun him to pay the cost of his power.

Anthony M, who I have a sneaking suspicion is from Australia, asks a question about timing.

G’day, Paul. I control a ready Sentinel Mark V and no other characters. If my opponent’s Rogue, Anna Raven attacks my Sentinel, can I play Tag Team before Rogue’s exhausting effect resolves?

Sure. Rogue’s triggered effect goes on the chain after she exhausts to become an attacker. That effect doesn’t resolve until you both pass in succession. After your opponent passes, you have priority to play Tag Team, and you may target the Sentinel because it’s a “defender with reinforcement.”

After successive passes, the Tag Team effect resolves. The target’s legality is rechecked during resolution and since your Sentinel is still a “defender with reinforcement,” it gets +2 ATK and +2 DEF this attack.

Then, after successive passes, Rogue’s triggered effect resolves, exhausting the Sentinel and leaving it without reinforcement.

Joe R, who is considerably more circumspect about giving away his country of origin, asks a couple of questions.

I’m playing with a Darkseid’s Elite deck and have Kanto and Shaligo in play. My opponent has a counterless Nimrod and a Bastion. His six resources are all face down except for a single Cover Fire. During my attack step, I pay 1 endurance to flip his Cover Fire face down. It resolves. Then, I pay 3 endurance to use Kanto’s power, targeting Nimrod. He flips up an Underground Sentinel Base, and then attempts to flip up his Cover Fire. If he doesn’t control a defender, can he flip it?

I have an anti-climactically short answer to such an entertainingly long question, and that answer is no. Your opponent can’t flip Cover Fire unless there’s a defender he or she can target.

Super Skrull‘s wording is similar to Beast Boy‘s, and his power triggers multiple times in the event of a team attack. If he’s defending, can his controller discard multiple times, as long as the number of discarded cards is equal to or less than the number of team attackers?

Since both Beast Boy and Super Skrull received new wording in the last update, this is another opportunity to point you in the direction of Danny’s answer-packed column.

The short answer is that Super Skrull’s power no longer triggers multiple times when it’s team attacked, but the end result is still as you describe—that is, you may discard any number of cards up to the number of team attackers.

S. Hamilton, who is not only wary of divulging his country of origin, but seems reluctant to even reveal his first name, asks a question about breakthrough.

I have Advanced Hardware equipped to Lex Luthor, Power Armor. My opponent has the initiative and attacks Lex. If I activate Lex, has he caused breakthrough endurance loss to my opponent? Then, even if he is stunned and I don’t recover him, my opponent cannot recruit a character with a cost of 7 or more the next turn, correct?

This question boils down to the definition of breakthrough endurance loss, which I’ll abbreviate to BEL. It’s been far too long since I’ve abbreviated something in this column. A player only takes BEL in two situations:

1) When a direct attack against him concludes with an attacker’s ATK greater than zero.

2) When a non-team attack against a character he controls concludes with the attacker’s ATK greater than the defender’s DEF, and the defender doesn’t have reinforcement.

Even though Lex is the source of the endurance loss in your question, it’s not BEL. However, if Lex managed to cause BEL in either of the ways described above, your last sentence would be absolutely correct.

Douglas, from London, England, who is evidently going for the whole Bono/Sting one-name-megastar vibe, has a question about everybody’s favorite X-Man.

Wolverine, James Howlett is in my front row and is under attack from Sabretooth, Feral Rage. If I discard a card to move him to my support row, will he lose the defender characteristic and allow Sabretooth to ready? Also, would there be any breakthrough since Sabretooth’s ATK is higher than Wolverine’s DEF?

First of all, a character won’t lose the defender characteristic if it changes rows or areas unless it changes controllers. Since you remain in control of Wolverine, he remains a defender.

Next, an attacker only readies if there’s no defender as the attack is about to conclude. Here, Wolverine is still a defender at that point in time. If you discard a card, his replacement modifier kicks in during attack conclusion. So even if it did remove the defender characteristic (which, I hasten to repeat, it doesn’t), Sabretooth wouldn’t ready because he was facing a defender as the attack was about to conclude.

Finally, with regards to BEL, this falls under category 2 in the previous answer. Assuming both characters simply have their base stats, Sabretooth’s ATK is 3 greater than Wolverine’s DEF. You will lose this much endurance whether or not you replace Wolverine’s stun event.

Randall H, from Sydney, NSW, Australia, does his best to break two new cards.

It is turn 7 and I have the initiative. I have teamed up Brotherhood and Underworld, and have Scarlet Witch, Eldritch Enchantress in my KO’d pile. I pay 2 resource points to play Witching Hour, choosing Scarlet Witch. Can I now pay 2 endurance to play Scarlet Witch, let her trigger resolve, burn my opponent, return her back to my hand, and then pay another 2 endurance to play her from my hand again, and so on?

The plan is a fine one until you hit the phrase and then. The key rule here is that when a card changes zones, any modifiers affecting it in the previous zone don’t affect it in the new zone.

That means that Scarlet Witch can be recruited for 2 endurance when she is initially in your KO’d pile, but she stops being affected by that modifier as soon as she leaves your KO’d pile. If you bounce her to your hand, you will have to use another 2 of your remaining 5 resource points if you wish to recruit her again.

That’s it for this column! I hope to see you next week for my first look at drafting Marvel Knights. In the meantime, you can try and score yourself some boosters to draft with by sending your rules questions to vsrules@gmail.com.

(Metagame Archive) Stall Tactics

By Brian-David Marshall

No lies . . . I’m stalling this week.

No, this is not a “clever” intro to an article about the X-Stall deck or its progenitor Solitaire, although, as I will soon explain, that specific progression could easily be covered in the coming weeks. I’m just buying myself a week to get my sea legs under me for the new direction my column is going to be taking. In the past I have written about Sealed Pack formats, but as I have watched innovation upon innovation during the Constructed portions of Pro Circuit events and especially on the $10K circuit, my attention has been increasingly drawn toward 60-card decks.

My fascination began in the early days of the Pro Circuit Qualifier scene, when I watched countless players try to harness the power of Longshot with Random Punks and the like. Eventually, Mike Thicke started to tear up the PCQ circuit with the counter-curved Wild Vomit. Later, I got to watch Dave Spears take Curve Sentinels all the way through to the finals of the Wizard World Texas $10K tournament. I later learned that the deck was based on a PCQ-winning decklist from the prior week. I could see a direct line from those early PCQ days all the way through to the impact that Curve Sentinels had on Pro Circuit: Los Angeles.

What I want to do is approach various deck archetypes and chronicle their history, from humble PCQ beginnings through triumphant $10K and Pro Circuit incarnations. Sometimes, it’s not even archetypes, as much as it is team affiliations. My first installment in what I am going to be calling “Essential X” (as in Essential Brotherhood, Essential Titans, etc.) should be a two part series that takes one affiliation from one archetype up through an entirely different one.

Essential Sentinels will follow the cadre of purple robots through the development of Wild Vomit, looking at the various iterations of the one of the game’s early popular archetypes. The second part will focus on the development of the more popular, current Sentinel build, Curve Sentinels. One reason I am stalling the launch of the subject until next week is that I’m still researching and I want to make sure I get it right. A conversation with Mike Thicke and Gabe Walls is required, and I am still poring through year-old deck archives to look for early Longshot decks that may have preceded the Vomit archetype.

Some of the decks I want to look at in the coming weeks include Wild Vomit, Curve Sentinels, and the various incarnations of Brotherhood, Teen Titans, and Cosmic Cops. I’m also looking for feedback from readers who can help me unearth clues as to some of these decks’ earliest developers. For the most part, I’m looking for deck iterations that accomplished something significant, such as reaching the elimination bracket of a PCQ and leading other players to pay attention to it.

By looking at early versions of today’s top decks, we can gain a better understanding of how a deck moves forward from its first incarnation. We can look at the extenuating circumstances of the metagame and not only understand why certain decks have evolved, but what forced them to adapt. Hopefully it will provide a resource that deck builders can look back on to reference successful builds of the past.

In the near future players will be forced to think outside of the booster box they have been relying on when building decks. With the Modern Age formats on the horizon, many of the staple team-up cards, teams, plot twists, and locations will be put aside while the new kids on the block get to shine. Hopefully, by looking at the development of successful decks from their primordial beginnings, we will be able to gain some information about how successful decks are constructed.

When Ben Seck won the Sydney $10K tournament with his Cosmic Cops deck, it wasn’t even close to the first time that type of deck had reared its cowled head, but it was the most significant finish by the archetype. This is not to take anything away from Mr. Seck, who managed to find a build for the deck that has set the standard for the archetype. By looking at earlier versions and contrasting them with later, more successful iterations, we can try and isolate the factors that may have held the deck back from earlier success. Who knows, we might even identify a talented but unheralded deck designer hiding in the Pro Circuit Qualifier ranks.

Another example is the X-Stall deck that Eugene Harvey designed for Pro Circuit: Los Angeles. Prior to the PC, there were many decks that used a similar combination of cards to accomplish a similar, albeit slightly different, strategy. Had any of the players who piloted the deck been familiar with the Solitaire archetype, it’s likely that they would have borrowed that deck’s addition of Avalon Space Station. One simple card, taken from a deck with a similar strategy, could have made the difference in the excruciating mirror match between Paul Sottosanti and Antonino DeRosa—a financially compelling reason to pay attention to the decks of the recent past.

As the array of decks in the Vs. System player’s arsenal increases with each new set, it’s ever more important to pay attention to the lessons of the past. For Superman decks, Spider-Friends builds, New Gods, Crime Lords, and other decks that might be lurking on the periphery of the elimination brackets to break through into the spotlight, they may need to look at what factors have allowed previous archetypes to become successful.

As I mentioned earlier, you can help. Write to me with the decks you want to see broken down into their essential components. If you have any clues to said decks’ origins that you want to see tracked down, let me know about them as well. Consider this a class project with no teacher—we’re all going to take this course together. I’m going to be kicking things off in one week with Wild Vomit. If you have any information about significant developments with this deck early on please write me at brian dot davidmarshall at gmail dot com.

See you in one week with the story of an unlikely alliance between a mutant and the mutant hunter.

(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: Fight to the Finish

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

When you’re looking for high-quality jank, there are many places to search. Some like to look at characters traditionally considered “alternate drops.” Others prefer to search DC Origins, cards 64 to 85. But often, the best place to find the Vs. System’s un-pearled grains of sand are at the end of the set. You know, that sweet spot that’s in every expansion—the one filled with unaffiliated cards, each with untold positive and negative potential.

So that’s what I did as I pondered what I’d write about today. I went to my Marvel Origins binder, and like an old friend who owed me money but didn’t have any, MOR sadly left me high and dry. As much as I tried, I just didn’t think that readers would appreciate the subtle beauty of cards like Fall Back!, Last Stand, and Reconnaissance. In fact, I was pretty sure that I didn’t appreciate those cards, either. I lovingly added each of them to my list of “Cards that Should Have Had a Scratch-n-Sniff Panel” and moved on.

However, I found just what I needed in Web of Spider-Man. As is so often the case, the genius here isn’t mine, as I only stumbled across a card I’d seen Eric Bess* abusing a while back. But with luck, he’ll be somewhere in Argentina right now, not reading about my intellectual thievery.

Today we’re looking at Fight to the Finish. For those of you who haven’t drafted a lot of Web, it’s a plot twist with threshold 1 that asks you to choose an attacker an opponent controls and one of your defenders. Then, when any of the selected characters is stunned by another chosen character during that attack, the stunned character is KO’d. At first blush, it looks like one of those cards that in essence gives the same effect to both players. It stands out from effects like Carnage and Gravesite because not only does it apply the condition to both players (theoretically bad), it’s also narrow: you can only activate it when you’re defending. But, like cards in this undervalued little group, it has one big thing going for it.

The opponent never sees it coming.**

In reality, Fight to the Finish is highly playable in a few cases and quite decent in several others. In general terms, you want to be using it in situations where you’re stunning back and doing so up the curve. If you’re just doing an even trade (like, say, a 3-drop for a 3-drop), you might be getting something out of the deal, but you won’t really be pushing its mathematical potential. On a more micro level, sometimes an even exchange numbers-wise can end up being in your favor, but such situations are conditional enough that I’m not really going to argue them here (though it’s always nice to take out Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal before he can see the mid-game). If you’re going to be spending a card on Fight to the Finish, you’ll want to see some pretty big number advantages.

Sinister Syndicate is a great deck for this card. There’s been some debate lately as to how viable Syndicate Rush will be in the Marvel Modern Age format, and naysayers seem to think that the deck will lose some power without the DC-bred A Death in the Family. Well, here’s your replacement. What you may lose in board presence, you instead make up for in maintained endurance, and there are several cases where the trade-off is beyond beneficial—who really wants to pay for Tombstone, anyway? If you play carefully, the result is essentially a more resilient Syndicate build that can take some lumps while still dishing out its signature amounts of board control. Goblin Glider, Tinkerer, and No Fear all capitalize on this card, and they’re all legal in the new format. There’s no guesswork here. You’ll either play Fight to the Finish, or you won’t play Syndicate. With no Overload or Not So Fast to ruin your plans, the card is just begging to be played.

Even in Golden Age the Syndicate can put Fight to good use, but here they are of course overshadowed by The New Brotherhood variants. While Nasty Surprise and No Fear aren’t anywhere close to being staples for these decks, a pair of The New Brotherhoods means almost any of your 1-drops could be taking out 3-drops on the opponent’s side. That means fewer options for reinforcement or even prevention of direct attack, which both standard TNB and Blitz obviously adore.

The moral of this part of the story is that anything using defensive ATK pumps loves this card. Nasty Surprise and No Fear see significant amounts of play, but the current environment is still locked in the mindset of the tempo that Vs. seeks to dictate: do your damage when you have the initiative, steal it when you can, and defend when you don’t have it. Progressive players like Maik Stich (whose defensive Brotherhood deck with nothing smaller than a 4-drop took ninth at the Hannover $10K) are beginning to explore antithetical approaches to this convention and are finding a lot of success. Fight to the Finish could be a big part of that in the future. It’s the epitome of rogue play, an offbase idea made even more effective by the fact that no one has really seen it yet.

But wait, there’s more. Fight to the Finish works well in other Golden Age archetypes, too. By the time you read this article, you’ll probably know the following fact: Hans Joachim Hoeh just won his second $10K in Bologna. He did it with Curve Sentinels, and he was running the four Nasty Surprise/four Overload combo that has been seeing so much success in the archetype. Fight fits nicely in Curve Sentinels for a few reasons, some of which might surprise you.

First up, Nasty Surprise aids stun back, and so do early-game power-ups. And, as previously mentioned, Fight to the Finish likes that. But yeah, moving right along, Nimrod loves this card. Note that Fight requires the character who will potentially get KO’d to actually be stunned, so if a 5-drop swings into Nimrod and he still has his counter, you can play Fight once the attack becomes legal and watch the opponent begin to weep. Some players will first swing with a smaller character armed with ATK pumps to remove the counter and then attack with a 5-drop, but if you don’t take Fight into account, this is a far riskier play. I leaves you without recourse if the low-drop is Overloaded, and if the Sntinel player has a defensive modifier,you probably just wasted a one-shot ATK pump. In this situation, Fight to the Finish punishes a player for making the right decision and attacking with the 5-drop first.

On top of that, once you reach turn 6 and Bastion hits the field, all your characters essentially become stun-back machines, a trend which continues as long as Bastion remains vertical. Granted, you likely won’t need Fight to the Finish once Magneto enters play, but it can really set you up to capitalize on his arrival.

At the same, time the card can work well in Titans if you can find the room. Tamaran fuels stun-backs, Hawk provides an easy way to stun up the curve on defense, and Garth can allow you to run a pair of Fights and use them effectively. Looking at the Leander-esque model, Fight doesn’t really fit, but if you’re playing a wider spread of low-drops augmented by Ka-Boom!, Foiled, and Twin Firearms then it can really work in your favor. Unlike with Finishing Move, you don’t need to have a ready character to use Fight to the Finish, so it won’t be a move that’s easily anticipated. In addition, you can get that extra attack in or give Roy an additional 2 ATK and still maintain your ability to KO a character. It’s a bit riskier, because Fight is less proactive than attacking and then using Finishing Move—you give up some of your control over the situation. But the rewards can be exceedingly worthwhile.

Fight to the Finish has the potential to be a play-worthy card in both of its legal Constructed formats. In Golden Age, it could be an important part in a slide away from conventionally-accepted tempo. In Marvel Modern Age, it’s going to be an integral part of Sinister Syndicate and it could be a great match for Crime Lords. Though it’s seen virtually no play thus far, it’s definitely worth a look, and it’s only going to get more important as time goes on.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

Questions? Comments? Want to suggest a card that deserves some time out of the dusty pages in your trade binder? Email me at Jason@metagame.com.

*Head of OP for Everything South of Texas.

**Unless he’s running Reconnaissance . . .

(Metagame Archive) Design Vs Inefficiency: A Day in The Life of My Coworkers

By Danny Mandel

I was asked a while back* to give details about a “day in the life” working in R&D. I’m sure many of you think it’s all gaming all the time. Well, I’m here to tell you it is. It absolutely is.

Okay, not entirely. You see, some of us at the office—let’s call them “designers”—have to take care of all sorts of the niggling little non-gaming components that are required to build a set. Things like making sure the art matches the mechanics, coming up with names and versions (with help from John Wick and others from the creative content team), templating, organizing and reorganizing the master file, and so on.

While the designers are getting eye strain from staring at their computer monitors, a second group—let’s call them “developers”—get to play games all day and sing songs and watch TV and watch movies and talk on the phone and go shopping and sing songs.

I hate developers.

But, my hatred aside, I’ve decided in the interest of science (and saving myself from having to write a “real” article this week), to present you with a day in the life of each of the guys who works on Vs. in his own words.

Here’s the email I sent to the guys:

Hey,

I’ve been requested to write a “day in the life of R&D” style article and I could use your help.

All I need for you to do is give me a summary of the various activities you did today. Feel free to be as detailed as you want. I can either print what you write or rewrite it if you want.

Thanks,

Danny

Here’s what they sent back:

Note: As it turned out I didn’t have to do any rewriting. Nice job, guys! Except for you, Humpherys. You stink!

Any comments I added are in parenthesis like this:

(Danny: Look at me! I’m a sample comment!)

Also, while these might not be the most serious replies, they’ll at least show you a little bit about how each of these guys’ minds work.

From Matt Hyra

Rolling into work at least a half an hour late, I have a hard time finding a parking spot, so sometimes I have to go park on the street. Trying to sneak past security because I lost my badge months ago always gets the old adrenaline going.

(Danny: Two important points here: 1. We all have these neat little badges that we have to wear to show that we really, really, in our heart of hearts, work at Upper Deck. If you don’t have your badge in the morning, they make you do push-ups. 2. Matt drives a Porsche. Yeah, yeah, I know, this isn’t helping to remove the “working in R&D is like being a rock star” image, but I felt it was worth mentioning because every once in a while he lets me take a ride in it.)

I spend the first hour of my day looking over my email inbox and looking for a department that brought donuts. This allows me to miss the “important” morning meeting that some jerk decided to hold on something inconsequential and boring.

After 11 a.m., it’s all about trying to figure out when and where to go for lunch. The rules of lunch are:

~If the place you want to go is far away, you have to start drumming up support for your choice early.

~If the restaurant you want to go to is nearby, its name can’t be mentioned until we hit the parking lot.

~A minimum of 15 minutes must be spent deciding where to eat.

~Another 15 minutes must be spent figuring out who drove and who is willing to drive. You see, no one in R&D drives, so this gets tricky.

(Danny: What Matt says here isn’t entirely true. Actually, only Matt and I drive. Everyone else isn’t adding comments to this article.)

~During lunch, at least six “bad beat” poker stories must be shared.

~When the bill arrives, everyone will have a $20 and no $1s, and two people will want to put the meal on a credit card.

~Whoever puts the meal on a card collects the cash and usually ends up with a free meal from everyone else overpaying.

After our two-hour, $20 lunch (gourmet milkshakes optional), we get back to the office and zone out for another hour as the food coma wears off.

From 3:00 to 4:00, we get in a good hour of testing and then start looking at the clock. The rules for leaving are:

~The later you arrive in the morning, the closer to 5:00 you get to leave.

~If you carpool, you get to leave even earlier, as obviously you don’t want to make your poolers have to wait for you.

~If there is a “pack-check” scheduled for that day, it always happens after 5:00, so be sure to cut out by 4:15.

(Danny: A pack-check is when a bunch of us sit around a table opening freshly printed boxes of cards to check things like collation and print quality and to make sure there aren’t other random errors. While it was extremely cool the first time we did it way back in Marvel Origins, some of the luster has faded, especially when we have to do it over and over for each different language’s set release.)

Arriving at home, we each put in a good six hours of work, interrupted by an occasional “all-in” and a prayer for no bad beats. 

(Danny: I should probably explain that Matt’s a little bitter that everyone else in R&D is a better poker player than he is. In truth, not everyone in R&D plays poker, but Matt is so bad at it that the guys who don’t play come out ahead of him.)

From Dave “Rainbow” Humpherys

—Read Vs. Rules email list regarding the functionality of a keyword in the Avengers set.

(Danny: Our rules team exists only in cyberspace. Essentially, R&D (or sometimes OP, which stands for Organized Play) posts to the rules team list, and then they get back to us. One of the cool things about our rules guys is that they don’t view our attempts to try wacky things with the game as threatening to the very fabric of the rules’ existence. Rather, they take our wacky ideas as a challenge to which they almost always rise.)

—Rejected some offers to play Vs. In-house League Matches.

(Danny: We have this sort of in-house prerelease Sealed Pack league where everybody gets five packs of the newest set to build a sealed deck with. Then, after playing like five matches over the week, we all get another pack to add to the mix. This goes on for about three weeks. The problem is that the league uses real cards (right now it’s Marvel Knights), and R&D is actually working at least two sets ahead (Green Lantern is finished, and we’re in the middle of Avengers and early into Justice League). Therefore, as Humpherys said, we often have to skip some of our matches in order to play games with the in-progress sets.)

—Added characters with concealed to our test card proxy print-out program.

(Danny: We’re constantly upgrading the quality of our playtest cards. When we first started doing this, we’d print out four copies of every card in the set on horrible stickers. Not only was this incredibly wasteful, as we had to print out the whole set every time we wanted more cards, but the stickers were pretty hard on the peepers, especially when there were a bunch of them in play. Nowadays, we have pretty pictures (fake pictures, but pictures nonetheless) to give us visual cues as to what the proxies do.)

—Updated the development master Avengers file to incorporate updated names and art.

—Made many game text changes to the Avengers development master file.

(Danny: While that may sound like Humpherys has gone mad with power and makes changes whenever and wherever he sees fit, in actuality, he makes the changes based on tons of developer feedback. Also, at times when he actually does go mad with power, we give him a fake “master file” onto which he can make as many changes as he wants.)

—Played some Avengers decks.

—Took a quick look at the fan site forums.

(Danny: If by “quick,” he means, “slow and exhaustive” . . .)

—Ate a couple of large, unhealthy cheeseburgers while making fun of Danny, who was eating his burgerless burgers.

(Danny: Waitaminute! Okay, here’s the thing. I tend to avoid red meat because of the whole keep-an-eye-on-the-heart thing. So when we take our monthly trip to In-N-Out, I order their grilled cheese sandwich, which is pretty much a burgerless burger. So yeah, I guess what Humpherys said is true.)

—Solicited new ideas for a handful of Avengers cards and worked out new powers on those cards with those who responded.

—Made a couple of new Avengers decks.

—Played a couple more games with Avengers decks.

—Put on headphones to drown out Danny’s constant chirping.

(Danny: Okay, that’s a lie. It’s not constant. I mean, it’s not literally constant.)

—Felt sorry for Andrew Yip being sick.

(Danny: Andrew’s been out all week. More on him later.)

—Was told I had a sentence in my upcoming Metagame article that made no sense.

(Danny: You see, Humpherys is what I consider “a terrible writer”. So before he turns in his articles, I like to read them over and belittle him. Sometimes he cries.)

—Realized it was time to go home.

From Lord Mike Hummel

8:00 Turned on computer.

8:03 Checked new emails (19 JL, 3 RT, 5 R/D, 2 OP, 6 PM, 2 JD, and 12 Misc)

JL = Judge List

RT = Rules Team

R/D = R&D

OP = Organized Play

PM = Product Managers

JD = Jeff Donais

Misc = People wanting me to review their game proposals, send them free stuff, or suggesting we make a (insert IP) Vs. game.

IP = Intellectual Property = Transformers, GI Joe, Thundercats . . .

9:16 Got caffeine.

9:20 Reviewed yesterday’s Avengers file update, and worked on new mechanics suggestions for problem cards.

9:56 Walked into the playroom to tried and get someone to play an Avengers Constructed test deck against me. Quickly realized that I had a 10 a.m. meeting and instead just watched a game in progress. Asked the question, “What if we did this . . .” six times in three minutes.

10:00 First meeting of the day, met with Creative and Brand to work on advance Avengers solicitation text (the three-page fold out). Finalized the set name as just Avengers, and not Avengers Assemble or Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

(Danny: I’d like to comment on stuff like these meetings, but I really don’t know about all the weird, secret stuff Mike does to make Vs. great.)

10:53 Walked into the playroom and tried to get someone to play an Avengers Constructed test deck against me. Quickly realized that I had an 11 a.m. meeting and instead just watched a game in progress. Asked the question, “What if we did this . . .” nine times in six minutes.

11:00 Met with Creative, Brand, and OP about the topics/content for the next two Vs. Dork Tower comic strips. Discussed where/when to release the first comic we had already received. 

(Danny: These are one-page comics that you see in the back of Scrye.

11:30 Met with OP to talk about Avengers materials for the sneak peek (yes we need to plan these six months out). Determined which images to use on t-shirts, and talked about whether we wanted to create new extended art sized stacker cards as the prerelease cards for Avengers. Considered mentioning this in Danny’s article, then checking the fan sites to see if they liked the idea.

12:00 Went for burgers with the R&D group. Joined the group in making fun of Danny. Remembered I had a 1:00 p.m. meeting.

1:00 Went to a Brand meeting to start discussing what the 2006 releases are going to be.

2:00 Reviewed the final proofs on the new Batman starter decks.

2:30 Reviewed the first copy of the new rulebook for the Batman starter decks.

3:00 Played one internal Marvel Knights league game (won), then picked up my new pack for next week. Got a Varnae. Wondered if I should suggest making an EA version of the card . . .

3:30 Checked my Mike_Hummel@Ihatemylife.com account. Read 63 “Why wasn’t Black Panther in MK?” emails.

4:00 Reviewed the art requests for the JLA set.

4:30 Reviewed new images for the Avengers set.

5:00 Remembered that Brian Hacker was running a chat tonight and decided to leave for home at 5:00 instead of the standard 6:00 to 6:30.

5:02 Walked past a bunch of non-R&D people playing Vs. in the main room after they had signed out for the night.

5:05 Reminded myself that I have the best job in the world.

From Justin Gary

—Read email.

—Finished checking the final cardsheet for the Batman starter.
(Danny: Justin’s the lead design of the Batman starter set. He’s doing a great job**.)
—Played Avengers test decks.

—Read VsRealms forums.

—Went home to have lunch slightly healthier than In-N-Out Burger.

—Worked on new Avengers decks.

—Played an in-house Marvel Knights league game.

(Danny: Notice, he didn’t say whether he won or lost. What do you think that means?)
—Discussed changes to Avengers file.

—Made brand new exciting Avengers deck teaming with X-Men.

—Smashed opponents with brand new exciting Avengers deck with X-Men.

—Wrote email about my day.

—Went home.

(Danny: As you can see, Justin didn’t put as much effort into this whole day in the life thingy as everyone else. This is because he’s not very smart or charming or tall.)

(Danny: The next two guys on here are contracting with us for few months. After that, we’ll determine if they’re offered permanent positions. It was my idea to have them fight to death to see who gets the job, but Humpherys said no. He gets squeamish around blood.)

From Brian Kibler

As one of the newcomers here at UDE R&D, I’m still getting used to the grueling daily routine imposed upon us by Drill Sergeant Humpherys. After dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn (or 7:30 a.m., which is close enough) and making it to the office sometime between 8:00 and 9:00, it’s hard enough for me to just keep my eyes open, let alone focus on the day’s work. The first step is checking my email for the daily mandates from our evil overlord, which generally consist of updates to the latest file and unreasonable demands like “work on testing Modern Age today.”

After countless (read: three) hours slaving over the playtesting table smashing my latest Marvel Knights/Avengers Modern Age deck into all comers and finally starting to lose (read: half the cards in my deck got changed because it hasn’t lost in a week. I think Hump is jealous.), I took a well deserved break from gaming to . . . well, game.

The in-house Marvel Knights league that Humpherys loathes so much serves as a welcome respite from my tireless work testing Avengers, though I’ve only played (and won!) three of my twelve scheduled matches over the past few weeks because everyone is too scared of me (read: I’m too busy and/or lazy). My escape is short-lived, however, because the most important part of the R&D day is fast approaching: lunch.

An hour and two In-N-Out double-doubles later (read: I really need to start going to the gym), it’s back to the grind to find that dark master Humpherys is piling on further unreasonable demands—test Golden Age! With Andrew Yip out sick, our manpower (and my ability to find someone with whom to chat about World of Warcraft) is drastically reduced, so Justin Gary and I work our fingers to the bone in the endless shuffling. I momentarily managed to sneak away from our slavedriver to pick up new packs for the next week of the MK league, but I heard the crack of the whip from the R&D room and had to rush back for fear of the Hump’s wrath. He kept us working so hard I had to wait until this morning to add the new cards to my league deck. The humanity!  

From Ben Seck (also known as TBS, which stands for The Ben Seck, which is just his name with the word “the” in front of it)

(Danny: It’s also worth noting that TBS is from Australia. Or maybe it’s not . . . )

Since I had to move from a different country to work in R&D meant that for the first few weeks, I had the pleasure of staying at various R&D members’ apartments. This experience has lead me to become a fine connoisseur of couches. Needless to say, they varied in quality and size. I don’t want to disparage any particular couch . . . ummm . . . who am I kidding? For simplicity’s sake, I’ll rate how their “comfiness” on a small scale, illustrated below:

#1. Brian Hacker and Dave Smith’s couch

#2. The Known Universe

#3 Danny Mandel and Dave Humphreys’s couch

So after a long night on D&D’s couch, we get up early for an exciting day of gaming. Danny keeps his mental faculties on high alert with a healthy breakfast of Chocolate Lucky Charms. Unfortunately, it has the side effect of making him very hyperactive on the way to work, which means that we have a lot of discussions, with topics ranging from which Green Lantern cards are broken, to who’s who in Danny’s love life (this space for rent). I’m sure that Roy Harper <> Arsenal was created during one of these frenetic driving discussions.

(Danny: Sigh . . . )

Once we get to work, I usually dive into the latest card list sent to me from Dave Humphreys (cruel tyrant of Vs. Development), looking for good cards to break. After I’ve come up with some candidates to build a deck around, I’ll print out some copies and head to the R&D room to test some theories out. Usually somewhere between cutting up the new cards and sleeving them, I’ll be informed that the cards that I’m playing with have changed or even worse, been completely removed from the set! It’s hard to break cards when they get changed before your very eyes. Some of the developers get particularly attached to some of their pet cards, and it’s not unusual to hear Justin Gary let out a scream of anguish as yet another favorite strategy gets changed.

On occasion, we are able to get in an R&D playtest draft before lunch. There are quite a few non–R&D members of UDE that also enjoy a game of Vs., and they often grab the opportunity to join in the fun. My first R&D draft made me long for the real cards, since none of the Avengers cards had art, and so I was reduced to reading printed bits of paper that had Captain America scrawled on the top!

(Danny: Yep, that’s your first spoiler: Captain America is in!)

Lunch is always a fun experience (work doesn’t usually stop during the lunch break) as we discuss all manner of game theory and specific card design. You’d think that talking about it all the time would make us want to take a break from it—no siree! We’re all hardcore gamers around here, and any opportunity to get in a discussion is welcomed. It seems to me that when an argument about whether Galactus or Dark Phoenix wins in a fight can be considered work-related, you’ve got the right job.

(That is all I have so far—let me know if you need a little more)

Ben

(Danny: I left his little “let me know if you need a little more” thing in there to be comprehensive and to show that he’s a little teacher’s pet.)

On Andrew Yip

Andrew recently took ill and won’t be back for several days. We all miss him and hope he gets better soon. Mostly so we can get back to our usual routine of sending him out in the morning to get us breakfast.

Okay, that’s all I got today. What? What’s that? How did I spend my day? Well, obviously I spent it working on this article. Also, I sang a song about wearing big pants.

Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

And tune in next time for a look at some reader response to a hot issue. And by hot, I mean, important and relevant and popular. Not on fire.

* Good idea, Joshua! (sTaRsCrEaM on vsrealms.com)

** Actually, I haven’t really been paying attention to how he’s been doing, but he sits next to me, so I figure I should say something nice.

(Metagame Archive) After the Bomb Drops . . . Pro Circuit Amsterdam

By Tim Willoughby

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new format to consider. Actually, as far as my preparation for tournaments is concerned, I have two (Golden Age with Marvel Knights for $10K London and Marvel Silver Age for PC Amsterdam) to consider. However, for this article, I will be focusing on the Silver Age of the Marvel Universe and what we can expect to see in Amsterdam.

With Dr. Doom, Wolverine, Magneto, and friends all failing to make it through immigration to Amsterdam, the Marvel universe in Europe is likely to be wholly different from anything seen since the very first $10K event, way back when everything was still sparkly and fresh. What does this mean for those of us building decks for Amsterdam? There is a whole new metagame!

The following is a big list of cards that I’m actually quite glad I don’t have to worry about while in the land of windmills and bicycles.

Have a Blast!

KaBoom!

Foiled

Global Domination

Concrete Jungle

Firefly

Josef Witichi

Relocation

Okay, I’m going to stop there because I think the pattern is becoming relatively clear . . . while America is a big land of “hate” (as we TCGer’s like to call cards that mess with our best laid plans), there will be virtually none of it available in Amsterdam if you fancy playing with locations and ongoing plot twists. Yes, there is a girl wandering the streets of Holland’s capital who goes by the name of Typhoid Mary, but when one compares that with a Joker blowing things up at every turn, it seems like an altogether rather civilized tradeoff. When Terrax and The Rose are the other threats to your resource row, a few new options suddenly become viable.

Probably not Mole Man, though.

So all of a sudden, we have a metagame that is more amenable than ever to playing team-ups and powerful locations. Is there anything else that has become significantly saucier with this curveball that Jeff Donais has so graciously pitched at us?

While you were busy thinking, I was doing a little dance. I call it the “no more Overload” dance. From almost as soon as I started playing this game, I had found myself in a curious love/hate relationship with Overload. While it is a joy to use on one’s opponent, it is really quite miserable when he or she gets the hint and does it back. We have reached the point where the cat is well and truly out of the bag about the power of Savage Beatdown and Overload. What is the solution to this? Rather than stuffing the cat back into the bag (very bad PR indeed for UDE, who I’m sure is very animal friendly*), they have made a whole new animal—one that it is up to us to tame.

Being able to make characters ridiculously large on the front end seems like the most comic book thing possible to do. Now we can go to the Pro Circuit and do just that without the fear of our comic book heroes being unable to take the strain.

So, who are the big winners in this new spin on things?

Sinister Syndicate!

This much-maligned bunch of reprobates hasn’t exactly received a lot of love on the tournament scene thus far. Everyone has been able to savagely beat them down, and these guys (and their new girlfriend Scorpia, who is no doubt feeling somewhat outnumbered) were lacking any huge strengths that weren’t amply addressed by a 1-cost plot twist that—despite the silver number at the bottom—has become all too common. The addition of concealed (and the removal of Flame Trap) also makes life very interesting for their swarmy strategy. A dedicated syndicate of villains can dish out an awful lot of damage once characters start getting cheeky and hiding, rather than protecting their ultimate master.

New Teams!

Okay, so maybe the new teams haven’t dramatically benefited from the format swings and roundabouts. But, maybe they have. We just don’t know yet. One way or another, there is a whole new mass of mileage for each of them without the threats of the current decks ruling the roost in the Golden Age***. The X-Statix will (all puns aside) be very, very happy not to have to deal with their guys getting savagely exhausted by control decks every turn. The Marvel Knights should be happy that the risk of going out at midnight will no longer be met by the cold hard slap in the face that is Have a Blast!. For the Underworld, not having Garth ◊ Tempest and Avalon Space Station benefiting from Gravesite should be a nice little starter to their tournament career.

For the creative deck builder, this is a happy, happy time. New lines have been drawn. Will the Spider-Friends deck from PC So Cal rule the roost without interference from the majority of its competitors that don’t fancy a trip across the pond? Time will tell. I’m kind of hoping that things will be shaken up just a little bit. For those of you who are clutching at your Dr. Doom safety blanket, rocking backwards and forwards in a corner somewhere, terrified at the idea of innovating in a whole new country, here are a few tips on creativity that you might find useful.

Creativity is a rather elusive beast. It can’t be bottled and sold, though Van Gogh did seem to rather enjoy his Absinthe. Ultimately, creative sparks will always come from an individual. From there, the flames can be fanned by a big group, but the initial kernel must come from somewhere.

I would recommend, if at all possible, that you initially get together with some friends, pool your cards, and each go away to build decks for whichever team you like the most. Try not to leave any out. Test them against each other. Test them against the best decks you can find.

If you are really, really good, or really lucky (which works just as well), then you’ll stumble on the next big thing right away. If not, then you should end up with a pretty good idea of what the good people at UDE have decided are the general themes of each team.

This is the first big secret of creativity. A little bit of thievery goes a long way. Various massively creative people have spent a great deal of time and energy working out what it is they want you to think. Somewhere out there, there’s a Dave Humphreys trying to control your mind through cunning card development. Personally, I wear a little tin-foil hat at all times to stop this, but every now and again, it can be quite useful. Take what you have learned from general play with each of the teams and see if you can map out what the strengths and weaknesses of each team are.

For example, Arkham Inmates is really quite saucy at the following:

Discard

Exhaustion effects

KO effects

General disruption (bounce, cannot ready effects)

Unfortunately, they have some slight issues with fighting the good fight, as many of their characters are a little fragile.

Once you have each of the relevant teams mapped out in terms of what they can and can’t do (at least in terms of what R&D wants you to think), it’s time to see whether or not the strengths of the team can effectively deal with the weaknesses of everyone else, and vice versa. Also, start looking for random off-team additions of characters and plot twists that can either play up a strength (we like to have super-strengths) or deal with a weakness.

Ultimately, Arkham Inmates has (thus far) proven to be strong, but not in the areas that are the most directly relevant to winning the game. While they do many annoying things, this is often made somewhat moot by the fact that, all the while, they’re getting pounded by characters with amazing superpowers.

Find something you think is strong and run with it. Every time you run into a brick wall, don’t give up until you have determined that you cannot go under it, around it, or through it in your pursuit of victory.

There’s one final thing to bear in mind. Don’t assume that the speed of this format will be in any way related to that of previous formats. We have always had The New Brotherhood decks, which served as the clock on the format, and control decks that threatened their most worrisome effects on turn 8. Try to get an idea of which—speed or late game power—is the dominating factor in this new format. If you can get the jump on everyone else, I’ve heard that $40,000 is quite a lot of money.

Please feel free to email me at the address below if you have any comments, queries, requests for future article topics, or whatever. I have just gotten myself a little digital camera, so if anyone has any suggestions for poses for my little picture on the site, or wants to see anything Vs. related that only works visually (like the proper technique for shuffling your deck one-handed), then drop me a line.

Tim “Doing the No-Overload Polka” Willoughby

timwilloughby [at] hotmail [dot] com

*Just look at Danny**.

** I’m joking, Danny. You’re my favorite, honest.

*** I can’t help but think that ultimately, saying that I enjoy playing in the Golden Age of Vs. will make me feel rather old. I’m already old enough to enjoy most of the fringe benefits of living in England (I can drink, drive, get married, whatever . . . though not all at the same time).

(Metagame Archive) Voices from the Field: It’s All in the Format!

By Ben Kalman

As most (if not all) of you know, Jeff Donais dished out a sweet surprise just in time for Valentine’s Day—he sent out a letter last week that gave us a taste of the changes being implemented to make the Pro Circuit more exciting.

As expected, instant doom cried forth from many pairs of lips. Any change will immediately cause anguish in the minds of some people. There will always be those who dislike change and would prefer an eternal status quo. Change, however, is healthy, and every game needs a dose of it now and then to keep things moving forward and avoid stagnation.

The main issue here is the Golden Age versus Modern Age debate. Golden Age is essentially a Vintage Vs. System format, which means that any set is legal in a Golden Age tournament. Modern Age is essentially a block format in which only the two most recent sets of Marvel or DC, depending on which type of Modern Age tournament it is, are legal in that format. Some long-time players will decry the Modern Age format, because it means that all of the cards from the old-school sets that they’ve hoarded into play sets are not legal in that format. On the flipside, newer players really tend to like this format, because it gives them a chance to compete as pros without the difficulties (not to mention the expenditure of time and money) of tracking down necessary cards from the old sets or learning what thousands of old cards do.

Love it or hate it, there are a few aspects of this new multi-format schedule that must be considered in terms of the health of the overall game.

First and foremost, this is not set rotation. While we may someday see set rotation in this game, there are no plans to do so right now, and if you read between the lines of Dave Humpherys’s recent Metagame.com article on these formats, you’ll see that he has essentially told us that there are no plans to eliminate the Golden Age format any time soon. If the Pro Circuit maintains alternating formats and ensures that at least one or two PC events each year are Golden Age, then this is a fantastic development for this game.

Why? Because this is a Professional Circuit, and to truly show one’s mettle on the PC, one must be able to demonstrate competence in a variety of formats. Remember that the PCs and PCQs are not the be-all-end-all of competitive play. These formats do not affect your local Hobby League or weekly tournaments. They do not affect the $10K tournaments, which will mostly remain Golden Age (and are individually governed). They merely affect Pro Circuit events and qualifiers to Pro Circuit events, so if you’re not a pro, there is no need to worry.

Alternate formats such as these are true tests of a professional’s abilities within a game. They shake up the structure of the metagame, push people off of their heels and onto their toes, and force people not to rely on the same old decks (or worse, net decks) that they’ve used since Day One with a bare minimum of alterations. Anyone can repeatedly tune up a proven successful deck and continue to perform with it (to a degree). But how many can work within a changing system, perform under alternate formats, and prove that his or her skills as a player and a pro go beyond a single-format lane? Tunnel vision will never help a game to grow. Just as there were complaints that Day 2 of PC events was Booster Draft, there are and will be complaints about alternate formats. However, the players that come out on top are those who are strong and have skills at the fundamentals of the game, rather than those who rely on crutches or those who are one-dimensional players. And, like the complaints about the Day 2 Booster Drafts, there was complaint upon complaint about one-game matches—complaints which died down quickly as players began to enjoy and appreciate it.

As well, the nomenclature of these formats (Golden Age/Modern Age) leads me to wonder whether we may someday, when there are many more sets, see other formats introduced on either the PC or in $10K events. Maybe we’ll see a Silver or Bronze Age format using certain sets from the past.

In the end, these sorts of changes tend to turn out for the best, and they often (if not usually) add flavor to the game and the Pro Circuit. As well, UDE has been really good at adding nice twists to spice up the tournament formats. The Marvel vs. DC format at the So Cal $10K was made even more interesting with the announcement that the winning side would get double prize money—a good way to gain a few extra spectators and add some spirit to the mix. Well, they’re at it again—the winner of the Marvel Modern Age PC and the winner of the DC Modern Age PC will face off against one another during PC So Cal, and anyone who won a PCQ during one of the Modern Age PCQ seasons who shows up in a t-shirt of his or her winning imprint (Marvel or DC) will get double prize money, too. It’s the little touches of flavor like this that put professional Vs. on top of the game.

The other news item that got me excited about the up and coming year in competitive Vs. was the announcement of Sealed Pack $10K events. Since I personally prefer Sealed Pack to Constructed, you could say that I’ve been waiting for this format for quite a while. I expect that there will be some people who cry foul against this idea, as well, but I am on the side of those who believe that Booster Draft and Sealed Pack formats take a lot of skill. Ideally, I’d love to see a $10K Booster Draft made up of pods of four to eight players, though that may be a tad difficult logistically. However, since PCQs are split between Sealed Pack and Constructed, it’s about time that Sealed Pack Vs. hit the higher tiers of competitive play. I even wonder whether the PC will eventually rear its head into Sealed Pack territory . . . though that may be a bit much.

Well, competitive Vs. is looking good for 2005, and I can’t wait to hear more about Worlds, which will hopefully be the culmination of a successful year. In the meantime, sharpen those skills and get ready for a Wild Ride!

Also known by his screen name Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the Vs. community since day one. He started the first major player in the online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, which now boasts well over 1300 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG