(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: Betrayal

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Welcome to the first edition of my new Metagame.com column, The Light of Play! I had previously been writing Totally Freakin’ Broken, and while some readers really enjoyed that series, I felt that now was a good time for a change. So, from now on, I’ll be writing articles about those cards sitting at the back of your trade binder. If I hit my mark, maybe you’ll dust off a few and give them a shot.

In other words, I’m writing about jank.

I love undervalued and overlooked cards, and I have the foiled Arkham deck to prove it. Most innovations in Vs. are only partially reliant on new cards—much of the game’s championship level creativity comes from older cards to which only a few people ever paid attention. Curve Sentinels is a good example of this. Now that Tri-Sentinel has been replaced, the deck only uses a handful of cards from sets printed after Marvel Origins. What about X-Stall? Take out Mimic, Imperiex, Sunfire, Emma Frost, and Pleasant Distraction, and what’s left? That’s right . . . a whole pile of cards that most players once wrote off as house insulation and craft materials.*

It’s easy to see underplayed cards from sets gone by as being over, done with, and not worth examining. However, the current metagame has proven that such cards are often the complete opposite, actually shaping and directing the future of Vs. System. So, every week my subject will be one that I consider a potential highlight in the current environment. Sometimes it will be an old card, and sometimes it will be a new one that has yet to see much use. It will always be a card that deserves to see the light of day in serious competition, but hasn’t yet.

With that said, we turn to Betrayal.

When I first discussed auto-stun effects in an earlier column, I felt that Betrayal had a great deal of potential. Unfortunately, at that time, most metagames were dominated by single-team decks. Fantastic Four Beatdown, Wild Vomit, and various forms of Brotherhood were well established, and Titans was beginning to make an impact. The only serious multiple affiliation deck was Common Enemy.

Fast forward to today. The environment has shifted. Big Brotherhood and The New Brotherhood are still played, but both are maligned for their dependence on key unsearchable plot twists and locations. Titans is currently the deck to beat, with Curve Sentinels, X-Stall, Cosmic Cops, The Brave and The Bold, and the flagging Common Enemy close behind. Most metagames are heavily skewed towards decks with multiple team affiliations, the best of which (Curve Sentinels and X-Stall) splash characters for their needs without even attempting to team up.

Curve Sentinels can be a rough matchup for certain decks, and the recent replacement of Tri-Sentinel with Magneto makes it even nastier. Luckily, that replacement also leaves the deck wide open to a walloping, courtesy of today’s featured card. Recruiting Magneto on turn 7 and then activating one or more copies of Genosha to help fuel Bastion’s effect puts a Curve Sentinels player in a very good position. Even the smallest of that player’s characters can be nigh impossible to stun without committing ATK-boosting effects or large characters to stun down the curve. This is where Betrayal proves its worth.

Betrayal can be played two ways against Curve Sentinels. It obviously won’t hit the table until turn 7 when Magneto shows his face. But once he does, you can go to town, taking out one or more of your opponent’s smaller characters. This is probably the way to go if you don’t control the initiative, but if you do, you’ll get the best use out of Betrayal by saving it until fists start hitting metal. Attack with a larger character into a smaller one and pass priority. Odds are good that your opponent’s face will light up with glee as he or she drops sentinels into the discard pile for Bastion’s effect, hoping to stun up the curve. When your opponent is finished, add Betrayal to the chain. Now, the opponent needs either to stun the smaller character to which he or she has overcommitted and let your attacker ready, or stun something bigger. That hurts.

X-Stall also has a token Brotherhood character to take advantage of. If an X-Stall player recruits Mimic on turn 6, you could really be in for a hurting on turn 7—doubly so if Rogue, Power Absorption is also on the board. Puppet Master’s presence in the deck can make it difficult to attack on turn 6, and when turn 7 hits and Professor X, World’s Most Powerful Telepath’s effect gets copied by Mimic and Rogue, it’s often “good game” right there.

X-Stall runs a strong line of defensive cards, so it can be hard to make KO’s. Betrayal really helps to push that goal, stacking more stuns and endurance loss onto X-Stall and forcing it to lose characters on turns 6 and 7. Jean Grey can recover the board situation on turn 8, but if she isn’t in play, you can press your advantage as you wish. Alternatively, you can also save your Betrayals for turn 8, when you can chain them to Jean’s effect to rack up some damage. They probably wouldn’t do anything for you on turn 9, anyway, since Imperiex doesn’t exactly play well with others.

Against decks that rely on team-ups, Betrayal is an excellent complement to Ka-Boom!, Have a Blast!, and Foiled. Destroying your opponent’s team-up card will hurt, but stacking stuns onto his or her characters as a follow-up will hurt even more. Marvel Knights offers many good reasons to play decks with mixed team affiliations. Powerful cards like Elektra, Agent of the Hand and Blade, the Daywalker are complemented by effect-based characters such as Brother Voodoo, and more outré team-ups are facilitated by Weapon of Choice and Lacuna. There’s been a great deal of emphasis on mixing and matching teams over the past four months, and Marvel Knights continues to nurture and encourage that trend in high-level play. It seems likely that cards capable of breaking up shared team affiliations will see more use. If that happens, Betrayal could be incredibly viable. It splashes easily and has a low threshold cost, and if it fits your metagame, it’s one of the best deals going—a free stun for the cost of a single card.

There are two factors that lessen Betrayal’s playability. The first issue is that if your metagame is at least 50 percent single-team decks, Betrayal will frequently be dead. Running something that’s useless against half the field simply isn’t worth the deck space. Secondly, playing a card that depends upon your opponent doing something specific is never a secure idea. That risk must be carefully evaluated before you decide to run Betrayal.

That being said, Betrayal dishes out serious pain and disruption to two of the current top four decks at key moments in their curves, which makes Betrayal worthy of some regard. It nicely curbs the recent trend for a wide variety of decks to run Magneto, Master of Magnetism, too . . . he’s not the one pictured on the card ripping apart his teammates for nothing. Add in an environment that continues to shift in Betrayal’s favor, and you’ve got a card worth thinking about.

Totally freakin’ broken? Not yet, but Betrayal is definitely worthy of the light of play.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

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