By Geordie Tait
The penultimate eye grabber of card gaming is not utility or elegance. It’s size. And though I claim, under the bright lights of scrutiny, to cherish beautiful and potential-laden card mechanics—to embrace them regardless of the undersized digits they so often carry—I have a dirty secret. A shadow agenda that has, until this moment, been kept firmly under lock and key. Simply put, I cannot resist the numbers on the bottom left. What is it that they used to say about cigarettes? So round, so firm, so fully packed? Truer words have never been spoken, about either coffin nails or the familiar-fonted mega-stats that we find on the bottom edge of every curve-breaking Vs. System character. Large ATK and DEF values are intoxicating to me in a way that the more traditional methods of synaptic alteration (like sniffing the heads of permanent markers) can’t touch.
There are really two types of character cards. First, there are the ones with below average stats. You look at their paltry ATK and DEF and grimace. Then, in order to justify their use, you have to read a lot of text. Sometimes, as with Super Skrull, Beast Boy, or Mattie Franklin ◊ Spider-Woman, the read is worth it and you feel vindicated. In other cases, like Hydro-Man, Clay Face, or Mr. Zsaszszszzszszs . . . well . . . it’s ten seconds you’ll never get back, no matter how desperately you might petition the cosmos for their return. I’m not here to talk about those types of cards, at least not today. They are only a footnote, submitted for your perusal to serve as a contrast to the other type of card (which is, incidentally, my favorite type of character card), the one with massive stats and a text box that we immediately scan to detect the drawback that surely must accompany such lofty numerals.
Beware! R&D is a sneaky lot, always trying to poison the sweet reservoir from which they draw their big numbers. They make you discard cards and they stick loyalty onto low drops, making successful recruitment sketchy at best. Often, if you don’t read carefully, you’ll go into battle without any idea something is amiss (I did this with Post, who immediately offed himself . . . and after an error like that, I should have joined him). R&D members like nothing better than to scuttle into dark corners and cloister in moist, mushroom-covered caves where they work feverishly to rewrite and re-imagine conditional recruitment in a hundred different incarnations. There are often donuts at these unholy gatherings, but no Krispy Kreme treat can satisfy the hunger for character balance that emanates, aura-like, from their ravenous bellies. And oh, how the cards roll in! Marvels of design that bring us to the brink of bliss at first glance, only to settle us back down to earth when we read the text.
Some of my favorite examples of those “big stats” cards include the 5-drop Thing; Wolverine, Logan; and Sabretooth, Feral Rage. With these treasures, you look at the stats first, clandestinely soil yourself with ecstatic glee (the classy thing to do is to not make it obvious), and then—and only then—scan the text box for the inconvenience that the dastardly mischief-makers of R&D have undoubtedly sown there. Sometimes you still get disappointed by the sheer discomfort of the cumbersome drawback (Mammoth), but more often than not, you’re oiling your favorite elbow (right or left?) in anticipation of the first time you send your newfound prize into combat. The best part is when your hapless opponents have to read the card for themselves, and you can see the terror slowly dawn on their faces as they realize that they’re going to have to underplay your uber-drop by an order of magnitude.
Okay, enough with the introduction. On with the show. I think we can make a case that this is, perhaps, the greatest show on earth.
I won’t sugarcoat what should by now be quite obvious to any thinking individual—I find the statistics on the above card delicious, like golden-brown chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. Clearly, it was a devilishly fortunate chain of events that dropped Elektra into my hands. Is she good? Friends, “good” has been cancelled. Elektra is on the air now. The adjective will never be the same again. Just look at her! Do you see the “14?” There are 7-drops that don’t have 14 ATK! Stats like that make a man feel almost criminal—having Elektra in your deck is akin to carrying an unlicensed Desert Eagle in the back of your waistband. It’s easy to get nervous. At intersections, you start to sweat.
Why is that cop looking at me like that?
Does he know that I have a 5-drop with 14 ATK in my car?
Is he going to pull me over?
Will there be a cavity search?
Yeah, she’s pretty savage, all right. Well worth the chance of an unscheduled traffic stop. Let’s go down the list—you can use the fingers on either hand to follow along.
She has massive ATK. She can take down any 5-drop in the game. Most of the time, defensive plot twists won’t even matter. If you only have 8 or 9 DEF, what’s another 3 going to do except waste time? She can also take down any 6-drop in the game. Sure, a couple of the high-end models can give her a run for her money . . . but so what? She can even feed the dirt sandwich to a couple of 7-drops (not that killing Joker or Green Goblin is much of an accomplishment), and with a little help from some plot twists, she can run the beats on heavy hitters like Magneto or Thing. Isn’t it all about attacking up the curve? Elektra doesn’t just attack up the curve; she bends the curve into shapes so ridiculous that they’re almost chiropractic. Play with Elektra and you’re not just playing with a card—you’re playing with a revolutionary force that can rent asunder the very fabric of the game itself!
She has an average DEF, but it doesn’t matter. Elektra needs defense like a hen needs a sports utility vehicle. It’s true that our Agent of the Hand would be a lot less impressive if she could be smacked around by any passing villain. I mean, you give a guy an attack phase and he think he owns the place, right? Even Hydro-Man swaggers a little when he has first shot. As for you, when you don’t have the initiative, even your best-laid attack plans are usually moot unless you have a gaggle of defensive plot twists at the ready. Well, with all apologies to the other 5-drops of the world, Elektra is concealed. So, the best any would-be attacker can do is twiddle its thumbs, mired in the worst sort of frustrated impotence. That’s right, Captain Initiative. She’s going to hit you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Are you going to cry now?
She has boost . . . and how appropriate that this entry is the middle finger, since that’s exactly what your opponent will be hoisting at you when you run the 17 ATK/9 DEF on the initiative and violate a 6-drop to the tune of about 10 endurance loss. And what’s better than attacking once? How about attacking twice? I’m sure you can find some way to swing it. Swinging is what you do best, right? Heck, she’s even good on turn 7, and she’s courteous enough to leave you with 1 extra resource point.
Now, I’m no comic purist . . . but I like Elektra. She’s cool, like the Fonz before he jumped the shark. If a card had the same stats as Elektra, but it was Stilt-Man . . . I don’t know if I’d be so enthusiastic. Does Stilt-Man have a major motion picture coming out? Not that I know of. Elektra is a babe with two swords—I’d probably go to see that movie, I’d certainly play that card, and like the slave to pop culture that I have regrettably become, I’d eagerly seek out representations of her to line the hallowed walls of my humble home. Stilt-Man I think I’d consciously avoid. How many people have “Stilt-Man” posters on the walls in their apartments? Elektra has “it.” She garrotes people, and that’s always a plus in my book. Stilt Man has . . . stilts. That’s his power. If I need a book off the high shelf in the library, I’ll know who to call.
She’ll be a lot of fun to power up. I don’t want to give too much away here, but it’s my humble opinion that the other versions of Elektra also approach shenanigan-like levels of excellence. You shall eventually know it all, of course, but for now, just try to imagine the fun of a deck that is fully twenty percent busty assassin. That’s a rib-tickling percentage, and I’m not afraid to admit that the very thought of it causes the fine hairs on the back of my neck to stand up and do the cha-cha. The possibility that not just one, but multiple turns of any given game might be punctuated by a flash of red ribbon and a sword to the neck, well . . . I’m pretty sure that’s the American dream.
That’s five points of goodness. The Hand, if you will. But we’re not done. Remember how I said that R&D is a sneaky lot? She has a drawback—the ol’ double loyalty. You need a Crime Lords and a Marvel Knights character in play to set the table for Elektra, Agent of the Hand. Well . . . that’s what team-ups are for, right? I’m not going to dwell on this too much—I’m sure that better men than I will find great and reliable ways to ensure that conditions are right for timely Elektra recruiting. Personally, I’m not going to let it stop me, even if it does prove inconvenient. Even if I have to fill my deck with Royal Decrees and hide ten copies of Marvel Team-Up in my jockey shorts, I will get my Elektra on turn 5. That is a solemn promise.
You’ll find your way too, I’m sure, even if you have a few more scruples than this old dog. Her drawback, the latest bit of work from R&D, is nothing that we can’t overcome. I mean . . . she’s 14 ATK/9 DEF. Doesn’t that mean that God is on our side?
Let us all enjoy the forthcoming wave of swift assassinations. Were she here, Elektra would want it that way.