(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: PC Predictions Follow-up

By Jason Grabher-Meyer
Okay, so Tim and I had a blast putting together lists of things we thought we’d see, or just plain wanted to see, at PC New York. The event itself was incredible, but having a little checklist of stuff to look for made it that much cooler. Here’s how my predictions worked out . . .
 
1: Yes
 
Boliver Trask on turn 1 in the Curve Sentinels mirror will decide a huge number of games over the course of Day 1. It’s an incredibly underrated play given how ridiculously important it truly is.
 
And boy did it ever. Day 1 and Day 3 saw a ton of people mulliganing into Boliver Trask. Even with a lower emphasis on Betrayal in the environment than some had expected, turn 1 Boliver was still a supreme advantage. The outcome of a ton of matches hinged on this play, and it was a major factor in the finals between Hager and Bernstein.
 
2: No
 
EMS will make the Top 8.
 
Okay, so this one’s arguable. New School is an evolved version of EMS. But really, it’s so drastically different that I think it deviated from the spirit of my prediction. EMS is dead. Long live the new EMS!
 
 3. Yes
 
A lot of people will play Juggernaut in Curve Sentinels without Betrayal. They will be eaten in mirror matches like delicious street-a-pitas by New Yorkers.
 
Oh, how they were mauled! A ton of people ran Juggernaut without Betrayal and paid the price. Granted, some (such as Ryan Jones) did it and managed just fine. But many, many people were street-a-pita’d for not quite knowing how to run Juggernaut.
 
4. No
 
The much-hyped Mark City deck will have an impact. Stunning new archetype? Complete ruse? Either way, the truth will leave some surprised.
 
For those who missed it, Mark City grew from a bit of leaked information into a very large, very amusing ruse. Courtesy of a few of the members of Team Realmworx, the rumors about this “hot new deck” were propagated and grown for quite some time before PC NY. They culminated in a decklist and article by David Spears claiming that members of the team would be running the deck. The deck, which was based on incorporating Lost City in a Magneto build of Curve Sentinels, was just horrible enough to be hilarious, but not so poor as to be totally unbelievable when backed by players like Spears, Ryan Jones, and Vidianto Wijaya. Unfortunately, no one fell so hard for the joke as to change to running it last minute, so the rumor’s impacts were minimal. But it’s still, you know, funny. Sadly, not as funny as I’d hoped.
 
5. Yes
 
Teen Titans will see a huge resurgence in popularity compared to its recent $10K showings. Those that chicken out of Fantastic Fun at the last minute will default to it.
 
Despite the wide sweep of Curve Sentinels decks, Teen Titans were still represented a lot more than most expected, while FFun was practically abandoned. Not much to say about it—FFun is incredibly difficult to play at the best of times, and with multiple pieces of tech that easily slip into the top decks of most metagames, its run was limited from the beginning. It will still definitely see play, and it will garner attention from time to time, but it seems as if the first chapter in its story has ended.
 
6. Yes
 
A lot of disappointed FFun players will not make Day 2, despite the deck’s incredible potential. Tech, bad luck, and a lack of familiarity with the deck will be at fault.
 
Well, I wouldn’t say a lot of people played FFun, but of those who did, not many made Day 2. I’ll go ahead and take the point.
 
7. Yes
 
Flame Trap and Have a Blast! will see more play than expected.
 
While Have a Blast! saw some play, Flame Trap saw a great deal. The final numbers once decklists for the event are processed should be terribly interesting in this regard. Meanwhile, Flame Trap made it into two Top 8 decks, and it will likely see a boost in play in the near future.
 
8. No
 
Someone will end up with a double Antarctic Research Base in an FFun mirror, courtesy of our old pal Relocation.
 
Nope, the environment in general just isn’t ready for Relocation to see more play, and this past weekend it did not. However, with Mojoverse seeing an explosion in play, this may finally be a viable card again. Virtually all big archetypes are running locations now, and most are worth stealing under the proper conditions (USS Argus outside of the mirror match is certainly the exception.) I honestly think that Relocation will see some experimenting over the next few weeks.
 
9. Yes
 
Mojoverse will be run in a handful of Curve Sentinel builds, counter-teching Betrayal and providing random combat bonuses. It will be disregarded later anyway due to the difficulty of fitting it into the deck.
 
Wow! “A handful” was certainly exceeded—tons of people were running Mojoverse, and local card dealers were sold out of them by Thursday afternoon. The on-site dealers were frantically attempting to purchase them from those with extras to fill the incredibly high demand. However, I’m not sure it’s a trend that will stick, so the second part of my prediction seems like it may come true, as well.
 
10. Yes
 
Micro-Sentinels will be a defining card of the weekend, appearing in virtually every CS deck present.
 
Yyyyyup. Micro-Sentinels was dang near everywhere and even made it into four of the Curve Sentinel decks in the Top 8. It may dip in popularity as New School sees more play and FFun’s day in the sun wanes, but it will still be seen in many decks by the time Indy rolls around.
 
11. No
 
Knowing New York far better than Tim Willoughby, I will abandon him in Chinatown under the guise of appropriating the deep fried waffle-donuts native to the area.
 
Fact: I know New York far better than Tim Willoughby.
Fact: The so-and-so speaks passable Chinese.
Fact: The previously listed fact makes me sad. No abandoning Tim in Chinatown for me.
 
12. No
 
This will not prevent him from rocking me in our dual feature match coverage. Later, we will celebrate with Chinese waffle-donuts, for real this time. I will again leave him in Chinatown shortly thereafter.
 
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we didn’t even get to do our dueling banjos routine. We got Japanese instead of Chinese afterwards, too, so the fact that I abandoned him in a Sushi restaurant doesn’t truly count. Ha! I found one language he doesn’t speak.
 
13. No
 
Olav Rokne will claim the Vs. System Stylemaster Crown, narrowly stealing it from Tim and myself with his secret fashion tech—a daring scarf.
 
Sadly, Rokne couldn’t make it to the event, meaning we were not only not graced by his company, but I also had to put all my intentions about forcing catch phrases upon him on hold. I’ll have to Rok his world at a later date.
 
As a side note, the scarf thing was wrong, too. He informed me via email that he’d intended to wear a metallic green tie. Awesome.
 
14. No
 
Tim will be right and the Big Mouth Challenge will unhorse Ian Vincent as the sport’s reining champion. It’s still anybody’s game regarding who will have the honors of his title.
 
Tim bought some of the new starter decks, but he frowned on the idea of putting them into the mouths of strangers. See, it turns out they’re really an awesome product. So awesome that chewing on them just wasn’t fair. Great art, some cool effects, nice playability, and a very appealing price tag means I don’t get to eat them. Shucks.
 
15. Maybe
 
In an effort to drive alternative play formats, Jeff Donais will sanction the Big Mouth Challenge for future events. Terror will ensue and flavored promo cards will be released by next quarter.
 
This might happen. I’m personally pushing for signature Canadian flavors that only Jeff and I will understand. We spent a few minutes together just walking around asking Americans if they knew what butter tarts were. How can a country have no butter tarts? What is wrong with your nation? Honestly.
 
16. No
 
Star Canadian player David Fielder will finally get his ice cream, drawing the sordid saga that began at $10K Detroit to a happy close. Over 50 players will flock to him over the course of the weekend in order to understand this in-joke.
 
Friday night I stopped by one of those grocery-deli-bodega deals they have in New York. I picked up a pint of Haagen-Dazs “Dulce De Leche” and another of Ben and Jerry’s “Phish Food” frozen yogurt. Sadly, because I got no sleep Thursday night, it was all eaten by morning. I could feign regret, but man, have you tried Phish Food? It’s not just guilt free because it’s low in fat.
 
17. Maybe
 
Extended Art Overload will crack the $80 mark on eBay on the same day as its release.
 
Sadly, no EA Overloads have even been sold yet. So, while initial bids have already put this into the $20-$30 range, there’s no telling how high they may go. I’m standing by my initial guess.
 
18. No
 
Your Move Games will have some sort of new and interesting deck. They’ve been suspiciously quiet. I’m taking five-to-one odds that they’ve broken Stilt-Man.
 
Nope. Apparently their secret tech was just Alex Shvartsman. With a Day 3 number 1 seed, I’d say it worked. He’s definitely got a lot that Stilt-Man doesn’t.
 
19. No
 
Someone will qualify for Day 2 with a completely netdecked Team TOGIT X-Stall build. Any well-teched versions that appear will do exceedingly well on Day 1.
 
Nope. Much to my surprise, no one played TOGIT’s build, indicating that despite people clinging to the old version, this deck is actually seeing some testing. Here’s hoping a revamped version finds some success soon.
 
20. No, but it’s my fault
 
Someone will use a bag of 50 I-don’t-know-whats to keep track of his or her endurance instead of pen and paper.
 
Unfortunately, this one’s my fault. I was going to get someone to use a bag of fifty delightfully monochromatic rubber frogs in a variety of colors as life counters, but sadly, I left the bag at home. If anyone will do this at Indy, I’m sure I can rustle up a half decent bribe. Extra points for running a single copy of Frog Man.
 
21. No
 
Two non-American players will Top 8.
 
Nope. Mutual failure for me and Tim, who made the same prediction. While Hans Joachim Höh came through, a severe lack of British players and unfortunate Day 1 showings from Canadians left us without our second non-American.
 
22. Yes
 
Betrayal will be the most loved yet also most maligned card of the event, winning as many games as it will lose for being a dead draw.
 
With so much Mojoverse running wild, and a fair amount of Juggernaut as well, Betrayal was a metagame call not even made by many of the top players. Though it saw a great deal of play, it didn’t see nearly as much success as most are used to.
 
23. Yes
 
Over the course of the weekend, someone will get a tattoo.
 
I’m not saying who, or where they got it. But yes.
 
24. No
 
Practice and instinctive play will take the limelight over new tech. At least one competitor will Top 8 with a deck that contains no tech whatsoever.
 
Much to my happiness, every single deck in the Top 8 had something cool and different about it. Alex Shvartsman came the closest to fulfilling my prophecy, but switching out Cover Fire for four copies of Acrobatic Dodge was his one stroke of decklist brilliance. An innovative Top 8? Glad to hear it.
 
25. No
 
There will be at least one mullet in the Top 4.
 
Despite some artificial mullet action from Dave Spears, none got into the Top 4. How disappointing.
 
26. Yes
 
Ryan Jones will reach all new levels of subdued and witty cynicism.
 
Yeah, I’d say so. The whole Mark City deal was pretty great, and some of Jones’s comments with regard to it and many other things were quite entertaining.
 
27. Yes
 
Someone who used to work at Score will get a feature match or interview.
 
Yup, I actually talked to several playtesters over the course of the weekend, perpetuating the idea that Score uses tactics similar to Manhunter Sleeper Agents.
 
28. Yes
 
Gary Wise will drop from Day 1 after staking out a chair massage station, planting a flag, and claiming it in the name of the Independent Republic of Spiel. That or he’ll dominate Day 2. Either way.
 
Yup, sadly Gary didn’t make Day 2. And when he tried to go get his massage, he’d found that Gabe Walls had already gone and told the staff he was Gary so that he could also claim his own massage later. We need an alternate art Betrayal promo with a picture of Gabe getting a rubdown.
 
29. Yes.
 
Yeah, those chair massages? Past abuses of pro-player perks will pale in comparison.
 
Yes. Despite the “one massage per person for the weekend” rule, many of the more . . . ahem . . . “creative” in attendance managed to mooch extra massages. Gabe’s just happened to be the funniest.
 
30. Maybe

Someone will go into a match with the intent of winning the other person’s pants.

Well, no one had their pants change hands in public . . . that I know of. But there were a lot of people and a lot of pants present this past weekend, so I’m not writing it off. To make up for my lack of information about this highly important milestone, I’ll be putting up my pants some time during PC Indy. In fact, I might do it a lot. I believe pants are society’s biggest tools of oppression, and not wearing any as often as possible is my form of nonviolent resistance.

 
31. Yes. Oh God, yes
 
Vidianto Wijaya will receive at least two feature matches. Sadly, all of his dialogue will be censored out of the coverage because “Kids read this stuff! Oh god, he said that?”
 
Oh Vidi. Vidi, Vidi, Vidi. I can’t say what he said, but let me say that some of the things we had to cut were so funny that I may be taking out a Livejournal account some time in the future strictly so I can fill it with rejected quotes. Vidi will win a PC—it’s just a matter of time. In the mean time, he’ll continue being the funniest pro player we have.
 
32. Yes, but better
 
Jason Bagari will leave the event with at least twelve copies of every new promo released. He will not make Day 2. He really won’t mind.
 
I’m not sure how many new promos Bagari left the event with, but he did indeed just miss Day 2. What he didn’t miss? Making a massive trade for one of the world’s few extended art Savage Beatdowns. Cool.
 
33. Yes
 
Rich Edbury, if in attendance, will choose to play a deck he’s never even seen two hours before the event. He will qualify for Day 3 anyway.
 
Rich Edbury wasn’t in attendance. So I’m just taking the point due to my “if” conditional. Aah, templating.
 
34. Yes
 
Michael Jacob will effortlessly glide into Day 2.
 
Yes, yes he did. Finishing twelfth place overall, Jacob walked away with some well-deserved kudos and a nice wad of cash. Big ups to him for being one of the most well-rounded players out there.
 
35. No
 
Carl Perlas will play something very, very cool that will immediately receive deck coverage.
 
Sadly, Carl didn’t run any of the awesome stuff that I had the pleasure of playing against at $10K Detroit. His raw love of the game shone through a disappointing Day 1, though, and showed the world why he really is one of Team Realmworx’s premier faces.
 
36. No
 
Dean Sohnle will react to metagame hate against the FFun deck he created by just making a deck that wins on turn 3 instead of turn 5. Appropriately, he will name it something hilarious.
 
Dean did spectacularly, taking 25th in the event by the end of Day 3. Unfortunately, he didn’t do it with something new and wacky, so I don’t get a point for his success. With his status in the weeks leading up to the event seemingly locked in as “In Europe and Not Leaving for a While,” his attendance alone was a surprise, and his great finish is something to be commended.
 
37. No, finally
 
Those four guys who always show up to pro level events with F4 Beatdown decks will be in attendance.
 
Long have I questioned why F4 Beats continued to see play. Now, with no one running it in New York, I can finally rest easy. However, with some of the awesome new cards in the F4/Doom Starter deck, we may just see a resurgence. This time, there will be legitimate reasons for F4 Beatdown as a deck choice.
 
38. Yes
 
Ian Estrin’s hair will be assailed by rain, wind, hail, and possibly monkeys. It won’t matter—it will still remain perfectly in place. Tim and I will burn with jealousy.
 
Eff. Honestly, Estrin’s hair looks so good at all times that it makes me want to spit. But not at his hair. It would bounce right off and land in mine. That’s how invincible his coif is.
 
39. Yes
 
Someone will double-Boris and Reign of Terror four times on turn 5.
 
Yup! I saw it briefly. I didn’t want to interrupt the match and didn’t have time to get names, but it was awesome. I’ve never seen so many Teen Titans run so fast.
 
40. Not sure
 
At least five teammate vs. teammate mirror matches will occur on Day 1. Same team and same deck.
 
No idea. Next time I’ll stick to predictions that are easier to verify, like “I will wear a big leather trench coat all weekend” and “Tim Willoughby will have crazy hair.”
 
 
So, my final track record? Eighteen right, eighteen wrong, and four that were somewhere in the middle. Not bad overall, and Tim and I can compare scores later. You know . . . once he extricates himself from that Japanese restaurant’s basement.
 
The PC was truly an awesome ride, and some really great tech broke out—some more obvious tech that you’ve likely already heard about, and some that you may not yet have seen. Head on back next week as I start looking at the best tech in the post-PC and Green Lantern Corps-legal environment!

(Metagame Archive) How To Make a Vs. System Expansion in Nine Easy Steps, Part 3

By Danny Mandel

This week’s entry into the Vs. System Design Bible is pretty short. The good news is, I’ve got more room to answer questions. Hurray!

 
Design Bible
 
Part Five: Art Requests 

Overview
In this part, the R&D and Creative Content teams generate art descriptions (we call them “art requests”), which are given to our art director, who then edits them and sends them out to various artists.

Questions on Art Requests
Which teams (and members of those teams) will generate the art requests?
How many pieces of art are we able to order?
What are the bare-bones concepts for which we should generate art requests?
What are the necessary components of an art request?
What (if any) specific details about costumes or other paraphernalia should we include?

Thoughts on Art Requests
As I mentioned in the overview, generating artwork for an expansion is actually the responsibility of three different departments: R&D, Creative Content, and Art. Members of the R&D team work with members of the Creative Content team (which is also the team that does much of the card naming and flavor text) to come up with the appropriate number of art requests. The requests are then sent to the Art Department, where our art director edits our descriptions and then sends them to various contracted artists, who create the finished pieces.
 
The first question to answer is who exactly is going to work on the art requests. Usually the creative content team writes the lion’s share of the descriptions, with the lead designer completing 25% to 40%. Regardless of how many requests the lead designer actually creates, he or she should take an active roll overseeing the process.
 
The next question is how many pieces of art are we able to order. For a 220-card set, we actually want to order at least 250 pieces of art. This is so we have a buffer in case we get some art back that we feel wouldn’t be appropriate for the set. Also, it allows us greater freedom to swap art around to get better flavor matches.
 
The next question involves the actual concepts behind each art request. The R&D lead should work with the creative content team to come up with concepts for each piece. These concepts are just intended to give instruction to the person writing the request and usually act as the placeholder name of an art piece up until it’s placed on an actual card (which happens much later in this whole process).
 
The bare bones descriptions we come up with should be based off of all the IP research we did in Part Three of the design bible. Over half of the pieces will probably be characters, so their bare bones descriptions would simply be the character’s name with the phrase “character image” in the description box. Locations and equipment are similar to characters. We just want a classic description of the place or thing. It’s plot twists where we get to have lots of fun, since they can be anything from a fight scene, to a super-power in use, to a montage of events. An example of a bare bones name of a plot twist would be “Hulk Punches Thing.” The person writing the art request knows exactly what the image needs to describe, but he or she can go nuts coming up with the actual description.
 
The next question is what exactly needs to go into an art request. This part is pretty subjective, based on the depth the art director is looking for in the descriptions. For example, for “Hulk Punches Thing,” either of the following descriptions might be acceptable depending on what the art director is looking for. Of course, he or she will also edit where appropriate.
 
“The green Hulk has just punched Thing in the face. Thing is flying backward through a wall that’s crumbling around him.”
 
or
 
“The green Hulk has just punched Thing in the face. Thing’s neck is snapped back, reeling from the blow. He is flying backward through a wall that’s crumbling around him. The wall should be made of light-colored brown bricks such that the fragments of the wall that are flying apart kind of make it look like pieces of the Thing are flying apart as well. The Hulk looks enraged; he’s bared his teeth and spittle drips from his mouth. He should not be wearing the silly purple pants. (Other pants are okay though.)”
 
It’s important to note that the purpose of these requests is to give the artists a concept to work with. The less descriptive the request is, the more freedom an artist has to go nuts. On the other hand, sometimes, when given too much freedom, an artist will take a piece in a direction that isn’t what the expansion requires. It’s a delicate balance, but fortunately the art director usually will know the best approach to take with each of his or her artists.
 
One last point about writing art requests is to see if there are places we can put in special details like references, jokes, or easter eggs. For example, in the Marvel Origins set, each member of the Fantastic Four had three versions. We tried to make it so that the smallest version of each character had old school artwork, the middle version looked like it was from the 80’s, and the big version looked more modern.
 
At this point, we should have generated the proper number of art requests and handed them off to the art department. In the next entry, we’ll get into the thick of actual design when we talk about a set’s major mechanics and team dynamics.
 
Green Lantern Design Diary
 
Part Five: Art Requests
 
Three of us wrote most of the Green Lantern Corps expansion’s art requests. Matt Hyra and I represented R&D’s effort, while John Wick held up the Creative Content end. While I don’t talk about John too much in my articles, he’s a pretty cool guy once you get past the trophy band of severed wookie scalps he wears. I’m pretty sure Mike Hummel helped out, too, but I don’t like to give him too much credit because, as they say, “Never give a Mike Hummel too much credit.”
 
For Green Lantern, we ordered about 250 images, which gave us a reasonable amount of flexibility when choosing and juggling art. Rather than come up with the 250 bare bones concepts myself, I wanted all three of us to generate whatever images we felt demonstrated the color and flavor of the Green Lantern mythos. (Of course, this only worked because Matt and John had also done a fair bit of research on the subject.)
 
John wrote most of the character descriptions, which was great, because he tends to encourage the characters to be vibrant and alive as opposed to static and frozen. Matt and I wrote up most of the non-characters. Coming up with the constructs was by far the most fun for me, because we could essentially have the characters with power rings do whatever we could imagine.
 
Here’s where I eat a bit of humble pie. You see, I’m not the best art description writer in the world. I mean, it’s not that I’m bad at it. It’s just that Matt and John are way better than I am. That said, I will let you know what my three favorite descriptions that I came up with were.
 
Catcher’s Mitt (which was called Catcher’s Mitt from the beginning)
 
Kyle in his classic costume has made a giant catcher’s mitt construct to stop a car that was careening off of a bridge. There’s also a giant green baseball umpire construct off to the side signaling “out!” as though Kyle caught a fly ball.
 
The funny part is that in the final image, the umpire is signaling “safe!” which doesn’t actually make sense if Kyle caught a fly ball. However, it does make sense in that the people in the car are safe.
 
Ole! (which was called Ole! from the beginning)
Hal has created two bull constructs. Each one has rammed an empty car into Goldface. (He can’t directly attack Goldface.)
 
I’ve always liked the silly ways Green Lanterns need to overcome their vulnerability to yellow. This description seemed just absurd enough.
 
The Kent Farm (originally called Weird Dreams)
Kara Zor-El (the new Supergirl who’s just arrived on Earth) is sleeping. There is a thought bubble above her head picturing what she’s dreaming about. In the bubble are a cat, a horse, and monkey, possibly wearing capes, possibly looking like Streaky, Comet, and Beppo—the “other” super-animals.)
 
This art request is a great example of one aspect of the approvals process we go through dealing with DC and Marvel. My goal for this card was to show off all the silly super-animals from the Superman mythos. I figured there’d be no way DC would allow us to put the classic animals, who are pretty much out of current continuity, with the new Kara. To solve this problem, I tried to say that she was just having a strange dream that may or may not have included the super-animals.
 
Unfortunately, DC didn’t want any mixing Kara with the animals, even through the veil of a dream. Fortunately, they had a better idea. They suggested we just show the original Kara with the animals. Since the Vs. System exists “out of time” with regards to continuity, it’s fine for us to show a character that was phased out of continuity. DC didn’t care if we used out-of-continuity characters. They just didn’t want us to mix across continuities.
 
The updated art request we actually sent out:
 
Super-Animals (The name was later changed to The Kent Farm. I’m still bitter.)
Group Shot of the Original Kara (Supergirl) hanging out with Comet the Super-Horse, Streaky the Super-Cat, and Beppo the Super-Ape (monkey?). They can be having a picnic or some other silly 60’s style thing.
 
Overall, the process of writing the art requests took about a week. It was the first time I had worked with John, and I was really impressed. Not just with the quality of his work, but with his speed and efficiency—he handled over half of the total volume of requests. Matt, on the other hand, I’d worked with before, so I knew going in that he was terribly slow. Like molasses encased in cement stuck in traffic.
 
Okay, that’s all for art requests. I’ll be coming back to take a look at how we assigned the art and some of the problems we ran into later on in the design diary. Next week, I’ll dive into how we came up with the core mechanics and keywords of the set as well as how we decided what each team’s strengths would be.
 
Q&A
 
Today’s first question comes from James. I’ve cut the opening paragraph because it’s mostly praise which might act like gamma rays to my ego’s Bruce Banner.
 
Your reasons for skipping Green Arrow make sense to me. It wouldn’t have done the set any service to drop unique characters like Olapet, Rot Lop Fan, and Jack T. Chance. But what happened to Arkkis Chummuck? He’s got some media visibility from his cameos in the Justice League cartoons on Cartoon Network (along with Galius-Zed and Larvox), and was on the art for the booster box, so somewhere down the line there must have been a plan for him, right? Why did he get cut? Thanks for your time, and keep up the excellent work.
 
Hi James,
 
There were actually a ton of awesome Green Lanterns that we had to cut to save space. There was no specific reason Arkkis didn’t make it in. Well, actually, he was in contention with two other Lanterns, but Kreon baked us a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and Brik took us to the movies, whereas all Arkkis did was buy the R&D team My Little Ponies. Against Humpherys’s cries of “But that’s my little pony!” we gave the nod to Kreon and Brik.
 
Seriously though, while it makes me sad that we couldn’t include them, you can expect so see more members of the team in future legacy content.
 
This next email is from Devin.
 
Ummm hi! Long time reader here, and I have a couple of comments/questions for you.
 
First, I’d like to say, great job on your articles. Yours always seem to be among the most entertaining, especially with your Humpherys banter. But I digress . . . I’ll get right to the point:
 
In your most recent article (Design Bible part 2), you say (and I quote):
 
“I mean, there’s been a lot of discussion about him warranting an entire team to himself—not exactly typical of an unaffiliated character.”
 
Now, does this mean that Apocalypse might not get his own team? He seems to be someone who would warrant his own “loner” version, but occasionally (and for the entire Age of Apocalypse series), he has a fully fleshed out team. Is there any hope for Apoc down the line?
 
Also, you mentioned using the Internet as an extra source of information for some of the obscure teams/affiliations. How do you know whether a site has reliable information or not? I’ve been to comic book character information sites and often gotten some conflicting stories, and some of them appear to be biased toward or against some characters. Do you take the info you get and run it by DC/Marvel to make sure it’s valid?
 
That’s all for now, keep up the good work!
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Hi Devin,
 
To answer your first question, I wasn’t entirely clear with what I meant with regards to an unaffiliated character not warranting an entire team. I was mostly thinking about Green Arrow specifically, and how he’s a member of the Justice League and could also possibly warrant an entire team built around him. Therefore it wasn’t pressing to give him an unaffiliated version.
 
As for Apocalypse, actually yeah, I could totally see him getting his own team sometime down the line. But in Marvel Origins we didn’t have room for the Horsemen, let alone the AoA characters.
 
To answer your second question, we always send an expansion’s file to the appropriate brand (DC or Marvel) to get everything approved. Sometimes this actually leads to changes, like a character losing or gaining flight or our having to alter a name or version or costume. So yeah, while we try to double up on our source and secondary material, we do have DC and Marvel to act as safety nets.
 
 
The last question is from Rui (and it’s actually just one of the many great questions he’s asked. Most of them have to do with card design or development, so I’m sure I’ll post more of them when appropriate in later design bible articles.)
 
On the team and roster selection, I wanted to ask you a question about the team selection. I can’t check right now, but I think DGL was the first set with an uneven split of “good” and “bad” teams. I’m guessing it’s because the whole set revolves around GL, and they don’t get to play with others, but I was wondering if that came into consideration or if you don’t care how many “good” and/or “bad” teams you do. Or maybe I’m missing something and this whole paragraph is stupid. If that’s the case, I’m sorry 🙂
 
Hi Rui,
 
Yes, the GL’s being the only good-guy team definitely came into consideration when we discussed who the teams would be. There was actually some debate as to whether it was okay to have a set dominated by bad guys. Ultimately, we decided the 3 to 1 breakdown was fine because it made sense thematically, and lots of players love to play the bad guys.
 
One point worth noting is that this decision put pressure on us to make the Green Lanterns feel mechanically like the “good guys,” hence their abundance of reinforcement, recovery, and endurance gain effects.
 
 
Okay, that’s all I got for today. Tune in next week for a look at how we design the high concept of new teams and how we choose core mechanics for an expansion.
 
Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

(Metagame Archive) How to Make a Vs. System Expansion in Nine Easy Steps, Part 2

By Danny Mandel

Design Bible

At this point, we’ve organized the team and decided what our goals are for our imaginary expansion. Next up is research of the IP, or “Intellectual Property.”
Part Three: IP Research
Overview

The purpose of IP research is to get as acquainted as possible with the source material of the expansion. This helps us pick out the most appropriate characters, locations, and so on. It also helps us to mesh flavor with mechanics when designing cards.

Questions on IP Research

Which members of the R&D team are going to do the research?
What methods are there to do IP research?
What are the major . . .
                     characters?
                     locations?
                     plot points?
                     story arcs?
                     weapons or other items?
What other characters, locations, and other things might we want to include if there’s room?

 
Thoughts on IP Research

It’s not necessary that every member of the team learn the source material. In fact, it’s often good for a few team members to remain unbiased as to the comic book power levels of the characters. That said, it’s most important for the lead designer of the set to have a handle on the material, as he or she will be choosing which characters (and other card types) make it into the set.
The best way to research source material is to read the relevant comics. However, since many of the characters or teams we’re going to build sets around have had hundreds of issues, it’s often too time consuming to read them all. While the lead designer should try to read as many major storylines as possible, at some point, time pressure demands other avenues of research.
Probably the next best way to research source material is via the web. There are many great websites that outline every little detail about a character or team.
A third way to learn about an IP is through the material Marvel or DC sends us. While this is often not as comprehensive as what we can find on the web, it’s still very good, and it often features the major characters that the brand is currently pushing or featuring.
 
At this point, we should have done enough research into our expansion’s IP to know all about the major and minor characters, locations, storylines, and so on.
Part Four: Team and Roster Selection
Overview

The purpose of this part is to lock down the main teams of the expansion and to fill out each team with the appropriate characters.

Questions on Team and Roster Selection

How many major teams should we include in this expansion?
What are the major teams we’re going to include?
Which characters must be included on each team?
Which characters are optional?
How many versions should we include of the major characters?
Are there appropriate “guest star” characters we should include?

Thoughts on Team and Roster Selection

Usually we include four major teams in an expansion, but there could be a reason to add an additional smaller one. For example, in Marvel Origins, we wanted to do the X-Men and their enemies, the Brotherhood, and we wanted to do the Fantastic Four and their enemy, Dr. Doom. Fortunately, we had enough room to add in the Sentinels, especially because their many Army characters meant that we could make them a full team while giving them a smaller character pool.

With our IP research finished, we should be ready to lock down the four main teams of the expansion. Our next job is to fill out the teams’ rosters. At first it’s best to go ahead and overload the teams with more characters than they’ll probably end up with. This is because we always end up trimming as we go, so it’s good to start with extra “buffer” characters.
As we fill out the rosters, we should pay attention to which characters are “must-haves” and which ones are “cuttable” if we don’t have room. We should also decide which characters are going to get multiple versions. There are four main reasons to have different versions of a character:
1. The character has lot of different powers, and we want to use different versions to showcase each one. Wolverine is a good example of this, with his 3-drop showing off his combat prowess, his 5-drop showing off his healing factor, and his 7-drop showing off his berserker rage.
2. The character has had different identities or costumes over its career. Barbara Gordon is a good example of this, as she was once Batgirl but is now Oracle.
3. The character is a superstar. Hal Jordan is a good example of this. While he has had other identities (such as Spectre or Parallax), he’s so famous that it’s worth having multiple versions of Hal as Green Lantern.
4. The team naturally has a small roster and needs to use multiple versions of characters to flesh it out. The Fantastic Four is a good example of this, with three different versions of each of the main four characters. Of course, the FF also flesh out their roster by using guest stars like the New FF and the Inhumans.
Speaking of guest stars, now is the time to decide if there are any guest stars we want to include in a team’s roster. To be clear, by “guest star” I mean a character that doesn’t really belong on a team, but is acceptable and cool if we include it there. There are three main reasons to include a guest star character on a team:
1. It’s a way to include a character “ahead of it’s time”. Putting Superman, Big Blue Boy Scout on the Gotham Knights allowed us to have one of DC’s premier characters in the Origins set instead of having to wait until the Man of Steel set.
2. The team naturally has a small roster and could use guest stars to flesh it out. The New Fantastic Four characters are a good example of this kind of guest star.
3. It would simply be cool to include the guest star on the team. An example of this would be adding Iceman and Firestar to the Spider-Friends team as an homage to the old “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” cartoon.
At this point, we should have our teams selected and our rosters packed with characters. Next time, we’ll go over how we handle the art in the set.
 
Green Lantern Design Diary
Part Three: IP Research
I’ve read comics my whole life. I mean, I love comics. The sad part is that growing up, I never really got into Green Lantern. I mean, I knew of Hal, Kyle, John, and Guy. But it was more that I’d heard of them than I knew details about their lives and stories. This meant that going into my first lead design of a Vs. expansion, I really didn’t know the source material well enough. One thing I did know though: We definitely had to include Rot Lop Fan.
You see, like any discerning comic book reader, I love Alan Moore’s work. Way back when, he wrote what was essentially a one-off story about Katma Tui journeying to appoint a new Green Lantern. The problem was the race from which she would select the GL lived in total darkness. As such, they didn’t have eyes or any other sort of light receptor. Further, they had no concept of light or colors, so the concept of a “Green Lantern” was indescribable. Ultimately, she decides to improvise, giving Rot Lop Fan (the prospective GL) a power bell (instead of a ring), and bestowing upon him the title “F-Sharp Bell” (apparently F-Sharp is a pleasing sound among that race). The point is, I immediately fell in love with the character, so he became a “must-include” character in my mind.
But I digress. The point of this section is to talk about IP research, so here goes. In order to get up to speed, I bought and read pretty much every GL graphic novel I could get my hands on, which included the “Emerald” series (Dawn, Dawn II, and Twilight) and a bunch of new ones starring Kyle Rayner. Also, our in-house comic book guru, Kevin Tewart (of Kevin Tewart and the Max Weinberg Seven fame) gave me a list of must-read Green Lantern comics. (I don’t have the list in front of me, but if there’s interest, I’ll post it in a later article.)
Unfortunately, though DC had given us big booklets on Batman and Superman, they didn’t have any official source material on Green Lantern. Fortunately, as always, the web had tons of material on all the main characters and villains of the GL mythos. Hurray!
It took me about two weeks of solid reading to get up to speed enough to move on to filling out the teams’ rosters. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I was assigned as GL lead well before set creation actually began, and I used that time to start reading up in my spare time. If I had to guess, I’d say that extra time was the equivalent of a third week of solid research.
Part Four: Team and Roster Selection
We knew we were going to be doing the Green Lanterns and Emerald Enemies right from the get-go. We also felt we could get solid mileage out of a Manhunter team, and I’d been itching to give the DC brand a major Army team. This left only the fourth team to lock down. Our options were to do the Qwardians as a major team with the Crime Syndicate as a smaller, fifth team, or merge the two teams and just call them Anti-Matter. We decided to go with the latter plan because we felt that the Qwardians weren’t cool or robust enough to warrant an entire team to themselves.
As an aside, while the Crime Syndicate is more of a JLA enemy than a Green Lantern one, I definitely wanted them in Green Lantern Corps because they added some coolness to a set that was going to have tons of obscure characters, and it wasn’t like the upcoming JLA set was going to be short on content.
Once we had the teams locked down, it was time to fill out their ranks. The Emerald Enemies were the easiest to fill out, so I’ll start with them. Basically, we took all of the coolest Green Lantern villains and rolled them into a single team. This was a little complicated because the only thing the members on this team shared was that they were enemies of various Green Lanterns (unlike the Anti-Matter team, who are from the same universe, or the Green Lanterns, who are all members of the Corps or have had the mantle of Green Lantern at some point).
This led to the question of whether or not to have an Emerald Enemies Sinestro. It definitely made sense to put him on the Anti-Matter team, since it was the Qwardians who hooked him up with the ring, and it made sense to have him on the GL team, because he started out as a Lantern. We eventually decided he was famous enough that it would be fine to have him on the Emerald Enemies as well. Now the only question was, could we find an excuse to put him on the Manhunters . . .
The Anti-Matter team’s roster was pretty straightforward, especially after Kevin told me about the Qwardian Conglomerate. Suddenly the team was peopled with evil versions of the JLA, which I thought was pretty cool. We fleshed them out with various Army Qwardians and a few named ones, like my personal favorite, Yokal, the Atrocious. I wonder who would win in a fight, him or Unus . . .
The only thing left was to decide whether or not to put the Anti-Monitor on that team (and in the set at all). One could argue that he was really an entire-DC-Universe enemy, not just a Green Lantern one. Fortunately, no one did. The big guy was in and on the team.
There was only once issue we needed to resolve with the Manhunters: Would DC allow us to come up with names for the various Manhunter Army characters? It turned out the answer was yes, so we were pretty much off to the races.
The Green Lanterns were the toughest roster to fill out. This was because on the one hand, there were tons and tons and tons (and tons) of GLs we wanted to include, and on the other hand, there were several Lanterns that could easily warrant multiple versions based on their popularity. For example, I could see including three Hals and Kyles, and two Alan Scotts, Jades, Guy Gardners, and John Stewarts. That right there is fourteen characters.
We were in a bind. While you know the end of the story (only Hal and Kyle got multiple versions on the team, and Guy got an unaffiliated version), at this point we wanted to keep our options open, so the roster included multiples of all of the characters I mentioned in the above paragraph. This would last until it was time to do art requests.
Okay, this is the part where I explain why I didn’t put Green Arrow in the set. First of all, there were two possible ways we could include him: as a guest star on the Green Lanterns, or as an unaffiliated character. There were two reasons I didn’t want to put him on the Green Lantern team.
1. As I mentioned above, we were really crunched for space on that team. He would have taken a slot from one of the obscure Green Lantern characters, and I felt that this set should really showcase the diversity of the GL Corps. Plus we’d be doing Green Arrow in the JLA set.
2. I wanted every member on the Green Lanterns (at least in this set) to pretty much be able to fly around and make green energy constructs using a power ring. (I realize that sometimes Jade can generate the energy from inside, but sometimes she does use a ring, and either way, her power suite is pretty much the same as a regular Lantern.) While Green Arrow hangs out with Green Lanterns a lot, he doesn’t really fit in with the team.
The main reason we didn’t include him as an unaffiliated character was just because he doesn’t really feel like an unaffiliated character (I mean, there’s been a lot of discussion about him warranting an entire team to himself—not exactly typical of an unaffiliated character), and because again, we’re going to be doing him in JLA.
Okay, them’s my reasons. Feel free to send me angry emails and/or dead fish. Feel even free-er to send them to Humpherys.
Okay, that’s it for filling out the teams, though there will be a bit more on this topic next week when I talk about the wonderful world of art.
Q&A
The question for this week comes from Bizarro 98, who has expressed interest in adding a “Bizarro harangues Danny” section to my articles. I figure we’ll see how it goes. The following is actually trimmed down to cut down on word count.
As was promised, Part Zero contained some excellent candy, but the comment about the Qwardians lacking “punch” without the “evil–Justice League–doppelganger” sub-teams grabbed my attention like a jalapeño jelly bean. It reminded me of a question I’ve been wanting to ask you for a long time, but always talked myself out of because of it’s irrelevancy in these early stages of the game’s lifespan.
I don’t think anyone can deny that Vs. System is a very well designed game, though there are times when flaws in the very structure of the game itself become obvious. One such problem is the natural conflict that arises between the concept of a team and the concept of a deck.
Now, don’t get me wrong. So far, Vs. System has managed to blend the two concepts almost seamlessly. Thanks to the handling of team affiliations and team-stamping, building a deck thematically devoted to a comic book team is not only possible but encouraged. However, I worry that this is due largely in part to the fact that Vs. System has, so far, included only large and widely-represented teams in the game.
A deck, in order to function successfully within the game, needs to have a certain minimum number of characters. Therefore, a team, in order to successfully devote an entire deck to it, must have a certain minimum number of members. From the way you describe it, it sounds as though this fundamental aspect of the game is what almost kept the Qwardians from making it into the Green Lantern Corps set.

Thankfully, certain teams have ways to get around this problem, like the aforementioned sub-teams in Anti-Matter and first-issue martyrs in X-Statix, but when you look at the comic book superhero industry in it’s entirety, you see that that the vast majority of teams out there have never had memberships that exceed the single digits through even the most generous stretch of the imagination.

And it’s not just traditional teams, either. Often times, a hero will have several allies or sidekicks that, thematically, would warrant their own affiliation, but not enough to meet the minimum quota required to build a deck around. Even more tragic is when a hero has a fleshed-out cadre of villains that could easily be made into an affiliation, but no superhero allies with which to construct an opposing team from.

It is my hope that by writing this email, I have given you the opportunity to put my troubled mind to rest by letting me know how Upper Deck plans to deal with this problem in the long-term future.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t trimmed that much. Here’s the answer I gave Bizarro, also trimmed down a bit. I did tell him that I was going to expand on my answer in this article, but reading it over, I’m pretty happy with it.
One, even if in the end we felt that the Qwardians alone weren’t large or cool enough to warrant an entire affiliation, we totally would have done a few on their own (probably like the current status of the Skrulls). And, of course, at least some of them would be Army so players could build real (if not good) decks. And actually, for those guys, volume of characters wasn’t the problem. It was just an overall fear that they would be an obscure faction in our most obscure expansion to date.
 
Two, as for your question about how we’d handle a really small team . . . here are a few approaches.
 
1. We can just double or triple up on versions. As you know, while this is workable, it’s not really ideal if there aren’t good thematic reasons to do different versions of the same character.
 
2. We can just make their character suites small and narrow, like the Fearsome Five. Now it’s true that DC’s FF isn’t currently fleshed-out as a full team, though giving them a few more characters and 7–10 non-characters would go along way (even though they weren’t designed to be super-cohesive the way “normal teams” are).
 
3. Guest stars. For example, we added Superman to the Gotham Knights because Bats and Supes sometimes hang out. Just the same we could have (and possibly should have) added Oliver Queen to the GLC (though I had my reasons, I swear!). So yeah, if we do a GA team and are strapped for content, we might want to add in Hal.
 
4. Some combination of the above. Double up on versions a few times to bring the roster up to ten or so, throw in a few Army characters if it would make sense, and give them a healthy number of non-characters (ten or more).
 
5. There’s also something new we’re working on that helps with this issue, but I would be killed if I spilled.
 
One thing you’ve probably noticed is that there’s really just a threshold where a team has enough characters to build a deck. Having many more characters than what’s required by that threshold usually just means the team has some redundancy available or it has some off the wall characters that require their own strange deck type. (Phantasm and Intergang are good examples of outlandish characters that aren’t really competing for a normal slot in a deck.)
 
My point is, in general I don’t think it’s too difficult to achieve that threshold, though it’s way better if there’s enough flavor content to add more characters on top.
A note to the other players who sent me emails: I will be answering all of them either in future articles or personally (or both). I’m only doing one question today because I’m a little tight on time and space.
Okay, that’s all for now. Tune in next week for an artful look at Vs.
Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.

(Metagame Archive) Voices from the Field: Green Lantern’s Generic Code, Part 2

By Ben Kalman

Yes, I know I said “in two weeks,” but then I remembered that PC: NY is next week, so next week’s article would have little room for going over the Green Lantern set.

So without further ado, here is the second part of my look at the generic cards in Green Lantern. I’m examining locations and equipment and their . . . erm . . . “splashability” into other decks. Once again, I will overlook most cards that focus on willpower, as they’re not really useful outside of Green Lantern decks.

Location, location, location!

The generic locations in this set are all over the map, and some of them are screaming to be unleashed in decks of all colors and sizes.

Let’s start with Birthing Chamber, otherwise known as God’s gift to Sinister Syndicate. In raw Syndicate decks, discarding cards is a necessary evil that feeds everything from Tombstone to Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. And Syndicate decks generally thrive on the swarm, which means that they’ll usually have at least four or five characters on the field at exactly the same time that they start running out of cards in hand. Sure, they have draw power with Osborn Industries, but that costs a discard to use, so you’re replacing a card and not actually gaining one; sifting, not drawing.

Well, Birthing Chamber is a reusable card-drawing machine that rewards swarm decks by providing a draw as early as turn 3 or a double draw and single discard if you have six or more characters on the field. This not only allows you to fill up your hand, which will deplete when you drop multiple characters each turn, but also feeds those discard effects.

As well, Birthing Chamber loves Manhunter decks (the faction that the R&D team likely had in mind when this card was created), which can explode with a turn 5 or 6 über-swarm, launching Sleeper Agents and excavating and engineering dozens of mini-Manhunters to overwhelm your opponent. When you suddenly rise from two or three characters on the field to six or seven, you can reward yourself with a card draw or two. That should refill your hand with tricks to use on those newfound robots of destruction.

Also, with a mini-resurgence of Vomit in the works (both the Wild kind and rogue decks like that crazy, newfangled Thuggee/Skrull Soldier/Longshot deck seen at $10K Brisbane last weekend), there are all sorts of possibilities for Birthing Chamber to help find the cards one needs, be they drops, power-ups, or that Underground Sentinel Base that your Longshot can’t seem to dig up. With Armies of Qward making multiple-faction Army decks more and more intriguing, this card should see a lot of action in testing.

Next up is Coast City, which is not so much anti-flight as splash-friendly. Afraid to use Longshot because you can’t reinforce him? Know how those Puppet Masters have always been the weak link in your deck? This made you stick ’em behind your beefcake and hope that your opponent didn’t have the flight (or the sense) to target them for a stomping, right? Well, now you have a way to protect them, as Coast City is a reusable location that forces your opponent to take out the front row protection racket before moving in on the support row pancake. Until now, this type of character-protection effect seemed to be limited to Superman drops or to those daring enough to try to squeeze My Hero into their decklists. Coast City makes it more inviting to splash a character that could otherwise be a weak link.

And now, on to Mosaic World. This card is the boon that Mojo fanatics (me included!) have been waiting for. It allows you to take all of your unaffiliated characters and use them together as though they were on the same team. It also allows you to splash affiliated characters into an unaffiliated deck without worrying about having a weak link or an open target. You can now reinforce that Puppet Master, team attack with Arcade to KO those higher drops, and cause all forms of migraines for your opponent as he or she has to plan around new and more complex board strategies.

Unaffiliated decks aren’t the only ones to gain from this card, as Solitaire decks can also rejoice. Ever wanted to run a Big Men deck with powerful characters at every drop—regardless of affiliation—without having to worry about a lack of reinforcement? Or how about being able to use those characters to take out your opponent’s higher drops without breaking a sweat? Mosaic World allows that dream to come true, as it provides you with a sleeve full of aces that didn’t exist before. You can now play a viable solitaire deck without worrying about its biggest weakness—being stuck with a board full of characters that cannot individually face what your opponent has on the table but could collectively wipe the floor with your opponent if they could attack together.

Remember that Mosaic World does not give you an affiliation, so you cannot get around loyalty restrictions with this card and you can’t use team-stamped attack pumps (like It’s Clobberin’ Time!) on characters of other affiliations. This location only provides you with the ability to team attack and reinforce as though your characters had all affiliations. Just as Nightcrawler and Spiral don’t actually have flight or range, neither will your characters gain any new affiliations.

Equip to This!

Light Armor may cost a resource point if your character doesn’t have willpower, but its usefulness far outweighs such a minor drawback. What makes Light Armor so attractive is that it’s a +3 ATK boost that doubles as a plot twist. How many ATK pumps of +3 or higher are in this game? How many of those don’t have some form of drawback or team stamp? And, to narrow down the field even further, how many of them have absolutely no threshold cost? You’re looking at a +3 ATK boost to any attacker, regardless of affiliation, with no cost or drawback outside of having to discard it.

Now, if that doesn’t interest you enough, it is searchable Construct equipment that gives a +3 ATK boost to its equipped character for a cost of only 1 (or 0 for a character with willpower). Fantastic Four should love this card, and if you pop it on Stretch, it not only costs nothing to play, but also makes him a 10 ATK/10 DEF 5-drop. None too shabby, I’d say.

Next on the Construct equipment table is Chopping Block. Chopping Block is a fun little card that allows the equipped character to activate to remove stunned characters from the game. This means that Avalon Space Station, Reconstruction Program, and many Underworld devices cannot make use of the character. As well, its secondary ability (discard it and two other cards for one-shot character removal) is a difficult task, as it’s not easy to sacrifice three cards to remove one. It can, however, be more than worth it in the right situation, especially when you team up to take down that one pesky character that will just recover somehow if you don’t.
 
While Chopping Block is perhaps not as splashable or useful as Light Armor, it is definitely a more powerful card in the right deck. It’s just a matter of finding that right deck.

Finally, we have one of the most useful cards in the set: Catcher’s Mitt. Another Construct, Catcher’s Mitt gives everyone on the field reinforcement or can be discarded as a one-shot reinforcement effect targeting a single character. It’s less effective than Burn Rubber on the whole, but it can’t be stopped by those nasty Not So Fasts. Just the ability to fearlessly play a low drop in the high turns without having to worry about those mean 7- and 8-drops mulching you for über-breakthrough makes this card well worth considering. Popping down a 1- or 2-drop on turn 7 with a Mitt helps you to throw the game open with whatever tricks you had in mind without having to worrying about sucking on the pain pipe as a result of your recruitment drive. It’s particularly vicious in Sealed Pack play, but it can be equally nasty in the right Constructed deck.

When I return from PC: NY, I shall bring forth an old deck with new tricks and look at what happens when a deck that had kinks gets to splash these generic DGL cards.

Also, thanks to Robert Smith for catching an error in last week’s article. Construct characters do KO at the beginning of the recovery phase, even if they’re stunned.

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, and it now boasts well over 1,600 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG.

(Metagame Archive) Upper Deck Entertainment’s Vs. System Nominated for TCG Of The Year!

By Metagame Staff

Upper Deck Entertainment’s Vs. System Nominated for TCG of the Year!

Every year, the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design (AAGAD) honors the most innovative and successful games in the industry with the Annual Origins Awards Ceremony. The celebration of innovation, artistry, and success within the field promotes new games and often establishes a legacy for the hottest and best of the past year’s offerings, so competition and debate are always fierce. This year, Vs. System has been nominated for the most distinguished award in its category—TCG of the Year!

Aside from the standard Origins Awards lineup, this year marks the first in which players and fans will be able to support their favorite game in an all-out battle royale of gaming goodness. The 31st Annual Origins Awards will include the new Gamer’s Choice Award, giving the public a chance to vote for their top picks. Naturally, Vs. System is among the possible nominations, and it’s up to you, the fans, to support your game!

Interested in letting your voice be heard? Hit up http://web.archive.org/web/20070425144925/http://www.originsgames.com/index.pl/gca to vote for your top five games of the year! Registration takes less than thirty seconds, and this is a great chance for you to show your love for the industry’s biggest new TCG. The incredible player base has made Vs. what it is, and now is your chance to show the world what Vs. fans are all about!

Good luck to all competitors in the 31st Annual Origins Awards!

(Metagame Archive) Tim’s Pro Circuit New York Predictions

By Tim Willoughby

Start spreading the news! PC: New York is approaching like an inept ninja; wherever I look, it’s there. According to my rather limited understanding of geography, Indianapolis was kind of “in the middle” of the USA and PC: LA was very much on the west coast. There was a bit of an overshot for the next Pro Circuit—clearly, somebody hadn’t been informed that New New Amsterdam and Amsterdam aren’t the same place. All has been sorted out now, though, and the Big Apple is getting its very own PC.

 
For someone who lives in a country small enough that I can pretty much make it to any and all PCQs held within it with relative ease, the sheer size of the USA is mind boggling. It’s something that I generally choose to ignore, along with the national debt and the long term effects of all the processed cheese I have imbibed. But it was thrown back into stark reality when I saw a map of the world the size of a football pitch the other day. While I could have a quiet (and necessarily cozy) soiree with a small group of friends on England, there was enough room for one monster kegger over on the other side of the Atlantic. What is the point of all this? Basically put, America is so mind-numbingly colossal that I sometimes forget that just because you’re American doesn’t mean that you can easily make it to any Pro Circuit over there. But there’s something so good about New York that they had to name it twice, so I have a sneaking suspicion that it will drag various really good players out to play.
 
After Amsterdam was won by New Jersey native Adam Horvath in an all–New Jersey final, one could almost consider there to be a bit of territory protecting to do at this Pro Circuit. I have heard, though, that the time differences over there are significant enough that the city that never sleeps and everything can change in a New York minute. Frankly, I was worried enough just about jetlag.
 
So, are there any predictions that I can make for such a volatile and exciting event? Well, my friends, as I’ll be reporting there, I thought it might be rather fun for me to run a little bit of a scavenger hunt for entertaining stories from the Pro Circuit. If all of the following things happen (and I think that all of them have a fair chance of coming off for somebody at some point), then it will be a great event. Feel free to print out this big list, and if you witness anything on it, come find me at the event and let me know. I’ll be the English guy with a laptop. You can hear it in my accent when I talk.
 
Tim’s Big Predictions Scavenger Hunt!
 
  1. The now infamous Pro Circuit speech will be joined in with by at least twenty people at its climax.
  2. We will see at least one player in an “I Heart New York” t-shirt. He or she will not be from New York.
  3. There will be a turn 4 win.
  4. I will beat Jason Grabher-Meyer at a feature match mirror coverage game. (You don’t need to tell me if this one happens, but if you want to, you can point it out to Jason.)
  5. Someone will be beaten by an opponent who is less than half his or her age.
  6. Someone will be beaten by an opponent who ticks the “F” box on forms (as opposed to the “M” or “Yes Please” boxes).
  7. There will be somebody dressed up as a fictional character. Jason looking like he just stepped out of The Matrix does not count.
  8. Someone will win with the Arkham Inmates.
  9. After playing Lacuna, there will be a chorus of Hakuna Matata by some cheery fellow.
  10. The endurance total difference at the end of a game will be over 100,000.
  11. More caffeinated drinks will be consumed over the course of the weekend by the Metagame.com staff than there are players at the PC.
  12. A new record will be set for the PC Big Mouth Challenge.
  13. Jeff Donais will resurrect the PC Rock Paper Scissors challenge (no, not Golden Age).
  14. Rock will win more than it deserves to.
  15. Someone will draw his or her entire deck over the course of a game.
  16. Someone will mulligan a hand of four copies of the same card.
  17. Someone will have to alter his or her travel arrangements after doing better than expected.
  18. Someone will draft fewer characters than non-characters in the Booster Draft section of the PC.
  19. I will give any and all Twinkies handed to me to Gary Wise. He will eat over 50 percent of them himself.
  20. Jason Grabher-Meyer will make fun of my hair. I will reciprocate.
  21. Two people who traveled to the PC with each other will play in the main event.
  22. John “Bam Bam” Rich will have to defend himself against people with magic markers looking to put “tattoos” on his head if he does well. I guess now he might need to even if he doesn’t.
  23. There will be two non-Americans in the Top 8.
  24. Not So Fast will cost someone a game when he or she pumps an opposing character’s ATK and then tries to Overload it.
  25. A Titans player will end up taking more endurance loss in a game from Garth ◊ Tempest than from his or her opponent’s effects.
  26. Two members of the Top 32 will have the same birthday.
  27. By the end of the Pro Circuit, over a hundred people will have mentioned to me that they think something should be done about the interaction between Savage Beatdown and Overload.
  28. An 8-cost character will be hit by Overload. The owner of said character will be one of the hundred people in number 27.
  29. I will fit more than ten references to songs about New York into a single feature match coverage report. I love New York City.
  30. Someone won’t win a coin toss or die roll all day but will still make Day 2.
  31. A judge will upgrade a penalty from a warning to “a warning with a silly face pulled at the player concerned.” This won’t actually change the severity of the penalty, but it will be mildly entertaining.
  32. A player will have a total willpower of 50 or greater on the table at one time.
  33. Somebody will make a reference to Dave Humpherys in the same breath as talking about the Sith.
  34. A pro will have a feature match three rounds running.
  35. A game will go to turn 12.
  36. There will be an angry dance-off between two Vs. players before the end of the weekend. Anger is very much optional.
  37. Despite not actually playing in the event, Brian Kibler will make it into at least 10 pictures of the PC coverage.
  38. Somebody will determine who gets to choose the initiative by the medium of asking the feature match reporter to write down the name of a starlet. Blonde or brunette will then be the call. Redheads will be deemed statistical anomalies.
  39. Someone will show up with an all-foil deck. He or she will officially gain the nickname “The Blingingist.”
  40. Someone will show up with an all-foreign deck. He or she will officially gain the nickname “Schadenfreude” as opponents stare confusedly at the more obscure cards.
 
If anything close to my Top 40 events occurs, then I will be one very happy bunny. The good thing with the Pro Circuit, though, is that half of the fun comes from the events that you just cannot predict (even when you really try). I know that I am really excited about the whole affair, and whether you join me in person or through the online coverage, I truly hope that you feel the same.
 
Have fun and be lucky,
 
Tim “Whoa-o, I’m an Alien” Willoughby
 
timwilloughby (at) hotmail (dot) com

(Metagame Archive) Detective Work 4: PC New York

Justin Gary

Welcome to a special PC New York edition of Detective Work. Today we’re going to look at what decks and strategies you can expect to see at the Pro Circuit next week. We’ll also spend a little time talking about one of the hottest controversies in all of Vs. and how it will impact the PC.

First, let’s get a little bit of hype out of the way. PC New York is the fourth Pro Circuit and represents the end of the first season. It has been an incredible year both for the Pro Circuit and for Vs. as a whole. This game has gone from being a relatively unknown product to becoming one of the hottest games in the industry, winning multiple awards and supporting growing communities all over the world. We have already crowned three Pro Circuit champions (who won $40,000 each!), and by the end of next weekend, we will have given away over one million dollars* in cash prices. And you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. We still have a few surprises in store for attendees of Pro Circuit New York, and we have even more huge plans for the second season of the Pro Circuit. If there is anyone in the New York and New England area that isn’t already planning on attending the Pro Circuit, it’s not too late! The new Feature Match area (unveiled at PC Amsterdam) is an incredible sight to see, and the Pro Circuit is more accessible than ever before. There will be last chance qualifiers on Thursday to give everyone in attendance a chance to become a PC Champion. Even if you don’t qualify for the Pro Circuit, there are still plenty of side events (Drafts, Sealed Deck, and Constructed) to enjoy, including a $10K Championship on Saturday. In addition, we will be giving away special extended art promo cards just for playing in side events at the PC. But even beyond getting the chance to play against Vs. players from all around the world, you can be there while the best of the best duke it out for their chance to go down in history as the last Pro Circuit Champion of the first season.

The field for this event should be very interesting. Green Lantern is not legal for Constructed play yet, so the Golden Age format will be well developed. Does that mean that we can expect a field of Teen Titans and Curve Sentinels? Well, yes . . . but that doesn’t mean that it’s all we should expect. There’s still a lot of room to innovate in this field, and there are many new archetypes that have popped up in recent $10Ks.

Let’s take a look at the Top 8 of the most recent $10K in Detroit. In the midst of three Sentinels decks and three Teen Titans decks were two interesting rogue decks. Sammy Gilly was one of only seven players playing a Doom Gamma Bomb deck. He made it to the Top 8 with the following list:

Sammy Gilly

3 Beast
4 Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius
4 Puppet Master
4 Boris
1 Imperiex
4 Robot Sentry
3 Apocalypse
4 Robot Destroyer
1 Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria

3 Faces of Doom
4 Mystical Paralysis
3 Pleasant Distraction
3 Gamma Bomb
3 Swift Escape
4 Reign of Terror
1 Flame Trap
1 Reconstruction Program

4 Latveria
4 Doomstadt

2 Power Compressor

This deck is a very focused version of an old archetype. For those that don’t know, the plan for this deck is to use Swift Escape on Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria followed by Gamma Bomb to wipe out the board. Then, by playing one other character before replaying Doom, you can flip Swift Escape and Gamma Bomb face down again. Wash, rinse, repeat. The rest of the deck is devoted to stalling the game until that combo can come into play. With Beast and Latveria out, Gamma Bomb abuse can begin as early as turn 7! The interesting card of note in this build is Power Compressor. Power Compressor has been popping up in almost all archetypes that support Dr. Doom. Common Enemy, Evil Medical School, and Gamma Bomb Doom all use Power Compressor as a tool to prevent abuse of many powerful characters with activated abilities, but primarily it is an answer to Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal and the Fantastic Fun deck.

The other exciting deck in the Top 8 of Detroit was a League of Assassins build played by Steven Politowski.

4 Assassin Initiate
3 Hassim
2 Kyle Abbot
4 Ubu
4 Merlyn
1 Ra’s al Ghul, Immortal Villain
4 Bane, Ubu
4 Ra’s al Ghul, Master Swordsman
3 Lady Shiva, Master Assassin
1 Ra’s al Ghul, The Demon’s Head
4 Tower of Babel
4 Savage Beatdown
2 Have a Blast!
4 The Demon’s Head
3 Overload

4 Mountain Stronghold
3 Lazarus Pit
1 Pit of Madness
1 Flying Fortress
1 Avalon Space Station
1 Clocktower
1 LexCorp
1 Latverian Embassy

League of Assassins has periodically broken through to the Top 8, largely on the power of Merlyn and the versatility of The Demon’s Head. This deck may be ready to make its big breakthrough next weekend. In addition, though they won’t be legal for New York, the League will be getting a few more useful cards in the upcoming Batman starter deck that could help them become a staple deck in Golden Age.**

The truth is that for this event, most players will be playing deck archetypes that we have all seen before. While I have no doubt that there are rogue decks that can defeat a metagame this established, it is very hard to get a rogue deck fine-tuned enough to compete against the well-honed popular decks. If you look at how far the Teen Titans deck and the Curve Sentinels decks have evolved since their inception (remember Master Mold?), you will notice how much better these decks have gotten based on literally thousands of hours of playtesting around the world. Trial by fire through tournament after tournament has gradually illuminated the best builds for these decks. A small team working on a rogue deck can’t compete with that kind of testing and needs to rely on the predictability of the metagame to make choices that, while not necessarily finely tuned, pack a lot of punch against the weaknesses of the current top decks. This is where things get exciting.

In today’s metagame, the major evolutions seem to be occurring not in unplayed teams, but in specific plot twist and narrow “hate” card choices. Key examples of this are the huge increase in Betrayals seen in Top 8 decks from multiple $10Ks, the use of Micro-Sentinels in Curve Sentinel decks, and the huge popularity of Power Compressors in Doom decks. The big evolution that I am waiting for is the resurgence of Not So Fast. The Savage Beatdown/Overload combo has become a staple of the Golden Age metagame. Since Savage Beatdown and Overload represent the most powerful plot twists in the game even without combining them, it is no surprise that these cards see a lot of play. Not So Fast is a brutal way to break up this combo while giving your attacker a free +5 ATK to boot. Another way in which players can metagame against the Beatdown/Overload combo is to play decks that don’t try to fight. Decks like Fantastic Fun, Turbo Gamma Bomb, and Evil Medical School don’t waste time attacking in order to win, so they are inherently less susceptible to Overload. It will be interesting to see how people respond to this format-defining combo when $40,000 is at stake.

Before signing off, I want to give everyone one more reason to go to Pro Circuit New York—Me! Well, not me specifically, but me and my coworkers in Vs. R&D. Mike Hummel, Dave Humpherys, Brian Kibler, and I will all be in New York to help judge and do coverage for the event.*** Come down and talk to us! We get lonely playing Vs. all day, and we want to hear from you!**** Do you want your voice to be heard by the people that make the game? Now is your chance. We want to hear what you think of Vs. and how we can improve it. We are coming to the close of the first year of Vs. and we are all very proud of the game we have created and excited about the plans we have for the future (just wait till you see how good The Avengers is!). If you like my articles, let me know. If you think they are terrible, blame Humpherys.

Hope to see many of you in NY! As always, send questions and comments to JustinGary1@hotmail.com.

* (Said in my best Dr. Evil voice with pinky raised)

** For example, see Danny Mandel’s preview article from last week here.

*** Unfortunately, Andrew Yip won’t be able to make it to this PC . . . but who cares about what that guy thinks, anyway?

**** . . . and anything beats listening to Danny tell us how big his pants are all day.