(Metagame Archive) How to Make a Vs. System Expansion in Nine Easy Steps: Step 6: Full Design

By Danny Mandel

I like to think that if Dave Humpherys was a Pokemon, he’d go around all day saying things like “Humpherys! Humpherys Dave Humpherys! Daaaaave Dave Humpherys! Hum-PHREYS!”

But what I like to think about isn’t important. What is important, is that this is the article I’ve been looking forward to writing for about two months now. That’s because this is the one where I get to tell all the fun design stories from making the Green Lantern set. So yeah, let’s get the design bible part out of the way . . .

Design Bible

Part Nine: Full Design

Overview
In this part, R&D takes what we know about the IP and combines it with what we’ve learned in our initial development in order to flesh out the design of the set.

Questions on Full Design
What are the main aspects of full design?
What are the goals and methods of designing legacy content?
Thoughts on Full Design
At this stage of set creation we want to build a file of cards that will be close (at least in design) to the finished file. The file should contain between 10% and 20% more cards than we’ll need, so for a 220-card set, we probably want around 250 cards at this stage of the game. During development, we’ll pare down the file, usually putting cut cards into a folder that we’ll look through when it’s time to design later sets.

During full design, we’re going to want to design lots of new cards from scratch. However, we’re not just going to throw out all the cards we made up and used during initial design and development. As we go through our list of cards, we’ll peek through the initial set, culling cards (and often altering them so they fit better) whenever appropriate.

There are many aspects of full design, but the mains ones are:

The Cost Breakdown of Characters on Each Team
“Realistically” speaking, we might design a team that has few characters whose power levels justify their being above cost 3. Similarly, a team might have few characters whose power levels put them lower than cost 3. Having a huge team of small characters or over-large characters just wouldn’t give us that great a play experience, though, so we build a team’s character curve with an emphasis more on internal relativity. That is, we make sure that we order characters’ relative power levels so that the order makes sense within their team.

Of course, it’s not always that simple. We often fudge things when we have a character that’s going to get multiple versions on a team because it’s much better to have a Hal Jordan at cost 3, cost 5, and cost 7 than it is to have three Hal Jordans all at cost 5. (It’s better because it allows us more flexibility in card design and because it makes it easier for players to build an all–Hal Jordan deck.)

In general, a team gets a handful of characters at each low drop point (it’s important to give them enough to make off-curve decks viable) and then fewer and fewer characters as we go up the curve. While only some teams have characters that warrant an 8+ cost, almost every major team should have at least one 7-drop. (This is for Sealed play and because cost 7 has become the standard “curve-capper.”)

One difficulty in building the cost curve on a team arises when several characters have arguably similar power levels. Actually, it’s not that difficult, because in these cases (like in most cases where there aren’t heavy flavor pressures) we can put the characters wherever we want during design and then alter their costs during development. This brings me to the next aspect of full design.

Varying Character Function at Each Drop Point
With regard to characters, there are two types of decks: Curve decks and off-curve decks. There are certain things R&D has to do in design to make a team viable to both types of decks. And by “viable,” I’m not speaking specifically about the team’s impact in tournaments, though that’s part of it. I’m talking about the team offering a deck-builder lots of decisions to make and avenues to explore.

Generally we try to vary the characters’ roles at a given cost point on a given team. For example, we might want one 4-drop to be aggressive, one to be defensive, one to have a cool activated power, and one to have a utility power. Ideally there would be some overlap between the characters’ roles, since decks often want to run multiple characters at a given drop point for consistency. This is especially true of off-curve decks, which usually want to run tons of smaller characters.

Card Families or Mechanical Cohesiveness
When R&D designs a team, we need to consider that there are (at least) two levels on which a player perceives the team’s mechanical identity: holistically* (looking at the team on the whole) and atomically (looking at individual cards).

Identifying a team’s mechanical flavor holistically is more about feel than anything else. A player flips through a team’s cards or reads a spoiler list and starts getting a sense of what the team’s all about. For example, a healthy amount of reinforcement and endurance gain demonstrates that one of a team’s strengths is keeping its endurance total high. To convey a team’s identity on the whole, we want a collection of similarly-themed cards. (Keep in mind this sort of design is actually started back in Part 7 when we work on team dynamics.)

Identifying a team’s mechanical flavor atomically is actually pretty straightforward. A player looks at a specific card and immediately associates it with a given team. For example, a card that punishes an exhausted character would most likely belong on the Arkham Inmates. To convey a team’s identity on a card-by-card basis, our best tool is to put similar or even the same mechanics on several cards.

Top-Down Design
Top-down design is one of the lynchpins that makes the Vs. System cool. Flavor text and card versions can provide a surface amount of flavor, but nothing beats a game power that conveys a character’s real character.

Top down design is such a vital issue that I could write a whole article just about it. Wait a minute! I already did right here.

That article explains the basics of how we approach designing characters, especially when their powers mimic other characters’ or don’t fit neatly into the context of the game.

Legacy Content
Designing cards for the older teams is a bit different from fleshing out the main teams. Rather than creating something new out of whole cloth (like we do with the new teams), we’re trying to add layers and/or patch holes in the fabric of the legacy teams. The key thing to point out here is that unlike the full design of the main teams, the design of legacy content starts out as development’s responsibility.

You see, our developers have a much better idea of where the older teams are in the tier 1 metagame than our designers. If a team is on the weak side, it’s the developers’ job to come up with legacy content to strengthen them (staying within the confines of their mechanical flavor, of course).

On the other hand, if development thinks a team is A-OK on the power level front, the designers get to mess around with their legacy cards. Generally this happens in one of three ways.

One, we design cards that can strengthen or provide redundancy to some core concepts of a team that had been previously unexplored or underpowered. (An example would be giving the X-Men Power Nexus and Ultimate Sacrifice to support their swarm build).

Two, we take the team in an entirely new direction that fits their flavor. (An example would be giving the X-Men Archangel, Angel of Death and Aerial Supremacy.)

Three, we design entirely top-down to really sell the card concept’s flavor. (An example would be giving the X-Men John Proudstar ◊ Thunderbird, who’s most famous for dying in his first storyline. Fortunately, his mechanic fits in well with the X-Men’s many recovery effects.)**

At this point, we should have a working file of about 250 cards.

Next entry: Sealed Play Development.

Green Lantern Design Diary

Part Nine: Full Design

Last time, I went over some of the cards we came up with for the initial set. Today is more of the same, only looking a lot more closely at top-down design. 

Abin Sur
Talk about a no-brainer. In the comics, Abin Sur was the Green Lantern who, upon his death, passed his power ring on to Hal Jordan. Character smoothing is a “universal” mechanic, in that we can give it to any team (though each team should do it in its own way), and we went with pure searching. We had Abin (or should I call him “Sur”) floating around cost 4–6, and we went with 4 to increase the likelihood of a player electing to use his power. Also, putting him at 4 made us want to include a Hal Jordan at cost 5 so it would be easy in curve decks for Abin to search out Hal (which best mirrors the story in the comics).

Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Sector 2814
Speaking of Hal, any long-time Green Lantern reader knows that middle-aged Hal went through a kind of Jack Kerouac On the Road period, when he traveled around trying to find himself. I decided to represent the loner version of Hal by giving him a bonus while he was by himself. This fit in nicely with cards that KO’d other potential teammates, like Abin Sur’s sacrificing himself and Emerald Dawn, plus it might fit into some crazy X-Statix/GL team-up.

Arisia and G’Nort
There are two requirements to being a Green Lantern: You must be fearless and honest. Now, while we didn’t put an honesty mechanic in the set, we wanted to show off the GL’s fearlessness by giving them a version of the card No Fear, but instead of putting it on a plot twist, we put it on a character.

Arisia is also an example of a design intended to help off-curve decks (like I mentioned up in the Design Bible), as is her little buddy, G’Nort. Since G’Nort is more of a mascot than a warrior, we gave him a power that made the rest of the team happier when he’s around.

It’s also worth pointing out that G’Nort is Scott Elliot’s favorite character, probably because they look alike. (For those of you who don’t know, Scott’s the guy in charge of Organized Play, the team that sets up tournaments hobby leagues and does all sorts of other mysterious things I don’t really understand.)

Kyle Rayner, Ion
Kyle is a hotly debated card on the forums, both in terms of whether or not his mechanic is useful and whether or not his power makes sense. While I’m not going to weigh in on the former, I will at least tell you what we were thinking when we designed him.

In the Ion storyline, Kyle gained so much power (through a convoluted scenario involving Parallax) that he could pretty much do whatever he wanted, including being in multiple places at the same time. You see, like any good Spider-Man, Kyle treated his newfound great power with great responsibility: He decided to police the entire galaxy (thus his flavor text). The only problem was that in his attempt to be everywhere, he kind of had to give up being himself.

We chose to represent his self-sacrifice with his boost power. But you might ask, if Kyle-as-Ion is so powerful, why is he only a 6-drop? The answer is that while we often try to organize or rank characters according to their comic book power level, we also have to keep in mind that sometimes it’s okay to make tradeoffs in order to provide a better play experience. Maybe it would have been more appropriate to make Kyle a 12-drop, but then he wouldn’t get to see as much play as he does now.

Olapet
Olapet carries the seed of her offspring in a pouch she wears (thus her boost power), but that’s not the real story. The real story is that I kept quizzing the rest of R&D on where Olapet’s from. It would go something like this:

Me: Hey, Justin?

Justin: Yeah?

Me: Where’s Olapet from?

Justin: Who’s Olapet?

Me: A Green Lantern.

Justin: Okay.

Me: Okay, but do you know what sector Olapet’s from?

Justin: (Sighs) No, Danny. I don’t know what sector Olapet’s from.

Me: She’s from Southern Goldstar!!!

Justin: (Puts on headphones)

Man, I miss sitting next to Justin . . .

Sinestro, Green Lantern of Korugar
We were getting close to having a fully designed file ready to turn over to development, but one of the cards we were missing was the Green Lantern version of Sinestro. I was pretty sure we had to knock this one out of the park, so I did what any smart lead designer would do. I used our ringer: Matt Hyra.

You see, every member of R&D has his own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Mike Hummel is great as designing cards that push the envelope on what the rules can handle (think J. Jonah Jameson ) and Dave Humpherys is really tall (think someone who’s really tall, only taller). 

Perhaps Matt’s greatest strength is his ability to design cards that are totally off the hook. He came up with eight or ten raw card concepts for Sinestro, which I, using what’s probably my greatest strength as a designer, shaped into the finished character we all love to hate. And for those of you out there who don’t know Sinestro’s origin, his mechanic represents the perverse view of order he enforced on his home planet, Korugar, which led to his expulsion from the Green Lantern Corps and got him Banished to the Anti-Matter Universe.

Emerald City
When Coast City was destroyed, Hal Jordan went crazy and tried to recreate it and its inhabitants using sheer willpower. This was a bad thing. Ultimately it led to his murder of the rest of the Corps and his transformation into Parallax. (Well, sorta. The events of “Green Lantern: Rebirth” put a new spin on things, which I won’t go into here.)

This is the lesson of Emerald City: If your home town is destroyed, and you try to recreate it using the power of your mind, you’ll probably go mad and kill everyone and turn into a scary monster. At least for about ten years, at which point they’ll reshape continuity and get rid of the gray around your temples.

Hal Jordan, Parallax and Zero Hour
I’ll bet some of you though that these two cards were designed together. They both cost 9, Zero Hour turns Parallax’s (theoretically) unlimited willpower gain into a machine gun of direct endurance loss, and in the comics, the Zero Hour storyline introduced Parallax as the big bad guy. I mean, of course they were designed together, right?

Well, maybe. The truth is, Parallax was designed because I felt that while there was plenty of willpower and a small amount of willpower gain floating around the set, there was no character that could simply generate a nutty*** amount of willpower. So I made Parallax.

I figured players could come up with their own cool uses for the P-man. Then about three weeks later, I was having dinner with Humpherys (I’d lost a bet), and I was lamenting the fact that there wasn’t anything in the set to reward a player for generating a nutty amount of willpower (whether through Parallax or just having a bunch of willpower guys). I mean, there were some effects that scaled up based on your willpower, but I wanted something to really knock players’ socks off. I suggested Zero Hour (in pretty much its current incarnation), and Humpherys got a sour look on his face. Well, more sour than usual.

“No one will play it,” he said.

“Yes they will,” I said. “It’ll be cool! It’ll be splashy!”

“People will laugh at us,” he said.

“No they won’t,” I said. “They won’t laugh—they’ll cry! They’ll cry tears of joy!”

“You’re dumb,” he said.

And the rest, as they say, is history . . .

Major Force and the Tattooed Man
These guys are an example of what I was talking about up in the Design Bible about card families. Having multiple characters with the same power, we can really hammer home the Emerald Enemies low resource theme. Plus, it allows us to mess around with context by simply adjusting the characters’ stats and points on the curve. Tattooed Man is a beatstick on turn 2, but he gets worse and worse as the game wears on. Major Force works great as the top of your curve when you’re ready to start giving up your resources.

Prison Planet
One of the things we wanted to demonstrate about the Emerald Enemies was that they’re less a team and more a collection of the enemies of the Green Lanterns. Prison Planet was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate this while wrapping it up in something pretty thematic: As the flavor text explains, the prison planet keeps its inmates isolated by keeping them “chronologically out of phase”**** from each other.

Xallarap and Anti-Green Lanterns
Possibly my favorite bit of top-down design, in the comics these guys were given a ton of power to fight the GLs. The funny part is that they were also only given 24 hours to live before they exploded, which theoretically would inspire them to fight without any thought for their own safety. Go figure.

Mechanically, these guys were an experiment to see if we could make hugely stat-advanced characters with a pretty steep drawback. The cool part is that if you manage to get them stunned before the recovery phase, their KO power won’t trigger. Of course, you’ll still only get to recover one of them (unless you play a recovery effect), but hey, it’s better than nothing. As an aside these cards led to Dave Humpherys designing Locked in Combat, an otherwise perfectly fine card with the added bonus that it increases the likelihood that you can stun Xallarap in order to keep him around.

Anti-Monitor
Another Matt Hyra special, Ol’ “Auntie Monitor” is DC’s answer to Onslaught (in the game, I mean). Since everything is mirrored between the Matter and Anti-Matter universes, we felt it made sense for Auntie to allow you to make one-for-one trades with your opponent. Of course, when all is said and done, one-for-one doesn’t necessarily mean fair, especially when your opponent has no characters or resources, and you’re attacking for 22.  

The Crime Syndicate and Qwardian Conglomerate
Originally my plan for the Anti-Matter team was to have every single character start out concealed. But during initial testing, a lot of the hidden area mechanics I’d come up with got pulled and the mechanic that would later be named “Concealed—Optional” got pushed. I decided it would be nice to give all of the “evil twin” characters concealed—optional since they’re always invading our universe and whatnot, while the rest of the team would either have regular concealed or just be normal.

One of the goals of the concealed—optional mechanic is to make the choice of which zone to put the character into meaningful based on the game state (such as whether you need to protect your endurance or you want to go after your opponent’s). Some characters, like Superwoman, work really differently depending on their zone. Others, like Element Man, always go in a particular zone (but were given concealed—optional to sync them up with the rest of the Crime Syndicate or Conglomerate).

Fiero
My favorite concealed—optional character is definitely Fiero, because she embodies three things I was trying push for the Anti-matter team:

One, her concealed—optional power presented an interesting choice: Do you leave her in the visible area where she doesn’t zap for that much but her high DEF protects your endurance, or do you hide her where she makes a pretty good clock, but provides no defense?

Two, she has a really big DEF at the expense of her ATK. One of the goals of the GL set was to explore more nonstandard ATK/DEF/cost combinations, and Fiero fit the bill.

Three, she fits into a stall and/or win without attacking strategy, which is something I like.

Johnny Quick and Slipstream
Not only are these guys another example of cards with near identical mechanics operating differently based on size (or other factors), but they also demonstrate how top-down design gets filtered through team dynamics.

We often give speedsters the ability to ready themselves, and we decided to continue that tradition with these guys. However, we chose to differentiate them from their speedy cousins by tying their power into the concealed—optional mechanic.

Qwardian Watchdog and Manhunter Protector
Continuing the themes of big stats with a drawback and nonstandard ATK/DEF/cost combinations I mentioned above, I also wanted to make characters who either weren’t allowed to attack or with whom you wouldn’t want to attack. Both the Watchdog and the Protector were intended to protect your endurance or your other characters during the early game, though in different ways.

Manhunter Lantern
Manhunter Lantern’s a weird one. On the one hand, having exactly one character with willpower on a team is kind of lame considering willpower often works better the more of it you have. On the other hand, it felt really thematic to give a ring-wielding Manhunter some willpower. On another hand, Manhunters are robots, so they shouldn’t really have willpower, right? On yet another hand, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this odd issue.

Supermanhunter
In another nod to flavor over form, in the Superman set, every card that had to do with kryptonite was able to remove cosmic counters. Since Supermanhunter has kryptonite armor, I wanted him to remove cosmic counters. However, because cosmic wasn’t featured in this set, we improved it such that it could remove any type of counter. Take that, Gnaxos!

Manhunter Science
Another card intended to help off-curve strategies, Manhunter Science works perfectly in swarm builds, as you often run out of cards in hand but have extra warm bodies lying around. Plus, it’s really creepy.

Orinda
My favorite Manhunter card, it really captures the flavor of the Manhunter homeworld, which floated through space cloaked and invisible.

Plans Within Plans
This card was designed not only to represent the Manhunters’ long-term scheming, but also to fit in with their discard-pile based cards such as Highmaster, Manhunter 2.0, or Mark Shaw.

The Fall of Oa
Every expansion has a certain number of archetype-driving cards. The Fall of Oa is a new riff on The Joker, Emperor Joker, in that if you can empty your opponent’s deck, you get a big reward. Sure we could have made the reward on The Fall of Oa “You win the game,” but we already had Sinestro, Enemy of the Corps as our auto-win card. Plus, the phrase “put your deck into your hand” is just too cool. I’ll bet it’s right up Rian Fike’s alley.

In Remembrance
Way back when, I think maybe before the DC Comics expansion had released, Mike Hummel and I met Ben Kalman (Kergillian on vsrealms.com) who asked us a bunch of cool questions. One of them was when were we going to make it so you could power-up characters from your resource row. Well, Kerg, the answer is now. (Um, kind of.)

Millennium
And here we are, the update to my favorite card in all of the Vs. System: Marvel Team-Up. (World’s Finest is a close second.) I love Marvel Team-Up so much that I’ve officially changed Dave Humpherys name to “Marvel Team-Up.”

One of the main problems with Marvel Team-Up is that it’s often not worth investing a number of slots in your deck simply to facilitate a basic team-up strategy. Plus, it’s extra bad when you draw multiples. Millennium allows you to trade exhausting a character for a replacement card. Will it replace Marvel Team-Up as the generic Team-Up of choice? I don’t know. Will it help make team-up decks more viable? Definitely.

Legacy Content
Okay, this is the part where I’d planned to talk about how we designed the legacy content of the set. However, you guys seemed to have tricked me into writing, like, a million words already, so instead of talking about that stuff, I’m instead going to point you to Humpherys’s article on that topic from a few weeks ago.

Personally, I’d rather get a tonsillectomy than read one of his articles, but hey, I figured I’d at least give you the option . . .

Okay, that’s all I got today. Next week it’s more stories. Only this time they’re about the development of Sealed Deck and draft. Hurray!
Q&A

Today’s question is from Rod, an X-Men fan who offers a couple of cool card ideas, which, being that this is an article about design, I’ll critique. 

Ok, I’ll ask the question that has not been answered yet! :}

Are the X-Men getting :

a: Some sort of direct search to address the Cerebro situation?
b: Some way of reducing the cost of The Blackbird so that it can see more Constucted play?

Don’t get me wrong, ’tis a shody workman who blames his tools. But come on, tell me that some help is coming in the form of a plot twist that works in conjunction with Cerebro 🙂

I’m just saying as an avid fan, 18 years, of the mutants, I would really like to see so more help come our way in those forms.

Thank you so much for your time, and for reading this email. 
Focus the Search
Cost 3
As an additional cost to play Focus the Search, exhaust a Cerebro you control.
Search your deck for a character card you control, reveal it, and put it into your hand.
Discard a card from your hand.
 
Forge
Technical Genius
Cost 5
7 ATK / 7 DEF
Loyalty: As an addition cost to recruit Forge, discard an X-Men character from your hand.

When Forge comes into play, search your deck for a card named Blackbird and put in on Forge. Forge cannot attack this turn. Forge cannot be stunned this turn.

Boost 2: Cards named Blackbird are not unique this turn. 🙂
Thanks, Rod. I love emails like this one. To answer your first question, we realize the X-Men are still not tier one in Constructed, though we’re not looking specifically at strengthening Cerebro’s individual power level. Rather, we’re looking at the team on the whole and its place in the metagame.

As for your card ideas, while I love the flavor of “Focus the Search,” I worry that it’s a bit too narrow, in so far as the card requires you to have Cerebro specifically before you can play it.

Generally, we try to avoid having cards that specifically reference other cards, unless they’re telling you to go fetch the other card. And the times we do have cards reference other cards by name, it’s usually a card referencing a group of cards all with the same name. For example, Cadmus Labs references Superman, but there are several characters named Superman.

Although I guess I could see the card doing something basic, which is then improved if you control Cerebro. How about:

“Search your deck for an X-Men character card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Discard a card unless you control Cerebro.”

Or maybe something a bit sillier:

“As an additional cost to play Focus the Search, exhaust a character named Professor X or a location named Cerebro you control. <p> Search your deck for an X-Men character card, reveal it, put it into your hand, and shuffle your deck.”

The main issue I have with Forge is that he has too much text. Vs. is already a complicated game with lots of power floating around, so I’d rather try to keep him a bit simpler. I like the idea that he can’t be stunned, which protects The Blackbird from the auto-KO. And I like the idea that if he’s piloting or building the ship, he shouldn’t be attacking. But what if we try to simplify things.

How about if we make him concealed—optional in order to represent that he might be back in the lab or out fighting with the team? To make him a kind of weak attacker, we’ll just give him a lower ATK. Now, how do we make him “build” The Blackbird? I like the boost idea and the non-unique idea, so maybe something like this:

Forge
24 Blackbirds Baked in a Pie
Cost 4
3 ATK / 8 DEF

Concealed—Optional (You may have this character come into play in the hidden area.)

Forge can be equipped while in the hidden area and with any amount of equipment.

Pay 2 resource points >>> Your equipment cards are not unique this turn. Search your deck for an equipment card with cost 2 or less and equip it to Forge.

I’m not sure about the template, and it still has lots of text, but I think it’s pretty cool. What do you think?

Okay, that’s all for this week. Tune in next time for a look at Sealed play.

Send questions or comments to dmandel@metagame.com.
 

*I like to use big words because they make me look more smarter. I figure it’s important to point out that we don’t have like a textbook of vocabulary we use during the set creation process. I just try to break things using terms like this because they can be helpful to understanding. Also, it means I get to have funny IM conversations with other R&D guys where I ask what the opposite of “holistic” is, and they call me pretentious and/or an idiot. Huzzah!

**I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Wait a minute! He said designers only mess around with a team’s legacy content if development says the team’s A-OK in the metagame—so what’s with all this designer-generated X-Men content?”

To answer your imaginary question, designer-generated cards don’t have to weak. Just because they’re not primarily intended to bring a team up to tier one, doesn’t mean that they can’t also do so. Plus, having developers create legacy content is a relatively new aspect of our process.  

***Insert your own joke about Ch’p here.

**** Check out http://web.archive.org/web/20070815061749/http://glcorps.dcuguide.com/profile.php?name=oansciencells for more info.

(Metagame Archive) Avengers Preview: Melissa Gold ◊ Songbird

By Hans Joachim Höh

Today I have the honor of presenting you with a preview from the new Vs. System set, The Avengers. As you’ll probably skip the introduction anyway to get a glimpse of the new card, I’ll just give it to you right away.

I want to start with a short introduction of the character’s history, but I have to confess that I had to look it up. I started reading comics just recently because I was interested in the backgrounds of all those characters on my Vs. System cards, not the other way around. So I did not know about the Thunderbolts before I saw my preview card, as I can probably still be seen reading Wittgenstein or Nietzsche more often than the newest Marvel comics. Still, I try to find out about the storyline of each set when it comes out.

The Thunderbolts were initially a team of supervillains posing as heroes in order to exploit public goodwill. The team was formed by Baron Zemo, and its other members were the Beetle, Fixer, Moonstone, Goliath, and Screaming Mimi. Every team member took a new identity when the Avengers and the Fantastic Four disappeared to Counter-Earth. Zemo became Citizen V, the Beetle became MACH-1, the Fixer became Techno, Moonstone became Meteorite, Goliath became Atlas, and Screaming Mimi became Songbird.  

By the time that the Thunderbolts were exposed as the Masters of Evil, Mimi and most of her teammates had begun to enjoy their lives as superheroes, and they remained together as a group of outlaw heroes trying to win back public acceptance. As Songbird, she had been allied with the Avengers, and had also been depicted as a member of the Avengers in at least one possible future.

So, did you like the card I showed you? Not really? Then look again. Apart from her really cool hair and wings, Melissa also has some other advantages. Her stats are bigger than those of many 3-drops seeing play in Constructed nowadays, and she also has flight and range, which is rare in a Marvel set. So we’d already have a nice 3-drop here, but this beauty’s recruit cost is only 2! That is pretty awesome because it will lead to the following scenarios more often than not:

If it is your initiative on turn 2 and your opponent’s 2-drop is of a regular size (2 ATK/3 DEF, for example), you can attack for massive breakthrough endurance loss. With another decent 3-drop on your side, your opponent cannot stun both of your drops on turn 3 without stunning all of his or her characters, as well. This means that the opponent cannot generate character advantage that turn, and without a combat modifier on an ordinary 2-drop to take Melissa down, your opponent will even lose board presence on his or her own initiative. Normally, generating board advantage that early is not very important, as the additional 2-drop on your side can usually only attack for an extra 2 points per turn. But Melissa’s 6 ATK can really make a difference in the endurance race. If you have the odd initiative, it gets even better, as you can probably attack on turn 2 anyway, stealing the initiative with your big girl. Then you can attack up and down on turn 3 to generate the aforementioned board advantage for sure. From that point on, Melissa will likely stay in play, because her high ATK value makes it dangerous to attack her, even with a 4-drop.

To make a long story short, playing characters with stats that normally come at a higher recruit cost is always a good idea. But, as we saw on characters like Goldface, Sabretooth, Feral Rage, or Rocket Red, the text box of characters like that tends to be filled with demands or disadvantages instead of cool special abilties. So we always have to decide if we want to pay the (sometimes high) price for those curve-jumping stats.

So what sacrifices do we have to make for having Melissa hang out with us? She reads, “At the start of the build phase, target opponent may turn a face-up resource he controls face down.”

Evaluating a disadvantage that includes your opponent’s deck and decisions is a lot harder than one that depends only on your own deck. You can build your deck in a way that supports Rocket Red, but for Melissa’s drawback, you have to be familiar with the metagame. Which cards will likely be reused by the other player, and how bad will that be for you? As it is highly unlikely that the Sonic Carapace will be around in later turns, we only have to think about the cheap plot twists (and locations) here. As it triggers at the start of the build phase, the resource for the turn will not have been played yet, which reduces the chances of your opponent having a good, reusable plot twist even more. We cannot know yet what tricks will be in the next Marvel Modern Age decks, or what tricks will be in a normal Avengers Sealed Pack, but it is very likely that Melissa’s disadvantage will do nothing in Sealed while her stats will help you dominate the early game.

I came up with the following cards that might get reused in the Golden Age metagame and would therefore, in one way or another, reduce the advantage of your big bird:

Cheap Tutors: Bat-Signal, Wild Ride, and The Ring Has Chosen will be used “for free” to fetch early drops that might have been missed otherwise because the tutor was being saved for later on. The fetched drop might negate the advantage you wanted to gain with your strong 2-drop. For example, New School decks will get a Robot Sentry to stop your Songbird’s attacks right away while still keeping her around for additional free tutors. 

Good Team-Ups: The decks with team-ups that draw a card when flipped will be able to draw an extra card per turn with them. This might not really matter, but sometimes it could be enough to stop your initial onslaught.  

Early combat tricks: Nasty Surprise, Acrobatic Dodge, Flying Kick, or even a Surprise Attack for free can reduce the endurance advantage that you’re trying to gain.

If everything works out as planned and your Melissa is still around on turn 4, the top decks in the format can do some more nasty things like flip USS Argus in response to the trigger, using it and turning it down again to keep on drawing. Micro-Sentinels can be flipped during recovery, turned down with the trigger, and flipped up again during recovery, thereby infecting every character while staying hidden from your Foiled.

So, there definitely are some ways for most Golden Age decks to keep up with your huge 2-drop, and I might even have missed some. But as we do not yet know about the other members of the Thunderbolts or the rest of the Avengers set, it might be unfair to dismiss her already. A card’s power always depends on the environment in which it is used, but that is especially true for Melissa Gold. Expect it to be a force in Marvel Modern Age and Sealed Pack, at least, even if it proves to be not quite powerful enough for Golden Age play.

Have fun with this and other fine Avengers cards at your local Sneak Peek tournaments!

HaJo Today I have the honor of presenting you with a preview from the new Vs. System set, The Avengers. As you’ll probably skip the introduction anyway to get a glimpse of the new card, I’ll just give it to you right away.

 

 

 

 

I want to start with a short introduction of the character’s history, but I have to confess that I had to look it up. I started reading comics just recently because I was interested in the backgrounds of all those characters on my Vs. System cards, not the other way around. So I did not know about the Thunderbolts before I saw my preview card, as I can probably still be seen reading Wittgenstein or Nietzsche more often than the newest Marvel comics. Still, I try to find out about the storyline of each set when it comes out.

 

The Thunderbolts were initially a team of supervillains posing as heroes in order to exploit public goodwill. The team was formed by Baron Zemo, and its other members were the Beetle, Fixer, Moonstone, Goliath, and Screaming Mimi. Every team member took a new identity when the Avengers and the Fantastic Four disappeared to Counter-Earth. Zemo became Citizen V, the Beetle became MACH-1, the Fixer became Techno, Moonstone became Meteorite, Goliath became Atlas, and Screaming Mimi became Songbird.
 

By the time that the Thunderbolts were exposed as the Masters of Evil, Mimi and most of her teammates had begun to enjoy their lives as superheroes, and they remained together as a group of outlaw heroes trying to win back public acceptance. As Songbird, she had been allied with the Avengers, and had also been depicted as a member of the Avengers in at least one possible future.

 

So, did you like the card I showed you? Not really? Then look again. Apart from her really cool hair and wings, Melissa also has some other advantages. Her stats are bigger than those of many 3-drops seeing play in Constructed nowadays, and she also has flight and range, which is rare in a Marvel set. So we’d already have a nice 3-drop here, but this beauty’s recruit cost is only 2! That is pretty awesome because it will lead to the following scenarios more often than not:

 

If it is your initiative on turn 2 and your opponent’s 2-drop is of a regular size (2 ATK/3 DEF, for example), you can attack for massive breakthrough endurance loss. With another decent 3-drop on your side, your opponent cannot stun both of your drops on turn 3 without stunning all of his or her characters, as well. This means that the opponent cannot generate character advantage that turn, and without a combat modifier on an ordinary 2-drop to take Melissa down, your opponent will even lose board presence on his or her own initiative. Normally, generating board advantage that early is not very important, as the additional 2-drop on your side can usually only attack for an extra 2 points per turn. But Melissa’s 6 ATK can really make a difference in the endurance race. If you have the odd initiative, it gets even better, as you can probably attack on turn 2 anyway, stealing the initiative with your big girl. Then you can attack up and down on turn 3 to generate the aforementioned board advantage for sure. From that point on, Melissa will likely stay in play, because her high ATK value makes it dangerous to attack her, even with a 4-drop.

 

To make a long story short, playing characters with stats that normally come at a higher recruit cost is always a good idea. But, as we saw on characters like Goldface, Sabretooth, Feral Rage, or Rocket Red, the text box of characters like that tends to be filled with demands or disadvantages instead of cool special abilties. So we always have to decide if we want to pay the (sometimes high) price for those curve-jumping stats.

 

So what sacrifices do we have to make for having Melissa hang out with us? She reads, “At the start of the build phase, target opponent may turn a face-up resource he controls face down.”

 

Evaluating a disadvantage that includes your opponent’s deck and decisions is a lot harder than one that depends only on your own deck. You can build your deck in a way that supports Rocket Red, but for Melissa’s drawback, you have to be familiar with the metagame. Which cards will likely be reused by the other player, and how bad will that be for you? As it is highly unlikely that the Sonic Carapace will be around in later turns, we only have to think about the cheap plot twists (and locations) here. As it triggers at the start of the build phase, the resource for the turn will not have been played yet, which reduces the chances of your opponent having a good, reusable plot twist even more. We cannot know yet what tricks will be in the next Marvel Modern Age decks, or what tricks will be in a normal Avengers Sealed Pack, but it is very likely that Melissa’s disadvantage will do nothing in Sealed while her stats will help you dominate the early game.

 

I came up with the following cards that might get reused in the Golden Age metagame and would therefore, in one way or another, reduce the advantage of your big bird:

 

Cheap Tutors: Bat-Signal, Wild Ride, and The Ring Has Chosen will be used “for free” to fetch early drops that might have been missed otherwise because the tutor was being saved for later on. The fetched drop might negate the advantage you wanted to gain with your strong 2-drop. For example, New School decks will get a Robot Sentry to stop your Songbird’s attacks right away while still keeping her around for additional free tutors. 

 

Good Team-Ups: The decks with team-ups that draw a card when flipped will be able to draw an extra card per turn with them. This might not really matter, but sometimes it could be enough to stop your initial onslaught.

 

Early combat tricks: Nasty Surprise, Acrobatic Dodge, Flying Kick, or even a Surprise Attack for free can reduce the endurance advantage that you’re trying to gain.

 

If everything works out as planned and your Melissa is still around on turn 4, the top decks in the format can do some more nasty things like flip USS Argus in response to the trigger, using it and turning it down again to keep on drawing. Micro-Sentinels can be flipped during recovery, turned down with the trigger, and flipped up again during recovery, thereby infecting every character while staying hidden from your Foiled.

 

So, there definitely are some ways for most Golden Age decks to keep up with your huge 2-drop, and I might even have missed some. But as we do not yet know about the other members of the Thunderbolts or the rest of the Avengers set, it might be unfair to dismiss her already. A card’s power always depends on the environment in which it is used, but that is especially true for Melissa Gold. Expect it to be a force in Marvel Modern Age and Sealed Pack, at least, even if it proves to be not quite powerful enough for Golden Age play.

 

Have fun with this and other fine Avengers cards at your local Sneak Peek tournaments!

 

HaJo

(Metagame Archive) On The Horizon: Team Formats

Justin Gary

In my last article, I talked briefly about all of the exciting things we’re planning for season two of the Pro Circuit. On July 1 we will begin announcing some of these features, but today we want to give our players a chance to influence the future of competitive Vs. play.

We introduced the Marvel Modern Age format this season, and the DC Modern Age format will kick off season two at PC Indy. We have received a lot of positive feedback from players regarding these new formats. They encourage new decks and allow players to compete without having to get out of print cards from the earliest sets. We are constantly reviewing the quality of our formats and looking for new ones that will continue to expand the Vs. community and the experiences available to players.

Today, we are looking for feedback on a new way to play wherein you and your friends can compete together for fun and profit—team formats. Initially, we plan to introduce team formats at the $10K and PC levels. A new team format would work like this:

Step 1: Find two friends. Each team will consist of three players labeled Player A, Player B, and Player C. You will want to make sure you have a cool name for your team.*
Step 2: Sign up for the event. We are considering introducing a team format for $10K events and the Pro Circuit. Under our current plan, the $10K format will be Team Sealed Pack with a cut to Team Booster Draft for the top 4 teams. The Pro Circuit will have Team Constructed for Day 1, a cut to Team Booster Draft on Day 2, and Team Constructed again for the Top 4.

Step 3: Figure out how to play. For all Team formats, each player will play an individual game against the corresponding member of the opposing team (so Player A from the “Super-Best-Friends” team will play against Player A from the “I Hate Humpherys” team, and likewise for the B and C players). Whichever Team wins two out of the three games wins the round.

Here are some more details on the different formats:

Team Sealed Pack

Each team will open ten packs of product and divide those cards to make one deck for each player. Players will not be allowed to trade decks or cards after the deck building period.

This format would be used for $10K events and possibly PCQs (if there is enough interest).

Team Booster Draft

Two teams will draft at a table of six with the following configurations (players with the same number next to their names are on the same team).

The draft will proceed as normal, but players will only play against the person sitting directly across from him or her (A1 vs. A2, B1 vs. B2, C1 vs. C2). Teams cannot communicate verbally during the draft, but there will be some opportunity for nonverbal communication between teammates.

This format would be used for Day 2 of the Pro Circuit and the Top 4 of $10K events.

Team Constructed

This event will have each team member playing a Constructed deck from a different format. Player A would play a Golden Age deck, Player B would play a Marvel Modern Age deck, and Player C would play a DC Modern Age deck.

This format would be used for Day 1 of the Pro Circuit.

Advantages of a Team Format

One of the potential obstacles for casual players at the Pro Circuit is the perception that it is too competitive. We work very hard to try to make sure that the Pro Circuit is fun for everyone—both the competitive player and the casual enthusiast. Team events are a great way to promote camaraderie and fun competition. There is nothing cooler than losing a game but having your friends pull you through the round by winning theirs. Well, there is one thing cooler: winning the deciding game yourself and pulling your friends through the round!
Even the best Pro Circuit teams up until now have had to leave their friendships at the door when the Pro Circuit started. They may have tested together and may be rooting for each other, but the Pro Circuit is, to quote Hobbes, “A war of all against all.”** If you face your friend in a round while vying for Top 8, you may not be rooting for your friend so strongly anymore. A team event allows you and your buddies to succeed or fail together. It’s just a lot of fun to have people to root for who are always on your side.

Practicing for team events is also a ton of fun. Doing a Team Booster Draft with friends is a great way to spend a few hours (I’ll admit that I’ve spent quite a few that way myself, even without an event to prepare for).

Another advantage is that team formats tend to be very skill testing. It can be very frustrating to lose a match due to a bad draw or an amazingly lucky draw from your opponent. In a team format, the fact that you play three separate games to determine the match result increases the likelihood that skill will determine the outcome. Also, Team Sealed and Team Booster Draft add new layers of strategy to the already skill intensive Sealed Pack formats. When building sealed decks, do you take a powerful plot twist for yourself or give it to a teammate? When drafting, do you try to cut off good cards from the other team or just focus on building the best deck you can? These decisions make for some fascinating game play.

Disadvantages of a Team Format

The biggest obstacle to running team events is the difficulty of forming teams in the first place. Even if you have a local group that you playtest with, finding groups of three for everyone to play in can be difficult. To help mitigate this difficulty, team events could have a time and location set aside before the event for individuals to meet up and form teams. Ideally, we could also have online resources available to help players form teams for events. Nonetheless, there is some concern that players will be discouraged from attending events because of this difficulty.

Another concern with the team Pro Circuit format is that it will require a lot of preparation. Each player will need to prepare for a different Constructed format and still be ready to draft as a team on Day 2. On the other hand, we would have only one type of Draft on Day 2 (as opposed to the two Draft formats at most Pro Circuits). But again, we want to make sure that players will not be turned off by this requirement.

Tell Us What You Want!

This is the part where you get to decide whether we introduce this format or not. We want to keep our player base happy and we will always try to think outside the box for new ways to make Vs. and the Pro Circuit even better than they already are. I encourage all the fan sites out there to post this article and start discussing the pros and cons of team formats in the forums. Let us know if you want to have team formats, and if so, how you like the ones we have suggested. If you think that there are ways to improve on the ideas above, let us know! If you want to give us your input directly, send an email to UDE@upperdeck.com with the subject line “Team Format.” We will read all of your input from emails and the message boards and then make our decision based on what we hear from you. This is your chance to shape the game you love. Let your voice be heard!

*Sorry, “The Avengers” is taken.

** That is Thomas Hobbes the philosopher, not Hobbes the stuffed animal friend of Calvin, who is also eminently quotable.

(Metagame Archive) Combo Vs. Combat

By Hans Joachim Höh

As everyone should know by now, the reign of Dr. Light, Master of Holograms has been ended by Rama-Tut’s unwillingness to work the way the Doctor wanted him to. Being a pharaoh definitely involves lots of working and dying, but all the work is traditionally done by slaves, and the pharaoh dies just once to enjoy his luxurious afterlife in the huge monument that was built for him. So it’s no big surprise that after a while, Rama-Tut decided to stop dying a million times and doing all the dirty work for the Doctor without even being properly paid.

So, we all have to do the math again, trying to reduce our opponent’s endurance to 0 over multiple turns and combat phases instead of just choosing a number greater than 50 and entering our attack step once. That is pretty boring, isn’t it? Oh, wait, that’s what the game was meant to be about. So it might be not too bad, after all.

We will always have combo decks, and they’re good because they keep the game from getting too combat-oriented. But to keep the game balanced, combo decks should need about the same number of turns to win as beatdown decks do. The “Light Show” was just too fast and too resistant to disruption to be acceptable. So why is speed an issue? Every additional card drawn reduces the randomness of your draw and gives you something closer to an average hand. The longer the game lasts, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to play your deck as you intended to. Drawing two cards per turn is one of the design concepts that make the Vs. System so much less random than other trading card games; it is good for the game to last an average of seven or so turns to give every deck a decent chance to do what it was meant to do. To keep the game as balanced and un-random as it is now, a drastic reduction in the average number of turns played should be avoided at all costs.

Adopting your general game plan to the variation of actual cards drawn and to interactions with your opponent’s characters and unknown cards is what the game is all about. And that is also the way everybody should want it to be. Ideally, we want every single game to be decided by the players’ skills, not by luck of the draw. Therefore, we should not want combo decks to be the best decks in a format. Their tendency to depend on the effects of certain cards or groups of cards takes some depth out of the game. The best player in the world cannot win with a combo deck if he or she is missing an important part of the combo or the search with which to fetch it. There are no decisions to be made in that situation, so play skill just does not matter there. With a combat oriented deck, there is also a lot that can go wrong, but even with multiple missed drops, you can stay in the game with the many plot twists you drew instead of characters. In fact, I have won many games where my opponents misjudged my situation when I had nothing to recruit in a later turn, not realizing that my hand had to be filled with plot twists that I used to make up for the character disadvantage.

With a combo deck, you must try to get all of the parts together, and doing so definitely includes multiple hard choices. So I am not at all saying that combo decks are easy to play. If your opponent interferes with your evil plan, it gets even trickier, but you simply cannot win with only half of your combo. With Sentinels, you can win easily without drawing your best cards (Bastion and Magneto, Master of Magnetism), and the same is true for Teen Titans, which can win even without Terra, Red Star, Garth ◊ Tempest, or all of their copies of Teen Titans Go! and Press the Attack. And that alone is a reason, at least for me, to play this great game. Sometimes your hand and board gives you virtually no way to lose, but most of the time, playing skill determines the result of the match. Much of the fun and good stories in Vs. are about winning after the spectators left your table, the win looking impossible, to tell your friends that you’d surely lost.

What is the difference between the following two statements?

“I did not draw a single Alfred Pennyworth the whole game.”

“I did not have Bastion on turn 6, but my opponent did.”

The difference is that after the second sentence, you can proceed to tell your friends how you won despite the lack of the important card. And as Gary Wise stated in a recent article, “There’s nothing like a good story to share with buddies, to laugh over, to analyze, and to repeat.” That is the reason why I prefer playing non–combo decks, although I would have played Doctor Light at the next European $10K because of the deck’s raw power.

Playing the Doctor Light deck is an awesome experience and you should definitely give it a try if you haven’t yet, but I am sure it was correct to remove it from the metagame. The amount of hate cards that every deck would have needed to combat it would have been too large. Then, the deck would have been hated so much that nobody would have played it anymore. That would cause decks to include less and less hate as the combo deck all but leaves the environment, which in turn would be followed by a re-emergence of the combo deck. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Correctly guessing whether or not a deck is playable at the next event should not be the deciding factor for whether you will finish that event in first place or last.

So, enjoy the last days with the “Light Show” and then explore the new format—it will probably be just fine again.

HaJo

(Metagame Archives) The Coming Onslaught

Press Release
 
 Upper Deck Entertainment and Pastimes are happy to announce two hugely collectible foil extended art promos for Wizard World Chicago attendees.

All players in the Wizard World $10,000 Championship will receive a foil extended art Onslaught, Psionic Spawn of Xavier and Magneto from the Marvel Origins set. 

Every player that plays in a Vs. System side event, including Pro Circuit Qualifiers, will receive a foil extended art Beast, Dr. Henry McCoy card.  

These cards are in addition to the Have a Blast! and Teen Titans Go! cards that top finishers in the $10,000 Championship and PCQs will also receive. This is the chance for all you hardcore gamers to get these awesome exclusives, only at this year’s Wizard World!

 

(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: Fast Getaway

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

If you’re an avid Metagame.com reader or a frequent Vs. System player, you’re likely to know that July 1 will herald a big change for the game. The infinite recursion Rama-Tut combo will be removed from the environment by errata, and Overload will be banned from the Golden Age format.

It was a highly debated decision, but love it or hate it, it’s going to happen. As of July 1, Overload is hitting the dusty trail and we likely won’t see it again. This is going to result in a lot of shifts in high competition metagames. Like the banning itself, opinions vary wildly as to the potential metamorphosis of the global environment when this card is removed. Some theories seem a bit farfetched (“Wild Vomit, Back in the Hizzouse!” and whatnot), but there are a couple of assumptions that seem safe to make:

1. With the main weapon against Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal gone, Teen Titans will do better in the coming months.

2. With the ability to go crazy on combat modifiers, The New Brotherhood variants may be more reliable in their performances.

Both of these statements are justifiable and stem from the same root—removing the card that most severely punishes over-commitment to a single character will make fast decks more viable because they’ll be more difficult to disrupt. It’s a solid theory and a simple one, and therefore difficult to disrupt. So, in today’s article, I’ll use that as a base to discuss the Teen Titans and New Brotherhood metagame projections.

In an environment where more games may be won on turns 4 and 5 than ever before, reinforcement will become increasingly powerful. The previous deterrent from playing three Savage Beatdowns on a single attacker you control (Overload) has been removed, but players with a tendency to overextend will have to deal with a new pitfall: watching cards go to waste due to reinforcement. Reinforcement will become even more important than it was in the past strictly because it will be feasible for a player to swing with a 20+ ATK character on turn 4. When opponents start stacking the odds in their favor with a multitude of combat modifying plot twists, players need to fight back. That means either out-speeding the competition or having answers to huge attacks. Since comparative speed will be difficult to generate in an environment packed with fast decks, being ready to respond to a crushing attack will be the way to go; cards that prevent breakthrough will see their stock rise quickly in the minds of most players.
Burn Rubber will be the card to watch out for in this respect. It’s cheap, effective, and packs a nice little character-moving effect as a bonus, and it has driven decks like X-Stall to success in the past. It targets your own character and does not require its target to have the defender attribute, so it can be activated at any time. That makes it both a convenient and a cerebral play.

There’s always a drawback, and in this case, there are two. The first is the existence of Not So Fast and Detective Work, both of which prey on Burn Rubber’s cost of 1. Both can negate the important reinforcement you’re counting on, and the odds of having another Burn at your disposal are slim for most decks.

Second, cards like Blind Sided, Juggernaut, and Ant Man cut through Rubber’s reinforcement like a warm knife through butter. In the Vs. System, the forbidding of an action or state takes precedence for the turn over the establishment of such, so regardless of when Burn Rubber is used, a card like Blind Sided can stymie it. That’s bad news, considering how easily Blind Sided can fit into TNB.

The good news is that both of these problems are prevented through the use of Fast Getaway. What has always looked like an overpriced Burn Rubber is now set to come into its own, and though it costs a discard to use, it cleaves in twain the Rubber’s two weaknesses.

 

Fast Getaway cannot be negated by Not So Fast or Detective Work because of its cost—its threshold of 2 instead of Rubber’s 1 places it outside the range of Spider-Man’s meddling webs and Batman’s constant snooping. This is especially valuable if the metagame you’re competing in has seen its share of Burn Rubber, as players will be using Not So Fast already and will find it less effective against you than they were hoping it would be. Forcing an opponent to hold dead cards is a good thing, and you can accomplish that with proper deck construction and tactics that render Not So Fast virtually useless.

The second and slightly more intricate piece of the puzzle is how Fast Getaway targets. It removes the ability to cause breakthrough from an opponent’s attacker (only while attacking a character) instead of applying the reinforced state to one of yours. That means that opponents can Blind Sided or Ant Man all they like; the fact that your defender cannot be reinforced is completely moot. What matters is that the attacker can no longer hammer endurance loss through your characters, and this is significant because it can only be prevented by rare effects like The Manhunters are a Myth. Once you understand the differences, it becomes an easy numbers game. How many copies of Blindsided and Not So Fast do you expect to see compared to the number of Myths? Pretty easy decision when it’s phrased that way, huh?

Of course, Fast Getaway offers some other interesting factors, as well. An attacker met with Burn Rubber could ready and maintain its ability to attack and cause breakthrough to another character if the attacker in question was aided by a source of direct stun. Don’t like the fact that Puppet Master hopped on his hog and beefed it to safety to cut off a big source of damage? Go ahead and have Terra blast him to bits. Your attacker readies, and while you lose any combat pumps you gave it, it can still attempt to put its fist through a different little guy. On the other hand, if Puppet Master took the hit but received some covering volleys via Fast Getaway, the opponent’s attacker is hurt for the entire turn—it can still attack and stun, but not cause breakthrough.

This is also relevant for cards that can attack more than once in a single turn, especially Quicksilver, Speed Demon. With combat pumps being easier to use in post–July 1 metagames, decks like Big Brotherhood that focus on raw stat modifiers suddenly become more viable. If you see Lost City a lot over the coming months, Fast Getaway will be an especially good choice.

Unfortunately, the associated cost with activating Fast Getaway can be daunting. Discarding a card is a serious investment. What you have to keep in mind, though, is that when you’re using Fast Getaway, you’re doing so to save yourself from relatively dire straits (either to get out of them or to make sure that you never reach that point of desperation). In short, losing a card is one thing and losing a game is another—both are bad, but hey, there’s a definite issue of scale. Fast Getaway’s costs means that it is not to be used lightly, but you wouldn’t regardless because you want to make sure that you get the most out of its effect when you play it. A surprising card like this, when played correctly even once, can completely lay waste to an opponent’s plans.

While Fast Getaway can be useful in any matchup, it’s going to work best against fast decks that need to hit hard. Losing a single card against an early game deck isn’t necessarily as damaging as losing one to a curve-based deck. Just getting to the late game puts these decks at a natural disadvantage due to their construction, and the discard costs of pricey effects are mitigated over the course of the entire game.

It needs some care, but Getaway can easily reward intelligent play and shrewd decision making. I’m not one to overestimate my reach—I think Burn Rubber is going to see a lot more play than Fast Getaway once the ban is implemented. But once players start teching against it with Not So Fast, Blind Sided, and other answers (which might happen immediately), a player using Fast Getaway instead of Rubber is going to have a distinct advantage in the field.

Odds are good that unless you’re Jeremy Gray, your Fast Getaways are covered in a thick layer of dust. Get ready to brush them off. As of July 1, they will definitely deserve to see the light of play.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

Are you a champion of an obscure, underplayed card? Do you feel that it deserves some respect and is legitimately underappreciated? Let me know about it by sending me an email to jason@metagame.com!

(Metagame Archives) Introducing StarCityVS.com!

Press Release 

Introducing StarCityVS.com!

Before Upper Deck launched the VS System TCG, StarCity was asked to create a new website dedicated to the game. Unfortunately, other major projects prevented us from doing so . . . until now.

Today, I am proud to introduce the newest member of the StarCity family . . . StarCityVS.com!

If you are familiar with the StarCity name, you already have a fairly good idea of what you can expect to see from StarCityVS.com. However, for those unfamiliar with us, I’ll be a bit more specific:

  • Quality Articles from Top-Rated Players
    StarCity has a worldwide reputation for quality, and StarCityVS.com will work hard to strengthen that reputation. We already have many high-profile members of the VS community lined up to write for us, and expect many more to continually come on board!
  • Active Forum Community
    If it’s happening in VS, it’s being discussed in the StarCityVS.com forums! Join and share your thoughts with the rest of the VS community!
  • Ask the Judge!
    Got a rules question at three in the morning? Ask our Virtual VS System Judge! The answers are at your fingertips – but if you can’t find it, then submit your question and it will soon be answered!

We are still in the process of reprogramming our card and deck databases to accommodate VS cards. Once that is done, we will also be adding:

  • Complete VS System Card Database
    All VS card information, card images and real-time pricing will soon be at your fingertips . . . powered by the completely searchable StarCityVS.com card database!
  • The Ultimate VS Deck Database
    StarCity Events is Upper Deck’s largest Premier Tournament Organizer. This unique position gives us immediate access to countless sets of T8 decklists, and StarCityVS.com fans can expect to see that information presented in the most powerful VS Deck database available!

Enjoy the site, and please don’t hesitate to contact me with suggestions or constructive criticism. I’m more than willing to listen, and will do anything I can to improve the site and provide a better resource for the VS community.

Best wishes,

Pete Hoefling
President, StarCityVS.com
http://web.archive.org/web/20070919183913/http://www.starcityvs.com/