(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play – In Evil Star’s Evil Clutches

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

I’m a huge fan of cards that don’t quite fit. If given the choice between spending twenty minutes contemplating a straightforward power card or a weaker one that does three different things, my choice is clear—sign me up for the jank! Like rich Victorian lace or spider webs coated in a forest’s morning dew, I like my cards complicated beyond necessity, even if they aren’t tier 1. I play games because I enjoy cracking systems, and if a single card within a game can offer that challenge, then it’s bound to thrill me.

Don’t get me wrong—I play what wins when winning is my goal. But due to the quality of design that goes into the Vs. System, there is more than just straight competition to be enjoyed. That fact is something that anyone can lose sight of amongst the allure of the million dollar pro tour and a plethora of $10K events.

With that in mind, I’ll be using the next few weeks to turn my column toward the complicated and sophisticatedly entertaining. Metagame.com is now a throbbing beacon for pro players, and they’re all more qualified than I am to tell you what you should run to win tournaments. Instead, I’m going to turn my eyes toward the cards that hold potential instead of immediate value, fascinating complexity instead of raw power—and I’ll do it all while slipping in phrases like “throbbing beacon.” Because hey, I’ve gotta get cheap laughs somehow*.

Today I want to look at one of my favorite cards from Green Lantern Corps, In Evil Star’s Evil Clutches. Not only is it fun to say, but it also blends one very straightforward and fairly useful effect with another that is far more complicated.

Let’s break this card down and look at what it can accomplish with a little creativity.
   

Mr. Jordan, Your Flight Has Been Delayed

First up, the simple component of In Evil Star’s Evil Clutches is its main effect—removing flight from a character an opponent controls. Note that the effect doesn’t target, so you can choose which character is to be affected at resolution. That gives the effect a bit of extra oomph. Aside from that, though, it really is as simple as it looks.

In all three formats in which this card exists, the worth of its grounding effect is dependent on matchup. Most Golden Age metagames have a relatively small amount of flight compared to DC Modern Age, and DGL Sealed Pack play is even better because so many characters in DGL have flight. In the latter, it can be worth running Clutches strictly for its primary effect. Though reinforcement is devalued in Golden Age and DC Modern Age, the flight effect alone still probably isn’t enough to justify including it in a deck, no matter how creative you get.

Doing the Manhunter Shuffle

That said, it’s the ability to trade one of your face-down resources for another in your hand that makes this card worthy of play. Perhaps not in many tier 1 decks, but at least in slightly more casual strategies.

In short, Clutches lets you rotate a resource to your hand and then gives you the option to place down an in-hand card in exchange. You’re limited to doing this once per turn and you can only rotate face-down resources (which prevents you from using plot twists twice or looping the same one ad infinitum). It’s a simple premise, but there are many things you can do with it if you’re so inclined.

First up, you can recover cards that you didn’t want to set. That means that if a character-heavy draw forced you to set a high cost character in the early game or an equipment that you didn’t immediately need, you can recover that card later and use it. Pretty decent.

It also lets you cycle plot twists out of your row that you thought you would immediately need but didn’t. For instance, say you figured you had an eighty percent chance of needing your in-hand Flying Kick instead of your in-hand Acrobatic Dodge. You set the Kick to conserve cards, but don’t use it. Next turn, you find yourself needing the Dodge and an in-hand Press the Attack, but not the Kick. You can cycle out the Kick for one of the plot twists you do want via Clutches and set the other, thereby maintaining tighter control over your cards than would’ve otherwise been possible. You don’t lose any in-hand cards to the discard pile because the ones you intend to use were set in your resource row.

That’s getting a bit mathy and might not be all that relevant to the average game, but it’s worthy of note. Drawing back to a wider perspective, there are two very easy, very effective ways to use Clutch’s rotational effect.

The first is to rotate cards to your resource row that you just didn’t have on previous turns. While more effective plot twists can be good, you can also use it to set extra copies of Sleeper Agent for a big late game push with a Manhunter deck. Heck, you could even put Clutches in a Wild Vomit build and use it to set up your double Mark IV/double Underground Sentinel Base combo for turn 5.The flight reduction means that you can manage your formations more tightly and reinforce more effectively, too, so it’s a natural fit.

In Evil Star’s Evil Clutches also allows you to manage replacements with ease. Under normal circumstances, having a resource replaced could be good or bad; if an opponent replaces one of your key ongoing plot twists or locations, you’re obviously going to lose that card, but you may also get a useful character or equipment lodged in that first card’s place. That’s a combination of bad and worse, and Clutches gives you an answer by letting you put that newly set card into your hand. At the same time, some cards (like Blown to Pieces) basically give card advantage by replacing themselves after use. Being able to remove the new card from your row and do what you want with it gives you an even bigger advantage than such a card would normally offer.

So, where does it work? On a competitive basis, it could make a splash in DC Modern Manhunter decks focused around Mark Shaw. Clutches combos incredibly well with the non-ongoing effect of Plans Within Plans and can help you flood the field on turn 5 or 6 with Sleeper Agents. The Agents could then be used in combat or fed to a Manhunter Giant, and then recycled as Shaw food through Underground Complex.

Off the tier 1 charts, this card makes Wild Vomit more effective without compromising its main function. It also compensates for poor draws in some situations and can defend decks that don’t deal well with flight. This is especially valuable in creative strategies using lots of characters from different teams that can’t reinforce easily. Puppet Master approves.

There are two things to watch out for that will make this card more useful as time goes on. The first is the strengthening of off-team decks. The second and more important is the increase of characters and equipment that do things in your resource row. Instead of having to use character-search cards to bring them into your hand each turn to be set, you can instead draw into them naturally. That’s not a huge advantage now, but if in-row characters continue to grow in scope, then In Evil Star’s Evil Clutches will continue to become more valuable.

If you find a cool way to use it, give me a shout! ’Til next week, keep dusting off the back of that trade binder and let your underappreciated cards see the light of play!

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

Want to suggest a card for this column? Have a favorite piece of underappreciated jank that you think deserves some respect? Let me know at Jason@metagame.com.

*Along those lines, I’ll share my initial reaction when I first saw today’s card months ago: “Wow, that really toned chick has some serious booty!” I’m not a big Green Lantern reader, so imagine my surprise when I looked up Evil Star in a DC encyclopedia and discovered that half of my statement was brutally flawed. Sigh.

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