(Metagame Archive) The Avengers Preview: Kang ◊ Earth Mesozoic-24

By Brian Kibler

Ahhh Kang. Good old Kang. As the fifth team in the Avengers set, the time-hopping Kang was something of a red-headed stepchild when I arrived at UDE. No one drafted him and no one used him in any good Constructed decks. In fact, the running joke at the time was that you could make even the best card bad by “Kang-stamping” it.

It stopped being funny when we realized that it wasn’t really a joke. The themes for Kang at the time were activated powers, concealed, and being non-unique. Since Kang is a time traveler who works with copies of himself from the past and future, we thought that letting him meddle with the game from the hidden area in non-combat ways would be thematic and cool. Unfortunately, as the rest of the set shaped up, Kang kept lagging behind. For balance reasons, it’s dangerous to give powerful activated abilities to concealed characters, so we tried average powers with ready effects to reuse them, and even that didn’t cut it. When even our Kang-stamped Cosmic Radiation (“Ready all characters you control named Kang”) fell short of making the team competitive, we decided it was time to scrap the themes we were working with and start over.

Historically, I haven’t been much of a comic fan, but I’ve always been a superhero fan. It sounds like a contradiction, but I could just never get into reading a particular comic week after week or month after month. I love the storylines and characters, but I’d rather digest them in movie or book form than wait for the next issue to come out. It’s the same with TV shows; I’ve watched all of the first three seasons of Smallville because I could get them on DVD, but I have only intermittently seen episodes from season four.

What does this have to do with Kang? Well, when I started working on the set, I had no idea who he was, but once I started learning about the character, I was intrigued. The idea of someone who not only traveled through time but also worked with different versions of himself throughout history was very cool to me. I went through the file and rewrote all of the Kangs with abilities that I thought were thematic for someone who could blip in and out of time. Today’s preview card is one of those rewrites:

Kang ◊ Earth Mesozoic-24 is particularly exciting to me because he’s the first card I ever designed, but even without that attachment, I think he’s pretty damn cool. My original design was a 4-cost character who left play for two turns and came back on turn 6 as a 12 ATK/12 DEF. The team liked the idea, but it was difficult to template him in a way that both functioned in the rules and was easy to understand. Versions that counted turns were hard to track, and versions that counted resources had weird loopholes once you got to the later turns of the game and could just get an under-costed 6-drop. Ultimately, we decided that the 4-cost 10 ATK/10 DEF who blipped in and out of play was sufficiently thematic and cool that it wasn’t worth fighting over Caveman Kang’s original version.

Why “Caveman Kang,” you might be wondering? Well, he has the text “Kang is not unique” for a reason. We decided that because Kang was always working with different versions of himself, it clearly made sense for him to break the uniqueness rule. As a result, there are Kangs all up the curve—sometimes more than one at each drop. So while saying “Magneto 7” might tell someone exactly what you’re talking about, saying “Kang 4” just narrows things down. This fellow is big and from a prehistoric era, so “Caveman” seemed like the perfect nickname.

Tangents aside, Caveman Kang actually significantly improved in the change from my original version. The fact that he only leaves play for a single turn means that you can take odds and play him while your opponent has the initiative on turn 4. Not only will you not take much of a tempo hit (because your 4-drop would likely not get a chance to attack anyway), you’ll also avoid the possibility of losing a character when both your 3- and 4-drop get stunned. To top it all off, you’ll have a 10 ATK/10 DEF character with no drawback ready to attack on your initiative on turn 5 along with whatever character you play that turn. Excited yet?

If that isn’t enough, just think about the implications of this little sentence: “Kang is not unique.” I’ve already told you that there’s a bunch of Kangs in the set, so it’s entirely possible to play a deck jam-packed with the time traveling super-villain. Lots of people have tried to make all Spider-Man or all Superman decks in the past, but such builds often hinged on a particular card or several cards to get around the uniqueness rule. When they worked, they were often extremely powerful, since being able to power up any of your characters with any of the character cards in your hand is pretty close to just having Bastion in play all the time. Combine that with other cards that reward you for playing a lot of cards with the same name (a certain mulleted X-Man, for instance), and you have the makings of a powerful deck.

Of course, all of this hinges on how good the rest of the Kangs are. I can’t tell you much more without giving things away that I’m not supposed to, but I can give you a little anecdote that I, at least, find quite amusing. You see, we have experts on the comics who lend their advice about what sort of power(s) each character should have. When Mike Hummel originally designed the set, he gave all of the Kang characters flight because Kang has a suit of power armor that can essentially do anything short of teleportation. Word from our experts came back later saying that while Kang’s armor can fly, he is not traditionally depicted as flying. Following the precedent we set with Dr. Doom, we decided that even though Kang had the ability to fly via his armor and did so on rare occasions, it was not an ability commonly associated with him, so he shouldn’t have the ability in the game. While for most characters this would be a simple change, the implications for Kang were a bit bigger. Andrew Yip turned to me after reading an email from Mike one day and said, “The entire Kang team just lost flight.” I think that had to be my favorite moment in all of Avengers development.

Flight or not, Kang is a force to be reckoned with, and Caveman Kang is only the tip of the iceberg. Just wait until the Sneak Peek to find out what other tricks the Master of Time has in store for you. Ahhh Kang. Good old Kang. As the fifth team in the Avengers set, the time-hopping Kang was something of a red-headed stepchild when I arrived at UDE. No one drafted him and no one used him in any good Constructed decks. In fact, the running joke at the time was that you could make even the best card bad by “Kang-stamping” it.

 

It stopped being funny when we realized that it wasn’t really a joke. The themes for Kang at the time were activated powers, concealed, and being non-unique. Since Kang is a time traveler who works with copies of himself from the past and future, we thought that letting him meddle with the game from the hidden area in non-combat ways would be thematic and cool. Unfortunately, as the rest of the set shaped up, Kang kept lagging behind. For balance reasons, it’s dangerous to give powerful activated abilities to concealed characters, so we tried average powers with ready effects to reuse them, and even that didn’t cut it. When even our Kang-stamped Cosmic Radiation (“Ready all characters you control named Kang”) fell short of making the team competitive, we decided it was time to scrap the themes we were working with and start over.

 

Historically, I haven’t been much of a comic fan, but I’ve always been a superhero fan. It sounds like a contradiction, but I could just never get into reading a particular comic week after week or month after month. I love the storylines and characters, but I’d rather digest them in movie or book form than wait for the next issue to come out. It’s the same with TV shows; I’ve watched all of the first three seasons of Smallville because I could get them on DVD, but I have only intermittently seen episodes from season four.

 

What does this have to do with Kang? Well, when I started working on the set, I had no idea who he was, but once I started learning about the character, I was intrigued. The idea of someone who not only traveled through time but also worked with different versions of himself throughout history was very cool to me. I went through the file and rewrote all of the Kangs with abilities that I thought were thematic for someone who could blip in and out of time. Today’s preview card is one of those rewrites:

 

 

Kang ◊ Earth Mesozoic-24 is particularly exciting to me because he’s the first card I ever designed, but even without that attachment, I think he’s pretty damn cool. My original design was a 4-cost character who left play for two turns and came back on turn 6 as a 12 ATK/12 DEF. The team liked the idea, but it was difficult to template him in a way that both functioned in the rules and was easy to understand. Versions that counted turns were hard to track, and versions that counted resources had weird loopholes once you got to the later turns of the game and could just get an under-costed 6-drop. Ultimately, we decided that the 4-cost 10 ATK/10 DEF who blipped in and out of play was sufficiently thematic and cool that it wasn’t worth fighting over Caveman Kang’s original version.

 

Why “Caveman Kang,” you might be wondering? Well, he has the text “Kang is not unique” for a reason. We decided that because Kang was always working with different versions of himself, it clearly made sense for him to break the uniqueness rule. As a result, there are Kangs all up the curve—sometimes more than one at each drop. So while saying “Magneto 7” might tell someone exactly what you’re talking about, saying “Kang 4” just narrows things down. This fellow is big and from a prehistoric era, so “Caveman” seemed like the perfect nickname.

 

Tangents aside, Caveman Kang actually significantly improved in the change from my original version. The fact that he only leaves play for a single turn means that you can take odds and play him while your opponent has the initiative on turn 4. Not only will you not take much of a tempo hit (because your 4-drop would likely not get a chance to attack anyway), you’ll also avoid the possibility of losing a character when both your 3- and 4-drop get stunned. To top it all off, you’ll have a 10 ATK/10 DEF character with no drawback ready to attack on your initiative on turn 5 along with whatever character you play that turn. Excited yet?

 

If that isn’t enough, just think about the implications of this little sentence: “Kang is not unique.” I’ve already told you that there’s a bunch of Kangs in the set, so it’s entirely possible to play a deck jam-packed with the time traveling super-villain. Lots of people have tried to make all Spider-Man or all Superman decks in the past, but such builds often hinged on a particular card or several cards to get around the uniqueness rule. When they worked, they were often extremely powerful, since being able to power up any of your characters with any of the character cards in your hand is pretty close to just having Bastion in play all the time. Combine that with other cards that reward you for playing a lot of cards with the same name (a certain mulleted X-Man, for instance), and you have the makings of a powerful deck.

 

Of course, all of this hinges on how good the rest of the Kangs are. I can’t tell you much more without giving things away that I’m not supposed to, but I can give you a little anecdote that I, at least, find quite amusing. You see, we have experts on the comics who lend their advice about what sort of power(s) each character should have. When Mike Hummel originally designed the set, he gave all of the Kang characters flight because Kang has a suit of power armor that can essentially do anything short of teleportation. Word from our experts came back later saying that while Kang’s armor can fly, he is not traditionally depicted as flying. Following the precedent we set with Dr. Doom, we decided that even though Kang had the ability to fly via his armor and did so on rare occasions, it was not an ability commonly associated with him, so he shouldn’t have the ability in the game. While for most characters this would be a simple change, the implications for Kang were a bit bigger. Andrew Yip turned to me after reading an email from Mike one day and said, “The entire Kang team just lost flight.” I think that had to be my favorite moment in all of Avengers development.

 

Flight or not, Kang is a force to be reckoned with, and Caveman Kang is only the tip of the iceberg. Just wait until the Sneak Peek to find out what other tricks the Master of Time has in store for you.
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