(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: Daily Bugle

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Sometimes I wish I was Spider-Man. Then I realize I’m actually just really fond of hammocks, and web-shooters probably have more noble uses than filling my house with impromptu (but comfy) seating.

Spider-Man has a lot going for him, from incredible dexterity and superhuman strength to having one of the most popular girlfriends in comic book history. He’s witty, intelligent, limber, looks good in spandex, possesses topnotch camera skills (which I envy, as I’m personally horrible behind a lens), and has died a lot less than some of his contemporaries. It’s a nice little mishmosh that creates an oft-compelling character beloved by millions.

The Spider-Friends team in Vs. also possesses a smorgasbord of unique and somewhat oddly-blended effects and abilities. It’s widely acknowledged that evasion, targeting disruption, team-attack tricks, and the ability to increase threshold costs of the opponent’s plot twists are the hallmarks of the team—a good spread of rather unique effects. But there’s one card available to them that I don’t think gets enough credit: Daily Bugle.      

As a quick refresher course, Daily Bugle is a threshold 2 location that asks you to select a character name when it’s flipped. Then, whenever a character with that name on the opponent’s side of the field is stunned by one or more Spider-Friends characters you control, you get to flip one of your resources face down.

Let’s look at the basics. First up, you can flip the location at any time, even in response to an attack (yours or your opponent’s). That means you potentially can attack with a combat modifier like Savage Beatdown to take down a far larger character or dish out some breakthrough, and then immediately flip it back down again. I hear Savage Beatdown is pretty good, and I’d imagine smacking a 4-drop with your 2-drop for free is also rather advantageous . . . just a little. You can also use Daily Bugle in a double-stun or stun-back situation as a defender, meaning you can use United We Stand or Nasty Surprise and reuse it two turns later when you’re back on defense. That’s all simple stuff, but cool.

The other basic point that’s important to recognize is that the Bugle can turn itself face down. So, if you’ve managed to get one reuse out of it but feel that your opponent is going to KO the character you sicced J. Jonah Jameson on, you can flip the Bugle down on your second stunning of that character. Assuming the character you stunned was a turn-drop or an important part of the opponent’s strategy, it’s actually surprisingly easy to get multiple print runs out of the Bugle before the day is out.

This brings us to our first more complicated point: how Daily Bugle can act as an impetus for selective KO’s. See, the difficult thing about using the Bugle is that it’s often dependent on your opponent’s actions. Sure, you’ll get one use of its effect pretty easily, but once the named character is stunned, the opponent can always KO it. You can mitigate the chance of this happening by selecting the player’s turn-drop, but that’s not always an option. While Curve Sentinels likes keeping its highest drop on the field, GLEE and Teen Titans can easily play off-curve on many of their ideal turns. That means that two thirds of the Tier 1 Golden Age environment can dodge this card strictly by virtue of a diversified strategy, and that’s bad news.

Luckily, you can always fight this simply by being a malicious jerk. Just like ol’ Jonah, you can aggravate your opponents to no end by putting their most important characters in your banner headline. No turn-drop to ride for two turns against GLEE? Go ahead and make Dr. Light, Master of Holograms a little more famous and watch the opponent start to squirm. Or, how about letting the entire city of New York know that Kyle Rayner, Last Green Lantern is in town? Now you can get Kyle’s family killed by relentlessly psychotic government agents and net yourself some reusable plot twists to boot. Sweet! The Titans are a little bit more dynamic, but you’ll probably never go wrong with a front page that features Terra or Tim Drake ◊ Robin, Young Detective.

Once you’ve placed your unwilling victim into the limelight, your opponent can either relinquish the use of that character and its important effect for the rest of the game, or just admit that you’re going to be getting a large number of free plot twists. That’s a lose/lose situation that feels pretty bad when you’re on the receiving end of it.

And of course, the Bugle is massive army hate, for lack of a better term. Because army characters have the same name, you can get reuse after reuse of virtually anything you want when paired off against a deck that limits itself to just a couple of different army characters. Manhunters beware, but you can also put a crimp in the respective styles of Force, the Kang Council, and even Sentinel Mark V. The latter is particularly rough; Mark V is the turn 4 drop for any Curve Sentinels deck, and no CS player will ever KO it on turn 4 out of Bugle-inflicted fear. If they can’t drop Nimrod on turn 5, then you’ll be getting a third turn of use out of your Mark V–branded Daily Bugle, and that’s basically three cards’ worth of advantage. Ouch.

So, what does it work well with? Basically anything, actually. My favorite plot twists for reuse are generally combat modifiers, character search cards, or negation, but Bugle can also work wonders for themed decks that are focused on certain core mechanics like equips (Two-for-one deals on equipment through Tech Upgrade? JJJ’s buyin’!) or KO effects. To get all Reading Rainbow for a minute, if you can dream it, you can do it. The coolest thing about Daily Bugle is its versatility and its ability to let you get use after use out of not just Savage Beatdown, but also out of the one-of tech cards you’re packing.

There are all sorts of crazy decks in which you can use it. While straight Spider-Friends is pretty underrated in the current environment, there are a lot of cool team-up decks that can abuse some serious press coverage strictly because of Daily Bugle (though its arguably favorable matchup against Teen Titans and the use of Firestar to tech GLEE also help). Spider-Friends/Gotham Knights can repeatedly use GK negation tricks like Fizzle and Detective Work. Spider-Friends/Brotherhood decks packing Longshot can substitute their lack of space for plot twists with the Bugle; and Spider-Friends/League of Assassins can utilize multiple copies of Bugle on turn 8, thanks to Ra’s Al Ghul, The Demon’s Head, to dish out one massive beating after another. Fun stuff.

I love it when an evolving metagame brings old cards back into use, and though it’s certainly janktastic, I really feel that Daily Bugle may have a shot in the current Tier 1 field. Spider-Friends has always seemed to be teetering on the edge of tournament viability, but with GLEE, Teen Titans, and Curve Sentinels now dominating in the manner that they are, it might finally be time for Spidey and Co. to step up and take what’s rightfully theirs.

With a little bit of help from J. Jonah Jameson, of course.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

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(Metagame Archives) The Cards Come to the Consoles!

Press Release

KONAMI DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT, INC. LICENSES INTERACTIVE GAMES BASED ON MARVEL ENTERPRISES, INC./ UPPER DECK COMPANY TRADING CARD GAME

 


Gaming Industry Leader Adds Property To Its Stable Of Hugely Successful Trading Card Based Video Games

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

LOS ANGELES – August 17, 2005 – Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announced today a multi-year agreement with Marvel Enterprises, Inc. and Upper Deck Entertainment that gives Konami exclusive worldwide interactive rights to develop games for current and next generation video game systems based on Upper Deck Entertainment’s best-selling Marvel Trading Card Game. This is the latest addition to Konami’s collection of interactive trading card based properties, which also includes the tremendously successful Yu-Gi-Oh! series.

The Marvel Trading Card Game is a trading card game (TCG) developed by Upper Deck Entertainment, which uses the highly popular “Vs. System” game engine designed to support traditional one-on-one dueling competitions with popular Marvel comic book characters. In addition to the rights for developing this property into a video game for both online and offline formats, Konami also secured the license to incorporate Marvel character content into the game — including content based on The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

“The Marvel characters are among the most recognizable icons in popular culture, with a significant presence across all media,” said Kazumi Kitaue, Chairman and CEO of Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. “When combined with Konami’s experience in developing successful video games based on trading card properties, this will give consumers a powerful new way to interact with some of their favorite Marvel characters, especially as the online community expands.”

“The Vs. System utilizes the strengths of the Marvel characters and universe in a unique and compelling way,” said Jerry Bennington, Vice President of Entertainment at Upper Deck.  “Upper Deck Entertainment is excited to be working with industry giants such as Konami and Marvel Enterprises on this amazing project.”

“Given the vast popularity of the “Marvel Vs.” card game, we are very excited to be working with both Upper Deck and Konami in bringing “Marvel Vs.” to the world of interactive gaming”, said Ames Kirshen, Vice President, Interactive at Marvel Enterprises.

Since its release in 2003, the Marvel Trading Card Game has been one of the top-selling TCG’s in the market, and has been honored with such awards as Inquest Gamer Magazine’s 2005 Fan Award, and GAMA’s 2005 Gamer’s Choice Award.  Using the innovative Vs. System, the game allows players to build some of the most power-packed decks around the some of the strongest characters in the comic universe.  Development of the game included testing by top professional TCG players from around the world to ensure that the Vs. System is carefully balanced for high-level competition, as well as casual play. 

For more information, please visit: http://web.archive.org/web/20070609081024/http://www.konami.com/gs.

 

 

  

 

 

About Konami Corporation

Konami Corporation is a leading developer, publisher and manufacturer of electronic entertainment properties, specializing in the home video game market. Konami Corporation’s action and adventure titles include the popular franchises Metal Gear Solid®, Silent Hill® and Castlevania®, among other top sellers. The latest information about Konami can be found on the Web at http://www.konami.com. Konami Corporation is a publicly traded company based in Tokyo, Japan with subsidiary offices, Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. in the US and Konami of Europe in Frankfurt, Germany. Konami Corporation, the parent company of Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. is traded in the United States on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol KNM. Details of the products published by Konami Digital Entertainment – America can be found at http://web.archive.org/web/20070609081024/http://www.konami.com/gs.

About Marvel Enterprises, Inc.

With a library of over 5,000 characters, Marvel Enterprises, Inc. is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies. Marvel’s operations are focused in three areas: licensing and entertainment (Marvel Studios), comic book publishing and toys. Marvel facilitates the creation of entertainment projects, including feature films, DVD/home video, video games and television programming based on its characters and also licenses its characters for use in a wide range of consumer products and services including apparel, collectibles, snack foods and promotions. Marvel’s characters and plot lines are created by its publishing segment that continues to expand its leadership position in the U.S. and worldwide while also serving as an invaluable source of intellectual property.

About The Upper Deck Company

Founded in 1988, The Upper Deck Co., LLC is a premier sports and entertainment publishing company that delivers a portfolio of relevant, innovative and multi-dimensional product experiences to collectors, sports and entertainment enthusiasts. For more information on Upper Deck or the company’s products, please visit http://web.archive.org/web/20070609081024/http://www.upperdeck.com/.

Upper Deck Entertainment is a division of Upper Deck Company — a premier sports/ entertainment publishing company which delivers a portfolio of relevant, innovative and multidimensional product experiences to collectors and sports and entertainment enthusiasts. For more information on UDE, please log onto www.upperdeckentertainment.com.

Upper Deck Entertainment, and the design are trademarks of the Upper Deck Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

MARVEL,The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and all related Marvel characters are Ó and trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc., and are used with permission.  Copyright Ó 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.  http://web.archive.org/web/20070609081024/http://www.marvel.com/.   

Media Contacts:

Konami Digital Entertainment – America                                   Bender/Helper Impact

Marc Franklin/Denny Chiu                                                       Adam Fenton/Stefanie Acken                                
650-654-5600                                                                         212-689-6360

mfrankpr@konami.com/chewyd@konami.com                       adam_fenton@bhimpact.com/stefanie_acken@bhimpact.com

Licensing Contact:

Konami Digital Entertainment

Daniel Kletzky, VP Business Development

310-228-4622

dk.01689@konami.com

(Metagame Archive) Technics: Teen Titans

Alex Brown

Since Pro Circuit New York, there have been several interesting developments in the Golden Age metagame. The banning of Overload and the neutering of the Light Show decks centered on Rama-Tut and Dr. Light, Master of Holograms were big moves. Green Lantern and Marvel Knights builds emerged as top tier contenders. Finally, the most anticipated set since Marvel Origins, The Avengers, has players scrambling to fit out their newest ideas before the next PCQ or $10K reaches their area.

Before I go any further, I want to put a few things in context for you. Two decks, regardless of whether they win every tournament, dominate the current Golden Age metagame. Those decks are Curve Sentinels and Teen Titans. Knowing how these decks operate will give you the necessary grounding to either pilot them to success or maximize your chances of defeating them. While I intend to cover Curve Sentinels in the near future, I have a bit more experience with the Teen Titans, so I’ll begin with them.

Teen Titans is the most flexible and synergistic affiliation. Whereas most affiliations have obvious and narrow themes, the Teen Titans have access to a wondrous collection of abilities. While their capacity for devastating team attacks and ability to stun characters outside of combat are the Titans’ most lethal hallmarks, their access to ancillary benefits—such as direct endurance loss, KO’d pile manipulation, and numerical supremacy—contributes substantially to their impressive package.

Perhaps because of the range of options available on each turn, the Teen Titans are commonly considered to be difficult to play. This may be true for the uninitiated; however, for more experienced players, the deck is hardly indecipherable. With this article and the following matchup guide, I want to highlight the important issues and tensions within today’s Teen Titans builds. For the sake of brevity, unlike my last series on the League of Assassins, this article will not seek to detail every possible card selection or inquiry you may have. This week, I want to look at the affiliation first from a historical perspective. From there, I will give my current build, explaining where I differ from the norm and for what reasons. For beginners, I have written on this subject in a more elementary fashion before, so if you are interested, you can follow on from the footnote*.

The Teen Titans have tasted success at every level of the game. Looking back at the lists that cemented the Titans in the top tier shows us how some of the better players in the game have approached the deck. From there, we will be able to make our own decisions with regard to the most up-to-date build.

Jason Green
7-0, Day 1 PC Indy 2004

Characters
4 Beast Boy
2 Connor Kent ◊ Superboy, Tactile Telekinetic
4 Dawn Granger ◊ Dove
4 Garth ◊ Tempest
3 Hank Hall ◊ Hawk
1 Koriand’r ◊ Starfire
4 Red Star
4 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter
4 Terra
4 Tim Drake ◊ Robin, Young Detective

Plot Twists
3 Heroic Sacrifice
4 Not So Fast
3 Overload
4 Teen Titans Go!

Locations
4 Tamaran
4 Titans Tower
3 USS Argus
2 Optitron

Jason took his list to an undefeated record on the first day of the inaugural Pro Circuit, PC Indy 2004. At the time, Vs. was almost strictly a combat-oriented game, and this list responds to that by including four copies of Titans Tower and three Heroic Sacrifices. The early rise of Overload was clearly evident, and Jason has his own as well as the maximum available copies of Not So Fast. Where Jason’s list really comes into its own is its Terra count. While her power level is common knowledge now, Terra was tech at this event. Great against weenie and utility decks and pivotal in the important task of dominating an as-yet undefined mirror match, Terra put Jason’s list over the top. Current builds are much different, but we can see the raw power of the affiliation rearing its head even at this early stage.

Ryan Jones
PCLA 2004 Champion

Characters
1 Cassie Sandsmark ◊ Wonder Girl
1 Connor Kent ◊ Superboy, Tactile Telekinetic
3 Dawn Granger ◊ Dove
1 Dick Grayson ◊ Nightwing, Titan Leader
4 Garth ◊ Tempest
3 Hank Hall ◊ Hawk
1 Koriand’r ◊ Starfire
3 Red Star
4 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter
4 Terra
4 Tim Drake ◊ Robin, Young Detective

Plot Twists
3 Finishing Move
2 Foiled
2 Heroic Sacrifice
2 Ka-Boom!
2 Overload
3 Press the Attack
3 Savage Beatdown
3 Teen Titans Go!

Locations
2 Optitron
3 USS Argus
3 Tamaran
3 Titans Tower

This is probably the most famous of all Teen Titans incarnations. Ryan took out the second Pro Circuit with a list and style that had been popularized by then-teammate Rob Leander. Superficially, the numbers of the deck seem to lack focus. However, the redundancy of the attack plan—built around Tim Drake and Teen Titans Go!—and the defensive plan—built around Roy Harper and Press The Attack—granted Ryan a lot of freedom to factor in an unrivaled support cast. Although the lists would gradually tighten up, this deck provides the foundation for future Teen Titans builds.

Adam Prosak
$10K San Diego Champion

Characters
1 Pantha
2 Roy Harper ◊ Speedy
2 Dawn Granger ◊ Dove
3 Hank Hall ◊ Hawk
4 Tim Drake ◊ Robin, Young Detective
4 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal
2 Beast Boy
4 Terra
2 Red Star
4 Garth ◊ Tempest
2 Koriand’r ◊ Starfire

Plot Twists
4 Teen Titans Go!
4 Press the Attack
4 Finishing Move
2 Ka-Boom!
2 Heroic Sacrifice
2 Savage Beatdown

Locations
4 USS Argus
4 Tamaran
4 Optitron

Adam has strong views on card counts and deck building that have influenced the design of his deck**. Renowned for his longtime dedication to the affiliation, Adam was recently rewarded for his efforts with a first place finish at $10K San Diego. His deck is similar in templating to the Jones/Leander builds of the past. However, in the post-Overload environment, Adam has streamlined his non-character selection to focus on what he considers integral to the proper function of the deck.

So where does that brief history lesson leave us?

Alex Brown
Teen Titans August 2005

Characters
1 Pantha
4 Tim Drake ◊ Robin, Young Detective
4 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter
3 Hank Hall ◊ Hawk
3 Dawn Granger ◊ Dove
3 Beast Boy
4 Red Star
4 Terra
4 Garth ◊ Tempest

Plot Twists
4 Teen Titans Go!
4 Press the Attack
4 Finishing Move
3 Foiled
2 Heroic Sacrifice
1 Betrayal

Locations
4 USS Argus
4 Tamaran
4 Optitron

I would hope this is read not merely as a list forged from my own experiences***, but also by close examination of the builds given above. The following paragraphs will outline what I think are the important issues for the deck and how I feel they should be resolved. I will explain where I depart from conventional wisdom, and why.

Foiled vs Ka-Boom!

Foiled and Ka-Boom! offer two powerful effects. If a deck can support it, the ability to KO a resource—quite distinct from replacing it—can be game-winning. Combined with Garth ◊ Tempest, we have the makings of a soft-lock for decks that rely on either locations or ongoing plot twists. While there is no question that the Titans, with their ability to play off curve and repeat drops, can support such a plan, there is no consensus as to the number of each that a player should run.

I advocate three copies of Foiled and no Ka-Boom!s. I think the deck can only afford to give up a maximum of four slots to these cards before it loses too much punch, and that you need to run at least three copies to reliably draw one. Put simply, Foiled just outright wins you more games than Ka-Boom! does. Ka-Boom is useful, but locations tend to be more incidental than mandatory. Ongoing plot twists, particularly team-ups, are more often critical to your opponent’s plans. Specifically, Total Anarchy is one of the best answers to a Titans deck. I will concede that both cards are fine; I merely think that Foiled is the more devastating option.

Red Star and Terra Counts

Some affiliations struggle along without an acceptable second-choice 4-drop. Not the Titans. The Teen Titans have access to two different but powerful options on the fourth turn. Red Star shines against Curve strategies. In combination with Tim Drake, Teen Titans Go!, and Tamaran (or simply an old-school power-up), you can wipe out an opponent’s board without losing a man. His capacity for direct endurance loss can finish off an opponent or simply turn up the pressure. On the other hand, Terra annihilates decks that rely on weenie rushes or key small characters such as Shimmer.

There is much debate as to how many of each you should run. In my opinion, you want to run the maximum of each. Red Star and Terra are both critical to the different plans you want to carry out. Red Star is often just as potent on later turns, and Terra is the dominant reason why some match-ups—like TNB—are grossly in your favor. It always helps having greater numbers early on so you can mulligan aggressively, and if you are forced to use Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter prematurely, you have an acceptable drop to fill in.

Location Selection

Perhaps the greatest area of consternation for the Titans deck builder is location selection. Terra requires a significant number of locations to be reliably effective. Fortunately, there are quite a few to choose from.

I have long been a fan of USS Argus, which I see as more than a one-turn effect to be replaced by Terra. I find that the Titans play more like a combo deck, where you need to assemble the critical parts in a given matchup to force through the win. Gaining card advantage is not irrelevant, but Garth is sufficient in carrying out that function. I feel that USS Argus, in combination with Optitron, brings a consistency to the deck that other single-affiliation decks cannot match. Unless I have every card I need in my hand, I flip USS Argus as soon as possible, whether I have Terra or not. If you haven’t established a game-winning position by the end of turn 6, when the card disadvantage starts to hurt, you were unlikely to win anyway. USS Argus is a definite four-of.

Because of the importance of the Argus, I don’t play with Titans Tower anymore. Its effect is strong, but I find that between Teen Titans Go! on offense and Arsenal on defense, I just don’t need it anymore. Considering my plan to aggressively use USS Argus, I can’t really afford the extra card, either.

I value Optitron very highly. Playing four copies allows me to aggressively mulligan for access to Tim Drake on turn 2, which I think is the key to the archetype. It doubles as insurance for getting to Arsenal in the late game, where he is sorely needed, and it can give you extra copies of Red Star and Tim Drake, which can be crucial. The general off-curve nature of the Titans deck really breaks this card open, and I am surprised more players don’t play the maximum number of copies.

For a long time, I was not really a fan of Tamaran, but I finally came to my senses. Not only does the card obviously facilitate the busted antics of Red Star/Tim Drake, it protects your early investments by keeping their average bodies above the curve. Later on, Terra and Garth can both stay out of stun range with a timely flip and power-up. It also provides locations nine through twelve for me; I feel twelve is the right number to support Terra.

Beast Boy

While the last issue may have been more generally controversial, for a long time, I had been alone in my advocacy of Beast Boy. Rumors of his susceptibility to Overload were greatly exaggerated, because if you weren’t running Not So Fast, you would rather have your alternate 3-drop stunned on turn 5 than lose Roy Harper or Tim Drake.

I make no bones about it: Beast Boy is still your third choice at the drop. However, one of the least efficient and unduly popular answers to this deck is Flame Trap, and you don’t want to get caught by it by overextending with Hawk/Dove on turn 3. Of course, in matchups where this isn’t relevant, they are the preferred play (though Roy is always the safe play).

That Beast Boy has flight is also far from irrelevant, though the main reason I include three copies of him is less obvious. As stated above, I think hitting Tim Drake on turn 2 is critical, so I mulligan aggressively for him or Optitron. I will throw any other hand, period. I’ve had to tweak the decklist a bit to get away with it, but I think it’s worthwhile. By essentially moving to thirteen 3-drops, between them and USS Argus I can get Tim without worrying about my 3-slot.

Press the Attack

I only moved to four copies of Press after Adam won $10K San Diego, but I cannot believe I didn’t do it earlier. There have been so many games where I only needed a Press the Attack to win and couldn’t get it. Multiple uses of Roy or Terra are obvious and recommended, but Press the Attack also allows you to wipe out your opponent’s characters with Tim Drake/Red Star and friends, leaving behind a single character to repeatedly attack directly. Press the Attack is one of the more inherently “broken” effects the game offers. Some argue that it really only helps you win more, so you don’t need it all the time; I counter that it often helps you win “a turn more,” so it is worth the extra slot. You simply need it sometimes, and I recommend running the maximum number.

Finishing Move

One of the interesting things about Finishing Move is that sometimes when you have it, you play towards using it when you should be playing to force through extra endurance loss. Board control is only a means to achieving endurance loss, and not an end in itself, but for those beyond such temptations, this is a powerful card. In combination with Terra and Roy Harper, it can break you out of A Child Named Valeria locks. Because of the numerical supremacy inherent in the team (typified by Hank/Dawn), it can be used to gain advantage very early on. Against Curve decks, it can remove characters to relieve pressure on non-initiative turns. Key smaller characters can also be removed to dent an entire strategy.

Four copies may seem like overkill, but I think you need to have it all of the time. I will concede that drawing the second copy is rough, but it is not useless. The advantage provided by Finishing Move is too easily exploited in this affiliation; one of the most powerful generic cards in the game would be a terrible waste if not fully utilized here.

Roy Harper ◊ Speedy

I have played this card a lot, and I have never liked it. I can see where it would be good, but decks that rely on 1-drops have left center stage in this format. Even in matchups where Speedy is relevant, he is only good very early on, which often requires Optitron for second turn play. In a one-game format, this is a very risky strategy. If I thought the payoff was worth it, I would still include a copy, but I am unconvinced. Typically what Speedy can achieve is easily attained, if belatedly, by pressure with Hawk/Dove/Tim and Teen Titans Go!. Pantha is a better one-of character to fill the breach.

Koriand’r ◊ Starfire

Players will often forget about Koriand’r, but I still think you have to get pretty lucky to be able to use her. Sometimes just having a large body is better, and you still need to fulfil the character requirement. That she can’t be searched out until turn 7 is a bummer, considering you would probably have wanted to use Arsenal before then.

I think including Koriand’r is a matter of play style. With my four Optitrons and three Beast Boys—as well as full complements of Terra and Red Star, and a copy of Pantha—I have a lot to do in the late game. Typically, I like to use Roy on turn 5 or 6 to ensure I get to my team attack turn expediently. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for Koriand’r. Drawing her early on without an Optitron is suicide, so I prefer to leave her out.

Savage Beatdown

For a long time, Savage Beatdown was a staple of my Teen Titans builds. Although its stock dropped considerably with the removal of Overload, it is still far from useless, as it is a fantastic target for Garth and obviously the best card in the game for ensuring a stun.

Recently, however, I find it does very little for me, and its effect is random because I can’t afford to devote the slots to making it frequently available. With my remaining slot, I went for Betrayal, as it is very good against your average Sentinel player and is more likely to outright win you the game. I find that nowadays, between Finishing Move and my bolstered Red Star plan, I just don’t make risky attacks–I either team attack repeatedly, or I team attack and KO. Of course, this is only against Curve decks, but that was the only place Beatdown was relevant anyway. I can understand arguments in favor of its reinstatement, but if those arguments win out, more than two copies are needed.

I hope I have shed some light on the evolution of the Teen Titans in Golden Age. If you have any queries, feel free to email me at uly233@hotmail.com, where I promise to reply to any legitimate questions you may have. Until then, don’t blame me if you pass your recruit on turn 2.

*I wrote an earlier, more comprehensive expose on the Teen Titans at VsParadise.com. If you search the Columns of that site, you will be able to find it easily. In addition, there is a rather outdated matchup guide that was written for a different metagame, and was even then quite possibly misguided. I would still recommend reading it, because if you can see where that information is now wrong (and was quite possibly wrong then, too), you will be better equipped to play the deck yourself.

**Adam is a Featured Writer for VsUniverse.com.

***Top 8 appearances at $10K Sydney, $10K Melbourne and $10K Brisbane.

Understanding matchups is one of the most critical skills that any player can develop if he or she wants to be better at Vs. System. Knowing how card values shift when played against different strategies will allow you to deploy and answer threats more efficiently than your opponent.

 

Before we get down to business, here’s a quick word on identifying matchups. In many of the articles I read and in many of the conversations I have with other players, a dangerous assumption is often employed. Too many people assume that they know what their opponent is playing straight away. In the one-game format, this can be a very costly assumption. If an opponent plays She-Thing on turn 2, is that person playing Common Enemy or Fantastic Fun? Or maybe even plain FF Curve? At some point or another, you have to put your opponent on something; however, I want to point out from the outset that this is rarely a fixed state of affairs. Be careful without being too conservative. Be prepared to change your mind sometimes.

 

As a recap, here’s the list I posted in my last article:

 

Alex Brown

Teen Titans August 2005


Locations
4 USS Argus
4 Tamaran
4 Optitron

 

I will be referring to this list throughout the article. I’m far from convinced that it is definitive and I welcome any supported criticism. That said, I still need to anchor my views somewhere.

 

Versus Curve Sentinels

 

This matchup is probably the most misunderstood issue in Vs. System. Ryan Jones recently wrote an article at VsUniverse.com giving some of his opinions on the subject, and I would recommend it to anyone without an issue against purchasing a premium membership to that site. His general point, with which I agree, is that this matchup is unfavorable for the Titans player. I find particular resonance in his frustration with the popular belief that the Titans deck is just so complex that the pilot must have erred if he or she lost to the lumbering and simplistic Sentinel deck. The matchup is definitely difficult for both sides and involves many nuances, but at its core, it is generally in the Sentinels’ favor.

 

The Titans player is generally well equipped to face the archetypal Curve deck. Builds such as Big Brother typically find themselves shredded by Tim Drake & Co. However, Curve Sentinels is a little more than your average curve deck. Firstly, the Sentinels player is plausibly able to curve out from the first turn. Combined with the threat of Total Anarchy or Micro-Sentinels, the Titans player is given little time to set up the team-attack complex. Furthermore, Search and Destroy and Flame Trap create more uncertainty in the mind of the Titans player, who needs to have a face-up Tim Drake in play when he or she has to win. Thus, one of the most important things to realize, if you are familiar with legal jargon, is that the burden of proof is on the Titans player. The Titans will lose the long game, but when forced to act, they cannot be sure of what sort of defensive measures the Sentinels player has up his or her sleeve. This uncertainty gnaws at the Titans player and makes it very difficult to calculate the win properly.

 

And that’s not all the Titans worries in this matchup. Nimrod is a massive threat. So good is Nimrod against this deck that he is often the optimal seventh turn and fifth turn play. Apart from playing around Betrayal, Nimrod counters the uniquely Titanesque strategy of focusing not on the quality or size of the characters, but on the quantity of the characters. Essentially, the repair counter on Nimrod negates a Teen Titans Go! This is bad news for the Titans player, who generally needs not only multiple copies of Teen Titans Go! now, but also has to hit and maintain a perfect curve from turns 2 through 5. While this is easier for the Titans deck than for others, it is generally costly on other resources and leaves little room for bad decisions.

 

With all of that out of the way, I would like to share my plan of attack against Curve Sentinels. I am going to split this into even and odd initiatives because I think a different plan applies to each. Generally, I want the odd initiative with this deck, but against Curve Sentinels, I want evens. This is relatively easy to get unless you’re playing against a disciple of the Jones school of Sentinels, which advocates evens so that you can Finishing Move/Bastion in the mirror. If so, bad times for you, but the odd initiative plan is below.

 

If you have evens, your optimal recruitment plan is Tim Drake, Beast Boy, and then Red Star. You really want a Tamaran here for two reasons. On turn 3, it ensures that the opponent’s Mark II gets stunned if it attacks Tim Drake, making Total Anarchy risky. Alternatively, it keeps Beast Boy out of stun range of the Mark II. On turn 4, the Tamaran will allow you to clear your opponent’s board with Teen Titans Go!, KO’ing the Mark II so that Roy will be active next turn.

 

One of the benefits of having four copies of Optitron in your deck is that you can go off curve when necessary. The threat of Nimrod is so immense that you need to preserve numbers to keep your team-attacks effective for when you need to win. By deploying Roy Harper on turn 5, you are effectively holding the fort. Roy is rarely good in this matchup once Bastion arrives, but on turn 5 he can stun the opponent’s Mark V, leaving him or her with a single attacker and ensuring that you recover the stunned character and ready with the same board. Red Star can burn the opponent with the free endurance point.

 

On turn 6, you drop Garth, and hopefully you’ll have bought yourself enough time to organize the winning attack, which will require three copies of Teen Titans Go! (recurring one from Garth) and a Garth to the face that’s backed up by Press the Attack. Alternatively, you can dent your opponent’s board enough so that either Betrayal or Heroic Sacrifice can be recurred on the next turn for enough steam to win the game.

 

On the odd initiative, you are at the mercy of Total Anarchy and Micro-Sentinels a bit more, though a well-timed Foiled will help you out immensely. You are playing for the same position as above, but you’re forced to bring it together a turn earlier. This is often too difficult. On odds, you need to be much more aggressive with Finishing Move, and you may be tempted to take a few more risks, perhaps deploying Hank/Dawn in the face of grave danger. With odds, I would focus less on winning early and more on containment for the turn 7 win. This is harder than it seems, but still attainable.

 

I feel like I could write another ten thousand words on this topic, but for now I’ll leave it alone. Hopefully I have given a little insight into the most important matchup in Golden Age today. I like to think of this matchup as the best deck (Titans) against the best draw (Curve Sentinels). Curve Sentinels is a much more consistent deck than it is given credit for (even if it’s not as consistent as Titans is), and you should expect it to hit its curve. If it does, you are at your best if you follow the above plan, but much of the time, a good player will be able to beat you anyway. Fortunately, the Titans are still considerably more consistent, and often you’ll just be able to win through Curve’s erratic draws or your opponent’s lack of understanding of the power of evens.

 

Versus Teen Titans

 

The Teen Titans mirror can be an excruciating experience. It is fought in two ways. Firstly, whichever player has the odd initiative has a distinct advantage if he or she can land the right draw. Ideally, you want to play Tim Drake and Hank/Dawn, clear your opponent’s board with Teen Titans Go!, recruit Terra and Garth, and lock up the game with Roy Harper the turn after. This is the perfect draw, and only a very good draw from the evens player that involves Tamaran and Finishing Move (without those cards being present for the odds player) can defeat it. My deck list was built to give you a reasonable expectation of landing this draw when the chips are down.

 

However, many players don’t get that draw or are not canny enough to see how it works. If you are trapped on evens, you’ll find a glimmer of hope if you escape the third turn without serious disadvantage. From there, you should play for numerical supremacy and for the better Roy and Terra. What this means is that Press the Attack becomes the most important card in the mirror. Once that third turn window elapses, Teen Titans Go! is no longer very important.

 

The most compelling feature of the Titans mirror is how much even the smallest advantage will lead to a win if not pulled back almost immediately. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do about that except to put your head down and make the right plays. Fortunately, if things aren’t going your way, you will quickly be aware of it and be put out of your misery in short order.

 

Versus TNB

 

Some of you might not think this archetype is relevant anymore, but I like to reference it for an important reason. TNB is still the gold standard when it comes to pure rush decks. The stats of its characters and the quality of their support are unlikely to be rivaled in Golden Age. At the moment, GLEE and Titans are both very good against it, and Sentinels (i.e. Nimrod) can hold its own. Understanding how to play a matchup where your opponent hits an aggressive attack curve from turn 1 is an important exercise. Fortunately, the Titans do this better than everyone else does.

 

The key to this sort of matchup is always Terra first and Heroic Sacrifice second. Terra can be a ridiculously powerful card. Her ability not only stuns a character, but it also effectively plugs reinforcement channels by removing an attacker who is usually sent in to break them up, thus preventing endurance loss. Heroic Sacrifice is a strange card in that it is extremely powerful, but you will rarely want to play more than one in a match. The prevalence of range among the Titans’ higher drops often means that reinforcing is a good enough option, anyway. However, in matchups where players need to put all of their eggs in one basket by pumping a character with everything they have, you can’t go past Heroic Sacrifice—a Fast Getaway that stuns your smaller characters at the expense of the bigger, harder to recruit ones is always going to be amazing. In the end, you want to be conservative because your cards are just better than theirs are.

 

Versus GL/EE or Kiwi Fruit

 

The New Zealanders that first designed this deck knew one thing: the deck just plain falls down against Titans. Apart from being vulnerable to Flame Trap, the Green Lanterns don’t have any game against Garth and friends. The Titans player doesn’t even have to draw well.

 

Firstly, their long-game plan to put Sinestro into the hidden zone is negated by Roy Harper, and any recovery plans they might entertain are countered by Press the Attack and Teen Titans Go! Knowing that your late game can easily trump your opponent’s allows you to think of this matchup as an early to mid-game skirmish that the opponent has to win to have a chance. Fortunately, your characters are better. You want to angle for the default Titans board where you stun your opponent’s team and attack directly. This is surprisingly easy, as the opponent’s characters put up little resistance when defending. As long as you remember that the opponent’s only out is to keep Sinestro hidden and face-up, you’ll win easily.

 

Versus New School

 

This matchup is intriguing for a number of reasons, the biggest being that you are finally playing against a deck (and a matchup, for that matter) where your opponent makes more decisions than you do. Additionally, there are key elements to the matchup that require you to play a little differently than normal.

 

You have two typical winning scenarios. Always in the front of your mind should be the plan to clear the opponent’s board with Teen Titans Go! Attack with two characters as a time—no more—and then ready them all when all minimally constructed team-attacks have been formed. This plan is made harder by the presence of Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius, who prevents you from playing plot twists from your hand. Thus, your initial aim is to have a Teen Titans Go! in the row and stun Doom to ensure that you can play things from the hand after that. Additionally, the threats of Reign of Terror and Mystical Paralysis must always be respected.

 

What this means is that a number of smaller characters are nearly always better than a large one. You will want to recruit Garth, but I’m going to be controversial and argue that Terra is not as necessary in this matchup as she would seem to be. She is worth playing if you don’t lose too much by it, but I wouldn’t stress about it. Your opponent is going to get Compressor for Roy anyway, and more than anything else, you want characters that can team attack. There is no point is stunning Shimmer unless you can attack, too. Robot Sentry works hard for the opponent in this matchup, but remember that Hank/Dawn are only a bad investment when they can get two Sentries. That’s not impossible, but unless your opponent naturally drew one, I wouldn’t be too concerned.

 

The second winning scenario is to recur Foiled infinitely with Garth, and this plan should always be in the back of your mind. If you can get this online, your opponent will just lose, as the New School player needs team-ups. That said, a single Fizzle will leave your Foiled stranded in your row, so you need to make sure that your opponent doesn’t have it by baiting him or her with other effects first.

 

This matchup has a few other factors to consider. Your opponent is trying to get to Psimon, which will just shut you down. If this guy resolves, only Roy can get you out of it, and it’s likely that he’ll be eliminated with a Compressor on an earlier turn. What this means is that you’re looking for an initiative that isn’t your opponent’s Reign of Terror turn or Psimon turn on which to win the game. Don’t automatically put locations in the row—put the plot twists you have to play there first. Attack minimally and for board position; you don’t need to deal endurance loss until you attack directly. Flight is very important here. A good New School player will tap down Dawn before Hank. When your opponent’s board begins to crumble, the endurance will flow from him or her in buckets.

 

Versus A Child Named Valeria

 

The Titans have a natural advantage against other weenie builds, namely because their characters are better overall and it has better control over combat. You want to force your opponent into combat to maximize these advantages. What gives combo weenie decks game against Titans is A Child Named Valeria. Fortunately, playing the full complement of Finishing Moves gives you an out. You want to set up a position where the opponent is forced to use Child and you respond by stunning either Invisible Woman or Mr. Fantastic with Roy or Terra. Then you want to use Finishing Move to KO the stunned character so that Child doesn’t come online properly when it resolves. This is not always easy, and there is no point doing it unless you can then go on to wreck the rest of your opponent’s board. However, it is really the most important strategic axis in these matchups and relatively easy to spot, as not many beatdown decks run Invisible Woman, Invisible Girl, or Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards.

 

Versus Common Enemy

 

This deck just never seems to go away, although it often struggles with straight Curve decks like Sentinels. Its matchup with Titans is poorly understood. Common Enemy definitely has the tools to beat Titans, but the inverse is also true.

 

Similar to New School, Common Enemy’s MVP is the 4-drop Doom, but instead of Psimon, it works toward Thing, The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing and then Silver Surfer for the lock. Unfortunately for them, you are much better equipped to deal with a single large characters than a series of smaller drops. Common Enemy beats you earlier than New School does, but you have Finishing Move and much more obvious attacks.

 

The lack of Fizzle for this plan hurts the Common Enemy player, as teaming up is a vital part of the deck, even though it only runs four copies of its team-up. Being able to replay a turn with Foiled can help you delay the TELBET turn that little bit longer, which is often enough to win. Remember that at its heart, Common Enemy is still a curve deck with glorified tricks, and while it’s one of the more interesting and creative decks around, it still suffers from many of the vulnerabilities of curve. Reign of Terror and Mystical Paralysis are again key, but if you can engineer a successful Teen Titans Go!, it will be very hard to lose. Typically, your opponent wants to Reign your low drops and then Paralyze Garth, leaving you with only one attacker on turn 5. Because of this and Thing, the even initiative is a better bet, but you really need to know that you’re playing Common Enemy before choosing evens. As above, Foiled is devastating to Common Enemy, and the Roy Harper/Press interaction operates practically unfettered on turn 6.

 

Hopefully I have made clear what I consider some of the more successful approaches to playing the various Teen Titans matchups. The Titans possess a rare combination of power and flexibility, but their lack of a powerful late game (their only real weakness) demands that you pick the right plan the first time. I am happy to answer any emails at muly233@hotmail.comail, particularly about the matchups I didn’t cover. Until then, always be the one thinking two turns ahead!

(Metagame Archive) Golden Avengers

By Hans Joachim Höh

The time of waiting for the Sneak Preview is finally over, and by now, everybody has gotten his or her first impression of the new set. While everybody coming to PC Indianapolis will probably only be drafting the set in the upcoming weeks while focusing on DC Modern for Constructed, some of you might already be starting to think about the impact of The Avengers on Golden Age. So what is going on in Golden Age right now?

Overload has been removed from the format, and without any kind of System Failure, it will not return. I am still not sure whether it is better this way for Golden Age. It might have been fine to keep us pumping small characters in the Modern Age formats while having Overload around in Golden Age to prevent that strategy from taking over. The banning surely worked the way it was supposed to, allowing some new teams to be played succesfully. That is very exciting and refreshing after the total Sentinel domination, although I am supposed be the last to state that after fine-tuning the Sentinels deck for half a year and finishing in the Top 8 of five consecutive $10Ks with it. As long as the very aggressive strategies are only playable and not totally dominating, Golden Age will be better off without Overload.

So why did I build and play an aggressive Green Lantern / Emerald Enemies deck in Munich? Is it the new “best deck”? No, I do not believe it to be better than Teen Titans or Sentinels. Even if it were, it would take a genius to build it correctly at first try. This is because it is a willpower deck, and the number of willpower-based cards is more substantial than the number of cards related to a single team. Because of the possibility to fetch Constructs with Kyle Rayner, Last Green Lantern and Tomar Re, Green Lantern of Xudar, and characters with The Ring Has Chosen, you can also include lots of different single-copy cards. Therefore, my version is probably far from perfect.

I will tell you why I still made Top 8 in Munich soon, but before that, I want you to realize that the format is fresh again and ready to be explored by you. You could start improving my deck, Edoardo’s League of Assassins deck (which got a power boost from the new starter), or the concealed deck built by my friend Kristian Kockott. Of course, you could also believe that the format is still about the old decks, like $10K San Diego seemed to show, and that only the Europeans are bad enough to lose to whatever I play. Conversely, you could start looking at your new Avengers cards, build a new deck, and place it in the next $10K Top 8. Believe me, you would enjoy that a lot more than doing it with Sentinels again. So let’s go!

While it is pretty difficult to build a tier 1 deck on your own—after all, the existing decks you have to beat have been tested for months by the entire Vs. community—for a jumping-off point, it is sufficient to have some good ideas. Your new deck does not need to beat the best decks consistently. You only need some chance of winning. As you test those matchups before the tournament, you will have an information advantage because your opponents during the tournament will not have a good plan against your new deck.

I like the Vs. System because it is both highly complicated and very consistent. This consistency makes it easier to discuss and analyze matchups after a few games instead of having to play them a hundred times. The complexity makes it very hard to win without a correct analysis of the matchup. If your opponent does not know which initiative is better in the matchup, which turn the matchup tends to end on, or even which plot twists you are using, then he or she is at a serious disadvantage. Only the best players will be able to figure out the right game plan against an unknown deck. I remember feeling like my brain was melting away when I had to play against EMS and Rigged Elections for the first time. During playtesting, I would have leaned back, joyfully observed how exactly the new decks were beating me, and tried to figure out how to stop them later on in another game. Unfortunately, this was not testing at my place, but a later round at a $10K, so leaning back was not an option.

This will be your strength. You should know how to beat the top decks, while your opponents cannot know how to beat your new creation. We have seen multiple decks dominating tournaments while they were unexpected. Only some of them have had enough power to keep on winning when they were known and expected—but that is another story.

As long as everybody else believes in Teen Titans and Sentinels, you need to build a deck that can handle those two decks. If you can win against one of those most of the time and have a 50% win percentage against the other, you are fine. That was what I could achieve with GLEE during testing against unprepared opponents, and that was my win ratio during the $10K, too. All the robots refused to bring their former master down, and I ended up 1-1 versus Titans. Do not expect more! It is not even easy to get to 50% against both with many decks, as Sentinels and Titans have totally different threats waiting for you.

Sentinels has two major threats—the Hounds lock and the unbeatable late game characters—so your game plan should be able to defeat either one. The Hounds lock can be easily avoided by playing some 1- and 2-drops, while the late game of Nimrod, Bastion, and Magneto, Master of Magnetism is impossible to beat with fair combat. You can try to win on turn 5 or 6 before the entire team arrives, apply some kind of KO’ing lock yourself, have a way to win without combat, or find an effective way to stall to even later turns.

Teen Titans works completely differently, so you cannot really hope to beat both decks easily. The Titans deck’s biggest threat is the direct stunning done by Terra and Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter, which reduces the effectiveness of your initiatives and makes KO’ing locks impossible. In order to win against Teen Titans, you will need to get them into the Loyalty lock on turn 4, turn their activated character abilities off, or play better late game characters than they have access to.

So now that you know what your deck has to be able to beat, you can start constructing decks with Captain America, Super Soldier; Melissa Gold ◊ Songbird; and all the other fine Avengers cards. I wish you lots of fun and good luck with building a cool deck to sneak your way into the next Top 8 of your choice!

HaJo

(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Isn’t it about time the X-Men got some love?

Avengers has barely hit the streets and is only beginning to make the big waves it seems likely to generate, but savvy Vs. fans can already feel an X-Men surge looming on the horizon. Hopeful fanboys and nostalgia-prone Vs. vets alike all hope that upcoming releases will breathe new life into everybody’s favorite band of muties, and, well, the future is bright.

In the meantime, the X-Men have some cool effects that have long been overlooked. While Team TOGIT’s initial build of X-Stall took advantage of Professor X, Charles Xavier and Emma Frost for hand control, both were shunted from later versions of the archetype. As for Psylocke and Professor Xavier’s Mansion, I have friends who can’t even recite what those cards do. The X-Men have more hand disruption at their disposal than any other team, but their capacity to sap an opponent’s options has gone virtually unused in serious competition. It’s just one example of the unexplored potential that has become the team’s hallmark.

While the X-crew has a lot of thrillingly janktastic tools at their fingertips, my favorite by far is Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Packed with awesome flavor, the School is a location that can be activated to ready target X-Men character with a cost of 3 or less while forbidding it from attacking. It literally supports the “younger” members of the team by letting them use their powers repeatedly. Though it wasn’t an earth shattering (or even very useful) card at the time of its release in Marvel Origins, it provided a very basic and powerful effect; readying a smaller character each turn was bound to become useful at some point. Six expansions and several promos and starter sets later, we might finally have enough characters to make Xavier’s School really shine.

First up, let’s take a look at the elementary uses for the card. It can ready an exhausted character to allow it to reinforce, permitting two reinforcements in a single turn from a single source. Considering virtually all formations on and beyond turn 4 are variations on the classic L, this is incredibly useful on defense. It’s obvious, but still worthy of mention. Similarly, it can be used to pay exhaustion costs attached to cards like Finishing Move.

Second, it can be used to “turn on” effects that require a character to be ready. For instance, She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters can become very large in the midst of combat thanks to her effect and a sudden refresher course at the School.

Third and most significant is its ability to let you use the effect of a character twice in a single turn. This is where most of my discussion will be focused, and while Xavier’s School might not see much play in high level competition, it is this use that allowed the card its one breakthrough performance; most builds of Force use it to get two activations out of Longshot each turn. It was a trick that took Michael Jacob all the way to a first place finish at $10K Chicago, and it’s the focus of my interests for this article.

While the X-Men themselves don’t have many effects worth reusing via the School, teaming up with another group makes the possibilities virtually limitless. I’d like to focus on half a dozen teams that really show off the School’s potential. It’s an easy way to demonstrate deck ideas and key synergies that illustrate how useful the School can be.

Gotham Knights: Batman’s allies clock in with six activated character effects that I feel are worthy of double usage. Both versions of Barbara Gordon ◊ Oracle can provide you with an extra two cards per turn if she sets up shop in the School. Each Tim Drake ◊ Robin that carries the Gotham Knights affiliation can provide a double combat pump each turn (+6 ATK total from Protege and a variable amount from The Boy Wonder version), and Spoiler ◊ Robin does the same. The underrated Dinah Laurel Lance ◊ Black Canary also becomes far better when she can exhaust two characters per turn instead of one. Virtually any exhaustion effect that can be used twice via the School is worthy of mention, but while Sonar can tire out heroes with the best of them, he just doesn’t have the synergistic companions with whom Canary keeps company. Combined with the reuse of a single Utility Belt, the Knights can really abuse Xavier’s teachings.

Teen Titans: The Titans don’t have much to use with the School, but Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal is enough to land them on the list, anyway. With a host of recovery effects to keep the more fragile components of Titan synergy around and Bamf! to mix with Teen Titans Go!, the X-Men actually have several good reasons to join forces with DC’s sidekicks-turned-headliners. The Blackbird beefs up your swarm, and the end result is Roy Harper Schooling as many characters as is required on a turn-by-turn basis. Apparently, the School has a clock tower not pictured in the card’s illustration.

Marvel Knights: The Knights have two characters that I really consider to be prime combo material with the School. Caretaker can give two characters a +4 ATK bonus each turn if you’re teamed up and use Xavier’s School, or he can dish out a whopping 8 additional ATK to a single teammate. Considering the fact that Caretaker can do this regardless of whether his compatriot is attacking or defending, his effect is incredibly powerful. Combine that synergy with Hannibal King’s ability and you have a deadly early game. Hannibal can force an opponent to eat an additional 10 endurance loss when the unfortunate soul he marked for death hits the dirt. Heck, you can even use Punisher, Judge to drop the hammer and KO your target while gaining the option of controlling the early game via a double KO. Ouch.

Thunderbolts: The Thunderbolts have a single representative from the three major categories of double-use effects that we’ve been building. Blizzard can exhaust two characters a turn when backed by Xavier’s tutelage; Dallas Riordan, Mayoral Aide lets you draw up to two extra cards per turn; and Ogre gives combat bonuses. The thing that sets the T-Bolt’s apart, though? The fact that, as of turn 4, Ogre is generating pairs of permanent +1 ATK/+1 DEF counters every turn. While Ogre is a 1-drop and can be difficult to keep around, the X-Men’s various recovery effects help to ensure that he stays in action. Once turn 4 hits, you’re jumping the curve at virtually every opportunity, and that kind of raw power wins games.

The Brotherhood: Destiny; Pyro; Quicksilver, Pietro Maximoff; and Phantazia are all worthy of consideration for use with the School. Heck, even Unus becomes super-Unus when Prof X gives him some TLC. The definite standout is Destiny, who can easily shunt out 8 points of burn as early as turn 2 and continue to do so until she gets taken down. When she does get sent to the KO’d pile, you’ll still have other options available, and both Quicksilver and Pyro can keep the burn coming as long as your turn 2 play was an X-Men character. Though Force has been able pull off double-burns for quite a while, the main reason for Xavier’s School’s presence in the deck is Longshot. A more burn-oriented Mutant Nation build could be promising.

New Gods: Like the Teen Titans, New Gods only have one early game character whose effect I would really want to reuse. It’s a doozy, though, as Mark Moonrider can burn away 10 endurance every turn once he hits the table. Since Rogue, Power Absorption can mimic Moonrider’s effect, you can singe an opponent for 10 endurance on turn 3 and 15 more on turn 4. That’s 25 endurance loss from burn alone before turn 5! Toss in an aggressive early game, some defensive tricks to preserve Mark’s cosmic glow, and a few copies of Surprise Attack, and you’ve got a winning team-up deck.

While none of the above ideas are currently tier 1 concepts, nothing says that they aren’t capable of putting up a fight. A deck based on each, especially the X-Men/New Gods team-up, seems to be backed by solid theory. If you’ve been looking for a way to get yourself some X-Men action and aren’t quite willing to wait for the next expansion, exploiting some of the impressive combos facilitated by Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters will let you achieve that goal successfully in competitive environments!

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

(Metagame Archive) Voices From the Past: Thunderstruck!

By Ben Kalman

In last week’s article, I mentioned that the fourth incarnation of the Masters of Evil, the most brutal and infamous of the various versions, was later reformed by leader Helmut Zemo as the Thunderbolts. You might ask, “How can this be? I thought the Thunderbolts were good guys. What gives?” As usual, the answer is a little more complicated than that. They are good guys, and yet they aren’t—or rather, weren’t. You see, back in the beginning, the team was going to be another rehash of the old-hat Masters of Evil, but then Zemo had this idea. The Avengers and the Fantastic Four were dead, and so . . . wait, you mean you hadn’t heard?

Let’s back up a little and shed some light on a particularly . . . interesting . . . era in Marvel comics, when they destroyed their two favorite teams and recreated them anew. This was the era of Heroes Reborn!

AN ABSOLUTE ONSLAUGHT

It began when the X-Men sent a contingent to the Avalon Space Station to try and apprehend Magneto, who had just obliterated the entire world’s power system with an electro-magnetic pulse. With the help of Colossus, who was one of Magneto’s acolytes at the time, a small group of X-Men snuck aboard the space station and tried to ambush Magneto. It was during the “Fatal Attractions” story arc, with Wolverine just about to claw the life out of Magneto, that Magneto literally ripped the adamantium out of Wolverine’s bones*. In retaliation, and in a rare moment where he caved in to emotion and rage, Professor X used his power to literally wipe Magneto’s mind clean.

Unfortunately, life never works out the way we’d expect it to, and Magneto essentially rode the mind wave, sending a little piece of his psyche into the Professor’s mind in a psionic backlash. That little psychic fragment fed on Professor X’s brain and spawned a sentient psionic being, which would form a physical body for itself and be known as Onslaught.

Onslaught was big. He was bad. He was immensely powerful, having all of the powers and intellect of both Professor X and Magneto—and still more. It took the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Hulk, and Dr. Doom all working together to beat him, which is why his card, a measly 21 ATK/21 DEF 9-drop, can stun entire teams.

It was thought that the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Dr. Doom all died fighting Onslaught—but, in fact, young Franklin Richards saved them all, creating an alternate reality where the heroes were “reborn” with no memory of Earth and slightly alternate pasts. They would eventually return to their proper reality, but while they were gone, the world mourned the loss of so many of its heroes. Others took advantage of the loss by taking their places.

INTRODUCTION: THE THUNDERBOLTS!  

What happens when an evil mastermind prepares to gather his villainous allies to once again attempt to vanquish his mortal enemies, only to find out that those enemies are already vanquished? Why, he takes their place. Enter the Thunderbolts!
 

Helmut Zemo saw a chance to do much more than simply take advantage of the loss of the heroic teams to rob and pillage such as many other villains did. Oh, no, that would be far too easy. Zemo felt that it would be an even greater triumph to work from the inside out. How much better would it be to gain the trust of the common people as their new “heroes,” and use that blind faith to turn around and conquer the world!

Zemo set out to put together a team that would be able to cunningly assume the guise of heroes with the intention of taking advantage of any misplaced loyalty. He also wanted a team that he could control and whose loyalty he could count on. He first brought the Fixer into the fold, renaming him Techno. This was because the Fixer’s technical knowledge and skill at invention would be invaluable to the team, both regarding weaponry and gadgetry and in finding ways to help the team keep their current and former identities separate.

Zemo’s next recruit—and perhaps his most important—was the Beetle. Abner Jenkins, also known as the Beetle, had been going from one failed crime to another. He was desperate for leadership and acceptance. With the Fixer’s help, he created the Mobile Armored Cyber Harness, or MACH, armor, and called himself MACH-1. The number would rise with each subsequent, modified set of armor or when he switched identities—more on that later.

Next on the list was Screaming Mimi. Her lover and partner in crime, Angar the Screamer, had just been shot to death in a failed bank robbery, and she had screamed her vocal cords to little pieces. Zemo offered her a chance to heal up and a safe haven, which she gratefully accepted. The Fixer fixed her up with a special sonic harness that increased her powers without taxing her heavily damaged vocal cords. She changed her name to Songbird and became a loyal member of the team.

Next, Zemo and the Fixer turned their attention to Erik Josten, the Goliath who had fought alongside them against the Avengers in the fourth incarnation of the Masters of Evil. Josten had since been stranded in the Kosmos dimension, where he was constantly under attack by the insectoid creatures that lived there. Zemo rescued him, and Josten pledged a fierce loyalty to him, feeling that he owed him his very life, a debt beyond repayment. Calling himself Atlas—perhaps due to his feeling of this debt weighing on his shoulders—he would be one of the most loyal members of the team, at the beginning.

The final member of the team was Moonstone. Dr. Karla Sofen, best known at that point for betraying Zemo in the siege of AvengersMansion, didn’t want to be rescued from the Vault where she was imprisoned. She intended to serve her time and begin life over again. But the Thunderbolts staged a breakout just so they could “recruit” her, even though she was determined not to go. She eventually acquiesced, and joined the team, dubbing herself Meteorite.

Zemo’s reasons for recruiting Meteorite were never entirely clear, especially considering their past. However, he knew that her power was formidable, and even more important, her greatest skill was in psychiatry and manipulation. She would serve the team well by guiding them in their new roles as heroes, and helping to tread water in the public eye, even manipulating public opinion when necessary.

Unfortunately, Meteorite was the least loyal of the team members, and she began to sow the seeds of distrust and barter for power within the ranks. When they later took in Jolt, their first truly new recruit, it was Meteorite who convinced Zemo to let her on the team. Meteorite would become a sort of surrogate mother to Jolt, adding another chess piece to be played when needed at a later time and place.

   

IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

Taking the name Citizen V (which, ironically, was the same as a German war hero who was killed decades earlier by Zemo’s own father), Zemo put the team through a short period of hyper-intensive training, so that the members could get used to working together and to make sure everyone was ready for their foray into the new world of crime-fighting. They were called the Thunderbolts—a name that suited Zemo’s ideals, but sounded heroic and identifiable. Their motto was Justice, Like Lightning, famous words by Thomas Randolph that are quoted in the card’s flavor text.

Things went splendidly for the Thunderbolts, and they were completely convincing to an unknowing public. In fact, when Jolt joined the ranks of the team, she believed that they were truly a team of heroes. They fought The Wrecking Crew, Circus of Crime, the Elements of Doom (a team that would become one of their greatest nemeses), and the latest incarnation of the Masters of Evil, led by the new, new Crimson Cowl. This was a foe that particularly irked Zemo, as he couldn’t reveal that his team was truly the Masters of Evil and he couldn’t steal control of the team from the Crimson Cowl without giving away his secret.

However, that all became moot when the Avengers and Fantastic Four came back in the Heroes Return storyline. The Thunderbolts had already suffered one major dramatic setback, of a sort, when Techno had his neck broken by Iron of the Elements of Doom. Techno was forced to upload his consciousness into an android body (as his Man of Metal version displays), and would fight on in that form.

When the real heroes returned, Zemo got nervous, since his heroes were enjoying their heroics a little too much. He leaked their secret identities to SHIELD to try and keep it in line, revealing their true Faces of Evil. But Zemo’s plan backfired and his team turned on him. The seeds of betrayal sowed by Meteorite took hold, and aside from Techno, Zemo had no allies. At Zemo’s behest, Techno used an invention to force the Avengers and Fantastic Four to fight their former allies—but the Thunderbolts were triumphant and broke the heroes free from their mental bonds.

Meteorite became Moonstone once again, taking temporary lead of the team. She tried to nab Zemo, but he was aided in escaping by Atlas, who still felt indebted to Zemo for his life. Techno got away as well, and the team decided to turn themselves in—but they never made it. They disappeared to the Kosmos dimension, where they fought in a pan-dimensional revolution, while back on Earth they became Marvel’s Most Wanted villains. Additionally, Dallas Riordan, who was the liaison between the team and the mayor’s office in New York (and romantically involved with Atlas), lost her job and almost went to trial as an accessory.

When the Thunderbolts returned, they had to hide from capture, though they did manage to take in one new member. Charcoal was a teenager who was a part of Arnim Zola’s Imperial Forces, and wanted to redeem himself, just as the Thunderbolts were trying to do. They did receive A Second Chance when Hawkeye offered to lead the team in their quest to become true heroes. He even got them a governmental pardon in return for Abner Jenkins (MACH-1) turning himself in to the authorities for a murder that he had previously committed as the Beetle. Everyone agreed on this plan, and Abner began serving his sentence while Hawkeye took over the leader’s mantle.
 

Meanwhile, the android Techno took the place of the team’s weaponsmith, Ogre, so that he could infiltrate the team. He broke Jenkins out of prison, and changed his appearance and armor to give him a New Identity—that of Matthew Davis or MACH-2. While this was happening, the mysterious reappearance of the Scourge, who was either Jack Monroe or Nomad and under various levels of mind control, was eliminating Thunderbolts members. He took out Jolt, ex-Thunderbolt Baron Zemo and the android Techno, though all three would actually survive. It took the combined efforts of the Thunderbolts and the SHIELD-sponsored Redeemers (who included the now-healed original Techno, who called himself the Fixer again) to take them down. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Atlas had a power meltdown and supposedly died at this point.

THE END OF THE THUNDERBOLTS?

Here’s where it gets complicated, so bear with me. The team cut a deal with the government, disbanding the team in return for a complete presidential pardon for MACH-1, Songbird, Moonstone and the ‘late’ Atlas. In exchange, these characters weren’t allowed to use their powers. On the other hand, Hawkeye was sent to prison. Jolt and Charcoal ended up in the Redeemers, where Charcoal would be killed by Graviton at Mt.Charteris. Graviton took out most of the Redeemers and was only defeated by a reformed Thunderbolts team of Citizen V, the true Fixer, Jolt, Abe Jenkins (now as MACH-3), Moonstone, and Atlas, who had been inhabiting Dallas Riordan’s body. The team then journeyed to the dimension where the Heroes Reborn storyline took place and stayed there for a while.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Hawkeye busted out of prison with Plantman, Cottonmouth, and Mentallo. Songbird, now working for SHIELD, was sent to hunt them down. She caught up to them just as they uncovered a plot by the Crimson Cowl and the latest Masters of Evil, involving several super villains and a controlling biotoxin. Enter a second team of Thunderbolts, as the first “team” is still in the other dimension. Led by Hawkeye, we have Songbird, Plantman (now known as Blackheath), Cardinal (also known as Harrier), Cyclone, Gypsy Moth (also known as Skein), and Man-Killer (or Amazon). Cyclone would be the lone betrayer, and this incarnation of the Thunderbolts would eventually take down the Masters of Evil.

   

This is when the original team returned to their proper Earth, creating a giant team to sort through. Amazon and Skein took their leave. Mach-3 and Harrier returned to prison—voluntarily, I might add, as Abe particularly wished to repay his debt to society. Jolt stayed in the other dimension, where she joined the Young Allies. Dallas and Atlas were separated once again, with Dallas discovering that she suddenly had his super-powers, and she became Vantage. Fixer restored Atlas’s powers to him as well. Zemo convinced Hawkeye to let him lead the team, as he “truly wanted to do right this time.” Yeah, right.

Now, we had a team of Baron Zemo leading Atlas, Blackheath, Fixer, Moonstone, Dallas Riordan, and Songbird, and we began Project Liberator, another Deadly Conspiracy of Zemo’s to fix the world. This time, the plan is to eliminate all super powers but those of the Thunderbolts, thereby allowing the Thunderbolts to rule the world. This would ensure that law and order prevailed with the Thunderbolts as super-powered servants of “justice.”

The Avengers, who were understandably concerned, sent Iron Man into the Thunderbolts clubhouse in the guise of Cobalt Man, so that he could ferret out the secrets of their plan. With Abe’s help from prison, the Avengers moved in, and, much to Hawkeye’s chagrin, were forced to fight the Thunderbolts. They were finally able to destroy the Liberator device, albeit at the expense of Moonstone, who was turned into a powerless vegetable. Zemo would escape again, and Blackheath, having lost his powers as well, headed back to prison.

But Jenkins was on his way out, receiving pardon for his help, and decided to form . . .

THE NEW THUNDERBOLTS

 

Abe Jenkins, always the idealist, decided that they really should be heroes and that the Thunderbolts could do good. The core team was Jenkins in a new MACH-4 suit, Songbird, Atlas (minus Dallas, who went to work for Homeland Security) and some new members. These new members included Blizzard, who, like Jenkins at the beginning of the Thunderbolts, just wanted to do some good and turn his life around. Speed Demon was in it for the ride and Radioactive Man was there as much as an agent of the Chinese government as anything else, though he was trying to do some good. Genis-Vell, the new Captain Marvel, was there because he had a crush on Songbird. Joystick also joined the team early on after a spectacular fight against the Atlantean renegade terrorists, the Fathom 5 and the Wrecking Crew.

The friction in the team started early, as Atlas, who vehemently disliked Genis, sucker-punched him and toss him into the ocean. Genis survived and called himself Photon—eventually spurring a visit from Miss Monica Rambeau, who accused him of repeatedly stealing her nickname.

When Baron Von Strucker led a Hydra invasion of New York, the team would discover that Abe had funded the Thunderbolts revival with money from Strucker’s organization. Even though Abe (in his original Beetle armor when his MACH-4 armor encountered some difficulties) led the team to defeat the Hydra invaders, it wasn’t enough to keep Songbird from leaving both Abe and the team, since she felt betrayed by his use of dirty money when they’re all trying to start over.

Songbird’s vocal cords were already strained from an earlier battle, so she headed back to college. She became an easy target for the Purple Man, who was apparently still alive—even though he was supposedly killed a couple of times in the last few years. (Heck, he’s been dead almost as often as Magneto.) The Thunderbolts are currently in the middle of a tango with the Swordsman (who has just skewered Abe) and the Purple Man, who’s controlling Melissa.

THE THUNDERBOLTS, IN A NUTSHELL

Here’s a continuity rundown of some of the Thunderbolts characters, and what their game text means in terms of their characters.

The Reluctant Hero version of Beetle reflects how Abe slowly began to become more interested in the heroic life, as he realized how much more rewarding it was than a life of crime. Being a part of a team affected him very much, so much so that he’ll willingly sacrifice himself in order to preserve his teammates and their cause by finding the team-up card to keep them together. These are sentiments that would grow within him and have helped him adjust to his more recent role as team leader.

His Matthew Davis version is from when he changed identities to hide the fact that he had broken out of prison. He gets a late-game boost as a result of Techno’s tinkering, just as Techno himself boosts smaller characters when he has the resources available. The two combined make the boost really impressive.

Finally, his repentant Villain version shows a man torn up inside. On the one hand, he has 12 ATK and 10 DEF, huge stats for a 5-drop that show his resolve to repay his debts to society—but on the other hand, the conflict he feels inside is apparent, as his opponents get an invulnerable combat against him. Finally, his New Team Leader character, with his strongest armor yet, shows how even though the team is rough about the edges, he manages to lead them through trouble, and his will to be a good leader and make something of himself and his ragtag team strengthens.

Blizzard is interesting, because he not only has the typical “freeze” power of exhaustion, but also moves that character to a different position, as they try and escape the cold.

Atlas’s Ionic Powerhouse version is from when his powers began to become out of control, getting more and more powerful until they pretty much overload him. The more you pay, the bigger he gets. Kosmos Convict is an earlier Atlas, when he was a prisoner in the Kosmos dimension. He just got tougher and angrier, which is reflected in his effect giving him a yummy power bonus every turn.

Hawkeye, a man who never passes up a challenge and can back up his braggadocio with action after action, spurs his teammates onwards, giving them a stun-free attack when attacking a bigger brute. This is especially useful in a team attack, which is where Hawkeye’s Thunderbolts really shone.

Citizen V’s Tactician version is from when Helmut Zemo put the team together as pretend-heroes. Treating every teammate a chess piece, those teammates get an ATK bonus for being in the proper position at his side. Warmonger is Helmut Zemo in the other dimension, trying to rule it and recruiting as many characters to his cause as possible. Hence, he gives others the Thunderbolts affiliation, and an ATK bonus for beating ‘em when they’re down.

Cobalt Man is a double agent, so he gets double loyalty. He also has the power of Iron Man wrapped up in Cobalt Man’s “containment suit,” hence the huge ATK value and the invulnerable attack.

The Twin Moonstones version of Meteorite, an 8-drop of immense power, is from when she stole a second Moonstone from her counter version on the Heroes Reborn Earth. Her drawback represents he twisted mind and lust for personal gain. She wasn’t a team player, and so in order to win, you have to defeat her as well as your opponent.

Songbird’s Sonic Carapace is the version that uses the special harness that Techno fixed up for her. She has an immense ATK, but she shakes up your opponent’s resources as well, giving them a second use of a resource once per turn. Her Heroine Unbound version showcases her at her peak, re-readying in preparation for anything, even after attacking.

The Gadgeteer version of Techno reflects his ingenuity. Its discard effect shows Ebersol, when he has the resources available, giving a weaker teammate the key to victory: in this case, it’s a +2 ATK/+2 DEF power increase. His Man of Metal version reflects his technological knowledge, allowing you to repair and reuse a previously expended card—but at the expense of allowing your opponent the same advantage. This reflects that this version is only a copy of his true self, and therefore doesn’t quite have the same level of ingenuity as his true self.

Radioactive Man’s ability displays his radioactive energy. Just as he did in Atlantis, he can give someone radiation sickness. Unless he’s expended energy by attacking or exhausting, even if he’s taken out, someone’s probably going down with him.

Finally, Speed Demon, like his other version, has the ability to re-ready. But this stronger and smarter version can attack again. If he’s survived a couple of turns, he’s almost guaranteed a second attack, as he won’t be stunned during the attack.

NEXT WEEK: It’s Indy time again!

Questions? Queries? Comments? Send ‘em along and I’ll try to get them answered in the column! Email me at:

Kergillian (at) hotmail (dot) com

*You may recognize this scene from the Finishing Move card—and if that’s not enough to KO a stunned character, I don’t know what is!

Also known by his screen name Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the Vs. community since day one. He started the first major online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, and it now boasts well over 1,750 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG.

(Metagame Archive) Voices from the Past: Evil Abounds!

By Ben Kalman

WHERE EVIL LURKS . . .

 

The Masters of Evil. The very name causes Avengers everywhere to tense up and look over their shoulders. Yes, the Masters of Evil is the first Marvel villain team, and it’s certainly one of the fiercest. Every one of the eight incarnations of the Masters of Evil has given the Avengers more than their fair share of headaches.

Today we’re going to look at the first four incarnations, as these contain the Masters of Evil characters that are specifically included in the Avengers set.

MASTERS OF ZEMO

 

The Masters of Evil first came about in the mid-60s, when Baron Heinrich Zemo (the original Baron Zemo) recruited three fellow super-villains: Nathaniel Garrett, the original Black Knight; the Melter; and Radioactive Man, Chen Lu, to help him attack New York. New York was where Captain America, Baron Zemo’s most hated foe, resided with the Avengers. Using his infamous Adhesive X*, Zemo and the Masters fought the Avengers to a standstill—until Rick Jones saved the day, taking an antidote concoction that was created by Paste Pot Pete. He freed Captain America and Giant-Man, and prevented the Masters of Evil from continuing their destructive paths. The Avengers captured all of them, save for Zemo, who fled to his base in South America.

However, it wasn’t long before the Masters of Evil were back in action, as Enchantress and Executioner joined forces with Zemo in the hopes of defeating the Avengers. While Zemo lured Captain America into a wild goose chase, Enchantress used her charm powers to control Thor’s mind and send him into battle against his other teammates. The Masters of Evil were once again doomed to failure, since Thor ended up overcoming his hypnosis and sent Zemo’s airship deep into space.

But Enchantress was not so easily defeated, since she was an Asgardian goddess. She brought the airship back to Earth, where Zemo transformed the beleaguered Simon Williams into Wonder Man and coerced him to attack the Avengers, threatening to withhold the antidote that Wonder Man needed for survival if he didn’t do Zemo’s bidding. Pretending to save the Avengers from an attack by the Masters, Simon was welcomed by the Avengers. With a little magical help from Enchantress, he was made a probationary member of the team.

He rewarded the Avengers by leading them to a trap in the Amazon, where he single-handedly defeated them and then brought them to Zemo’s South American stronghold. However, Wonder Man had a change of heart at the last minute, releasing Thor from his bonds, and helping the Avengers chase the Masters away. This selfless act was not without consequence, as without Zemo’s antidote, Wonder Man “succumbed” to his condition. He would be “brought back to life” more than once throughout the Avengers history, both as the Vision and as himself.

The two super-teams would lock horns a few more times, with the Masters of Evil being defeated by the Avengers each time. Black Knight and Melter would rejoin the team in the penultimate battle, with Thor defeating the two of them, causing Enchantress and Executioner to turn tail back to Asgard. However, Heinrich Zemo wasn’t so lucky, as he made the mistake of kidnapping Rick Jones in order to threaten Captain America. With the resonance of Bucky affecting him, the good Captain chased Zemo down to the Amazon. In the heat of battle, an errant shot by Zemo caused an avalanche, which buried and killed the Baron. Such was the end of the Masters of Evil—for several years, at least.

Heinrich Zemo had a brilliant mind and was a brilliant tactician, despite being an average man. Although his stats are fairly normal for a 4-drop, his leader ability gives his teammates a huge boost against impossible odds, like bigger opposing characters.

Melter, like many of the Masters of Evil over the years, was an aggressive villain who gave little thought to defending himself. This is reflected in his high ATK of 4 but low DEF of 1, his extraordinarily strong ability of taking out the Big Boys (characters of cost 5 or higher), and his huge defensive liability. His ability is a ray or beam that can literally melt through armor, and it’s most often used against Iron Man. The Melter melts Iron Man’s armor, taking him out of the action (reflected in the KO ability). But since his melting beam is artificial and isn’t an inherent “power, he’s defenseless without his belt, so he’s easy to take out once he’s used his ability.

Nathaniel Garrett, the original Black Knight, had no powers to speak of, but he did have a Pegasus as a steed. Although he’s a small drop, his advantage lies in his power lance, which fires blasts of heat, energy, or electricity, and doubles as an actual lance, which is why he removes and eliminates reinforcement, though only for front row characters. He essentially flanks the characters and prevents them from being reinforced by others, which is why he doesn’t have to be in combat to use his ability.

Dr. Chen Lu, the Radioactive Man, has the ability to absorb, manipulate, and emit radiation. His game text reflects his ability to gain power through radiation at the expense of others, who get ill from prolonged exposure. He provides an extra payment-power push of nuclear power, but you can’t recruit any other characters due to his radioactive side effects.

The Executioner is an Asgardian warrior, through and through. His stats are average for his size and cost, but his ability reflects his willingness to do anything necessary to defeat his opponent in combat. He fights to the finish at the expense of a teammate or other character card, but it gets results when it wins him a KO.

Finally, Amora, or Enchantress, has various mystical and magical arts at her disposal. While it would be nice to see an ability reflecting her charm powers (perhaps by having her somehow gaining control of male characters), this version focuses on her mystical side rather than her amorous side. She uses resource points to stun characters, which the Masters of Evil seem to find in abundance. The more mystical resources at her disposal, the more damage she can do, and she can take out multiple characters in a single turn if there are enough resource points.

THE FIRST ERA OF THE CRIMSON COWL

 

In the late 60s, the Masters of Evil re-emerged, but they did so with an almost entirely new cast of characters. Zemo remained dead (and he’s one of the few characters who’s pretty much remained dead ever since), and there was no Asgardian aid this time around. The Black Knight had plummeted to his death in a fateful battle with Iron Man, which left Melter and Radioactive Man as the sole original members of the Masters of Evil.

This version of the Masters was formed by Ultron under the guise of the Crimson Cowl, who gathered Melter and Radioactive Man, plus Klaw and Whirlwind, who doubled as the Wasp’s chauffeur. Not knowing that Nathaniel Garrett had died, Ultron sent him an invitation to join as well. This invitation was received by Garrett’s nephew, Dane Whitman, who took on the identity of the Black Knight to see what the fuss was all about.

Ultron then turned to Jarvis, the Avengers’ trusted butler, and used his encephalo-beam to hypnotically suggest that Jarvis would not be able to pay the medical bills his ailing mother had incurred. Ultron “suggested” that Jarvis help them in return for the necessary payments. The blackmail ploy worked, and Jarvis unwittingly betrayed his friends and employers by providing the Masters of Evil with the codes and blueprints for the Avengers Mansion security system. However, Ultron wasn’t done yet, as he didn’t pay up and then framed Jarvis for the crime. By setting him up in the Crimson Cowl robes, it appeared that Jarvis was the leader of the new Masters of Evil!

Meanwhile, the Black Knight had seen enough, and went to warn the Avengers. Ultron had foreseen this, and sent the Masters to stop him. He sent his trusty Pegasus Aragorn to send for the Avengers, who arrived too late and were captured. They were placed inside a hydrogen bomb as Ultron revealed himself. He also revealed his plans to blackmail New York by using their lives and the lives of every New Yorker as a bartering tool.

It was Jarvis who would save the day, redeeming himself by escaping and finding the Black Knight, who saved the Avengers and helped defeat the Masters of Evil. This would also help him earn a spot on the team.

Ultron was a strong, tactical leader. He stayed behind the scenes, and let the others do his fighting for him, which is why his Crimson Cowl version has the leader ability and gives fellow attackers a leg up by stifling reinforcement.

Klaw, who went from sniveling lackey to power player to eventual leader of this incarnation of the Masters for their final caper, is made of solidified sound, and he projects that sound through an amplification device on his arm. He can create hard sound constructs, which are reflected in the plot twist’s card text as sound representations of real people, but also could be just about anything else. He can also use the sound sonically, as seen in the Sonic Disruption card, which essentially paralyzes his opponents while they try to block the sound from their ears. Klaw’s own text shows his high DEF—it’s hard to hurt him, let alone to stop him—and the ability to put a character out of action by overloading them with sound. It costs a little bit, but the exertion is worth it.

Finally, Whirlwind’s ability is to daze an opponent as they try and keep up with him. He spends resource points to accomplish it, but the result is total exhaustion, and he doesn’t skip a beat as he doesn’t need to exhaust himself to use the payment power.

RISE OF THE EGGHEAD

 

It was a long time (about fifteen years) before the Masters resurfaced, this time under the leadership of Egghead, Hank Pym’s oldest enemy. Pym was going through a viciously rough patch in his life, as he had recently divorced Wasp and was about to go on trial for treason. This made it the perfect time for Egghead to surface with his plans to invent and build a high-tech arsenal with stolen plans and parts and sell them to the highest bidder, and also to drag Pym’s name through the mud while he was doing it. He was directly responsible for Pym’s trial in the first place, having previously manipulated Pym into helping him by threatening the life of Pym’s niece, Trish, if Pym didn’t help him steal some adamantium from the government. Not only had he lied about Trish being in danger of dying, but he had brainwashed Trish into claiming that Pym was solely responsible for “kidnapping” her and for the theft.

With Pym ready to go on trial, Egghead formulated a plan to further frame Pym and force him to help Egghead create some high-tech devices. But first, Egghead had to build a team of super-villains to push this plan forward, and he had to test them out in the field. His first attempt failed miserably. Egghead broke Tiger Shark, Moonstone, Scorpion, and Whirlwind out of prison, intending to use them to rob a medical center for supplies. That plan went down the tubes once they got caught up in an unnecessary tangle with the Avengers. Whirlwind decided to “visit” Wasp before the heist and dragged his fellow Masters into a brawl that they couldn’t win. The four of them were all imprisoned.

Realizing that Whirlwind was a liability and that Scorpion wasn’t enough of a team player, Egghead freed only Tiger Shark and Moonstone from prison once again, and this time topped off the Masters with Shocker, Beetle, and Radioactive Man. This time, they succeeded. They broke into Pym’s court proceedings, pretending that Pym was secretly their leader and that they were there to break him out. They succeeded in “rescuing” Pym, but were forced to leave the captured Shocker behind. At first, Shocker claimed that Pym had hired him, but the Avengers discovered that Shocker had actually been brainwashed by Egghead and were able to use him to determine the location of Egghead’s base.

Meanwhile, Pym was being forced to work for Egghead, but he had some tricks of his own. Instead of building a machine to expand one’s lifespan, as Egghead had demanded, the machine that he built was actually a powerful weapon. When the Masters put Pym in the machine to test it on him and make sure it wasn’t a trap, Pym activated the weapons system and single-handedly defeated the Masters. The Avengers arrived just in time to stop a desperate Egghead from firing a gun on Pym. In fact, the arrow that Hawkeye lodged in Egghead’s gun barrel caused the gun to backfire and explode, killing Egghead. Pym was eventually cleared of all charges when Moonstone and Beetle provided evidence of his innocence in exchange for their own freedom.

Egghead was not as tactically intuitive as Heinrich Zemo or as strong as Ultron. However, he was more innovative and resourceful than the two of them, and far less egocentric. He knew he was brilliant, but he let others do his work for him, as he knew that he was best suited for the armchair and not for the battlefield. This is why his leader ability grants others around him the Masters of Evil team affiliation and why he can give them a DEF bonus as well. Whereas Zemo and Ultron were powerful and felt they were better than their lackeys, Egghead lurked in the background and only fought when necessary. But he could get things done when he needed to, and his high ATK reflects the powerful array of weapons that he had at his disposal.

Tiger Shark is a vicious and unfriendly character. His high ATK and average DEF shows that, like many of the Masters, he prefers to be on the offensive and doling out the aggression. His payment power reflects his tendency to get more and more aggressive in the heat of battle, giving a stat boost when he’s in the thick of it.

Dr. Karla Sofen, also known as Moonstone, became very powerful after absorbing the powers from a stone from the blue area of the moon. She could fly, phase, and shoot beams of energy and light. However, her card’s game text reflects her other side, which is Dr. Sofen the psychologist and, as her version suggests, master manipulator. Able to coerce others into doing as she wished, she resembles Emma Frost in her willingness to go to just about any length to come out on top in the end. Her ability to bring an opponent’s character to the front row reflects her ability to befriend even the enemies, use them for her own agenda, and be prepared to betray them at a second’s notice. In fact, in a later incarnation of the Masters of Evil, she was able to do this to the unstable Blackout, as she was the only one other than Helmut Zemo who could control him.

Beetle is one of the most important members of the Masters, as he would be integral in their shift to the Thunderbolts, in overcoming Helmut Zemo’s secret agenda, and in remaining as a team. (More on that next week.) His effect reflects his ability to befriend his teammates and to contact them when necessary, but also to remain on his toes and remain standing after the dust settles, as he can search out a copy of himself to give you an automatic power-up.

MASTERS MOST EVIL

 

The fourth incarnation of the Masters of Evil are the most infamous, as the troop organized by Helmut Zemo did what no others could—they gave the Avengers the beating of their lives. Sure, Ultron was able to capture them and even break into the Mansion, and Helmut’s father, Heinrich Zemo, was able to capture most of them with Wonder Man’s help, but Helmut superseded them by putting Avengers Mansion under siege and putting the boot to a variety of Avengers characters.

Helmut was Henrich’s son, and he blamed Captain America for the death of his father. Helmut’s life revolved around getting revenge on Captain America, not believing that it was his father Heinrich’s own fault that he had died. Because of this, he gathered the largest and most dangerous group of criminals ever imagined for the most daring of evil crusades ever envisioned—to attack and take over the Avengers Mansion, taking down the Avengers from within.

He had Absorbing Man and Titania free Moonstone, posing as police officers taking her into custody. Screaming Mimi and Grey Gargoyle snuck Yellowjacket out of prison, and, though they were captured, Yellowjacket escaped. Zemo also hired the Fixer, Goliath (Erik Josten, who had served under his father), Blackout, Mr. Hyde, Tiger Shark, Whirlwind, and The Wrecking Crew, which consisted of Bulldozer, Thunderball, Piledriver and The Wrecker.

Zemo sent several of his members on reconnaissance missions to find out info on the Avengers—who was there and who was absent, who was stressed out and who wasn’t, and who liked or disliked whom. They waited until all but Hercules and Jarvis were in the mansion, then hired Black Mamba, in her civilian identity of Tanya Sealy, to take Hercules out for a night on the town. At this point, they attacked. With the Fixer jamming the emergency transmissions to prevent a call for help, they battled past the security systems and easily took the mansion, along with Jarvis as a hostage. Their caper had begun and the mansion was indeed Under Siege.

Their first victim was the Black Knight, who was ambushed upon return by Mr. Hyde and Yellowjacket, who knocked him out cold. Next, the Fixer faked a call by the Wasp to Captain Marvel, who was banished to the Darkforce Dimension by Blackout.

It was Captain America who first uncovered the siege, notifying the fake Wasp that he had taken Whirlwind into custody, and puzzling at her apathetic response. He discovered that the real Wasp was actually at home, and they set off to figure out what was going on. They ran into a plastered Hercules, who waved them off and stumbled into the fray. Hercules took out Tiger Shark, and was in the midst of dispatching of The Wrecking Crew and Mr. Hyde when Goliath cold-cocked him. The others joined in and pummeled the unconscious son of Zeus half to death, sending him into a deep coma. Captain America was next, as he fell to the Fixer’s re-programmed security system and then to the heel of Zemo’s boot. Zemo then ordered Blackout to cover the entire Mansion and grounds with Darkforce energy, to prevent anyone else from stumbling in. However, the real Wasp had escaped their grasp, and transported Hercules to the hospital, with Ant-Man’s help.

Titania and Absorbing Man tried to get into the hospital to finish the job on Hercules, but were stopped by Ant-Man and the Wasp, who then decided to rally the troops and take back the mansion. Meanwhile, Helmut Zemo was attempting to torture Captain America. Cap’s resolve was solid, though, and from physical confrontation and threats to the opening of Cap’s foot locker and the destruction of his personal effects, nothing seemed to even cause Cap to flinch. Infuriated, Zemo ordered Mr. Hyde to kill Cap and Black Knight, but to do away with Jarvis first. Hyde removed Jarvis’s gag and started to pummel him, his tortured screams eliciting the first reaction from Cap—a stern glare and a single tear.

Then, all hell broke loose. Wasp’s cavalry re-invaded the Mansion, shutting down the power supply and freeing Black Knight’s sword, which he used to free both Captain America and himself. Captain Marvel had escaped her Darkforce prison with the help of the Shroud, and she rejoined them, while Wasp, Ant-Man, and Thor banded together to take down Mr. Hyde. One by one they battled on and took care of the Fixer, The Wrecking Crew and Goliath, and, with the aid of Dr. Druid, removed the barrier around the Mansion. Captain Marvel took off on a Moonstone hunt, but Moonstone wasn’t paying enough attention to her surroundings. While trying to get away from Captain Marvel, she slammed head first into the side of a cliff and broke her neck. Yellowjacket tried to escape in Zemo’s airship, only to crash back into the Mansion, forcing her to surrender. Dr. Druid went to the roof, where he tried to wrest Blackout away from Zemo’s mental control. The strain of this is what killed Blackout.

Finally, Captain America reached the roof and found himself face to face with Zemo. When Cap told an accusatory Zemo that his father had caused his own death, Zemo lost control and flung himself at Cap. Cap side-stepped and knocked Zemo off balance with his shield. Zemo slipped over the edge of the roof, and, hanging by a single hand, refused Cap’s offer of a hand up, falling to his apparent death below. He would survive, and all of the Masters would end up in police custody. Eventually, Zemo would break free and reform the Masters of Evil as the Thunderbolts.

Helmut Zemo was more sadistic and cunning than his father, making him more of a born leader and less of an individualist. His precise strategies left little room for error, which is why this attack was so successful and damaging. Unfortunately, his one weakness was his need for revenge, which clouded his path to glory. This is reflected in his ability, with very strong stats and a solid game effect—but that solid effect is limited to his teammates. When he is der Kapitaine, his opponents are in disarray, but when he steps to the front himself, he loses momentum.

Grey Gargoyle’s ability is to turn people to stone, which is an effect that last about an hour. In game text, this translates into the ability to prevent opponents from readying for a turn, and he can use his ability multiple times without activating himself, unlike the Melter or Shocker. As well, he has a high DEF of 6, as he is made of stone himself, which makes him tougher to take down.

Marcus Daniels (not to be confused with the other Blackout from the Underworld) has the power of Darkforce manipulation. He can conceal himself in it, or he can use it to enshroud teammates, somewhat protecting them from attack (hence, granting reinforcement).

The Wrecking Crew, as the plot twist suggests, are a sub-team that work together, engaging in pack tactics to swarm and pummel an opponent . . . much like they did to Hercules. This is why they all have the version “Wrecking Crew” and are rewarded for having that version when you play the plot twist.

The Wrecker is the leader, which is why he gives the rest of the team an immediate stat bonus, and he can also push them on by giving them an additional ATK bonus and the ability to attack hidden characters. He is also extremely strong, as he has powers that were granted to him by Karnilla, the Asgardian Norn Queen. These powers were intended for Loki, but mystically enchanted The Wrecker’s crowbar instead. (In a recent issue of Avengers, he was taking on Spider-Woman, Captain America, Luke Cage, Wolverine, and Spider-Man and decimating all of them).

Thunderball has a wrecking ball and chain, which is virtually indestructible and can actually shoot beams of electric energy. His powers are also Asgardian in nature, which is why he gets a significant stat boost and invulnerability if you don’t manage to recruit The Wrecker.

Piledriver is also the recipient of Asgardian mystical magic. Although he doesn’t have a special weapon, he’s just plain strong. Piledriver specializes in takedown maneuvers, which is why you can discard him to KO stunned characters.

Finally, Bulldozer, the guy with the big shiny head, is also mystically enhanced by Asgardian magic, and also has Army combat training—though he tends to prefer to ram into people with a vicious head-butt. Still, his power to prevent attackers from being stunned reflects his bull charges.

OTHER MASTERS

 

The next incarnation of the Masters of Evil was a short-lived group led by Dr. Octopus, intent on invading the Mansion once again, and after that came the Thunderbolts incarnation. This was followed by a recent group that was led by the new Crimson Cowl, underworld magnate Justin Hammer’s daughter Justine.

Next Week: When Masters Become Heroes . . .

Questions? Queries? Comments? Send ‘em along and I’ll try to get them answered in the column! Email me at:

Kergillian (at) hotmail (dot) com

* Adhesive X is the most powerful adhesive ever created. An invention of [Heinrich Zemo’s, there is no known solvent for it save Paste Pot Pete’s “antidote.” This is why the card prevents an exhausted character from readying—that character’s literally “stuck.”

Also known by his screen name Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the Vs. community since day one. He started the first major online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, and it now boasts well over 1,700 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG