(Metagame Archive) The Day of Anti-Knights

By Maik Stich

Do you ever wonder about the foreign players who are dedicated enough to travel halfway around the world just to compete in top Vs. System tournaments? Many of them have names you likely would not recognize, but they are making their mark on the Vs. tournament landscape. This is the story of one such player.

My name is Maik Stich, and I’m a 25-year-old college student from Germany who has been playing card games for over ten years now. This is the story of my recent trip to Gen Con Indy. I came over from Europe unqualified but willing to do my best to play for some big money in the US. You might think me crazy to fly thousands of miles with all of my hopes riding on a Last Chance Qualifier, but I was so secure in my deck that I felt it was a sure thing.

I call it the Anti-Knights deck. It was a mix of the $10K-winning Marvel Knights deck from Munich and some stuff I had learned during my DC Modern testing. Both decks had the same basic theme of concealment. Having an all-concealed deck allows you to get board advantage during both initiatives. This advantage usually translates into finishing the game as early as turn 5 or 6 in some rare occasions. The Anti-Matter Universe added some potent weapons to the concealed style decks.

Since I had been playing the Marvel Knights deck for quite some time, I had come to realize that it was shaky at best in certain situations (like turn 5 against Nimrod). The usual play was to swing in with Daredevil to avoid the stun back and then play Swan Dive in case you weren’t able to Quick Kill the 4-drop on the turn before. But that meant having to draw a Quick Kill by turn 4. We all know that it is not reliable to run only four copies of your 4-drop without any further card search. After some more testing, I decided that the deck was too unstable to do it each time as is needed, so I came up with the idea of combining two decks: MK and Anti-Matter. What would happen if you included the newfound synergy of the all Anti-Matter Beatdown deck with the $10K winning Dark Knights? Well, I surely wanted to find out, and this is what we came up with during our first attempt:

Anti-Knights v.1

Characters

1 Dagger, Child of Light

3 Mikado and Mosha

3 Scarab

4 Iron Fist, Danny Rand

3 Elektra, Elektra Natchios

4 Slipstream

2 Hush

4 Luke Cage, Street Enforcer

1 Daredevil, Matt Murdock

3 Johnny Quick

1 Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man

Plot Twists

4 Banished to the Anti-Matter Universe

4 Cosmic Conflict

1 Crime and Punishment

4 Crushing Blow

4 Flying Kick

2 Midnight Sons

4 Savage Beatdown

4 Thunderous Onslaught

4 Wild Ride

Let’s take a look at the differences between an original all-MK concealed deck and this new breed of concealed deck. Two of the strongest cards for additional damage and board control are Slipstream and Johnny Quick. Both are solid drops with the ability to clear your opponent’s table in no time via their double attack. You may be thinking that the consistency of the double attacks is questionable, since they have restrictions. But that is where the tested mix of plot twists pays off. The new powerhouse of the deck is Banished to the Anti-Matter Universe. Let’s go into more detail about this card and the other choices I made.

Banished to the Anti-Matter Universe: Most people scoffed at this card when they first saw it, but in combination with one of the double attackers, it gets utterly vicious. You can also use it to move Nimrod out of the way and avoid having to work through his counter, thus avoiding the dual stun back that Nimrod can often dish out.

Scarab: Scarab is just a solid Anti-Matter 2-drop. There’s nothing overly special or fancy about him other than his 3 ATK. But the fact that you can save some endurance with him while he is visible is useful. I try to keep him on offense when possible, but he’s a nice cushion.

Hush: I was looking for an alternate 4-drop. Hush’s ability is particularly effective against Sentinel Mark V. Use his payment power to exhaust the Mark V and deal some breakthrough if you are using a combat pump. After that, your 2- or 3-drop swings at your opponent’s 3-drop for additional breakthrough. Hush also allows you to use the Crushing Blows more consistently.

Cosmic Conflict: Basically, it’s like a Crime and Punishment, but with more synergy for your double attackers because it’s not team-stamped. Although not always usable because you need to have a hidden character to activate it, this card remains a vital part of the deck.

Crushing Blow: This allows you to keep your characters on the board. It can have the same game-saving effect as Sucker Punch, but with the benefit of the extra 3 endurance loss.

Flying Kick: Since it lasts for the turn, this ATK pump is amazing. I would play twelve of them if I could; the synergy with the double attackers is just great.

Thunderous Onslaught: The viability of this card should be obvious. It’s very good with the double attacking characters, and at worst, it’s a random ATK boost of 2.

The ideal way to play the deck would be to hit the curve and try to pump as much damage as possible into your opponent. However, do not waste your resources or your possible board advantage. This deck can cope a lot better with missing a drop than most, as your double attack creates a virtual additional character on the attack. There are so many details I could go into about how to play the deck in different situations, but I think I would take most of the fun away if you just walked over to your friends and smacked them around without a bit of experimentation. I will leave you with one thing: it beats Curve Sentinels and it beats Teen Titans!

Let me say that again in case I was not clear. It beats Curve Sentinels and Teen Titans. While we are not talking about auto-wins, I assure you that it performs better than fifty percent against both of those top tier decks.

For those of you wondering how I did at the tournament, I actually needed two attempts before I made it into the PC, where I finished seventeenth overall. While it went very smoothly, the first version had some minor card selection and testing issues that eventually made me lose two games against a decent Curve Sentinels player. I didn’t see any Banishes in three games! This and some minor design faults made me go for another LCQ. Many people were surprised by the insane damage potential, and while I was playing my matches, a large crowd came by to watch this new deck. They were surprised to see how easily it beat Curve Sentinels and Teen Titans, as most of the deck’s tricks were new and therefore unexpected.

This version is actually far more complex than the original MK version—it has a lot more tricks and tools to work with. Against control decks, an early double attack hinders an opponent tremendously. Being exhausted isn’t that big of a problem if you play against Doom or X-Stall, as you can always play the character in the visible area to begin with. It still needs to be field-tested against many of the decks out there, as Vs. System has so many interesting and absolutely different viable deck concepts. But I predict that we will see a lot more hidden decks like this one in the upcoming environment. If this particular build survives, the coming metagame is a story for another day. Hopefully, I will continue to bring you future developments on this deck and on the game in general.

If you give this deck a shot, good luck, and I hope to see you at the top tables!

(Metagame Archive) Two Turns Ahead – You’re Fired

By Tim Willoughby

I hear those words from my boss, Mr. Toby Wachter, on a more regular basis than I am, to be honest, entirely comfortable with. Typically, they’re in response to any reference to some type of music that he doesn’t deem acceptable. All it takes is just a sniff of Shakira, and I hear those magic words once again.* I can only assume that the reason I’m still writing for Metagame.com is that he doesn’t like the idea of having to process all the paperwork required to replace me.

Within the context of Vs. System, I must now admit to a guilty pleasure that is at least as immediately unsettling as even the more jangly guitars of assorted girl-fronted “rock” bands. Every now and then, when I’m looking for a bit of a release from the typical fare of working out complicated combat strategies or how to go off with the latest combo deck at the earliest possible moment, I like to bring out Trogdor and start burning things.

My first experience of fire in Vs. System came in Vienna of all places, where I was freezing along with fellow Brits Sam Gomersall and Richard Edbury at the $10K event there in November of last year. While they were busy making Top 8 and I was busy doing rather uncharacteristically bad, there were rumors buzzing around the venue (in various languages) of a deck that was dominating the then consensus best deck, Common Enemy. The player of the deck? Dave Garwood, a fellow Englishman and teammate of Vince Turner and Jeremy Gray. If ever there were a team to be playing with an unusual deck type, they were it, and the deck, which was dubbed Trogdor at that very event, was far from ordinary.

With just about every burn effect available at the time, it looked like a pile that shouldn’t have a hope of beating a finely tuned Constructed deck. In reality, though, against a control field that was focused on maintaining an advantage during the combat step, there was really very little to stop it from merrily burning opponents with concerning speed. Here is the approximation to it that I found myself toying with almost as soon as I returned from the rather chilly climes of Vienna.

Trogdor 1.0 – First Blood

4 Ratcatcher

4 Invisible Woman, The Invisible Girl

4 Ant Man

4 Pyro

4 Quicksilver, Pietro Maximoff

4 Dagger, Tandy Bowen

4 Rogue, Power Absorption

4 Human Torch, Hotshot

4 Forced Allegiance

4 Cosmic Radiation

4 Burn Rubber

4 Surprise Attack

4 Nasty Surprise

4 Advanced Hardware

4 Flamethrower

Pretty? No. But we can’t all be supermodels. If we were, then it would stop the supermodels from being so super, and really, that’s all they have going for them. The good thing about Trogdor, though, was that it was a lot of fun to play and won a surprising amount. It got to play with equipment and lots of 1-drops to fill out its somewhat unorthodox curve, and with a little help from Cosmic Radiation and Forced Allegiance, its assortment of burn characters was more than capable of toasting opponents like so many crumpets on forks. It didn’t even matter that Cosmic Radiation and Flamethrower were very much a nonbo, as opponents frequently would succumb before they could really start piling on the damage with large characters.** The deck made the most of the fact that in the earlier turns, the potential to punish an opponent strongly for playing off teams was relatively small, as attacks would rarely do huge amounts of breakthrough anyway and would frequently not even significantly spoil your board position.

Even though the deck rarely attacked, it had its own inimitable way of keeping opponents honest in combat; it was full of effects and equipment that massively increased the ATK of its characters. With a Nasty Surprise or an Advanced Hardware, Trogdor was covered in defensive spines that prevented opposing characters from attacking without getting a few stuns back. The deck also effectively rendered the initiative irrelevant, as it managed to burn for similar amounts regardless of who had priority.

What is quite interesting is that in many respects, Trogdor has analogues with some of the more popular decks in the present Golden Age format. Both The New Brotherhood decks and the concealed deck that is gaining momentum on the $10K circuit utilize the principal of gaining virtual card advantage by effectively making cards in the opponent’s hand dead. The way they work their trick is to make the opponents themselves dead before they can use the cards they have in hand. If the game ends on turn 5, then that Bastion might as well be a copy of Overpowered. In fact, the hilariously ironically named plot twist would probably be of more use in that case, as it could actually be played.

As I remarked last week, I’m a big fan of making opponents’ plays more difficult by forcing them to deal with the reality that the end is nigh. Taking the whole dynamic of what is important in the game and turning it on its head by making endurance totals a bigger concern than board presence was quite the pointy stick for aggrovating opponents who thought that they were well prepared. There are times when a little organized chaos is just the right call if everyone else is looking to take control.

Happily enough, there are plenty of options for updating Trogdor, and with each set, the deck gets a few more ways to cook opponents. Some recent personal favorites of mine have been Trapped in the Sciencells, Fiero, Golden Archer, and Melissa Gold ◊ Screaming Mimi, though in general there are now enough different flavors of burn that every chef looking to “go Cajun” has plenty of opportunity to be original. The general rule is that each card in the deck should do a minimum of 4 to 5 endurance loss over the course of the game. If you manage this, then things should be over by turn 5 more or less every time, and the amount of resistance that opponents can realistically have against this sort of assault is very limited. If you’re looking for something a little different and a lot of fun, I recommend a bit of burnination.

Have fun and be lucky,

Tim “Hopes He isn’t Really Fired this Time” Willoughby

timwilloughby@hotmail.com

* Yes Toby, I am now once again, I’m sure, fired, but look at the amazing image that I managed to conjure.

** Nonbo, noun – A collection of cards that are definitely not a combo and might even work at crossed purposes. In the instance of Cosmic Radiation and Flamethrower, the equipment specifically forbids any cheeky attempts at getting in more than one burn per turn. This and other nonbos are brought to you by the symbols : and ) from us here at the Metagame.com Nonbo Workshop.

(Metagame Archive) Deck Clinic: Sin City

By Andrew Yip 

 

The last time this tattooed R&D member wrote for Metagame.com was at the release of the Avengers. Unfortunately, my Sealed Pack triumph over Ben Seck was so complete that he couldn’t bring himself to write about his Sealed Pack or the ensuing two-game match. Since we’ll be moving to a new subject this week, I’ll leave a final Sealed Pack strategy: Stick to the basics, concentrate on the curve, and know the speed of the format. Sealed Pack naturally has more teams per deck than Booster Draft and a preference for being on-curve, meaning there’s less reinforcement and more breakthrough per attack when characters aren’t reinforced. This is somewhat balanced by the overall lower quality of cards in Sealed Pack versus Draft. However, since characters at a given cost usually have similar stats, the lack of reinforcement is the larger factor in dictating when games end. While hitting a 7-drop consistently was huge in Marvel Origins, a particularly aggressive Sealed Pack deck with a variety of 6-drops may do the job better.

Sealed aside, I’ll be writing regular deck deconstructions starting this week. In every article, I will dip into the well of player-submitted decks from this thread on the VsRealms forum.

The intent of each deconstruction will be to make each deck as playable as possible in its proposed environment, while at the same time remaining true to the original intent of the deck. This is one time where adding Dr. Doom is not the correct answer. This week, Canamrock wins the game with his fine creation, SinCity:

“SinCity” // Canamrock

Characters (31)

1 Psimon

3 Dr. Light, Arthur Light

3 Shimmer

1 Batman, World’s Greatest Detective

1 Barbara Gordon ◊ Oracle, Information Network

1 Commissioner Gordon, James Gordon

4 Alfred Pennyworth

7 GCPD Officer

1 Harvey Bullock

2 Sunfire

3 Storm, Ororo Munroe

3 Dazzler

1 Lacuna

Equipment (1)

1 Utility Belt

Locations (3)

3 Wayne Manor

Plot Twists (25)

4 Bat-Signal

3 Fizzle

1 Have a Blast!

4 Home Surgery

4 Marvel Team-Up

2 Millennium

3 Press the Attack

2 The Underworld Star

1 Ultimate Sacrifice

1 World’s Finest

Overall Strategy

In terms of other deck archetypes, SinCity is most easily described as a twisted hybrid of Jason Hagar’s Evil Medical School and William Jenson’s Four Freedoms from the very first $10K event. The basic strategy involves a consistent early start that develops both your hand and board position with character tutors, Alfred, and a plethora of 1- and 2-drops. Off initiative on turn 4 or 5, you recruit Storm behind a wall of low cost characters, remove flight, and absorb minimal loss of endurance and board position via reinforcement and recovery effects. Using Storm’s power off-initiative and Shimmer’s on your own, Dr. Light can steal the show as early as turn 6, stalling to a boosted Dr. Light on turn 9 if necessary.

As tends to be the case, Sin City’s best matchups are on-curve decks; any deck that plans to recruit one character per turn will fall victim to its inability to break up formations and establish a significant board advantage. Off-curve decks usually have a much stronger early game, and an extra opposing character going into later turns can be very telling on your board position when you’ve lost an extra character or two. Like Four Freedoms and EMS, Sin City relies on control elements to bring the game to a turn that other decks are rarely prepared for. At the same time, each deck requires a fine balance between early-game aggression and control. This is particularly true for Sin City, as it does not have the raw giant bodies that EMS has (Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria) for turn 8. Without this turn 8 play, it is necessary to get breakthrough endurance loss whenever possible to keep the endurance advantage on your side.

Card-by-Card

 

Besides the usual suspects, Canamrock’s deck sports some interesting individual card choices for specific problem cards and matchups:

Psimon – A significant body on turn 7, Psimon locks up many strategies and prevents your opponent from playing offensive plot twists while he sits safely behind a Stormfronted GCPD Officer or other low cost character.

Batman, World’s Greatest Detective – The lone 3-drop in the deck, Batman adds flexibility, allowing the deck to play aggressively on occasion and stop combo and team-up decks like Rigged Elections.

Barbara Gordon ◊ Oracle, Information Network – With as many discard costs as the deck has, any amount of supportable card draw is a must. Considering the deck’s desire for early drop characters and Sentinels’ inability to stop the activated power on turn 2 if they miss Boliver/Hounds, Barbara fits naturally into the City.

Commissioner Gordon, James Gordon – While the Commissioner’s bonus to GCPD cops is an interesting prospect, the real meat of the character lies in his ability to KO equipment of any flavor, including extremely problematic equipment like Power Compressor and Utility Belt. Since his ability is usable multiple times in a turn, not even Batman’s belt can prevent confiscation.

Harvey Bullock – A standard in the original Knight Light, Harvey Bullock offers weak, off-initiative control, exhausting random low cost characters like Hounds of Ahab. Unfortunately, there are few cops in Sin City, so Harvey’s influence is significantly weakened.

Sunfire – Off initiative, the only thing better than exhausting is stunning. Considering the overall control strategy of the deck, your opponent is still very likely to have a 3-drop in play on turn 5. This is especially true against problematic off-curve strategies, where Sunfire can quickly reestablish board parity.

Dazzler – As the recent $10K in Atlanta demonstrated, even the best players can make bad formations given limited information. A baby Koriand’r ◊ Starfire easily saves you a dozen or more endurance from an opponent’s bad formation, and she can even exhaust a GCPD Officer in a tight spot.

Lacuna – Essentially another Gotham Knights character for Bat-Signal, Lacuna serves double duty, acting as an early body and an automatic team-up.

Utility Belt – In a world of Sentinels, Utility Belt plus a low-cost character ensures that a Sentinels player has to go off-curve to stop your potent activate powers. It also aids the deck against Terra on your initiative.

Have a Blast! – The answer-all for problematic ongoing plot twists and locations, Have a Blast! in this build basically reads, “Replace target Total Anarchy.”

Ultimate SacrificeUltimate Sacrifice acts as a fifth Home Surgery for the deck and a fourth Fizzle for off-initiative Flame Traps. If your off-initiative stunners (Dr. Light and Sunfire) cannot stem the tide of opposing characters, Ultimate Sacrifice will get your big guys back for the next turn. It is particularly strong because its cost is unique from other effects you have. This allows you to pay it cheaply and not have to worry about other commodities (such as cards in hand).

Changes

 

One of the biggest weaknesses of any triple team-up deck is consistency. Any Gotham-based team-up deck runs into pseudo loyalty problems with Alfred, Barbara Gordon, and Batman. But with the introduction of Millennium, team-up decks should never lack cards in hand. With Sin City’s discard-hungry effects (twelve in total) and early board development giving you characters to exhaust, there is little reason not to include the full compliment of Millenniums. This is especially true considering that the main function of Wayne Manor is to exhaust characters in a timely fashion; the majority of the time, exhausting a character to draw a card is superior to gaining 1 endurance. The poly effect of the Manor can be largely disregarded, since there will usually be only one character on a given turn that you need to exhaust to fulfill Press the Attack’s requirements or to reinforce.

On the other end of the consistency spectrum, many of the singleton cards are answers for effects that, while certainly impossible to beat if you face them, you do not expect to play in the current tournament environment. Commissioner Gordon falls into this category. Likewise, Harvey Bullock simply does not have enough GCPD support to justify his inclusion. Cutting the Commish and Bullock from the ranks gives you two character slots that are best filled with equivalent low cost characters. Finally, one of the big omissions from the current decklist is Big Wheels himself, Professor X, World’s Most Powerful Telepath. Adding Big Wheels to the deck allows you to turn the corner several turns faster, switching from control to beatdown. He also is a much more significant body than Psimon.

 

Final Deck Changes:

 

-1 Psimon, -1 Commissioner Gordon, -1 Harvey Bullock, -3 Wayne Manor, -1 Marvel Team-Up, -1 The Underworld Star

+1 Professor X, World’s Most Powerful Telepath, +2 GCPD Officer, +1 Shimmer, +2 Millennium, +1 Rogue, Power Absorption, +1 Press the Attack.

Conclusion

My final spin of Sin City looks like a Frankenstein’s monster of the control and combo decks of yesteryear, with a nod toward EMS, Knight Light, Four Freedoms, and X-Stall. Similar in play pattern to the original, it sacrifices some of the original stall components for a more aggressive attack plan. First and final credit must go to Canamrock for his vision and courage in attempting to create a catch-all deck that is both satisfying to play and very playable. The last time this tattooed R&D member wrote for Metagame.com was at the release of the Avengers. Unfortunately, my Sealed Pack triumph over Ben Seck was so complete that he couldn’t bring himself to write about his Sealed Pack or the ensuing two-game match. Since we’ll be moving to a new subject this week, I’ll leave a final Sealed Pack strategy: Stick to the basics, concentrate on the curve, and know the speed of the format. Sealed Pack naturally has more teams per deck than Booster Draft and a preference for being on-curve, meaning there’s less reinforcement and more breakthrough per attack when characters aren’t reinforced. This is somewhat balanced by the overall lower quality of cards in Sealed Pack versus Draft. However, since characters at a given cost usually have similar stats, the lack of reinforcement is the larger factor in dictating when games end. While hitting a 7-drop consistently was huge in Marvel Origins, a particularly aggressive Sealed Pack deck with a variety of 6-drops may do the job better.

           

Sealed aside, I’ll be writing regular deck deconstructions starting this week. In every article, I will dip into the well of player-submitted decks from this thread on the VsRealms forum.

 

The intent of each deconstruction will be to make each deck as playable as possible in its proposed environment, while at the same time remaining true to the original intent of the deck. This is one time where adding Dr. Doom is not the correct answer. This week, Canamrock wins the game with his fine creation, SinCity:

 

“SinCity” // Canamrock

 

Characters (31)

1 Psimon

3 Dr. Light, Arthur Light

3 Shimmer

1 Batman, World’s Greatest Detective

1 Barbara Gordon ◊ Oracle, Information Network

1 Commissioner Gordon, James Gordon

4 Alfred Pennyworth

7 GCPD Officer

1 Harvey Bullock

2 Sunfire

3 Storm, Ororo Munroe

3 Dazzler

1 Lacuna

 

Equipment (1)

1 Utility Belt

 

Locations (3)

3 Wayne Manor

 

Plot Twists (25)

4 Bat-Signal

3 Fizzle

1 Have a Blast!

4 Home Surgery

4 Marvel Team-Up

2 Millennium

3 Press the Attack

2 The Underworld Star

1 Ultimate Sacrifice

1 World’s Finest

 

 

Overall Strategy

 

In terms of other deck archetypes, SinCity is most easily described as a twisted hybrid of Jason Hagar’s Evil Medical School and William Jenson’s Four Freedoms from the very first $10K event. The basic strategy involves a consistent early start that develops both your hand and board position with character tutors, Alfred, and a plethora of 1- and 2-drops. Off initiative on turn 4 or 5, you recruit Storm behind a wall of low cost characters, remove flight, and absorb minimal loss of endurance and board position via reinforcement and recovery effects. Using Storm’s power off-initiative and Shimmer’s on your own, Dr. Light can steal the show as early as turn 6, stalling to a boosted Dr. Light on turn 9 if necessary.

 

As tends to be the case, Sin City’s best matchups are on-curve decks; any deck that plans to recruit one character per turn will fall victim to its inability to break up formations and establish a significant board advantage. Off-curve decks usually have a much stronger early game, and an extra opposing character going into later turns can be very telling on your board position when you’ve lost an extra character or two. Like Four Freedoms and EMS, Sin City relies on control elements to bring the game to a turn that other decks are rarely prepared for. At the same time, each deck requires a fine balance between early-game aggression and control. This is particularly true for Sin City, as it does not have the raw giant bodies that EMS has (Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria) for turn 8. Without this turn 8 play, it is necessary to get breakthrough endurance loss whenever possible to keep the endurance advantage on your side.

 

Card-by-Card

 

Besides the usual suspects, Canamrock’s deck sports some interesting individual card choices for specific problem cards and matchups:

 

Psimon – A significant body on turn 7, Psimon locks up many strategies and prevents your opponent from playing offensive plot twists while he sits safely behind a Stormfronted GCPD Officer or other low cost character.

 

Batman, World’s Greatest Detective – The lone 3-drop in the deck, Batman adds flexibility, allowing the deck to play aggressively on occasion and stop combo and team-up decks like Rigged Elections.

 

Barbara Gordon ◊ Oracle, Information Network – With as many discard costs as the deck has, any amount of supportable card draw is a must. Considering the deck’s desire for early drop characters and Sentinels’ inability to stop the activated power on turn 2 if they miss Boliver/Hounds, Barbara fits naturally into the City.

 

Commissioner Gordon, James Gordon – While the Commissioner’s bonus to GCPD cops is an interesting prospect, the real meat of the character lies in his ability to KO equipment of any flavor, including extremely problematic equipment like Power Compressor and Utility Belt. Since his ability is usable multiple times in a turn, not even Batman’s belt can prevent confiscation.

 

Harvey Bullock – A standard in the original Knight Light, Harvey Bullock offers weak, off-initiative control, exhausting random low cost characters like Hounds of Ahab. Unfortunately, there are few cops in Sin City, so Harvey’s influence is significantly weakened.

 

Sunfire – Off initiative, the only thing better than exhausting is stunning. Considering the overall control strategy of the deck, your opponent is still very likely to have a 3-drop in play on turn 5. This is especially true against problematic off-curve strategies, where Sunfire can quickly reestablish board parity.

 

Dazzler – As the recent $10K in Atlanta demonstrated, even the best players can make bad formations given limited information. A baby Koriand’r ◊ Starfire easily saves you a dozen or more endurance from an opponent’s bad formation, and she can even exhaust a GCPD Officer in a tight spot.

 

Lacuna – Essentially another Gotham Knights character for Bat-Signal, Lacuna serves double duty, acting as an early body and an automatic team-up.

 

Utility Belt – In a world of Sentinels, Utility Belt plus a low-cost character ensures that a Sentinels player has to go off-curve to stop your potent activate powers. It also aids the deck against Terra on your initiative.

 

Have a Blast! – The answer-all for problematic ongoing plot twists and locations, Have a Blast! in this build basically reads, “Replace target Total Anarchy.”

 

Ultimate SacrificeUltimate Sacrifice acts as a fifth Home Surgery for the deck and a fourth Fizzle for off-initiative Flame Traps. If your off-initiative stunners (Dr. Light and Sunfire) cannot stem the tide of opposing characters, Ultimate Sacrifice will get your big guys back for the next turn. It is particularly strong because its cost is unique from other effects you have. This allows you to pay it cheaply and not have to worry about other commodities (such as cards in hand).

 

Changes

 

One of the biggest weaknesses of any triple team-up deck is consistency. Any Gotham-based team-up deck runs into pseudo loyalty problems with Alfred, Barbara Gordon, and Batman. But with the introduction of Millennium, team-up decks should never lack cards in hand. With Sin City’s discard-hungry effects (twelve in total) and early board development giving you characters to exhaust, there is little reason not to include the full compliment of Millenniums. This is especially true considering that the main function of Wayne Manor is to exhaust characters in a timely fashion; the majority of the time, exhausting a character to draw a card is superior to gaining 1 endurance. The poly effect of the Manor can be largely disregarded, since there will usually be only one character on a given turn that you need to exhaust to fulfill Press the Attack’s requirements or to reinforce.

 

On the other end of the consistency spectrum, many of the singleton cards are answers for effects that, while certainly impossible to beat if you face them, you do not expect to play in the current tournament environment. Commissioner Gordon falls into this category. Likewise, Harvey Bullock simply does not have enough GCPD support to justify his inclusion. Cutting the Commish and Bullock from the ranks gives you two character slots that are best filled with equivalent low cost characters. Finally, one of the big omissions from the current decklist is Big Wheels himself, Professor X, World’s Most Powerful Telepath. Adding Big Wheels to the deck allows you to turn the corner several turns faster, switching from control to beatdown. He also is a much more significant body than Psimon.

 

Final Deck Changes:

 

-1 Psimon, -1 Commissioner Gordon, -1 Harvey Bullock, -3 Wayne Manor, -1 Marvel Team-Up, -1 The Underworld Star

 

 

Conclusion

 

My final spin of Sin City looks like a Frankenstein’s monster of the control and combo decks of yesteryear, with a nod toward EMS, Knight Light, Four Freedoms, and X-Stall. Similar in play pattern to the original, it sacrifices some of the original stall components for a more aggressive attack plan. First and final credit must go to Canamrock for his vision and courage in attempting to create a catch-all deck that is both satisfying to play and very playable.

(Metagame Archive) Two Turns Ahead – No Poor Relations

By Tim Willoughby

This week, I am a happy bunny. I’m sure that the fact that every other living thing (with the possible exception of grass) is a predator for the common rabbit means that there aren’t many happy bunnies, but I am equally sure that I am one of them. After an extended period of illness in which my long term travel companion Lappy feigned death, he has made a spectacular recovery. All of a sudden, I’m able to write about things on the move, and to celebrate, I elected to write the following article a full twelve feet away from my more traditional writing spot. On a comfy chair, next to the fire, and with a great view of the big TV, things are pretty spiffy here. Even with an above average length of extension cable, Mr. Desktop wouldn’t be able to do that.

Of course, it isn’t just the comfy chair benefits that are making me happy. I really couldn’t afford to replace my dear friend Lappy, and not having to do so makes my wallet happy. When my wallet is happy, the rest of me tends to be, too. Jubilation abounds.

I fully understand that money can’t buy happiness, but at the same time, it does run a pretty good line in staving off the miserable. This applies just as much to the Vs. System as it does anything else. While being rich certainly won’t make anybody a good player, there are occasions where a lack of card availability can hamper one’s results. To this end, I have a little gift to the Vs. community in the form of a decklist that can be played for the rest of the PCQ season before Pro Circuit LA.

This list originally came to me from Mr. Cory Eisenhard, who was keen to point out that it’s ideal for the player looking to compete on a tighter budget, or indeed for someone just looking for something a little different. If any of you have big bundles of cash and still elect to play the deck (which wouldn’t be the worst choice you’ve ever made), then I would recommend that you send some to either he or I. I know it’s not quite as fun as having a money fight with it, but if it makes you feel any better, we promise only to spend donations on goofy escapades.

Cheap Thrills

Characters

24 Anti-Green Lantern

4 Xallarap

4 Element Man

Plot Twists

4 Emerald Dawn

4 Q-Field

4 Thunderous Onslaught

4 No Man Escapes the Manhunters

4 I Hate Magic!

4 Locked in Combat

4 Cosmic Conflict

This is the most basic list for the deck and it has a very simple plan, most of which involves attacking for lots of endurance loss. Lots. With twenty combat pumps and eight card drawing effects (Element Man’s replacement ability lets you reload when looking for the kill), there is ample potential for all of those characters with surprisingly high costs to make the most of their deadly attack power.

The interesting thing comes when one looks at matchups. Cheap Thrills has a pretty positive matchup against GLEE, assuming that one is willing to get a little bit tricky with one’s hidden hip-hop heavies. Even though the deck runs 24 1-drops, it is generally correct to suck up some beats for the first couple of turns, even if those Anti-Green Lanterns could do some decent damage. The thing is, each of them is more powerful on turn 3 than they could possibly be on turn 1, when all they represent is 4 endurance loss, because they die at the end of the turn in which they come into play. On turn 3, three Anti-Green Lanterns represent a really scary proposition for most opposing boards. It is not very hard for them to stun the vast majority of an opponent’s board, which effectively harms the opponent’s board position much more than your own. Indeed, if one’s opponent has a character able to stun on of your Anti-Green Lanterns, it is a positive thing for you. The game text on the concealed 1-drop (and on Xallarap) will only cause it to be KO’d at the start of the recovery phase if it’s unstunned. If it’s face down at the start of the recovery phase, then it’s free to recover as normal. When one considers this, Locked in Combat becomes one of the most important cards in the whole deck, and an opponent playing Light Armor is often a recipe for a game win for you.

Things get even trickier when one looks at Xallarap. A 9 ATK/9 DEF on turn 3 or 4 is a pretty sizeable threat, and you will often find that he represents an almost insurmountable force for an opposing team. A little bit of a pity then, that he is naturally concealed. Enter Q-Field. With this harmless looking plot twist, one can let Xallarap jump out into the open to act as a pretty effective wall for a turn. If opponents want to attack him, they will likely need to make it a big team-attack, and that will leave him stunned (and as such, able to fight on the following turn). If not, then he will have saved you a whole turn of opposing beats. Depending on the initiative, Cosmic Conflict or Thunderous Onslaught can work a similar mojo. Most interestingly of all, every now and again it is even appropriate to play No Man Escapes the Manhunters to bring Xallarap into the open to stand back on D. Every now and again, Thinking Outside the Box is more than just a card.

The standard decklist as it was presented to me contained only four uncommons and not a single rare. Emerald Dawn is at its most effective when it can be used on a character marked for death anyway to fetch whomsoever is most appropriate for enforcing the beatdown manifesto of Team Anti-Matter. If one does want to go overboard and make the deck a little pricier, there’s really not a lot to do. Some interesting options include Dead-Eye, who is a great answer to Dr. Light, Master of Holograms, even if he can’t be fetched by Emerald Dawn. The other potential option is to include the ubiquitous doctor himself. It is fairly rare for one to have any huge decisions about which character to recover with the deck, and Dr. Light will always be a happy recovery that allows you to create a slightly scarier board with each successive turn.

One way or another, there is no need to add rares to the deck. And then you can spend the money you saved on treating your mum to a nice bouquet of flowers. Mums love that sort of thing.

Be good to your wallet and your mum.

Tim “Back with Lappy Again” Willoughby

timwilloughby@hotmail.com

(Metagame Archive) A Letter From Iraq

By Brandon Soares
A few weeks ago, one of our writers was contacted by Brandon Soares, who plays Vs. with his fellow soldiers in Iraq and reads Metagame.com. I immediately got in touch to send some free cards to his unit, and I asked him to share his experiences. Here’s hoping the shipment makes the gaming over there more exciting, and I encourage our readers to drop Brandon a line from back home at brandon_knoxville@hotmail.com.
 
Toby Wachter
Managing Editor, Metagame.com
 

Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you. I wanted to make sure I had the time to sit down and type this out—usually I only have about five or ten minutes, then I need to go. I’m going to be using some army language, and I’m going to give a brief history of what we do.

 

It’s not always easy for the U.S. soldiers here in the 597 QM CO in FOB Dogwood Iraq to put together a game of cards. I’m in a Quartermaster unit. Our MOS (Military Occupational Skill) is 92S (don’t ask me what that stands for—even my sergeants don’t know), which means Laundry Textile Specialist. I’m an army laundry man. In my defense, I was only seventeen when I joined, and my recruiter told me that’s all they had. I’ve tried to switch to something else and the army won’t let me. So here we are in Iraq doing laundry, but since it’s kind of low-key, we also get to volunteer for missions, raids, searches, and other things. I’ve also worked in an insurgent prison camp, and for about a good four months I would do night patrols, which was an on-and-off gig. After doing all of that, it’s kind of hard to sit down and dedicate a good day to cards.

 

However, sometimes on Sundays we get the whole day off, and then we can really get into the cards. We’ve gone almost a full day of playing Vs., breaking only to shower, eat, and go to the bathroom. We use my room for cards, since we have to play where we can set up a table, and we cover the table with a crummy green blanket that’s probably older than me. We do run into some difficulties—since I’m the one who taught everyone here how to play, I get a lot of questions, and sometimes I don’t know the answers, since the last time I played Vs. was DC Origins. I didn’t get back into the game until a few months after Green Lantern Corps debuted. But we do have some interesting decks here, from an Anti-Matter/Underworld deck that the user calls “Amu” to a League of Assassins and Sinister Syndicate deck.

 

Our card options were pretty limited until we started ordering boxes online. When those cards come, you should see our faces. We get excited and put off whatever we can, just so we can open our new boxes of cards and start hashing out deck ideas. We just got our Avengers boxes in, which really motivated us to get through the day. It may sound sad, but there’s hardly anything out here. I got really excited when I received a new, unused blanket. Have you ever seen a nineteen-year-old beaming like a school girl because he just got a new blanket?

 

Vs. System has made some very enjoyable days and evenings for us, has given us a nice distraction from all the terrible stuff that happens right outside our perimeter, and gives us something to talk about the next day. I thank everyone who supports this game and keeps it going.

 

Your fan in Iraq,

Brandon

 

(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: Framistat

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

Equipment gets a bad rap. While one could argue that, over the course of a game, Dual Sidearms can earn more than just the +5 ATK a single Savage Beatdown nets you, it’s no secret which one sees more play. Plot twists have some inherent advantages over equipment, including the following:

1) Equipment cards potentially can survive on the field for many turns. Thus, they are usually less powerful than plot twist equivalents. This keeps them from being broken. Sadly, it usually keeps them from having short-term impact.

2) Plot twists don’t sit face-up next to their target character before you play them. An opponent can see equipment coming before the combat phase but cannot predict the possibility of plot twists.

3) Plot twists have a little silver number in their upper right hand corner, while equipment cards have gold numbers. This is bad. See, silver numbers are added to cards by Santa Claus, but gold numbers are added by the Poverty Demon. His job is to make gamers sad.

He does it well, too. Say what you will about demons, but they take their work seriously. The real reason most equipment cards see play only rarely is because most of the notable ones cost you a finite commodity to use. Whether you play a deck that tries to hit its curve or not, odds are good that you have plans for all of your resource points. Thus, you probably don’t have extra leeway for high cost equipment.

To combat this trend, those clever folks over in R&D have been doing a number of things to make equipment more playable. While one could just make equipment cards mega-powerful, such an approach would present a high risk of imbalance. Instead, we get equipment cards that can be discarded for alternate effects, like Chopping Block and Light Armor, or in Framistat’s case, an alternate means of attachment.

In case you haven’t given Framistat a careful reading lately, here’s what it looks like:

So, Framistat has a really cool pair of effects, and you can get around its recruit cost by exhausting a character. It’s a really interesting card for several reasons, but the first one that I’d like to discuss is the alternate attachment cost.
 

In short, Framistat accomplishes two general functions. First up, it adds either defensive or offensive beefiness to a single character for multiple turns at the cost of an exhaustion. Second, it can fill your curve any time you miss your turn-drop by 1 point. To explain, the average ATK of a 4-drop is 7 or 8. The average ATK of a 3-drop is 4 or 5. Thus, if all you have is an additional 3-drop on turn 4, you can spend that extra resource point to give your 3-drop Framistat. Suddenly, that character has enough firepower to duke it out with the status quo. That’s easy enough to understand, but it’s really the alternate cost option that makes this card powerful.

Flat out, when you don’t control the initiative, you’ll probably have reduced offensive options—someone’s going down, and it’s often very easy to tell who. Where Framistat moves from “kinda cool” to flat out awesome is when your opponent controls the initiative for the turn and has telegraphed an obvious attack target. You can then begin your build, play your resource, recruit characters, and exhaust the one wearing the most obvious bull’s-eye to give somebody the Fram’. You’ve basically lost nothing (as long as the opponent takes down the character you believed he or she would), and you get a permanent curve-jumping and reinforcing machine.

Even if there isn’t an obvious target that your opponent keeps leering at, go ahead and exhaust a character that is likely to provide reinforcement and equip Framistat anyway. If that character only had one option for reinforcement, great—you’ve again lost nothing. If you did just give up a reinforcement option, you’ve taken a potential loss, but in return you get a reinforcement that can’t be disrupted by formation manipulation. You also get a big attack back on the next turn. That can be a pretty sweet tradeoff.

How I Adore Duplicity

Obviously, Framistat is great when attached to a Fantastic Four character. What’s neat, though, is how it acts when it’s being used elsewhere. Framistat puts your opponent into a difficult position, because while he or she will see Framistat on the table before combat begins (often before the build), the opponent always has to settle on a formation before you choose which effect you’ll be invoking. While this sometimes won’t matter one iota, oftentimes that extra reinforcement, extra point of DEF, or potential stun back can really screw up your opponent’s plans.

Framistat actually overcomes one of the cardinal problems that inhibit the playability of equipment: it has a surprise factor built in. Options are always good, and here, those options happen to overcome one of the key challenges that equipment faces.

Sticking Up For the Little Guy

Another nice thing about Framistat is that it gives easy access to reinforcement in decks that often wouldn’t have it in the early game. Say you’re playing a typical curve deck that starts with cost-2 characters and proceeds from there. Put that deck against an aggressive New Brotherhood or Faces of Evil build, and it gets mauled on turns 1 and 2. Say it misses its drop on turn 2, or it’s a team-up deck that can’t yet share affiliations; it again gets mauled by breakthrough-laden attacks on turn 3. Even if you do have two affiliation-matched characters on turn 3, you can still only reinforce one.

Framistat can save a huge amount of endurance in this type of Curve vs. Swarm matchup, and paying the exhaustion cost is a really easy matter. One single character versus a horde of Brotherhood is pretty much a wash anyway, so you probably don’t need to feel bad about losing your chance at an attack back.

This is especially true for Fantastic Four Beatdown and Common Enemy. Both get the full use out of Framistat’s effects, both aim to hit a rigid curve, and both can benefit from the early game reinforcement. Though each is a waning presence in the current Golden Age environment, Framistat could be a shot in the arm for these two well-recognized decks.

Aside from that, it’s good in curve decks in general and especially in Gotham Knights Toys. The use of equipment feeds Barbara Gordon ◊ Batgirl’s effect, and Framistat’s ATK bonus helps to ensure that Catwoman, Selina Kyle can dish out the breakthrough she needs. Two cards for you and a discard for the opponent? Totally possible if you give the ladies a Framistat to play with. Fill your 2-drop slot with Spoiler ◊ Robin and you’ve got an exhaustion every turn. Spoiler’s evasion keeps her around for a measly 2 endurance, and your opponent can watch in horror as she nets you free Tech Upgrades and Framistats. I can hear Dylan Northrup drooling already.

While the F-Bomb probably won’t be breaking into Teen Titans, Curve Sentinels, or GLEE any time soon, it does lend significant support to some fading archetypes. It also gives equip-based decks a strong new weapon, and it really might bring Gotham Knights Toys and a few other curve-based strategies up a few tiers. If you’ve got an original curve deck plagued by weenies, or an equipment-heavy strategy that just can’t seem to come together, give Framistat a shot!

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

(Metagame Archive) Voices From The Past: A Team Supreme! – Part 1

By Ben Kalman

In the Beginning…

It all started in Avengers #69, in October of 1969, when long-time comic nut and (at that time) Marvel staff writer, Roy Thomas, decided that Marvel needed their own Justice League. Roy Thomas is the only comics writer that I know of who had fan letters printed in both Marvel and DC comics, and he has always been one of the most vociferous fans of the Justice Society of America – the group of pre-DC superheroes known for their battles during WWII – primarily as the All-Star Squadron (which he would bring back to the DC fold as well, during his stint as a DC writer a decade later). These characters were all brought back during the original annual Crisis issues in JLA, on a separate Earth-2 so as to amalgamate the continuities between the original JSA characters and their JLA counterparts. And that is what Thomas had in mind for a Marvel JLA, although he took the long way around to get to that point.

Thomas, who was working at Marvel at the time wanted to pay homage to the JSA characters he loved so much, so he created a team of villains called the Squadron Sinister, each one based on JLA/JSA archetypes, and had them face-off against the Avengers. And so was born the Game of the Galaxy, where the Grandmaster, one of the Elders of the Universe, a cross-universe gambler with a winning record that even Adam Prosak would be jealous of, challenged Kang to a game where the stakes were literally life and death! If Kang won, he would be able to revive his beloved Ravonna from the coma she was in, but if Kang lost, then Earth would be destroyed!

Kang selected the Avengers as his champions and the Grandmaster chose the Squadron Sinister; four super-villains whose collective power was unseen or even unheard of (beyond the realms of DC Comics, that is…). We had Hyperion, the Marvel equivalent to Superman; Nighthawk, the Marvel equivalent to Batman; Doctor Spectrum, the Marvel equivalent to Green Lantern; and Whizzer, the Marvel equivalent to the Flash. This way Thomas could pit the Avengers against the JLA without breaking copyright (although we’ve now seen several actual meetings between the Avengers and JLA, including the landmark Avengers/JLA mini-series from a couple of years back).  
Only this JLA were villainous! Thomas thought it would be hilarious (and it was!) to have four of the foremost heroic powers in the DC Universe as super-villains in the Marvel Universe. And they proved quite the counterparts, nearly taking the combined might of the Avengers down. Unlike the Justice Society, however, these Squadron Sinister characters were from Earth (except Hyperion, who was pulled from somewhere in the Great Beyond), and would remain on Earth for some time, battling various heroes (Hyperion took on the Hulk and Thor a couple of times, Doctor Spectrum made life a living hell for Iron Man for a few issues, etc.) Eventually Hyperion went to Other-Earth and faced off against his Squadron counterpart (which I’ll explain later on). Doctor Spectrum discovered that his power prism was actually an alien who parasitically possessed him for nefarious purposes on several occasions. He’s now pretty much retired from life as Doctor Spectrum for that very reason. Nighthawk cast aside his villainry and joined the Defenders (a team of heroes, not unlike the Avengers), where he was eventually killed while valiantly saving his fellow Defenders. Whizzer became the Speed Demon, continuing his villainous ways until reforming, and joining the Thunderbolts.


Supreme Trumps Sinister

That was the first chronological introduction to the Squadron in terms of comics history, but not in terms of continuity. For, a few years later, Roy Thomas introduced his own Justice Society – the Squadron Sinister’s exact opposites, the heroes from Other-Earth of whom the Squadron Sinister were duplicated. We discovered that the Grandmaster had used the Squadron Supreme as pawns before the Game of the Galaxy took place, so when he empowered four people from our Earth, he was actually replicating super-beings who already existed.  

What happened behind the scenes was that in 1971, DC and Marvel decided to each create an unofficial crossover between the JLA and the Avengers. DC put together a team in JLA #87 called the Justifiers (later reformed as the Assemblers), including thunder god avatar Wandjina, Massive Man who could grow up to 20 feet tall, Tin Man who needed a chest plate to keep his heart running, brother and sister Captain Speed and the Silver Sorceress whose powers were super-speed and probability manipulation respectively, master archer The Bowman, all gift-wrapped with an English butler included for good measure. Sound similar to anyone you know?

Meanwhile, in the Avengers #85 the Squadron Supreme debuted. Although they came later than the Squadron Sinister, they’re considered as the original team, with the four villains retroactively being based on the heroes. And this time, the team was more fleshed out. The original four were there, but eight new Squadron members were introduced as well: The Wonder-Woman clone, Power Princess; Aquaman clone Amphibian; Green Arrow act-alike Hawkeye, who later became the Golden Archer and his Black Canary lady-love lookalike Lady Lark; Atom-like scientist Tom Thumb; Hawkman clone American Eagle who later became Blue Eagle and then Cap’n Hawk; Zatanna mimic Arcanna, and Firestorm doppleganger Nuke.

Aside from the new members, another aspect changed – the team that was originally meant as a joke slowly became more serious, as Roy Thomas’ protege, Steve Engleheart, began to explore the team in earnest, trying to go further than simple satire or not-so-subtle friendly criticism of his DC counterparts. The original appearance of the Squadron involved the mind-possessing Serpent Crown, which was controlling the President of their Earth, Nelson Rockefeller, who in turn was using the Squadron to control America and her resources. The Avengers traveled to the Other-Earth (in a story cheekily called ‘Crisis on Other-Earth!’) to take the Serpent Crown away from the President. The Squadron, none of whom realized the President was being controlled, initially obeyed his orders to fight the Avengers, until they convinced the Squadron that the President was under Serpent Crown’s control. They then joined the Avengers in battling the Serpent Cartel – the shadowy group behind the entire escapade – and the Avengers went back to their Earth, Serpent Crown in hand.

JM DeMatteis continued the transfer from parody to characterization, further reflecting the spirit of the JLA in the characters while bringing a unique flavour to the Squadron members and their Earth. After the Serpent Crown debacle, Kyle Richmond – Squadron member Nighthawk – was elected President of Other-Earth’s America, and turned the country around from the chaos it had succumbed to. And then devastation struck again – this time in the form of alien invasion. Or should I say the invasion of a single alien. But this was no ordinary alien – it was the Over-Mind, and he would be the near-downfall of the entire planet. The Over-Mind was made up of an entire race absorbed into a single alien entity. The race was the Other-Earth version of the Eternals, and Over-Mind was like the Uni-Mind of this race.* But unlike the peaceful and intellectual Eternals of Earth 616’s continuity**, this race of Eternals was savage and wanted to pillage and take over the very cosmos! So when President Kyle Richmond welcomed the Over-Mind with open arms, the Over-Mind took over Kyle’s mind, took over all of the major players in the world’s political community, turned America into a police state, and took over every major country in the world – all though the hand of Kyle Richmond, as he was under the Over-Mind’s influence. The Over-Mind then went to the Squadron’s orbiting base – Rocket Central – and single-handedly defeated the Squadron – all except for Hyperion, that is, who then barely escaped a trap set for him by Richmond; rays of deadly Argonite – the one substance that Hyperion is vulnerable to, and which could be fatal to him if provided in the correct dosage. Hyperion escaped to Earth-616 where, with the help of Dr. Strange and a hastily built teleportation device, Hyperion brought the Defenders back with him Other-Earth.

“From Beyond the stars shall come the Over-Mind – and he shall crush the Universe!”

 

The epic battle took place in the early 80s, in Defenders #113-115. Over-Mind had built a nuclear arsenal on Other-Earth’s moon, preparing to wage war on other worlds in his quest for Universal conquest. The Defenders arrived and defeated an automaton Squadron Supreme (all under the Over-Mind’s control), and eventually the Over-Mind – or so they thought. Instead, they released a creature of pure evil – Null the Living Darkness – who had been working alongside Over-Mind with goal of conquest of his own. Eventually, the Defenders and the Squadron teamed up and defeated both Null and the Over-Mind, and the Defenders returned to their own Earth leaving an embattled Kyle Richmond and Squadron Supreme to pick up the pieces and try to restore order on a world in shambles.

 
The Utopian Dream and the Fall of the Supreme

In the mid-80s the Squadron would turn on its head. Renowned Marvel writer, Mark Gruenwald, was about to re-write how super-hero comics were written with a ground-breaking 12-issue series that would influence everything from Alan Moore’s classic Watchmen series to Warren Ellis’ neo-classic take on the Authority. It was right on the heels of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which re-wrote the entire DC Universe and its continuity – and while Gruenwald didn’t go that far, he certainly changed the face of the Squadron for all time, adding an element of darkness and shades of grey to the comics world that were never really seen in the mainstream beforehand. This series involved a questioning of morals, a look at whether or not the dream of Utopia could be a realistic possibility, and at the thin, frail line between pacifism and enforced pacifisim; between peace and contentedness, and Dystopian totalitarianism.

It began in the aftermath of the Over-Mind’s failed conquest. The world was a mess and Kyle Richmond was attempting to pick up the pieces. The Squadron as a whole were trying to keep order in America, from the prevention of looting, rioting and anarchy to the distribution of necessities among those who were in need***, and it was then that Power Princess reminded the assembled Supreme that she hailed from Utopia Isle, and how they lived in peace and harmony under Utopian law. The Squadron voted to create and enforce a Utopian society upon America, with the intent of solving the world’s problems by eliminating crime, war, poverty, disease, and even death. But this was much to the chagrin of Kyle Richmond, who questioned, ‘how meaningful will a Utopia be if it is a gift and not something man has earned by his own labors? What if the people will not accept the Utopia that you give them? Will you force them to take it?” Mindful of the two recent situations where society was forcibly controlled by evil elements, he resigned from the Squadron rather than take part in something that could lead to the same situation. Fashioning an Argonite bullet from a piece of the element that was bane to Hyperion (and that he kept for this very sort of situation), Kyle resigned from his presidency as well, and planned to assassinate Hyperion during the handover of the reins of the country in Capitol City, but simply could not follow through. In the true spirit of Batman, whose persona he so closely reflected, Kyle Richmond would resort to other means, as Nighthawk, to stop the madness of Project Utopia from within, using the weaknesses of the Squadron against them.
 

NEXT WEEK: The turning point in Squadron history and an individual look at the Squadron characters.

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

* For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, here is a very brief breakdown: There is a race of immortal beings called the Eternals (created by Jack Kirby in the 70s as a sort of Marvel version of the New Gods and Forever People, which he also created) who, due to their similarity to the Greek Gods, were often confused as them – and at one point even became sort of Earthly avatars for those very Gods. These Eternals even had similar names to Greek mythological figures: Ikaris, Sersi, Thena, etc. Their leader was Zuras, and he could bring all of the Eternals together into a single entity called the Uni-Mind, which contained the mind and physical power of every single Eternal taking part in the joining.

** Alan Moore numbered the Earth of the main Marvel continuity ‘Earth-616’, or Merlyn numbered it so in an issue of Marvel UK’s Captain Britain, written by Moore in the 80s. Nobody knows exactly why he chose this number, but my favourite explanation is thus, as quoted from Wikipedia (http://web.archive.org/web/20070425142155/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth-616):

“Many fans believed that “616” was a reference to the Number of the Beast in the…the Book of Revelation. (…) While most early manuscripts give the Number of the Beast as “666”, the earliest existing fragment of the Greek text of this book gives it as “616”. (…) Moore, a student of mystic esoterica from a very early age, could well have known about this alternate rendering. (…) For many years, the headquarters of DC Comics was located at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Thus, the name could be a subtle joke that the DC Universe was Earth-666 while the Marvel Universe was Earth-616; both numbers, of course, are renderings of the Number of the Beast.”

*** This is perhaps particularly poignant in the aftermath of the Katrina tragedy, and a similar situation that is perhaps a case of life reflecting art taking place in New Orleans… Not to denigrate or trivialize the tragedy of those who are encountering a very real form of suffering, but sometimes even something so apparently ‘fantastic’ or ‘unbelievable’ as a four-colour superhero comic book can hold a deeper meaning in the overall scheme of things…

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