(Metagame Archive) The Light of Play: Null Time Zone

By Jason Grabher-Meyer

I travel . . . A lot. And sometimes, just sometimes, that sucks.

Okay, so I get to meet all kinds of cool people, play games in foreign countries against folks who don’t even share a language with me, and eat all sorts of awesome foods. I’ve made friends I never would have met, seen sights I never would have seen, and just had some generally awe-inspiring experiences. I’ve spent more than three years on the road for various marketing and reporting assignments in the gaming industry, and by all logic, I should be used to travel by now.

But sometimes it still sucks. The reason? Time zones.

What can I say? Even a simple bicoastal hop will tire me out eventually. I don’t get immediate jetlag like some; I actually tend to adjust really quickly. But I usually pay for doing so when I return home. I’ve been known to transform into my less-than-super alter ego, Jason Grabher-Meyer ◊ Shambling Unshaven Zombie. It’s not pretty.

Time zone shifts annoy me and just generally get me down. Everyone hates them, and they can really mess up whatever it was you had planned. But now, all that power for evil has arrived to the Vs. System in card form. Hurrah . . .?

Hurrah indeed! Null Time Zone is one of my favorite cards from the set and promises to be the next big piece of tech in the Golden Age format. Sometimes, this column is about Insect Swarm and Play Time. Rarely, though, I strike gold with a Betrayal or Juggernaut, and you can literally hear readers opening their binders and paging through to the back. I’ll go out on a limb and say today’s subject is slightly more compelling than Insect Swarm.

You can’t see me winking because I’m thousands of miles away and technically in the past, so I’ll try to wink louder. Can you hear it?

Null Time Zone is a threshold 1 ongoing plot twist from the Avengers set. It’s buried about midway through the Kang-stamped plot twists and locations in the set’s numbering system, so there’s a good chance you might have missed it if you were searching the set for grade-A jank. Its effect text reads as follows:

 

Play Null Time Zone only during the build phase.

 

Choose a non-ongoing plot twist card name. Your opponents cannot play cards with that name this turn.

 

Ongoing: Exhaust a Kang Council character you control >>> Replace Null Time Zone.

Now that you’ve seen the card, I’m sure the possibilities are igniting in your head like strings of lights at Christmas. The actual team-stamped part of the card is virtually irrelevant; replacing Null Time Zone after using it is nice, but it’s far from the main attraction. Just like I hate time zones in real life, the Titans, Sentinels, Dr. Doom . . . heck, everybody in Vs. will hate this card!

It has a few uses that we can divide up and look at. The first is matchup-specific tech—the ability to take key cards out of the equation that your opponent was intending to use. Maybe you don’t feel like seeing your opponent’s Teen Titans characters ready three or four times this turn. Well, bye bye Teen Titans Go! Or maybe you control the initiative and just want to make sure that your fist does indeed explode through Tim Drake or Dove and hit your opponent? No problem—ban Heroic Sacrifice. Perhaps you think Bastion doesn’t need to rummage around in that junk pile to find some more +1 ATK/+1 DEF pumps for his robotic cronies? Not having access to Reconstruction Program past the build phase will make sure he doesn’t perpetrate any of those undignified dumpster dives of which he’s so fond. Don’t feel like exploding? No more Gamma Bomb! Want to keep your characters happy and peaceful? Take the initiative on turn 4 and make sure that none of the game’s indigenous political leaders start a Reign of Terror.

If it happens in the combat phase, Null Time Zone can stop it. In addition, if it has a threshold cost matching the number of the turn you’re on and you build first, you can shut it down before it becomes a possibility. Most strategies have at least one key plot twist that turns the game in their favor; as long as it can’t be chained during the build phase, you can eliminate it from a turn of your choice with the Zone.

Of course, instead of using Null Time Zone with a mind to undo your opponent’s strategy, you can always use it to protect your own. Similar to the “take even initiatives and prevent Reign of Terror” plan, a swarm deck can call evens and cut off the possibility of Flame Trap on turn 4. The opponent can’t chain Trap in response because he or she will only have three resources, which isn’t enough for the cost-4 threshold. This fact alone makes Null Time Zone a must-play for virtually any jank swarm deck in Golden Age and strengthens the rush concept as a whole.

What about TNB Blitz, Faces of Evil, or something completely different? There are plenty of promising swarm decks in Golden Age right now, ranging from the solid tier 1.5 or tier 2 entries (Blitz) to the utterly janktastic. The world will bow to your army of fire-retardant Thuggees. If one plot twist has been holding back your original and creative idea, Null Time Zone can eliminate that problem.

New School, Marvel Knights Beatdown, Dark Knights, and Anti-Knights love it, too. The reason? Micro-Chip. Because Null Time Zone only requires a threshold of 1 resource, it’s fair game for Linus’s effect. That means you can either use it twice in one turn or stretch the effect over two turns. The latter is especially effective against Titans and Curve Sentinels; blocking Teen Titans Go! on turns 4 and 5 is easily fatal, while the same can be said for Reconstruction Program on turns 6 and 7. Opponents who know what they’re doing will chain Reconstruction Program to the activation of Null Time Zone, but you’ll accomplish one of two things. You’ll either force an opponent to reveal how many Programs he or she has during the build phase, or you’ll be able to limit the number he or she can play. If an opponent doesn’t have more than three army Sentinels in the KO’d pile and you control the initiative on turn 6, he or she certainly won’t benefit by chaining multiple copies of Program.

That last little detail is yet another that I’m fond of. Null Time Zone is best in the current environment when you control even-numbered turns, and that’s convenient because all three current, major decks (Titans, Curve, and GLEE) tend to want the odd initiatives. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re putting together an original deck.

Null Time Zone techs the major decks dominating the current environment and protects the interests of weaker decks and new ideas. It’s exactly the kind of card I love, and it will see play in serious competition. The perfect mix of innocuous appearance, power, and utility, it’s . . . well . . . really great jank!

’Nuff said.

-Jason “Loves the Stan-Isms” Grabher-Meyer

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