(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


* 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.


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