(Metagame Archive) Justice League of America Preview: Dinah Laurel Lance Black Canary

By Brian Kibler

One of the biggest challenges of every new Vs. System set is finding a way to make new teams feel different from old ones. It would be very easy for Vs. to degenerate into a game of nothing but numbers, with players dropping one resource and one character every turn and smashing them into each other. While the curve deck is a fundamental part of the Vs. System game, having every team in every set focus on a curve strategy would be downright boring. Don’t get me wrong; I certainly have a soft spot for Common Enemy, but one of my goals when I came to Upper Deck was to increase the viability of off-curve strategies . . . and different ones, at that.

The first steps toward that goal can be seen in The Avengers, although to be fair, most of my work on off-curve decks in that set involved nerfing them repeatedly. Imagine if Melissa Gold ◊ Screaming Mimi cost 1 resource point, Shocker also cost 1 and his ability didn’t require activation, Wrecking Crew affected all of your characters of the same cost, Mystic Summons could get any character . . . the list goes on. I literally spent a week playing our first Faces of Evil deck without losing, so we had to make a few changes, to say the least.

But this article isn’t about Faces of Evil, nor is it about the Avengers set at all, except by comparison. While I certainly felt that our attempt to improve the viability of off-curve strategies was a success in The Avengers (and little did I know at the time how successful it had already been in Green Lantern), I was disappointed that the best deck to come out of it was more or less just a rush strategy. The resource payment powers of the Masters of Evil characters were generally the icing on the cake rather than the driving force of the deck.

When we started work on JLA, I vowed to create an off-curve strategy with a different feel. When lead designer Matt Hyra broke down the teams by flavor, I knew that the JLI would be the perfect fit. While the JLA is the home of all the big name superheroes, the JLI is a collection of lesser-known, less powerful heroes whose strength lies in their teamwork and networking. What better team to take up the off-curve mantle?

Dinah Laurel Lance ◊ Black Canary looks like an incredibly powerful card at first glance. At 12 ATK / 10 DEF, she’s bigger than pretty much every other 5-drop in the game and rivals Thing, Heavy Hitter for sheer size. Her thuggishness comes with a catch, however—she’s only that big while you have four or less resources in play. And she’s a 5-drop . . . huh?

We decided to represent the JLI’s lack of superhero star power as resource restriction. While the other teams keep playing resources and bigger and bigger guys, the JLI doesn’t have the big guns. They reach a certain power level and then just have to fight against the odds. They can do it, too—JLI decks were some of our most powerful builds in both Sealed Pack and Constructed formats because of cards like Dinah.

That should come as no surprise, really, as resource restriction is nothing new, at least as far as Vs. design goes. Back in the stone age of Vs. System, when Marvel Origins was the only set on the shelves, the most feared deck in the game was The New Brotherhood. TNB revolved around the very same restriction as Dinah and her JLI cohorts. The similarity is certainly not coincidental; the four-resource threshold is a crucial one, as is the ability to “cheat” and temporarily go up to five resources with cards like Genosha.

Interestingly, and again not coincidentally, Dinah has a built-in “cheat” to that system. Since she is a reservist, you can play her face down in your resource row as your fifth resource and then recruit her immediately. Replacing a reservist you recruited from your resource row is optional, so you can play Dinah as a 12 ATK / 10 DEF on the fifth turn without any extra work. It does come at the cost of future resources, though, which is a decision you’ll have to make. That’s what playing the JLI is about—a careful balancing act between your resources and the cards that need them. One of the biggest challenges of every new Vs. System set is finding a way to make new teams feel different from old ones. It would be very easy for Vs. to degenerate into a game of nothing but numbers, with players dropping one resource and one character every turn and smashing them into each other. While the curve deck is a fundamental part of the Vs. System game, having every team in every set focus on a curve strategy would be downright boring. Don’t get me wrong; I certainly have a soft spot for Common Enemy, but one of my goals when I came to Upper Deck was to increase the viability of off-curve strategies . . . and different ones, at that.

 

The first steps toward that goal can be seen in The Avengers, although to be fair, most of my work on off-curve decks in that set involved nerfing them repeatedly. Imagine if Melissa Gold ◊ Screaming Mimi cost 1 resource point, Shocker also cost 1 and his ability didn’t require activation, Wrecking Crew affected all of your characters of the same cost, Mystic Summons could get any character . . . the list goes on. I literally spent a week playing our first Faces of Evil deck without losing, so we had to make a few changes, to say the least.

 

But this article isn’t about Faces of Evil, nor is it about the Avengers set at all, except by comparison. While I certainly felt that our attempt to improve the viability of off-curve strategies was a success in The Avengers (and little did I know at the time how successful it had already been in Green Lantern), I was disappointed that the best deck to come out of it was more or less just a rush strategy. The resource payment powers of the Masters of Evil characters were generally the icing on the cake rather than the driving force of the deck.

 

When we started work on JLA, I vowed to create an off-curve strategy with a different feel. When lead designer Matt Hyra broke down the teams by flavor, I knew that the JLI would be the perfect fit. While the JLA is the home of all the big name superheroes, the JLI is a collection of lesser-known, less powerful heroes whose strength lies in their teamwork and networking. What better team to take up the off-curve mantle?

 

 

Dinah Laurel Lance ◊ Black Canary looks like an incredibly powerful card at first glance. At 12 ATK / 10 DEF, she’s bigger than pretty much every other 5-drop in the game and rivals Thing, Heavy Hitter for sheer size. Her thuggishness comes with a catch, however—she’s only that big while you have four or less resources in play. And she’s a 5-drop . . . huh?

 

We decided to represent the JLI’s lack of superhero star power as resource restriction. While the other teams keep playing resources and bigger and bigger guys, the JLI doesn’t have the big guns. They reach a certain power level and then just have to fight against the odds. They can do it, too—JLI decks were some of our most powerful builds in both Sealed Pack and Constructed formats because of cards like Dinah.

 

That should come as no surprise, really, as resource restriction is nothing new, at least as far as Vs. design goes. Back in the stone age of Vs. System, when Marvel Origins was the only set on the shelves, the most feared deck in the game was The New Brotherhood. TNB revolved around the very same restriction as Dinah and her JLI cohorts. The similarity is certainly not coincidental; the four-resource threshold is a crucial one, as is the ability to “cheat” and temporarily go up to five resources with cards like Genosha.

 

Interestingly, and again not coincidentally, Dinah has a built-in “cheat” to that system. Since she is a reservist, you can play her face down in your resource row as your fifth resource and then recruit her immediately. Replacing a reservist you recruited from your resource row is optional, so you can play Dinah as a 12 ATK / 10 DEF on the fifth turn without any extra work. It does come at the cost of future resources, though, which is a decision you’ll have to make. That’s what playing the JLI is about—a careful balancing act between your resources and the cards that need them.
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