(Metagame Archive) Two Turns Ahead: Everyone’s Playing Something Different, Mum! What Do I Do?!?

By Tim Willoughby

Hussar, hoorah, hooray! Sing with exultations of jubilations of solicitations to all the nations to dance, prance, and mayhap chance their arm at just one last time partying like it’s 1999! JLA is here!

In the last week, I’ve discovered a few things. My timing for almost all of these things was just awful. I discovered that I quite like watching baseball right around the time that the World Series was on.* I also discovered that I can quite happily watch most DVDs on fast forward (with all the characters talking really fast) and readily discern what is going on at all times. There are both positive and negative aspects to this. On the plus side, I’ve managed to squeeze the busty 4+ hours of film watching a day into a svelte 2, and my internal monologue now moves at a dizzying rate (which means that I process things faster, though now I’m typing slower than I think for the first time since high school). Unfortunately, my perception of the passage of time in the “real world” is now completely out of whack. Seconds feel like minutes. Minutes feel like hours. And all this in the week when I’ve been watching lots of baseball and waiting for JLA to come out.

Oh well.

The Justice League is well and truly here, and it seems to have all the tools to do some nifty shifty things to tournament Vs. System some time very soon. Did we ever expect anything less from the set that contains what is possibly the super-est of super teams? Personally, the thing I’m most stoked about is the way that all the legacy cards fit within the context of the set such that they don’t mess up Sealed Pack play.

Honestly, it feels like Pro Circuit Los Angeles should be officially designated as “hug a member of R&D weekend.”

Pro Circuit LA, which is approaching like a speeding bullet, will have to settle for sunshine, beautiful people, and easy access to Disneyland to make up for the fact that JLA will play no part in the weekend’s main event. I’m sure it will cope just fine. Literally every single time I think about it, I start smiling like a loon and pondering my PC LA playlist.**
The format for PC LA, Golden Age without JLA, is far from stagnant. Indeed, the last $10K in Orlando was positively overflowing with interesting new decks as players tried to find a configuration that they were comfortable with for The Big Show. Though we have reached that time when players hold back their best decks for the Pro Circuit rather than let people find out about them at a $10K, a Top 8 with seven distinct deck types is definitely worthy of a second, and even a third, look.

At the less-exciting end of the scale came the obligatory Sentinels and Teen Titans. Known for being both consistent and powerful, you can definitely expect to see some number of these two doing well in LA. Pronouncements of the death of either deck appear to have been premature.

The Sentinels have the whole “spare slots for metagame cards” thing going on for them, but I think that what should fill those slots hasn’t been hammered down just yet. In a last gasp before the new Scarecrow sends them packing, I would recommend a suite of cards to deal with various little beaters, including Search and Destroy and Total Anarchy, along with my perennial favorite, Latverian Embassy. Any time when a metagame is as open as the current one is, I like to mess with my opponents’ random strange decks as much as possible, and having a house party at Doom’s place seems like a fair way to go with that.

The Titans are still looking strong thanks to their versatile game plan against a varied field and the fact that the prophecies of doom regarding Null Time Zone weren’t completely fulfilled. It would seem that there aren’t many decks that can afford the space for “the NuTZ,” and even among the (largely Sentinel) builds that can, everyone wants to get some virtual card advantage by hoping someone else will bite the bullet and use them. It may well be that in LA, Null Time Zone does much of its work from the bench—forcing players to build decks slightly differently but not doing a whole lot in play.

James Laurant

Characters

4 Boris

4 Puppet Master

3 Purple Man

4 Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius

2 Robot Destroyer

4 Submariner, Atlantean Monarch

2 Juggernaut

1 Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria

2 Apocalypse

1 Onslaught

Locations

3 Doomstadt

2 Avalon Space Station

2 Latveria

Plot Twists

4 Acrobatic Dodge

4 Pleasant Distraction

4 Mystical Paralysis

3 Gamma Bomb

3 Faces of Doom

4 Reign of Terror

1 Unmasked

1 Flame Trap

2 Burn Rubber

That a Gamma Bomb Doom deck made the Top 8 is certainly an indication that there is still a place for Null Time Zone in Golden Age, though it has to be in a deck that can provide a sufficient clock to make the tempo gained in a match like the Gamma Doom matchup enough to win the game. Sometimes Doom will drop the bomb a turn late and still just win. That’s why he’s called Dr. Doom rather than Dr. OhMyGoshYouHaveFoiledMyPlansYouCad. Well, that and the fact that the latter is really a bit long for signing autographs.

Topher Langewisch

Characters

4 Magneto, Eric Lehnsherr

4 Sabretooth, Feral Rage

2 Sauron

3 Mammomax

2 Rogue, Anna Raven

1 Quicksilver, Pietro Maximoff

3 Toad

3 Pyro

1 Avalanche

2 Phantazia

2 Lorelei

2 Mastermind

2 Destiny

1 Thornn

Locations

4 Genosha

4 Savage Land

Plot Twists

3 Foiled

4 The New Brotherhood

3 Ka-Boom!

4 Savage Beatdown

2 A Death in the Family

3 Flying Kick

1 Blind Sided

Topher Langewisch (scourge of spellcheckers everywhere, whose name will be forever underlined) scored a Top 8 berth with a TNB deck that chose to forgo any tricks with burn effects and instead kept the resource count down and the number of distinct characters in play up. TNB has a strange sort of consistency, in that for any individual player, it has fair potential to explode, either in a good way or a bad one. But the good draws from the deck are so devastating that it will consistently do well for somebody, especially in an undefined metagame where people aren’t decisive about how to tune their decks against the field. While I like to play a deck that’s a little less swingy and offers a little more potential to outplay opponents, I feel confident that the Brotherhood will do fairly well in LA.

Niles Rowland

Characters

4 Joystick

4 Ape X

4 Shape

2 Foxfire

3 Tom Thumb

4 Lady Lark

4 Golden Archer

4 Albert Gaines ◊ Nuke

1 Whizzer

Locations

3 Rocket Central

Plot Twists

2 Other-Earth

4 Panacea Potion

4 Answer the Call

4 AIDA

3 Mega-Blast

Equipment

4 Thunder Jet

4 Airskimmer

1 Jetpack

1 Dual Sidearms

Speaking of inconsistent Beatdown decks, the Squadron Supreme takes a fair run at making the philosophy of New Brotherhood decks more consistent. This deck can dish out a lot of damage in not a lot of time. I first encountered it during a testing session with Dean Sohnle, and I was impressed with both its potency and how tricky it can be to play (especially for a straight-up Beatdown deck). Emptying your hand to get the most out of some of its cards sometimes feels like a puzzle, but when you do it, the Squadron Supreme is a beating. It’s the thinking man’s 2×4 to the face.

Steven Rosario

Characters

4 Scarlet Spider ◊ Spider-Man, Successor

2 Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

4 Ricochet, Johnny Gallo

2 Julia Carpenter ◊ Spider-Woman, Web Weaver

4 Spider-Man, Peter Parker

1 Spider-Man, Alien Symbiote

4 White Tiger

3 Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly

1 Ezekiel, Spirit of the Spider

4 Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man

2 Spider-Man, Cosmic Spider-Man

2 Nova, Richard Rider

Locations

3 Avalon Space Station

Plot Twists

3 Null Time Zone

3 Unmasked

3 Flying Kick

4 No Man Escapes the Manhunters

4 Spider-Tracer

3 Reconstruction Program

4 Costume Change

Steven Rosario’s Spider-Friends build is an interesting one. It uses a lot of characters with evasion and gets a big boost from Spider-Man, Peter Parker. All of a sudden, the KO tricks of hidden Beatdown decks become much less of a concern, while the awesome potential of Spider-Man, The Amazing Spiderman just continues to amaze. If decks are looking to go to the late game, the 7-drop can give them all sorts of worries by exhausting key characters and setting up a situation where returning early damage suffered at the hands of more aggressive decks is not a big issue. With three copies of Avalon Space Station to ensure plenty of fuel for the 7-drop, the deck forces opponents to win quickly or not at all. Much like the innovative Gotham Knights/Spider-Friends deck from $10K Chicago, the Spider-Friends deck seems to have a fair game against both Titans and Sentinels, making it a possible breakout choice for LA.

Michael Jacob

Characters

2 Rick Jones

3 Wasp

4 Natasha Romanoff ◊ Black Widow, Super Spy

4 Dane Whitman ◊ Black Knight, Heroic Paladin

4 Black Panther

3 Quicksilver, Mutant Avenger

1 Iron Man, Tony Stark

4 Carol Danvers ◊ Warbird, Galactic Adventurer

4 Hawkeye, Clinton Barton

4 She-Hulk, Gamma Bombshell

2 Hawkeye, Leader by Example

3 Wonder Man

1 Captain America, Super Soldier

2 Hercules

Locations

2 Avengers Mansion

Plot Twists

2 Avengers Assemble

3 Heroes in Reserve

4 Call Down the Lightning

4 No Man Escapes the Manhunters

4 Savage Beatdown

Finally, we have the deck that took the prize and made Michael Jacob the first-ever winner of three $10K events. With a plethora of powerful cards, including characters with very relevant abilities all the way up the curve and Savage Beatdowns # 5-7 in the form of Heroes in Reserve, it’s easy to see the potential that the Avengers reservist strategy has for being as strong in Constructed as it is in Sealed Pack. The big question for me is whether the deck will continue to perform as well now that the cat is out of the bag. Michael Jacob has shown a marked preference for playing decks with which he can outplay opponents through greater knowledge of matchups and correct plays on both sides of the board. As Sentinels and Teen Titans players get more familiar with the deck and start to face opponents who likely aren’t three-time $10K winners, can we expect the success of the Avengers to continue?

The idea of the importance of players over deck types trickles down further in the event. Looking at the top finishers, we see a lot of familiar names and faces. Adam Prosak and Michael Jacob are currently vying for the title of “Best Vs. Player Around,” and Josh Wiitanen and Niles Rowland are hardly slouches either. There are players who seem to get artificially high win percentages when playing particular decks against the field, just because they are that good. Anyone who has played against Dean Sohnle with Fantastic Fun or Michael Jacob with Force cannot necessarily claim to have matchup advantage, regardless of what the numbers might imply. As the Pro Circuit matures, it seems more and more likely that we will be able to mark out the occasions on which the player is more responsible for making the Top 8 than a particular deck build is.

Were I looking to round off my testing for LA (and as a reporter, I kind of am; I like to have a feel for most formats I’m reporting on), I would expect to be well-versed against Titans and Sentinels in the current field and to have game plans against Brotherhood, Brotherhood of Kang, Hidden Beatdown, Squadron Supreme, Team Tactics Thunderbolts, Avengers, and some variety of Doom Control. The metagame for LA is definitely far from settled.

We still have $10K Gen Con UK to look at for some last-minute tech, and I’ll be right there on the floor to bring it to you. As it’s also my birthday that weekend, I’ll be having lots of fun, and hopefully I’ll have a present for you all somewhere in the coverage.

Have fun and be lucky,

Tim “Does Twenty-Three Count as Twenty-Something?” Willoughby

timwilloughby@hotmail.com  

* I haven’t quite worked out which team I’m going to support for the regular season when it rolls around again. Being as I write for Metagame.com and I really enjoyed New York, it’s very tempting to go for the Mets. It helps that my boss (and sharer of initials) Mr. Toby Wachter is also a fan, so I can get whatever baseball tutelage I need there. Thoughts, anyone? . . . Aside from the fact that I can pretend to be my boss just by referring to myself by my initials. I’d already thought of that one. [Stop that, please. – TW]

** Currently in the running for Tim’s Sounds of the Pro Circuit are the following all-star hits. Not an exhaustive list, but I think you get the general idea about my mood for the next Pro Circuit; think of more or less any Californian teen film soundtrack and you won’t be a million miles off. Yes, my views of California have been warped by Hollywood. Yes, I’m cool with that. Every time I think of flying out to LA in November (when it’s cold and dark in England), I think about The Sure Thing . . . and start talking with the speed and enthusiasm of a young John Cusack. Life is good.

  • “California Screamin’” – Carrie
  • “Welcome to Paradise” – Green Day
  • “Bouncing Off the Walls” – Sugarcult
  • “Fair Weather Friend” – Symposium
  • “One Week” – Barenaked Ladies
  • “Wonderful” – Silver Sun
  • “Thousand Trees” – The Stereophonics
  • “Party Hard” – Andrew WK
  • “California Uber Alles” – The Dead Kennedys

 

*** Quick Dean Sohnle story: I never know when I will bump into Dean, as we both travel around in a pretty haphazard manner. One way or another, I have known him for quite a while now through various events. I was surprised to learn at our last meeting that I’ve been pronouncing his surname wrong for the whole time I’ve known him. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I talk quite a lot, so I’m sure that this error has spread quite a long way. His surname is pronounced Sonnli. He was just too Canadian ever to tell me.

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