(Metagame Archive) The Origins of a Card: Straight to the Grave

By Alex Shvartsman

One of the coolest things a true TCG gamer can aspire to is seeing a card printed based on his or her idea. Most of us have gone through this stage at one point or another in our gaming careers. We start out by playing a game, and if we like it enough, we start thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if . . .”—and let the card design begin!

When you have design ideas, it really helps to have friends in the right places! I was hanging out with R&D members and Your Move Games alumni Justin Gary and Danny Mandel one fine day about six months ago, and the conversation happened upon Vs. card design. Marvel Modern Age was all about MK Hounds and MK Underworld at the time, and I could not resist the temptation.

“Wouldn’t it be cool,” I said, “if Underworld had a plot twist that allowed you to search your deck for a character card and put it straight into the KO’d pile?” We discussed the idea for a bit, and my friends agreed that such a card could potentially be viable in a future expansion set.

I now had my pet project. If I were to make this card, how exactly would it work?

First of all, I decided that I needed to ditch a team stamp. If this card were to be made, it would be printed in some future set where Underworld would not be a major team. But removing the team stamp would make this plot twist nearly broken and create plenty of interesting uses for it, which I will discuss below.

My second concern was to make sure this card would not be useless in my favorite format, Booster Draft. A lot of great Constructed cards have no practical use in a Draft format, and I always hate to see them make the rounds of shame and end up in someone’s reject pile.

And so, the following plot twist was born:

          Plot Twist, 3

          Target character gets +1 ATK this turn.

Search your deck for a character card and put it into your KO’d pile.

This might not make it the most exciting pick in a Draft pack, but it would see play most of the time.

I submitted this idea to Justin, Danny, and Matt Hyra. That’s when I lost track of the card for several months. Since I am not an Upper Deck employee, I am not privy to the cards that are being made, or even the teams that are being included in the future sets. So while my friends were cool with considering this card, they could not tell me exactly what ended up happening to it.

The card was not originally meant for JLA, and it was only recently that I found out how it got included. Secret Society and its relationship with the KO’d pile had already been developed, and the designers wanted to give Secret Society a search plot twist that would fit in with that theme. It was then that Danny and Justin remembered our conversation and decided that my idea could serve as a base for this new card.

At the last Pro Circuit, I was chatting with JLA lead designer Matt Hyra, and he tipped me off to the fact that my idea was going to be used in JLA. I was very excited, but I had to wait to find out anything more about it—even its name—until the Sneak Preview weekend.

I was judging the tournament at Kings Games, and at the end of the obligatory speech I gave to the players, I told them, “And by the way, if anyone opens a plot twist that lets you search your deck for a character and then discard it, please let me know!” Almost immediately, someone raised his hand, and I got to see the end result:

While the secondary ability is definitely helpful to the Secret Society in their effort to get ten cards into the discard pile or otherwise fill it up with teammates, it is the original concept that really shines. In combination with Avalon Space Station, this card allows any deck that does not have a good search plot twist to fix its curve.
For example, you might play a couple of copies of Straight to the Grave in your Sentinels deck. Since your biggest concern is making sure that you have Bastion on turn 6 and Magneto, Master of Magnetism (or possibly Juggernaut if you are worried about Betrayal) on 7, you won’t mind using up a Reconstruction Program to get the right character into your hand at the right time.

While Reconstruction Program can work quite well, you’ll find that any deck that already runs Avalon Space Station would greatly welcome the addition of this card. Xavier’s Dream, Big Brotherhood, Kang City, X-Stall, and Gamma Doom are just some of the decks that stand to benefit greatly.

Teen Titans could potentially use it in conjunction with Garth ◊ Tempest to get Koriand’r ◊ Starfire or a timely Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal too, though I am not sure if you can really find a way to squeeze Straight to the Grave into that particular deck.

Could this be the next big card in Vs. System? Could Straight to the Grave follow Overload straight to the banned list? I doubt that, but I am almost certain that it will see plenty of tournament play. I will definitely be cheering it on when it does.

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