(Metagame Archive) X-Men Preview: Amelia Voght, Acolyte

By Patrick Sullivan

No word is more likely to arouse the attention of a TCG player than “free.” Any time a player can get some amount of value out of something that cost him or her nothing in return, that player has a decided advantage. This is the reason that lacking plot twists is just as devastating as missing character drops. Since plot twists cost nothing (or close to nothing) to play, a player with a bunch of plot twists can create tangible benefits for him or herself for nothing in return. This is also the reason that Savage Beatdown remains the most powerful combat modifier; in a world where everything costs nothing, the card that generates the biggest number (with no drawback in return) is likely to be the best of the bunch.

Characters, however, are never free. While some characters have alternate recruit costs, in those cases all you’ve changed is the nature of the cost requirement. Also, since these characters are traditionally 1-drops, you generally don’t get a great return, even for the low cost of discarding a card. The reason that Rick Jones has made the largest splash of the bunch is that (besides being on a powerful team) he is a reservist (thus enabling your various reservist effects) and a concealed character with an activated ability—he is in essence another plot twist that happens to say “reservist” on him. Sabretooth, Feral Rage is basically a 5-drop at the cost of 4 resource points and a card, but again, you’ve only changed the investment requirement. Not to say that Rick and Sabretooth aren’t good cards, as they are some of the best their respective teams have to offer. Rather, the point is that characters always cost something, be it cards, resource points, something else, or a combination of costs. The only real exception to this rule is Mr.

Mxyzptlk, but he also has a pretty steep cost in another sense (you have to be playing Revenge Squad), and his impact is largely meaningless.

Marvel X-Men ushers in the first truly free character that you’ll actually want to play—Amelia Voght. As a 2 ATK / 3 DEF for 2 without flight or range, she is slightly below average for what we expect out of a 2-drop these days. This would be a pretty significant problem, except that Amelia isn’t really a 2-drop at all. For the “cost” of revealing two reservists out of the resource row, Amelia comes into play free of charge. The Brotherhood will be a reservist team, not unlike the Avengers, and anyone familiar with that team knows that having two reservists in your resource row is more of a given than a cost or restriction. Furthermore, anyone familiar with New Brotherhood–style builds of Brotherhood decks knows how powerful having a bunch of reservists in that deck would be. Amelia is a powerful enabler for both reservist decks (if she were an Avengers character, I’m sure some number would immediately be included in that deck) and for short curve New Brotherhood decks in the wake of Marvel X-Men and the onslaught of Brotherhood reservists.

For starters, just having a free character in New Brotherhood is a powerful effect. New Brotherhood has traditionally played some of the worst characters in tournament history just to achieve a certain density of characters for The New Brotherhood, Savage Land, and other combat enablers. Amelia amounts to at least 2 free extra ATK each turn, and potentially quite a bit more in conjunction with the deck’s namesake. Also, since the deck has to play a bunch of different characters to ensure use of all of its resource points every turn, characters often end up in the row, and as the game progresses into later turns, those characters could have been of use. Having reservists is a great way of skirting this problem.

Not only that, but reservists interact very well with The New Brotherhood itself. The traditional Brotherhood deck caps its curve on 5 with Magneto, Eric Lehnsherr, hopefully followed by a Genosha to refuel its hand and get back down to the desired four resources. If one doesn’t have a Genosha, the game can get very awkward on the fifth turn; do you not lay a resource on the fifth turn and recruit inferior characters to keep The New Brotherhood online, or do you recruit your best character but turn off your best plot twist for the remainder of the game? No matter what the answer, a tremendous sacrifice has to be made. However, if your resource row is full of reservists, the problem is solved. On turn 5, recruit your Magneto. On turn 6, lay a resource, fire a couple of reservists out of your row, get back down to four resources, and blow your opponent out. It’s a very simple and effective formula all made possible by reservists.

Amelia also has the extra bonus of being good anytime you draw her. Most of the time, your extra characters are close to worthless draws. The best you can hope for is a power-up, and even for that there is a finite window. If you recruit a 2-drop on turn 2, it will usually be KO’d by the end of turn 4. If you draw that character on turn 5, good luck getting any value out of it. But Amelia is a great draw at any stage. As long as you have the two reservists in your row, she is always free, be it on turn 2 or turn 7.

Furthermore, any additional draws of Amelia are excellent, even while you already have one in play. You can make attacks that are normally poor from a board presence standpoint, knowing that you can just replace her with a fresh one on the following turn or the next time you have the initiative. No character in the history of the game has ever been this flexible in terms of what window you need to draw it by, since the window for this card is always open.

I anticipate that Amelia and her reservist buddies will help out a Brotherhood team that has been on the downslide in Golden Age for some time. I also expect that she’ll interact quite well with the Avengers in the upcoming Modern Age format. Vs. System, like most TCGs, is about maximizing efficiency, and there is nothing more efficient than free. Pick up four of these at your Sneak Preview and dust off your copies of The New Brotherhood, because the original off-curve team is going to be near the top of Golden Age once again.
 

Editor’s Note: Crossover Defined

Those of you who have been following the online X-Men previews may have seen the new term “crossover,” and you are no doubt wondering what it means. Here’s the definition you’ll see on the boxtopper inserted into every booster box:
If a card you control says to “crossover” two or more team affiliations, it means to team-up those affiliations on characters you control and character cards you own in all zones. A “character card you own” is defined as a character card that started the game in your deck. Crossover applies to:

• Characters you control (including any owned by an opponent);

• Character cards you own in your hand, deck, and KO’d pile;

• Character cards you own that are on the chain or have been removed from the game;

• Character cards you own in any resource row; and

• Character cards you own that are controlled by an opponent.

In a nutshell, crossover is an easier way to say “team-up.” I’m sure Mike Hummel will have more to say about this new term in future articles, and Paul Ross will clarify any rules questions you may have in a future Cerebro.

– TW No word is more likely to arouse the attention of a TCG player than “free.” Any time a player can get some amount of value out of something that cost him or her nothing in return, that player has a decided advantage. This is the reason that lacking plot twists is just as devastating as missing character drops. Since plot twists cost nothing (or close to nothing) to play, a player with a bunch of plot twists can create tangible benefits for him or herself for nothing in return. This is also the reason that Savage Beatdown remains the most powerful combat modifier; in a world where everything costs nothing, the card that generates the biggest number (with no drawback in return) is likely to be the best of the bunch.

 

Characters, however, are never free. While some characters have alternate recruit costs, in those cases all you’ve changed is the nature of the cost requirement. Also, since these characters are traditionally 1-drops, you generally don’t get a great return, even for the low cost of discarding a card. The reason that Rick Jones has made the largest splash of the bunch is that (besides being on a powerful team) he is a reservist (thus enabling your various reservist effects) and a concealed character with an activated ability—he is in essence another plot twist that happens to say “reservist” on him. Sabretooth, Feral Rage is basically a 5-drop at the cost of 4 resource points and a card, but again, you’ve only changed the investment requirement. Not to say that Rick and Sabretooth aren’t good cards, as they are some of the best their respective teams have to offer. Rather, the point is that characters always cost something, be it cards, resource points, something else, or a combination of costs. The only real exception to this rule is Mr.

Mxyzptlk, but he also has a pretty steep cost in another sense (you have to be playing Revenge Squad), and his impact is largely meaningless.

 

 

Marvel X-Men ushers in the first truly free character that you’ll actually want to play—Amelia Voght. As a 2 ATK / 3 DEF for 2 without flight or range, she is slightly below average for what we expect out of a 2-drop these days. This would be a pretty significant problem, except that Amelia isn’t really a 2-drop at all. For the “cost” of revealing two reservists out of the resource row, Amelia comes into play free of charge. The Brotherhood will be a reservist team, not unlike the Avengers, and anyone familiar with that team knows that having two reservists in your resource row is more of a given than a cost or restriction. Furthermore, anyone familiar with New Brotherhood–style builds of Brotherhood decks knows how powerful having a bunch of reservists in that deck would be. Amelia is a powerful enabler for both reservist decks (if she were an Avengers character, I’m sure some number would immediately be included in that deck) and for short curve New Brotherhood decks in the wake of Marvel X-Men and the onslaught of Brotherhood reservists.

 

For starters, just having a free character in New Brotherhood is a powerful effect. New Brotherhood has traditionally played some of the worst characters in tournament history just to achieve a certain density of characters for The New Brotherhood, Savage Land, and other combat enablers. Amelia amounts to at least 2 free extra ATK each turn, and potentially quite a bit more in conjunction with the deck’s namesake. Also, since the deck has to play a bunch of different characters to ensure use of all of its resource points every turn, characters often end up in the row, and as the game progresses into later turns, those characters could have been of use. Having reservists is a great way of skirting this problem.

 

Not only that, but reservists interact very well with The New Brotherhood itself. The traditional Brotherhood deck caps its curve on 5 with Magneto, Eric Lehnsherr, hopefully followed by a Genosha to refuel its hand and get back down to the desired four resources. If one doesn’t have a Genosha, the game can get very awkward on the fifth turn; do you not lay a resource on the fifth turn and recruit inferior characters to keep The New Brotherhood online, or do you recruit your best character but turn off your best plot twist for the remainder of the game? No matter what the answer, a tremendous sacrifice has to be made. However, if your resource row is full of reservists, the problem is solved. On turn 5, recruit your Magneto. On turn 6, lay a resource, fire a couple of reservists out of your row, get back down to four resources, and blow your opponent out. It’s a very simple and effective formula all made possible by reservists.

 

Amelia also has the extra bonus of being good anytime you draw her. Most of the time, your extra characters are close to worthless draws. The best you can hope for is a power-up, and even for that there is a finite window. If you recruit a 2-drop on turn 2, it will usually be KO’d by the end of turn 4. If you draw that character on turn 5, good luck getting any value out of it. But Amelia is a great draw at any stage. As long as you have the two reservists in your row, she is always free, be it on turn 2 or turn 7.

 

Furthermore, any additional draws of Amelia are excellent, even while you already have one in play. You can make attacks that are normally poor from a board presence standpoint, knowing that you can just replace her with a fresh one on the following turn or the next time you have the initiative. No character in the history of the game has ever been this flexible in terms of what window you need to draw it by, since the window for this card is always open.

 

I anticipate that Amelia and her reservist buddies will help out a Brotherhood team that has been on the downslide in Golden Age for some time. I also expect that she’ll interact quite well with the Avengers in the upcoming Modern Age format. Vs. System, like most TCGs, is about maximizing efficiency, and there is nothing more efficient than free. Pick up four of these at your Sneak Preview and dust off your copies of The New Brotherhood, because the original off-curve team is going to be near the top of Golden Age once again.
 

Editor’s Note: Crossover Defined

 

Those of you who have been following the online X-Men previews may have seen the new term “crossover,” and you are no doubt wondering what it means. Here’s the definition you’ll see on the boxtopper inserted into every booster box:

 


If a card you control says to “crossover” two or more team affiliations, it means to team-up those affiliations on characters you control and character cards you own in all zones. A “character card you own” is defined as a character card that started the game in your deck. Crossover applies to:

Characters you control (including any owned by an opponent);

Character cards you own in your hand, deck, and KO’d pile;

Character cards you own that are on the chain or have been removed from the game;

Character cards you own in any resource row; and

Character cards you own that are controlled by an opponent.

 

In a nutshell, crossover is an easier way to say “team-up.” I’m sure Mike Hummel will have more to say about this new term in future articles, and Paul Ross will clarify any rules questions you may have in a future Cerebro.

 

– TW
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(Metagame Archive) X-Men Preview: Sebastian Shaw, Black King

Justin Gary

The seductive power of the Hellfire Club has finally come to the Vs. System. Or has it? Perhaps they’ve really been here all along, lurking, waiting for the right moment to reveal themselves. One can never be too sure with this elusive cabal. One thing is for sure, though—now that the Hellfire Club has been exposed, the whole world is in trouble.

The Hellfire Club works from the shadows, manipulating others to do their bidding and striking only when they have accumulated enough power to crush all of their enemies. The mechanics of the Hellfire team mimic this, using many hidden characters to support one visible character and buy time for a massive onslaught. It takes a lot of ruthlessness and power to head a group like this, and Sebastian Shaw has plenty of both.

“Hail to the King, baby.”

For the low, low price of sacrificing his spent minions, Sebastian Shaw gets to hit twice and hit hard. Shaw is very splashy, but you might not realize how good he is at first glance. Some players might be turned off by the cost of using his ability. KO’ing two characters may seem like a lot, but the Hellfire Club is notorious for draining every drop of utility out of its members before sacrificing them. Shaw doesn’t care if his minions are exhausted or even stunned. So, assuming you can attack with the characters adjacent to Shaw first, you don’t lose anything by KO’ing them for Shaw’s second attack. Not to mention that after attacking twice with a 16 ATK / 16 DEF, there will rarely be a need for those characters on the next turn.

Because Shaw has concealed–optional, you have ultimate control over how turn 7 will go. Even when you don’t have the initiative, you can still swing in for serious beatings. No other character can match the damage output of Shaw. Unlike other 7-drops with the ability to ready, Shaw doesn’t care about the size of your opponent’s characters (like Wolverine, Berserker Rage) or what row they’re in (like Sub-Mariner, Ally of Doom), and he certainly doesn’t have any namby-pamby, can’t-do-breakthrough-damage clause (like Hercules). If you play your cards right, Shaw is just like playing two 7-drops on turn 7. All this power comes from being at the top of the food chain in the world’s most elite organization. In short . . .

“It’s good to be the King.”

In an emergency, you can put Shaw into the visible area to help defend against a dangerous assault. The Hellfire Club does a very good job of supporting a single visible character when there is trouble, and they are very good at moving characters into and out of hiding when the need arises. Shaw is the lynchpin of an aggressive yet flexible strategy that allows you to set the terms of battle. As the Hellfire Club, you get to decide who your opponents can attack, and you have plenty of tricks in store for them when they do. By carefully planning and plotting from the shadows, you can set up a devastating turn with Shaw, punishing those who would defy the power of the Hellfire Club. Shaw is a powerhouse on his own and even more of a terror with the shadowy tricks of the other Hellfire Club cards at his disposal. All of this will become abundantly clear come the Sneak Preview events on February 11–12. Until then, however . . .

“The King has left the building.” The seductive power of the Hellfire Club has finally come to the Vs. System. Or has it? Perhaps they’ve really been here all along, lurking, waiting for the right moment to reveal themselves. One can never be too sure with this elusive cabal. One thing is for sure, though—now that the Hellfire Club has been exposed, the whole world is in trouble.

 

The Hellfire Club works from the shadows, manipulating others to do their bidding and striking only when they have accumulated enough power to crush all of their enemies. The mechanics of the Hellfire team mimic this, using many hidden characters to support one visible character and buy time for a massive onslaught. It takes a lot of ruthlessness and power to head a group like this, and Sebastian Shaw has plenty of both.

 

“Hail to the King, baby.”

 

 

 

 

For the low, low price of sacrificing his spent minions, Sebastian Shaw gets to hit twice and hit hard. Shaw is very splashy, but you might not realize how good he is at first glance. Some players might be turned off by the cost of using his ability. KO’ing two characters may seem like a lot, but the Hellfire Club is notorious for draining every drop of utility out of its members before sacrificing them. Shaw doesn’t care if his minions are exhausted or even stunned. So, assuming you can attack with the characters adjacent to Shaw first, you don’t lose anything by KO’ing them for Shaw’s second attack. Not to mention that after attacking twice with a 16 ATK / 16 DEF, there will rarely be a need for those characters on the next turn.

 

Because Shaw has concealed–optional, you have ultimate control over how turn 7 will go. Even when you don’t have the initiative, you can still swing in for serious beatings. No other character can match the damage output of Shaw. Unlike other 7-drops with the ability to ready, Shaw doesn’t care about the size of your opponent’s characters (like Wolverine, Berserker Rage) or what row they’re in (like Sub-Mariner, Ally of Doom), and he certainly doesn’t have any namby-pamby, can’t-do-breakthrough-damage clause (like Hercules). If you play your cards right, Shaw is just like playing two 7-drops on turn 7. All this power comes from being at the top of the food chain in the world’s most elite organization. In short . . .

 

“It’s good to be the King.”

 

In an emergency, you can put Shaw into the visible area to help defend against a dangerous assault. The Hellfire Club does a very good job of supporting a single visible character when there is trouble, and they are very good at moving characters into and out of hiding when the need arises. Shaw is the lynchpin of an aggressive yet flexible strategy that allows you to set the terms of battle. As the Hellfire Club, you get to decide who your opponents can attack, and you have plenty of tricks in store for them when they do. By carefully planning and plotting from the shadows, you can set up a devastating turn with Shaw, punishing those who would defy the power of the Hellfire Club. Shaw is a powerhouse on his own and even more of a terror with the shadowy tricks of the other Hellfire Club cards at his disposal. All of this will become abundantly clear come the Sneak Preview events on February 11–12. Until then, however . . .

 

“The King has left the building.”

(Metagame Archives) UDE Tournament Policy Update

Press Release 

If a UDE member, through any means, receives spoiler information on a new set, that person must notify the UDE Tournament Commissioner immediately at UDE@upperdeck.com. The spoiler information must be sent to the Tournament Commissioner and then be destroyed. Spoiler information must not be passed on to any other person. Any member who receives spoiler information and does not notify the UDE Tournament Commissioner within 24 hours may be suspended from playing in UDE events. Officially released public previews are not subject to this policy.

Russell Pippin

Tournament Commissioner

Upper Deck Entertainment

(Metagame Archive) X-Men Preview: Drain Essence

By Tim Willoughby

Back in the day, Stan Lee was faced with a problem: The world was running out of heroes.

There could only be so many nuclear accidents, cosmic storms, bizarre chemicals, and radioactive spiders that could produce powerful heroes to keep the pages of Marvel’s latest comics safe. If comics were to keep their humanity, then heroes couldn’t all come from other planets where people are just inherently more “super.” Though technology remained as magical in sci-fi as magic was in fantasy, the quandary remained even when these two great elemental explanations for all things out of the ordinary were put into one comic book universe that was brave (or foolish) enough to allow even the most incredible to become commonplace.

There was an answer, though, and it was in equal parts smaller than the eye could see and larger than anyone could imagine.

Every human is in many respects his or her own perfect snowflake. We are all different and yet largely the same. We are made predominantly of water. If we are yellow, you probably shouldn’t eat us. When Marvel comics was faced with the problem of creating a new breed of superheroes, they took that thought and ran with it. The very thing that makes us the way we are is DNA. DNA creates RNA, which in turn creates proteins—the building blocks for life. Monkey about with DNA a little, and a small rose bush turns into a tyrannosaurus rex. Okay . . . that takes quite a lot of fiddling about. But on a less grandiose scale, Marvel would have us believe that through just small mutations in human DNA, a man can shoot lasers from his eyes or control the power of magnetism at a whim.

It was, and is, a beautiful solution. With the creation of mutants with “super” powers, a plethora of options in terms of heroes became easily accessible. Suddenly, there were so many heroes that there could be colossal teams of powered-up people, both good and bad. There were so many characters that the great comic book taboo, killing off a character, could be achieved with ease.

The X-Men were the poster children of this revolution, and it is fitting that the Children of the Atom are the headliners in the most mutant-heavy Vs. set ever. In the writing of this article, I found myself considering their name with some intrigue. Every human has the X chromosome, and to be born male and ultimately become a man, it is necessary to have a Y chromosome too. An XX man is, in fact, a woman. Are these mutants ex-men (and women) who have moved on from being human to something else, something better? Is there simply some X-factor that makes mutants so special? It would take quite a miraculous mutation to provide me with sufficient insight to answer these questions, so for now, I won’t worry. I have a preview to write, don’t you know.

My preview card is, on some levels, really quite straightforward. Its effect is a familiar one, but with a little added bonus. What really interests me is its cost. Take a look:

In the same way that people are all the same and yet different at the same time, there are elements of Drain Essence that are strikingly familiar and yet wholly new. I must confess that when I first set eyes on the card above, I let slip a small frown due in part to each of these facets.

Finishing Move is a staple card in both Sealed Pack and Constructed. Being able to KO the appropriate one of your opponent’s characters at the right time can turn the tide of the game. On the face of things, Drain Essence is essentially the same card, but with the added benefit of some endurance gain. Traditionally, gaining endurance has been rather spurned by competitive Vs. players, as it is typically not as useful as anything that actually kills one’s opponent. In general, I would agree with such sentiments, though increasingly I do find that the faster decks win very very quickly and have less and less late game, so perhaps now might be the time to get high on life. When doing so is not at the expense of actively trying to win, I am pretty easily sold.

But what of this reference to an Energy character? Allow me to issue the following spoiler. There is no team in Vs. called Energy, and that is not going to change. Equally, you will not find a character in the set with the version Energy. No, in fact, Energy is a term relating to one of the types of Mutants in the X-Men set.

The X-Men set is, unsurprisingly, pretty rammed with Mutants. They’re everywhere. They come in three flavors—Physical, Mental, and Energy—and each of those traits reference the sort of power that the Mutant has. While someone like Professor X will likely have the Mental trait, and Wolverine the Physical, Magneto seems likely to be an Energy Mutant. These traits are so integral to the very being of the Mutant characters that they can’t just be “switched off” when the Mutant is stunned. To this end, a Mutant’s traits are detailed on the bottom of its image box rather than in the text box. That way, if a character is a Mutant, it will stay that way no matter how beaten up it might be.

So, it would seem that our new version of Finishing Move can only be used by Energy-wielding mutants. What does this mean for it in Constructed? Ultimately, we are going to have to wait and see how the whole set comes out before we can really say. For a change, this preview card seems to ask more questions than it answers. Could we see decks more focused on energetic Mutants than on any one team? How many Energy Mutants does one need to run before Drain Essence’s trickier cost is outweighed by some endurance gain? Is gaining endurance and stalling more viable than ever?

I don’t have the answers. I am not, as has already been proven, a Mental Mutant. But they are coming.

Have fun at the Sneak Preview,

Tim “Proud Not to Have Included a Single Bad X Joke in This Entire Article” Xilloughby

timwilloughby@hotmail.com

(Metagame Archive) Inside the JLA: Mail Call, Part 2

By Matt Hyra

This edition of “Mail Call” will cover the meaty email questions I’ve received over the last three months. Today will be all about mechanics, playtesting, and specific card powers.

Ally seems like it’s on the low end of the power spectrum. I consider leader to be one of the best. – GG

Ally may not seem off the charts at first, but there are several things going for it. Leader powers are “on the board,” meaning that your opponent knows exactly what to expect out of a leader every time, as the cards are right there for all to read. Sure, ally powers are also on the board, and your opponent will probably just assume you can use it, but will he or she be prepared when your character is powered-up twice during one attack? Also, ally powers work very well in concert with other ally powers. With just one power-up, you get the benefit of all your ally powers. It’s very difficult to set up a formation where leader powers are shared in optimized ways.

Who came up with dual-affiliated characters? That’s my favorite part of the JLA set. – TS

The origin of that great new addition to Vs. can’t really be attributed to one person. The concept of DA characters had been floating around in the back of our minds for a while, but we figured it would be several years before we decided how it would even work. In my initial JLA file, I had some legacy characters that had game text granting them an extra affiliation. David Humpherys and Andrew Yip just decided to put the darn things on the sides of the cards like the regular affiliation. Looking back, all we are able to agree on 100% is that (The) Ben Seck had nothing to do with it.

Why is Barry Allen, The Flash so underpowered? That line about “unequipped” means no Nth Metal to allow him to go off. – DC

Try telling a weenie deck player that he’s underpowered. Yes, it is a rather situational card, but against the right deck it’s very powerful, even with low stats. That being said, I’m sure we’ll see The Flash again in Vs. System, and we sometimes like to leave some room for future versions to shine brighter than the original.

If he could be equipped, he’d be too good. It would be way too easy to get his ability to work, and multiple times at that. You might have noticed that Wonder Woman, Princess Diana has “if this is the first time that character has attacked or defended . . .” in her game text. That’s there because of The Flash. If we allowed infinite combinations in the game, everyone would be pretty much forced to play them in order to win. That wouldn’t be any fun.

Aquaman, King of the Seven Seas should have loyalty. He’s way too good in a Curve Sentinels deck! I dropped my Magneto, Master of Magnetism instantly when I saw Aquaman. – RB

He’s good, and yes, you can grab three Reconstruction Programs and really set up Bastion to kick tail, but you’ll soon be missing Magneto’s flight and range, I assure you. If you get lucky and pop a couple of Genoshas, you’ll be in just about the same shape. And it’s not often that you can actually pull nine Army characters out of your KO’d pile unless you were using Genosha to draw that many extra cards in the first place. Sometimes what looks great on paper doesn’t work in reality.

Speaking of working . . .

There’s a problem with Crisis on Infinite Earths. You mentioned in one of your articles that you worded it in such a way as to prevent players from getting multiple copies of annoying guys like Puppet Master into play. Well, you still can. If you control a Puppet Master, go ahead and recruit another. Wait to flip Crisis until Puppet Master is on the chain. Crisis only looks to see if you are recruiting another character of the same name and version. Since Crisis is not face up at the time of the recruit (when you announce it), Crisis won’t make you KO the Puppet Master already in play. When the newly recruited Puppet Master comes into play, both stay, as Crisis makes them non-unique. – VRL (Various Rules Lawyerz)

Yup, you are correct. Sometimes, what looks great on paper (or cardstock) doesn’t work as intended in reality. Good catch. Our own rules team noticed it a while back and carefully considered what to do to make the card work as intended. There is now an erratum for the card in the Official Card Reference, reprinted here for your convenience.

Crisis on Infinite Earths

Team-Up, Plot Twist, 2

Ongoing: Characters you control, as well as cards in your hand, KO’d pile, and deck lose all team affiliations, have the Crisis affiliation, and cannot have any team affiliation other than Crisis.

Character cards you own are not unique.

If a character card you recruited would come into play, instead, KO all characters you control with the same name and version as that card, then put that card into play.

Now it’s a replacement effect that checks when your card comes into play, so there isn’t a window for you to flip Crisis and beat the card at its own game.

How did you guys miss the loophole in Crisis on Infinite Earths? I’m not slighting the playtesting, as you already have a better track record than some other card game companies. I’m just curious why no one saw it. – A.S.

Loopholes are hard to find for a number of reasons. First off, sometimes card wording changes late in the process to try to head off loopholes, so developers are rarely playing with final game texts until the last few weeks of testing. By that time, they have seen the card all the way from its creation through months of playtesting. They know exactly how the card is intended to work and often find several loopholes in testing. However, a staff of six to ten testers couldn’t find every teeny tiny loophole out there, even if they did have the final text from day one. We have a rules team that tries to root out the really hard-to-find loopholes and bad card templating.

Speaking of playtesting . . .

Funny story from JLA testing. After a month of Draft testing, all of R&D got together for a big meeting, and then eight players got together for a JLA Draft afterwards. Brian Hacker, Dave Smith, Danny Mandel, and (The) Ben Seck had never drafted the set before but wanted to check it out. The Vs. crew had drafted ten or twelve times already, so they were the obvious favorite.

In the battle of resident Asians, TBS beat Andrew Yip.

In the battle of the roommates, Danny beat Humpherys.

In the battle of the Brians, Hacker beat Kibler.

And in the battle of the non-Asian, non-roommate, non-Brians, Dave Smith beat Mike Hummel.

So what does that mean? It means that sometimes a fresh opinion is a good thing and can reveal strategies that weren’t even on your radar. It’s easy to fall into comfortable grooves as a player and as a designer/developer. It also means that you should probably check out Upper Deck’s upcoming trading card game, Avatar.

World War III doesn’t seem like a very good deal. When could it possibly be worth it? – PD

It’s not going to be great in every deck, but it is useful for the Army side of the Injustice Gang team. With several ways to get extra 1-drop characters into play, the KOs you have to make to pay for WWIII probably won’t cost you too many actual resource points. Now, if your opponent is playing some really super-annoying characters like Roy Harper, G’Nort, Shimmer, a Squadron Supreme weenie deck, Boris, Alfred Pennyworth, or any character that enables A Child Named Valeria (a popular control archetype), then you’ve got a great weapon in your hand with WWIII. If you are getting wrecked by any of the above and are playing Injustice Gang Army, you should be able to come up with four extra characters rather easily and cheaply. The ability to KO a 3-drop character, a 2-drop and a 1-drop, or three 1-drops can turn around a game that looked like your opponent had it all locked up. If you have more characters available, the sky’s the limit.

Speaking of limits, that’s enough for this week.

As you probably noticed, people are much more likely to write when they have a gripe. People never write to say, “Good job on the set. I like that all of your 5-drops are good. It makes it the most exciting turn in Draft.” Except for the guy who wrote that.

Send questions or comments to mhyra@upperdeck.com.

(Metagame Archive) Inside the JLA: Mail Call

By Matt Hyra

It’s a new year, so there’s no better time to clean out my email box and answer a few JLA-related questions that readers have sent me over the past two months. There are quite a few, though, so I’ll split them up. Today, I’ll answers questions relating to the artwork.

Why are there JLI characters in the art for Secret Sanctuary, a JLA location? – T.C.

Before the JLI had embassies spanning the globe, their headquarters was the Secret Sanctuary. The JLA abandoned it after Snapper Carr revealed its location to The Joker. The card was originally going to be a JLI location. However, during playtesting, the JLA became the more location-oriented team, so they needed a couple of extra locations. Note that Elongated Man is in the art anyway, as he hung out with the team a fair bit (mainly owing to the fact that his wife, Sue Dibny, was a part of the JLI). You can see him on her card, as well.

Who came up with the Plastic Man alternate art concept? It’s my favorite art and card in the set! – S.T.

It was my idea to make him the alternate art. I even put together a crappy Paint version of him as a concept for DC’s approval. My idea was that he would be hiding in the border of his own card, with his belt buckle as his range icon. DC approved the concept but made it a whole lot better by making Plas the whole card. I can really only take credit for printing his name on his glasses.

Check out my original concept.

The JLA shirt is my favorite! Who picked that orange? – B. T.

Okay, this is sort of an art question . . . When a new expansion is on the horizon, UDE orders ten or so pieces of advance art to be used in promotional items, booster foil wraps, deck boxes, shirts, and so forth. For the JLA shirt, we didn’t want to use Superman or Batman, as they had already been featured on shirts. This limited our options. Our first shirt concept featured The Flash, but the art was not quite what I’d want to see on a shirt. Plus, I don’t think he screams “JLA” when you see it.

The Alex Ross piece was not originally part of the advance art order. It had been in house practically since the beginning of time. I had forgotten that is was considered advance art, since it wasn’t on the list. We scrambled to get it approved and then chose a nice burnt orange color to put Aquaman on. For some reason, the orange came back from the printers a bit brighter than we expected. We’re glad that some people like them a lot.

What’s the Easter egg with Snapper Carr? There has to be an inside joke there. – C.V.

You ain’t kidding. Ooh, boy. I was hoping no one would ask about this one. Funny story . . .

Way back before JLA art requests were even being dreamed about, Jeff Donais mentioned one day that he’d really like to get a card named Passionate Melody in a set for his brother Mike. I quickly poo-poo’d the idea so that he’d think I’d never do it. I knew I couldn’t get it in as a card name, but I certainly could get it in as an Easter egg.  

Figuring that Melody must be Mike’s wife’s name, I decided to make it a bit cheeky. I mean, if he wanted to call her out as “passionate,” I figured I’d join in on the fun by including the “on the mike!” bit. When the cards were built by our pre-press department, Jeff finally got to see it. It was only at this time that he informed me that Melody was not Mike’s wife, but one of his two daughters. The other one is named Passion. If I had ever before heard of anyone being named Passion, the thought might have crossed my mind. Wanting to salvage something of the Easter egg, I came up with the version name “Cool Daddy-O” to get across the dad aspect of an otherwise non–dad-like card. Sometimes, the best intentions come back to bite you. But we did all have a good laugh about it.

Whose hands are tearing the JLA group shot on Disband the League? – M.G.

As if the waterworks weren’t enough of a clue, the hands belong to Aquaman. He was the one who called for the disbanding, so it seems only fair to show his hands and to have him be the one speaking the flavor text.

How is the airspace over the Golden Gate Bridge a Field of Honor? – R.L.

Sometimes, the best laid plans get shot all to heck. The card was originally a combat plot twist. The art concept is taken from the cover of Secret Society of Super-Villains #5. Sinestro is wreaking havoc, so Hawkman comes after him. However, when the concept on this card was transferred from the JLI (it used to be on Staged Attack) to the JLA, we wanted it on a location. Field of Honor is the kind of card that you only need to have one of in play, so putting four in a deck is unlikely to happen. Since the JLA already had location searching in New Era, it was decided to move this concept to a JLA location. I didn’t have a specific piece of art for it, though. With very limited options, I found this piece featuring two honorable warriors. Well, at least Sinestro is honorable in his own mind.

Did you put “Seck Industries” in the art description for Lex Luthor, Evil Incorporated, or is that something random the artist did? – TBS

Yes, R&D’s own (The) Ben Seck came to me yesterday to say that he finally saw this Easter egg. A friend had mentioned it to him. Wow . . . two months is a pretty slow burn. So yes, TBS, I did put your name in the art description. And that makes you the devil.

I love the art in the JLA set. What’s your favorite card art? – Various

You could guess my favorites from looking at the boxtoppers. My favorite is probably Scarecrow, Psycho Psychologist. I had that as my wallpaper from the moment the art came in last year. However, sometimes I like looking at the art on Maxima more. Not sure why. Must be because I came up with the awesome flavor text.

My favorite art concept is Criminal Mastermind, as it’s one of the few that I wrote (Ben Kalman did ninety-five percent of them). I had that image in my head for a long time, and I’m very happy with the results.

You made a mistake with the World War III card. The Injustice Gang characters that were present with Mageddon are Prometheus, Queen Bee, Lex, and The General. – H.J.

Good eye. Yes, sometimes in an art description, it pays to be very specific when you describe a showdown in space between various members of the JLA and the Injustice Gang.

The cards Darkseid, Heart of Darkness and Lex Luthor, Criminal Genius look like they are supposed to be side-by-side stackers. But they don’t line up. What gives? – H.J.

Again, good eye. When our pre-press department builds the cards, they crop, reposition, refocus, and otherwise edit the artwork. You’re not seeing the whole image. I never tried to put the originals together, but I’m guessing that it would work.

That’s enough for this week. More easily digestible tidbits from the JLA next week.

Send questions or comments to mhyra@metagame.com.

(Metagame Archive) Strength in Numbers, Shuffling, Part 1: Stopping Shady Shuffles

By Olav Rokne

From my experience at large tournaments, the more obsessively I shuffle my deck, the better I do. If I were of a superstitious bent, this correlation could be attributed to some generation of positive karma through good sportsmanship. A more practical, analytical explanation is that the greater the number, variety, and randomness of shuffles performed on a deck, the greater the card motility (in other words, the less clumping you’ll experience).*

Probably the most common shuffling technique used in trading card games such as Vs. System is the riffle shuffle. When performing this shuffle, a player will split his or her deck into two roughly equal portions. Holding one of these portions in each hand, the player will lift up a corner of each and fan them together in such a way that the two piles are brought together by interspersing cards from one pile with cards from the other. To prevent stacking the top or bottom card of the deck, this should be done so that when the two portions are fanned together, the top card of the portion that started out on top is shuffled below the top card of the portion that started out as the lower half of the deck.  

This is the meat and potatoes of shuffling, and its importance cannot be underestimated, because small errors in the size of the two portions and variations in the speed of the fanning together provide the fastest and most truly random method of shuffling available to the average card gamer.  

The riffle shuffle, however, has several key flaws that can be pitfalls to those who rely on it exclusively and can be exploited by cheaters.

The largest problem with this technique is that while absolute card motility between regions of the deck is high in a riffle shuffle, relative motility between neighbors is not. As an example, take a sixty-card deck in which the cards have been numbered sequentially, with the top card as #1 and the bottom card as #60. If you perform a perfect, no-errors, mechanical riffle shuffle in a sixty-card deck, you will end up with an order something like: 31, 1, 32, 2, 33, 3, and so on. In this example, although card #32 has moved within the deck twenty-nine absolute spots, it has only moved one spot away from its previous neighbors. The portions of the deck that have the highest card motility (both relative and absolute) are those closest to the top, to the bottom, and to the cut. Portions in the middle see the least motility.  

Unscrupulous players who are incredibly clever can perform this shuffle perfectly and accomplish what is known as a faro shuffle, which if done a specific number of times in a row, will return the cards to their original order.§

The mathematician and magician Persi Diaconis once calculated that a deck does not even begin to become truly random until five riffle shuffles have been performed. To randomize properly, one should perform a riffle shuffle seven times. If your shuffling technique is not up to snuff, it will likely take upward of twelve such shuffles to produce an acceptably randomized pile of cards. An example of poor shuffling technique in the riffle shuffle would be when a player flips multiple cards together (rather than single cards) while shuffling the two halves of the deck together.  

A popular solution to this lack of relative card motility is what is known as the pile shuffle. In this shuffle, you take your deck and deal out multiple piles (usually six or seven) from the top of the deck onto a table before gathering these piles up and stacking them back together as a deck. Using the earlier model of a numbered 60-card deck, if you deal out six piles, you would end up with piles that have orders of 1, 7, 13, and 19; 2, 8, 14, and 18; and so on.

While this may produce desirable relative card motility (and depending on the order in which you replace the piles, an equally enviable absolute card motility), the pile shuffle also has problems.  

The first is that it is entirely mathematically predictable, and predictability is anathema to a good shuffle. Since there is no way to introduce randomness to an uninterrupted string of pile shuffles, you should never use this method exclusively.
The second problem is that the relative card motility happens in preordained increments. That is to say that cards will always be exactly six slots apart.
A thoroughly clever London-based Vs. player and statistician named Ian Vincent worked out a solution to the second problem. This involves a pile shuffle based on co-primes, wherein the deck is dealt out into seven piles from left to right, and then the two piles on the right are dealt out again from right to left. This process is repeated in alternating directions until the deck is out; then the deck is reassembled, starting with one of the center three stacks and following with the stack three to the right of the previous one.
The advantage of this method is that if it’s performed between a series of riffle shuffles, it gives a wide range of relative card motility values; a card can move zero, two, three, four, five, or seven spots from its original location within the deck with relative ease.
A rarely used shuffling technique is called a wash shuffle. It’s an easy one to learn, and although it can damage card sleeves and requires a large and unoccupied table, it does produce a pleasantly chaotic card distribution.
During a wash, you spill your deck face down over a table and just slide the cards around, pushing them this way and that before trying to reassemble the deck. There’s rarely the time or space to do this in your average tournament, but it’s a good one to try out once in a while.**
If you have failed to shuffle properly, your draws will suffer. Let me illustrate with an example in which someone is playing a simple deck with 30 “A” cards and 30 “B” cards. After sorting the deck, the plot twists are at the bottom of the pile and the characters are on the top. The player riffle shuffles two times and pile shuffles once with a standard six-pile sort.
The first riffle shuffle will likely order the deck into a pattern of A, B, A, B, A, B. The second riffle will then fold those into A, A, B, B, A, A, B, B. These patterns will occur through most of the deck no matter where you cut the deck before riffle shuffling. In the third iteration, you will either cut through the pattern in the sequence between “A” and “B” or between a pair of the same kind of card (As or Bs).
If you end up in the first situation, you’ll have an A, B, A, B, A, B pattern again throughout large portions of the deck. In the second instance, you’ll end up with a pattern of A, A, A, A, B, B, B, B throughout large portions of the deck, which is somewhat more problematic than the first scenario.
In the second eventuality, when you then pile shuffle, you’ll end up with several sequences in the deck that are approximately ordered A, A, A, A, B, A, B, B, B, B, A, B.
Thus, if you see the first four cards of your deck after this shuffling sequence, you can reasonably predict the next set of the sequence of cards—and predictability is anathema to a good shuffle. Unless you have pre-planned this shuffle (at which point it’s cheating) and started out with a very specific order of cards (which is incredibly difficult and utterly immoral), the fact that you know the sequence of plot twists to characters will not be advantageous because several copies of the same card will remain together within the sequence.
With four riffle shuffles and one six-pile shuffle, things actually get worse. There is a statistically significant chance (approximately one in forty††) that the first eight cards of the deck will be all “A” or all “B.”
If we extend this analogy to a Vs. deck, that’s a 1 in 40 chance of a near-automatic loss. In a perfectly random deck, in which every card has an equal chance of being in any particular position, the chances of this happening are fewer than 1 in 300.
That means that over the course of the first day of a Pro Circuit, if everyone shuffles perfectly, there will be about five people who have a complete deck failure once.
In most casinos that don’t use mechanical shuffling, you’ll find that the wash, along with other shuffling techniques, is used. Often the dealer will wash, riffle twice, perform a series of cuts, riffle again, and make a final cut.
The most orderly your deck will ever be is immediately after you have written out your decklist. Immediately after you have done your decklist, you should perform a minimum of seven riffle shuffles interspersed with a co-primes pile shuffle or two.
The best way to foil deck stacking is to give your opponent’s deck a shuffle at every opportunity. Without fail, do one riffle shuffle every time he or she has randomized the deck; cutting your opponent’s deck is not sufficient, as there are techniques to shuffle important cards to the middle of a deck to fool the cut. Often, the same miserable wretches who use false shuffles will use sleazy gamesmanship tactics to avoid their opponent’s cut or shuffle. This can include but is not limited to:
Drawing a hand before giving you a chance to shuffle the deck, then disingenuously making a false claim that you had passed on the opportunity to do so.
Holding the deck in hand as he or she offers you the opportunity to cut, thus making it likelier that you just take the top half as your cut (and avoid a shuffle).
Tapping your deck in a friendly gesture that indicates that he or she “doesn’t need to cut your deck,” and then assuming that you will do the same.
Some decks, such as New School, EMS, GLEE, Fantastic Fun, and Both Guns Blazing, have enough search effects that opponents will get tired of always shuffling the deck and stop bothering.
There are several things to stay on guard for when watching your opponent shuffle. First off, watch your opponent’s hands; if your opponent repeatedly shuffles so that the original top pile is always fanned in last, the top card is staying on top. Secondly, if your opponent uses nothing but simple pile shuffles, stay on guard and make an extra effort to shuffle well.
Oh, and be on the lookout for people wearing Sunderland Football Club jerseys.
Olav Rokne

olavrokne(at)gmail.com
For further reading, I would suggest:
Diaconis, Persi. “Analysis of Top to Random Shuffles.” Combinatorics, Probability

 Computing 1: 135-55.
Diaconis, Persi. “Riffle Shuffles, Cycles and Descents.” Combinatorica 15: 11-29.
Erdnase, S. W., An Expert at the Card Table
* Card motility is a term used to define the ability of a card to travel from one point in a deck to any other point in a deck within a shuffle. This should be looked at in two ways: first, in terms of a card’s ability to travel in relation to its nearest neighbors, and secondly, in terms of absolute position within the sixty cards.


Many of whom, in my humble opinion, cheer for Sunderland Football Club, which is an inferior and unpleasant soccer club that no real Geordie would cheer for. I’m not sure if any Sunderland supporters actually play Vs. System, but if they do, this Newcastle United fan is dropping the gauntlet.


Such as those who would support the Sunderland FC.

§ Thankfully, the only player I know of who is dexterous and clever enough to pull off this feat is not a Sunderland supporter. He is, in fact, a fellow of unmitigated honesty.


I don’t fully understand the mathematics of this, but he explained that it is based on a combination of statistics, co-primes, and the teachings of an ascended, illuminated Shaolin master he studied with in Nepal.


The seven piles represent the seven chakras (or plexuses) of the human body in Cabbalist teaching, the fact that there are three piles that only get dealt to once in each round represents the holy trinity, and the overall nine steps represent the fact that there were nine Police Academy movies.
** Tim Willoughby’s personal favorite shuffle is to throw his semi-shuffled deck at a wall and then pick it up. This neatly randomizes his deck and lets it know who’s boss.


††
Several statisticians calculated this differently depending on assumptions made off the bat. This seemed like a reasonable estimate. From my experience at large tournaments, the more obsessively I shuffle my deck, the better I do. If I were of a superstitious bent, this correlation could be attributed to some generation of positive karma through good sportsmanship. A more practical, analytical explanation is that the greater the number, variety, and randomness of shuffles performed on a deck, the greater the card motility (in other words, the less clumping you’ll experience).*

Probably the most common shuffling technique used in trading card games such as Vs. System is the riffle shuffle. When performing this shuffle, a player will split his or her deck into two roughly equal portions. Holding one of these portions in each hand, the player will lift up a corner of each and fan them together in such a way that the two piles are brought together by interspersing cards from one pile with cards from the other. To prevent stacking the top or bottom card of the deck, this should be done so that when the two portions are fanned together, the top card of the portion that started out on top is shuffled below the top card of the portion that started out as the lower half of the deck.
 

This is the meat and potatoes of shuffling, and its importance cannot be underestimated, because small errors in the size of the two portions and variations in the speed of the fanning together provide the fastest and most truly random method of shuffling available to the average card gamer.

 

The riffle shuffle, however, has several key flaws that can be pitfalls to those who rely on it exclusively and can be exploited by cheaters.

 

The largest problem with this technique is that while absolute card motility between regions of the deck is high in a riffle shuffle, relative motility between neighbors is not. As an example, take a sixty-card deck in which the cards have been numbered sequentially, with the top card as #1 and the bottom card as #60. If you perform a perfect, no-errors, mechanical riffle shuffle in a sixty-card deck, you will end up with an order something like: 31, 1, 32, 2, 33, 3, and so on. In this example, although card #32 has moved within the deck twenty-nine absolute spots, it has only moved one spot away from its previous neighbors. The portions of the deck that have the highest card motility (both relative and absolute) are those closest to the top, to the bottom, and to the cut. Portions in the middle see the least motility.

 

Unscrupulous players who are incredibly clever can perform this shuffle perfectly and accomplish what is known as a faro shuffle, which if done a specific number of times in a row, will return the cards to their original order.§

 

The mathematician and magician Persi Diaconis once calculated that a deck does not even begin to become truly random until five riffle shuffles have been performed. To randomize properly, one should perform a riffle shuffle seven times. If your shuffling technique is not up to snuff, it will likely take upward of twelve such shuffles to produce an acceptably randomized pile of cards. An example of poor shuffling technique in the riffle shuffle would be when a player flips multiple cards together (rather than single cards) while shuffling the two halves of the deck together.

 

A popular solution to this lack of relative card motility is what is known as the pile shuffle. In this shuffle, you take your deck and deal out multiple piles (usually six or seven) from the top of the deck onto a table before gathering these piles up and stacking them back together as a deck. Using the earlier model of a numbered 60-card deck, if you deal out six piles, you would end up with piles that have orders of 1, 7, 13, and 19; 2, 8, 14, and 18; and so on.

 

While this may produce desirable relative card motility (and depending on the order in which you replace the piles, an equally enviable absolute card motility), the pile shuffle also has problems.

 

The first is that it is entirely mathematically predictable, and predictability is anathema to a good shuffle. Since there is no way to introduce randomness to an uninterrupted string of pile shuffles, you should never use this method exclusively.


The second problem is that the relative card motility happens in preordained increments. That is to say that cards will always be exactly six slots apart.


A thoroughly clever London-based Vs. player and statistician named Ian Vincent worked out a solution to the second problem. This involves a pile shuffle based on co-primes, wherein the deck is dealt out into seven piles from left to right, and then the two piles on the right are dealt out again from right to left. This process is repeated in alternating directions until the deck is out; then the deck is reassembled, starting with one of the center three stacks and following with the stack three to the right of the previous one.


The advantage of this method is that if it’s performed between a series of riffle shuffles, it gives a wide range of relative card motility values; a card can move zero, two, three, four, five, or seven spots from its original location within the deck with relative ease.


A rarely used shuffling technique is called a wash shuffle. It’s an easy one to learn, and although it can damage card sleeves and requires a large and unoccupied table, it does produce a pleasantly chaotic card distribution.


During a wash, you spill your deck face down over a table and just slide the cards around, pushing them this way and that before trying to reassemble the deck. There’s rarely the time or space to do this in your average tournament, but it’s a good one to try out once in a while.**


If you have failed to shuffle properly, your draws will suffer. Let me illustrate with an example in which someone is playing a simple deck with 30 “A” cards and 30 “B” cards. After sorting the deck, the plot twists are at the bottom of the pile and the characters are on the top. The player riffle shuffles two times and pile shuffles once with a standard six-pile sort.


The first riffle shuffle will likely order the deck into a pattern of A, B, A, B, A, B. The second riffle will then fold those into A, A, B, B, A, A, B, B. These patterns will occur through most of the deck no matter where you cut the deck before riffle shuffling. In the third iteration, you will either cut through the pattern in the sequence between “A” and “B” or between a pair of the same kind of card (As or Bs).


If you end up in the first situation, you’ll have an A, B, A, B, A, B pattern again throughout large portions of the deck. In the second instance, you’ll end up with a pattern of A, A, A, A, B, B, B, B throughout large portions of the deck, which is somewhat more problematic than the first scenario.


In the second eventuality, when you then pile shuffle, you’ll end up with several sequences in the deck that are approximately ordered A, A, A, A, B, A, B, B, B, B, A, B.


Thus, if you see the first four cards of your deck after this shuffling sequence, you can reasonably predict the next set of the sequence of cards—and predictability is anathema to a good shuffle. Unless you have pre-planned this shuffle (at which point it’s cheating) and started out with a very specific order of cards (which is incredibly difficult and utterly immoral), the fact that you know the sequence of plot twists to characters will not be advantageous because several copies of the same card will remain together within the sequence.


With four riffle shuffles and one six-pile shuffle, things actually get worse. There is a statistically significant chance (approximately one in forty††) that the first eight cards of the deck will be all “A” or all “B.”


If we extend this analogy to a Vs. deck, that’s a 1 in 40 chance of a near-automatic loss. In a perfectly random deck, in which every card has an equal chance of being in any particular position, the chances of this happening are fewer than 1 in 300.


That means that over the course of the first day of a Pro Circuit, if everyone shuffles perfectly, there will be about five people who have a complete deck failure once.


In most casinos that don’t use mechanical shuffling, you’ll find that the wash, along with other shuffling techniques, is used. Often the dealer will wash, riffle twice, perform a series of cuts, riffle again, and make a final cut.


The most orderly your deck will ever be is immediately after you have written out your decklist. Immediately after you have done your decklist, you should perform a minimum of seven riffle shuffles interspersed with a co-primes pile shuffle or two.


The best way to foil deck stacking is to give your opponent’s deck a shuffle at every opportunity. Without fail, do one riffle shuffle every time he or she has randomized the deck; cutting your opponent’s deck is not sufficient, as there are techniques to shuffle important cards to the middle of a deck to fool the cut. Often, the same miserable wretches who use false shuffles will use sleazy gamesmanship tactics to avoid their opponent’s cut or shuffle. This can include but is not limited to:


Drawing a hand before giving you a chance to shuffle the deck, then disingenuously making a false claim that you had passed on the opportunity to do so.


Holding the deck in hand as he or she offers you the opportunity to cut, thus making it likelier that you just take the top half as your cut (and avoid a shuffle).


Tapping your deck in a friendly gesture that indicates that he or she “doesn’t need to cut your deck,” and then assuming that you will do the same.


Some decks, such as New School, EMS, GLEE, Fantastic Fun, and Both Guns Blazing, have enough search effects that opponents will get tired of always shuffling the deck and stop bothering.


There are several things to stay on guard for when watching your opponent shuffle. First off, watch your opponent’s hands; if your opponent repeatedly shuffles so that the original top pile is always fanned in last, the top card is staying on top. Secondly, if your opponent uses nothing but simple pile shuffles, stay on guard and make an extra effort to shuffle well.


Oh, and be on the lookout for people wearing Sunderland Football Club jerseys.


Olav Rokne

olavrokne(at)gmail.com


For further reading, I would suggest:


Diaconis, Persi. “Analysis of Top to Random Shuffles.” Combinatorics, Probability

 Computing 1: 135-55.


Diaconis, Persi. “Riffle Shuffles, Cycles and Descents.” Combinatorica 15: 11-29.


Erdnase, S. W., An Expert at the Card Table


* Card motility is a term used to define the ability of a card to travel from one point in a deck to any other point in a deck within a shuffle. This should be looked at in two ways: first, in terms of a card’s ability to travel in relation to its nearest neighbors, and secondly, in terms of absolute position within the sixty cards.


Many of whom, in my humble opinion, cheer for Sunderland Football Club, which is an inferior and unpleasant soccer club that no real Geordie would cheer for. I’m not sure if any Sunderland supporters actually play Vs. System, but if they do, this Newcastle United fan is dropping the gauntlet.


Such as those who would support the Sunderland FC.

 

§ Thankfully, the only player I know of who is dexterous and clever enough to pull off this feat is not a Sunderland supporter. He is, in fact, a fellow of unmitigated honesty.


I don’t fully understand the mathematics of this, but he explained that it is based on a combination of statistics, co-primes, and the teachings of an ascended, illuminated Shaolin master he studied with in Nepal.


The seven piles represent the seven chakras (or plexuses) of the human body in Cabbalist teaching, the fact that there are three piles that only get dealt to once in each round represents the holy trinity, and the overall nine steps represent the fact that there were nine Police Academy movies.


** Tim Willoughby’s personal favorite shuffle is to throw his semi-shuffled deck at a wall and then pick it up. This neatly randomizes his deck and lets it know who’s boss.


††
Several statisticians calculated this differently depending on assumptions made off the bat. This seemed like a reasonable estimate.