(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.

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