(Metagame Archive) The Dark Phoenix Saga, Part 3

By Ben Kalman

Search and Rescue

 

When last we left our humble X-Men, Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler had barely escaped the most dangerous of perils (with Dazzler’s aid) presented by the Hellfire Club and its armored soldiers! They had just rescued Kitty Pryde from her Hellfire Club Mercenary pursuers, and through Jean Grey’s psychic powers, she was able to learn more about the Hellfire Club and its plans. She was also able to glean the location of Frost Industries, where the other X-Men (Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, and Professor X) were being held captive by Emma Frost, White Queen of the Hellfire Club!

Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Dazzler pretended to be tied up and unconscious in the back of the car of the Hellfire Club Mercenary soldiers who had pursued Kitty. Through Jean Grey’s telekinetic and psychic manipulation, she had one of those selfsame Hellfire Club Kitty-hunters drive them to the gates of Frost Enterprises and “speak” to the guards to let them pass. Once they got to the front of the main building, which was guarded by more mercenaries, Cyclops raised his visor and fired off a massive optic blast to take the roof off the car. Dazzler followed that up with a dazzling light show that stunned the guards, and the foursome entered the building in full attack mode!

Meanwhile, Kitty had snuck back into the building using her phasing powers, and she phased her hand into the lock of Wolverine’s “cage,” freeing Wolverine, who in turn freed Colossus. They joined up with Cyclops and Dazzler, but Jean Grey was missing; she had gone ahead to free Storm and Xavier. In her attempt to do so, she confronted Emma Frost, and it was a clash to be remembered. Emma’s psychic mettle toe-to-toe with the Phoenix Force—a Psychic Struggle for the ages! Emma held out for a while, but the Phoenix was too powerful. A last-gasp psi-bolt caught Jean off-guard, however, causing her powers to momentarily go off-kilter and level the warehouse. Jean would emerge with a slightly bruised Ororo, and Professor Xavier was unscathed. Emma was missing—and assumed to have been consumed by the blast—but she’d be back, as it would take more than that to eliminate the White Queen!

Returning to the Pryde house, Dazzler was offered membership in the X-Men, but she turned it down. She’d be back! When it came to Pryde’s parents, Jean Grey reached into the angry father’s and anxious mother’s minds and altered their memories to appease them. This concerned Scott, who was further unsettled by Ororo’s description of her battle against Emma as inhuman and ferocious. Between Jason Wyngarde’s meddling and Emma’s psi-bolt, it appeared as though Jean was getting worse and worse, succumbing to the Phoenix Force in a very negative manner.

In order to alleviate the pressures of their recent travails, Xavier took the X-Men to New Mexico, where they stay with Warren Worthington III and Candy Southern’s ranch in the desert, also known as Angel’s Aerie. There they would relax and plan their next move—one against the Hellfire Club. With Warren and Candy’s membership in the Club (though obviously not in the Inner Circle), they had one possible form of access. Wolverine and Nightcrawler went through the storm sewers, while Peter, Ororo, Jean, and Scott—all in civvies—would go through the front door, invited guests thanks to Warren’s membership. Xavier would stay behind with Warren in New Mexico as a contact man. 

  The X-Men’s entrance was noticed by one Donald Pierce, who, along with Sebastian Shaw, Harry Leland, and Jason Wyngarde, were in the Inner Circle  plotting some form of intrigue. Shaw sent Jason out to the ballroom, where he swept Jean off of her feet and upstairs, her mind swirling back two hundred years once again. This time, however, as Cyclops tried to follow them, Jason revealed his true face—that of Mastermind! As Scott fumbled his way upstairs with the thought of snapping Jean out of Jason’s Mind Control—as he suddenly realized that Mastermind was behind every facet of Jean’s slow mental breakdown—he was blasted from behind by a new figure: the Black Queen. However, this was no new figure, but Jean Grey in a Black Queen guise that seemed created just for her. She was no longer Jean, but Jason’s puppet, Dark Phoenix, Alien Life Force!   Colossus and Storm heard Jean’s blast and Scott’s anguished scream, and they rushed upstairs, shedding their civilian costumes for their X-Men ones . . . only to run into Sebastian Shaw! Meanwhile, Nightcrawler and Wolverine were in the basement of The Hellfire Club when they ran into the cyborg Donald Pierce—who attacked Nightcrawler—and Harry Leland, who used his ability to Alter Density on Wolverine, sending him literally through the floor and back into the storm sewers, where he was swept away. Pierce’s strength easily overpowered Nightcrawler, and Shaw absorbed the kinetic energy from Colossus and Storm’s attack, turning it against them. Then, they went back to the Inner Circle, with a toast to their victory and to the newest member to Join the Club!. The Black Queen now reigned, and the X-Men were defeated!

Relationships, relationships, relationships . . .

Many of the relationships that have since grown between the various X-Men had their seeds firmly planted during the Dark Phoenix Saga. And I don’t simply mean coupling off, but also the deep friendships that many of these mutants felt, as exemplified last week in the hint of deep friendship to come through the sharing of a malted shake between Storm and Kitty. And heck, even the base emotional characteristics that would grow to define some of these mutants were starting to become more and more apparent.

For example, Wolverine is known to many as “the best at what he does.” He’s durable, hard, resilient, vicious, and often rather unfriendly. However, when it came to his abundance of “little sisters,” he was a big softie. Throughout the years, he’s cast a big-brotherly shadow over many of the younger X-girls who’ve graced the team, most notably Jubilee (who, in turn, worshipped him). And then there was Jean Grey, in whose case the relationship blossomed into a sort of forbidden love, with Scott always standing in the way.

Another of his little sisters was Kitty Pryde. At this point in X-Men history, Wolverine was still a fairly one-dimensional character. He hadn’t really developed past the gruff, stubborn, tough-as-nails exterior. However, when Kitty came along, that began to change, as he seemed to adopt himself as her unofficial protector. The first moment was in #131, while she was rescuing Wolverine from Frost Industries. As she was helping a dazed Logan from his “cage,” she was shot in the back by a Hellfire Club Mercenary with a laser bolt. That set Wolverine off, and he “took care of” the guards. Later, he seemed quite concerned for her as she was trying to shrug off the effects of the blast. This was the first moment where she entered his “little sisterhood,” becoming the first of many. He adopted her, took her under his wing, and looked out for her, and you can really track that throughout the issues to come, as her friendship was split three ways and sustained all the way through the current Astonishing X-Men runs. She was best friends with Storm, little sister to Wolverine . . . and lover to Colossus.

At this point, Colossus was an older teenager, and Kitty was just entering her teens. But Peter was shy, a foreigner (from Russia), and he was going through that awkward period when he felt he couldn’t do anything right and couldn’t impress anybody. There is a moment in that same issue, however, when Peter was called a “freak,” lost his temper, shifted to steel, and smashed the Hellfire culprit. He was ashamed at having lost control even for a second, but he impressed the star-crossed pre-teen. Although her attention seemed to unsettle him a little bit, he also seemed to feed off of it.

Peter would struggle through an on-again-off-again relationship with Kitty over the years, as he evolved into one of the deepest and most complicated characters in all of the X-Universe. Here is a man who would join Magneto’s Acolytes when his sister was consumed by the Legacy Virus, only to sacrifice his own life to stop the Virus. (Although, as we would later discover, it wasn’t really Colossus who died, but a clone . . . don’t get me started.) One anchor that sustained him throughout all of his emotional turmoil, however, was Kitty’s love. The one time he thought he had truly lost her love, he went a little nuts for a while as he tried to cope. Their connection, built slowly and brilliantly over Claremont’s long X-Men run, is what makes Joss Whedon’s “resurrection” of Colossus okay in Astonishing X-Men, and their reunification is one of the most moving moments in X-history.

 
Men of Hellfire!

During this Saga, there were four major male players in the Hellfire Club: Shaw, Pierce, Leland, and Wyngarde. Each of them has a single representation in the new set, and Wyngarde has the previous Mastermind, Jason Wyngarde card from Marvel Origins. See Part 1 for a closer look at Shaw and Wyngarde. Today, I’ll add a little spice to Shaw and take a look at Pierce and Leland.

Sebastian Shaw, a major player in the jet-set, was a millionaire and owner of . A bastion of Power and Wealth (and yes, that’s a Return of the Jedi-esque display of it on the card of the same name), he was also the Black King of the Club—and a mutant with aspirations of world domination, but not in the Magneto “smash you and take over” sense. Instead, he used subterfuge and subtlety, as is the Hellfire way. This is, as I mentioned in Part 1, the reason the Hellfire Club dotes on the hidden area—it’s all about working from behind the scenes in order to come out ahead without showing your cards.

Even Sebastian Shaw’s card is a display of this Power and Wealth, a portrait worthy of a noble—and a well-to-do noble at that. The card Power and Wealth is but a small example of what is at Shaw’s fingertips. If he needs a location, he buys it. If he needs something done (as only a plot twist will do it), then it gets done. Notice, though, how you have to exhaust two Hellfire Club characters. That’s what Hellfire Club Initiates are for: to be used as pawns. If they’re not available, then anyone else will do—but it’s rare that Shaw would need to sully his own hands in order to achieve his goals.

Shaw Industries furthers the Hellfire theme—and Shaw’s own—by rewarding you for hiding characters. You get a nice little bonus for sending only one character out into the light and an extra bonus for having multiple hidden characters to support him or her. As the card’s flavor says, the support system behind the character is even more powerful than what his mutant factor provides. Both Shaw and Frost have proven time and again that one can have all of the mutant power in the world, but without a support system, they are merely putting their toes in the water to test the temperature.

Donald Pierce was the White Bishop of the Club, and he was therefore the second-highest ranking male in the Inner Circle. He had royal aspirations, and over the years he would vie with Shaw for (and even succeed at getting) the position of White King. Ironically, it was Shaw who saved his life and granted him his cyborg parts, building him into a powerful being; Pierce is no mutant. And it was Shaw who would eventually expel him from the Club for his treasonous sensibilities.

Pierce is basically a beefcake in the game, an average 6-drop with a big, beefy bonus when he is alone on the visible battlefield. This directly reflects his cyborg strength, which is augmented when he is at his peak. His cockiness is apparent on Army of One’s flavor text, but its ability—which is the same as his—gives some backup to his arrogance.

Harry Leland, the Black Bishop, was a typical aristocratic snob, from his topcoat and cane to his healthy gut and glorious sideburns. His ability was to be able to Alter Density, making any object become heavier. This worked either to a dramatic degree—as he did to Wolverine—or ever so gently—as he did to save Shaw’s life when he was attacked by Nimrod, who had flung Shaw into the stratosphere. That gentle, parachute landing would help provoke a heart attack (Leland was hardly in shape) that would prove fatal.

Leland is the perfect example of the blended Mutant traits in the game. His ability is a mental ability (hence his power), but it affects objects physically (hence his trait). His ability increases the density of a defender you control, pumping up the target’s DEF and giving him or her reinforcement while reducing the character’s ATK.

The card Alter Density also reflects Leland’s ability by increasing the DEF of an attacker or defender you control. He alters his opponent’s density, making it harder for that opponent to hit him, therefore raising his DEF. It’s hard to lay the claws on him when you weigh seven hundred pounds and rising . . .

NEXT WEEK: Wolverine’s revenge!!

Questions? Queries? Comments? Send ’em along and I’ll try to get them answered in the column! Email me at Kergillian (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Also known by his screen name Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the VS community since day one. He started the first major online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, and it now boasts well over 1,850 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://web.archive.org/web/20070425144022/http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG

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(Metagame Archive) Fan Card Crossover!

By The Ben Seck

Before I worked in game design and development, I used to have a lot of fun making my own “fantasy” cards for Vs. System that depicted my favorite heroes and villains. Now we’re giving you, the fans, a chance to have your ideas contribute to an actual Vs. card!

Every week, we’re going to present you with some choices on what kind of card you want to design. You’ll make decisions about affiliations, character selections, mechanics, ATK and DEF values, and even art! Your votes and input will matter, and you’ll see the evolution from a concept to a real card that will see print in the upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes set. Along the way, I’ll give you my ideas and opinions as a designer to aid you in making your decisions, but how the card ultimately ends up is in your hands.

Each Monday, Metagame.com will give you the choice of the week, and then you’ll be able to vote on the UDE message boards until midday that Friday.

As a little teaser (and something to get your creative juices flowing), you should start thinking about your favorite legacy DC teams. See you on Monday!

(Metagame Archive) Drafting JLA – Plot Twists, Part 3

By Nate Price

Here it is, the final installment of the plot twists section of my overview of JLA. It’s been a long, three-week ordeal, but the end is finally in sight. Rather than waste your time, I’ll jump right into the meat of the material.

Running Interference – Take that, characters with flight! This card has some very good things going for it. Any card that allows you to prevent a character of yours from being stunned is good enough to warrant strong consideration. Obviously, this card is only useful in a primarily JLI deck. It also only stops an attack against a protected support row character. However, this is a DC set. As I’ve mentioned before, DC sets tend to have more characters with flight than average, so chances are very good that you will get an opportunity to use it. Overall, if it fits into your deck, this card should be a very early consideration.

Safety in Numbers – Another quality JLI plot twist. This one is geared more toward an off-curve resource restriction strategy than a straight-up curve deck. Following the same logic as with the above card, plot twists that prevent a character from stunning are good. Although someone will probably still stun, at least you get to decide which character gets to survive the turn. On top of that, the character is readied, which leaves it able to go in and attack again. Look for this one near the middle to late portions of the pack.

Secret Files – Lex Luthor and his sneaky secrets . . . This card creates quite the little conundrum. I am generally all for any card that allows you to get a character card from your deck. However, this card provides your opponent with the exact same benefit. So, how do you decide whether or not it’s worth it? The simple answer lies in your characters. If you have a character in your deck that is more than likely going to change the landscape of the game in your favor, then this card is definitely worth it. I’m talking the big guns like Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onzz; Gorilla Grodd; and Scarecrow, Fearmonger. These cards are so strong that their presence on your side often means that your opponent’s cards don’t really matter. Since the worst the opponent can do is get his or her own broken character, the worst you can achieve is parity. If you can do no worse than break even, this card should be worth it. Again, make sure you have something worth getting before you pick this card up.

Secret Origins – This is one of the marquee cards in the set, at least for Constructed. Luckily, it’s pretty darn good in Sealed Pack, as well. The only deck types it’s really not very good against are the JLI off-curve deck and the Injustice Gang Army deck. Those decks are uncommon in the grand scheme of things, though, so it’s almost never a dead card. And, trying not to sound like a broken record, cards that get characters from your deck are very good. If you open it in Sealed Pack, be happy. In Draft, it will probably stay in the pack for a few picks, so you shouldn’t worry about getting it until the middle of the pack.

Shake it Off – As a DEF pump, this card is lacking. However, as an ally enabler, it really stands out. It isn’t as multipurpose as Magnificent Seven, but it will frequently come in handy. This is an early pick for any deck that wants to abuse its ally theme. Other than that, this is a late pick card that may make the deck if you’re running low on playables.

Sorcerer’s Treasure – It’s a rare, so you won’t see it frequently. If you’re Secret Society and one manages to show up, though, be incredibly pleased. With my basic Draft strategy, the first picks of every pack will be plot twists, and they’ll be very good. Since I tend to have high quality plot twists in my decks, any card that allows me more uses of them will get played.

Staged Attack – I don’t really like this card. First off, it’s a very small pump. The best thing it does for you is force your opponent to use a card better than it to get over your DEF. Even if your character meets the requirements for the second part of the ability, the most endurance loss it can save you is 4. I personally think there are better cards to put into your deck.

Straight to the Grave – This is another power Secret Society rare. It may seem useless, but the enormous amount of recursion that a Secret Society deck is capable of makes this card effectively get your best two cards for use at any point. On top of that, it thins your deck out a bit. Any card in a Secret Society deck that puts cards from your deck into your KO’d pile is effectively a card drawer—it just works a little more slowly. If there is a good combat plot twist to take over this card, I’m fine with that. Otherwise, take this and look for the good recursion cards that come your way.

Teleport Tube – This is a fun little card. If your opponent manages to blow you out with some plot twists on your attack, you get to reset the attack. The ability to attack with impunity is pretty strong, so this card ends up being really good. It is a team-stamped rare, though, so your opportunities for use will be a little limited. Hopefully, you’ll get an opportunity sometime to play this card. I guarantee that you’ll end up agreeing with me.

The Plunder Plan – I love the saying “cheese it” more than anyone should. It’s useful, gets the point across, and even draws some bewildered looks from my hapless victims. “Did I just get mugged in the ’40s? Call the constables!” As for this card’s usefulness, I just want to remind you of a little card named Acrobatic Dodge. This card was a first pick back in the Stone Age of Marvel Origins Draft. Though the set has changed, the card’s power level hasn’t. As a Secret Society deck, you should have no problem putting the cards into your KO’d pile. It does hamper your plan of putting as many cards as possible into your KO’d pile, but you should be able to work around that. Besides, if you can’t, you can always cheese it!

Token Resistance – I’m not too sure about this card. It seems like it can be very powerful if you can get enough characters into play. However, in the average game, you won’t get too many more than four into play. This means that the best you can accomplish in a turn is -2 ATK. The question then becomes, is that enough? As a single-shot plot twist, this card would get played and picked early. One thing that ongoing plot twists lose, though, is the surprise factor. You get to surprise your opponents once, and then they know about it for the rest of the game. However, simply forcing them to change up their attack strategy may be enough of an advantage for you to take the game. I suggest that you play this card and form your own opinion. As of right now, it would make my deck in just about every circumstance.

Trial by Fire – This is a very good plot twist. You will play it in every deck, and it will be unbelievably good in a JLI deck. Take it very early and be happy. This card is a good reason to begin at least thinking about going JLI, but you don’t need to commit. You’ll play this even if JLI doesn’t come through for you.

UN General Assembly – This is another rare character searcher. This card’s utility comes down to whether or not you have any dual-affiliated characters worth getting. If you do, pick this card exactly as you would Secret Origins. Don’t forget that Team-Ups also give all characters in your deck both team affiliations.

Vicarious Living – I like this card. It’s another character searcher (something that appears to be widespread in this set). Most character searchers are good because they allow you to fill a hole in your curve. They make your deck more consistent by preventing stumbles. However, since you already have to have a character of the appropriate cost in your hand, this card serves a different purpose. It enhances the quality of your draw by getting you the best character at a drop, assuming that you don’t already have it. Every deck has that one character (or two, hopefully) that is just better than every other character in the deck. This lets them make their appearance.

Wall of Will – Sadly, there isn’t enough willpower in this set for this card to make the kind of impact it could have in GLC. It’s generally not worth picking, save on those few occasions when you manage to get all of the willpower characters in the draft. Then it becomes a +2 DEF card on average, which is good enough to warrant play.

War Without End – Until now. Seeing as how this is a legacy card, I’m ending it. War over.

Wheel of Misfortune – The only deck that’s really going to want to spin this wheel is the unaffiliated deck that may or may not be lurking out there. It’s a rare deck, but if the pieces fall together right, you’d want this to make the cut. It just isn’t strong enough as a mere power-up stopper.

With Prejudice – In the average Sealed Pack deck, characters outnumber plot twists by a ratio of about 2 to 1. This means that on average, this card will give your character +2.3 ATK. That makes it worth playing on its own merit. Add to that the fact that it stocks your KO’d pile, and this card becomes stellar in the Secret Society deck. Pick it early and in numbers if you can.

World War III – In an IG Army deck, this card might see play. You have to have a large number of characters in play in order to make this card even remotely playable. The one major downfall of low-cost Army characters is their frailty. They don’t tend to stick around long enough to be useful. If you do have enough characters in play, though, you could make a monster swing in and then use the remainders to take out an opponent’s remaining characters for good. That’s a mighty big “if,” though. I can’t in good faith tell anyone to play this card in this format, so for now, it’s being relegated to the unplayed stack.

World’s Greatest Heroes – “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air. I never thought I could feel so free-ee-eeeee!” Nothing like a little impromptu jam session to end the column. I love that song. If you don’t get the reference, ask me the next time you see me and I’ll fill ya in. Any way, for this card, things are rather simple. If you’re JLI and JLA, this card is very good and should be picked as early as you would any plot twist (which is around fifth or so). If not, don’t play it. I love it when life is simple.

Well, that’s it for this week. I hope you all enjoyed my singing. I’m no TBS (who I’ve heard does a phenomenal Frank Sinatra), but I still bring the fever and the passion. I’ve finished all the plot twists and tried to explain their roles in the various archetypes in the format. Hopefully, you guys have gotten some help out of this part of the series and are ready for the upcoming PC. Next week, I’ll be back with the final piece—the equipment and the locations. Be there or be square!

As always, questions and comments can be sent to the_priceis_right@yahoo.com. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.

(Metagame Archive) Strength in Numbers, Shuffling, Part 2: The Problem with Rising Sequences

Olav Rokne

Several people have asked me why five riffle shuffles aren’t enough to randomize a deck. To explain why this is so, we’ll need to look at rising sequences. A rising sequence is an increasing sequential ordering of cards that appears in a deck (with other cards possibly interspersed) as you run through the cards from top to bottom.

Confusing, eh? Here’s an example that might help clear things up. Imagine that you’ve numbered the cards in your 60-card Vs. deck by assigning the value of 1 to the first card and descending sequentially to 60 for the bottom card. Before you shuffle, there is one rising sequence that goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on up to 60.

After one riffle shuffle, you will find a sequence that resembles something like 31, 1, 32, 2, 33, 3, 34, 4, 35, 5, and so on. In this order, there are now two separate rising sequences: one of the first 30 cards, and the other of the second 30 cards. If you follow this with a second riffle shuffle, you will have at most four rising sequences, since each of the rising sequences created by the first shuffle has a chance of being split in the second shuffle.

The number of maximum possible rising sequences increases exponentially as you riffle shuffle and potentially split each existing rising sequence. After three riffle shuffles, you will have a maximum of eight rising sequences, and after four, you will have a maximum of sixteen.

So, what does this mean for your average Vs. deck? Until the sixth riffle shuffle is done, not only are some sequences of cards more likely than others, but some shuffling outcomes are entirely impossible.

The best example of an impossible shuffling outcome would be to find the deck in the reverse order from how it started out (with card number 60 on top and the remaining cards running sequentially down to card 1 at the bottom). This order of cards requires 60 rising sequences, and since the maximum number of possible rising sequences after five shuffles is 32, that outcome is not possible until the sixth shuffle. Even after the sixth shuffle, inverting the order of the cards is still of a particularly low probability, which is why a seventh shuffle is important.

After five riffle shuffles, you will be left with a maximum of 32 rising sequences. Since each of the five shuffles after the first one is only 50% likely to split an existing rising sequence, you end up with a 6% chance of having 32 rising sequences and a 6% chance of having only 2 rising sequences. There’s a 19% chance of 4 or 16 rising sequences. What is most likely to occur is 8 rising sequences.

The average length of a rising sequence is 7.5 cards, and the distance between cards within a sequence will average 8 places.

Now, what does this mean in practical game terms? When you start a large tournament or after your deck gets checked, your cards will be in order with all copies of a particular card together.

Since it’s an easy deck to understand, we’ll use an Avengers deck for this example. The numbers in parentheses represent the order of the cards in the rising sequence.

Characters

4 Black Panther (1-4)

4 Rick Jones (5-8)

4 Natasha Romanoff ◊ Black Widow, Super Spy (9-12)

4 Quicksilver, Mutant Avenger (13-16)

3 Beast, Furry Blue Scientist (17-19)

4 Dane Whitman ◊ Black Knight (20-23)

2 Hercules (24-25)

4 Wonder Man (26-29)

4 Carol Danvers ◊ Warbird (30-33)

4 Hawkeye, Clinton Barton (34-37)

4 She-Hulk, Gamma Bombshell (38-41)

Plot Twists

3 Flying Kick (42-44)

3 Savage Beatdown (45-47)

2 System Failure (48-49)

3 Heroes in Reserve (50-52)

3 Mega-Blast (53-55)

3 Call Down the Lightning (56-58)

Locations

2 Avengers Mansion (59-60)

You have riffle shuffled your deck five times, and an opponent has cut it. You draw your opening hand, mulligan, and then draw your first two cards. You have now seen the top ten cards of your deck. This is enough to see either an entire rising sequence if that occurs, or to see pairs of cards within most sequences of your deck.

Let’s say you draw the following sequence in your first ten cards, with their possible starting positions in parentheses:

Beast (17-19)

Quicksilver (13-16)

Rick Jones (5-8)

She-Hulk (38-41)

Carol Danvers (30-33)

Hercules (24-25)

Hawkeye (34-37)

Dane Whitman (20-23)

Quicksilver (13-16)

Savage Beatdown (45-47)

From these ten cards, there are a number of things you can guess about what cards are likely to come up in your subsequent draws. First off, you have (as will be the case in half of all such shuffles) eight rising sequences. In this hand, the number of cards in each sequence is likely to be seven or eight.

You can expect not to draw any copies of Hercules or Wonder Man, because in the original order of the cards, they appear more than four cards after the copies of Quicksilver and Beast. The sequences they are likely to appear in (the sequence of Beast to Dane Whitman and the sequence of Quicksilver to Quicksilver) have just started rising sequences that are four cards away from your 6- and 7-drops. Since there are 7 cards between cards within a sequence, there will be another 24 cards in the deck until you start drawing these key cards.

Keep an eye out for pairs of the same card within your first ten cards, and see if you can figure out the interval at which cards within a rising sequence seem to appear. If you are able to do this, then try to make predictions as to what cards come next within the sequence, and see if those predictions bear out.

What is particularly interesting to note is that the predictability of decks has a sharp drop-off at seven shuffles. In other words, a deck does not become random gradually, but rather in one fell swoop. The ability to figure out the pattern in a deck suddenly vanishes at seven shuffles; at seven shuffles, every card has an equal chance of being in any particular place in the deck, and even if you can look at the top 58 cards and undergo massive computations, it is impossible to predict the order of the last 2. It’s a drop-off of predictability that is frankly fascinating.

There are several really pleasant advantages to having such a perfectly shuffled deck. First off, nothing your opponent can do (short of looking at the cards face up) can change the randomness. Pile shuffles will not undo the riffle shuffles and riffle shuffles will not undo the pile shuffles.

Decks are often built with probability-based predictions in mind, which is to say that since most people want to draw a 7-drop by the seventh turn, a decklist will include enough copies and tutors to make drawing one or two a likely eventuality, but not so many that hands are flooded with such cards. Due to the mathematical miracle of rising sequences, an insufficiently shuffled deck is likely to lead to a dearth or a glut of them, as evidenced in the example.

As a side note, while researching shuffling, I found an interesting bit of trivia—a coin toss is not entirely random, either. Apparently, a magician-turned-mathematician named Persi Diaconis and some bright boys at MIT have proven that because the leverage a thumb exerts on a coin depends on how far along the nail it is, a coin is more likely to land on the side it started out on. This happens to the degree that, both in lab experiments and in mathematical modeling, 51% of coins land with the same side up that had been up when it was sitting on the coin-flipper’s thumb.

This isn’t a large enough bias for the casual observer to notice unless he or she flips a coin 10,000 times, but all I know is that I’ll be using a set of dice to determine priority at my next PCQ.

— Olav “Even Shuffles His Feet” Rokne

Questions about shuffling? Email me at olavrokne(at)gmail.com.

(Metagame Archive) Voices From the Past: The Dark Phoenix Saga, Part 2

By Ben Kalman

ENTER THE DAZZLER!

When last we left our fearless heroes, we had just met Kitty Pryde for the first time, as Emma Frost and Professor Charles Xavier fought over her recruitment for their various “gifted” academies. While Xavier attempted to convince the Prydes to release their daughter to his school, Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine were captured by Hellfire Club Mercenary soldiers and brought back to a Frost Industries warehouse. There, they were sedated and locked up alongside Professor X, who had been captured as well in the interim. Unbeknownst to Emma Frost, however, she had a stowaway on her Hellfire Club jet—young Kitty Pryde had used her abilities to infiltrate the jet and tag along to the warehouse where the aforementioned X-Men were prisoners.

 

But enough about that. Let’s focus instead on another important storyline in the Dark Phoenix Saga—the introduction of one of my absolute favorite X-characters, the Dazzler! Kitty Pryde wasn’t the only mutant that Cerebro detected; it also discovered a mutant signature in lower Manhattan—Delano Street, to be specific. When Xavier flew to Chicago to investigate Kitty Pryde, he sent Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Jean Grey to Manhattan to track down the other mutant. Leaving Nightcrawler outside to keep watch, Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Jean Grey—in civvies—entered a dingy nightclub in search of their mutant among the vile creatures of the dark side of the city.

But the Hellfire Club was, as always, one step ahead. They had a two-tiered strategy: the first tier, an attack force waiting for the right moment to strike the X-trio; and the second tier, the re-emergence of Jason Wyngarde, entering the nightclub and using his Mastermind power to destabilize Jean Grey. And destabilize her, he did. After “bumping into” her on the dance floor, she was once again transported a couple of centuries into the past—specifically, to a wedding. The wedding was between the 18th century’s charming Sir Jason Wyngarde and his beautiful, blushing bride-to-be, the Lady Jean Grey. More significantly, as soon as the wedding—with one Vicar Sebastian Shaw presiding—was over, Wyngarde ripped Grey’s cloak from her body, revealing underneath . . . the costume of the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club! Grey and Wyngarde embraced in a passionate kiss, and when the 18th century disintegrated back into the 20th century, Jean Grey found herself lip-locked, right in front of Scott! But there was no time for explanation or debate, as the Dazzler took the stage, and Scott discovered that it was her who was their second mutant signature.

Meanwhile, Kitty had managed to infiltrate the facility where the X-Men were being held. She roused Storm from her stupor, and Storm gave Kitty the phone number of the X-Men. Discovered but undaunted, Kitty fled until she found a phone. She dialed the number Storm had given her, reaching Nightcrawler. However, before he could act on that information, he—and the nightclub—were attacked by three of the armored Hellfire Club soldiers.

The soldiers were specifically geared to defeat these three particular mutant heroes. However, they didn’t count on an anomaly; the Dazzler changed the odds, helping the X-Men defeat the soldiers and then fleeing with the heroes. They were able to find and rescue Kitty Pryde, who was being chased by more Hellfire Club Mercenary soldiers. Jean Grey destroyed their car, killing them. This was a turning point for Jean Grey, as she seemed to become more and more powerful. Her personality began to fray around the edges, and her voice was becoming darker, her mood even more so. Scott in particular was noticing the shift, and readers everywhere would wonder as well at this change in Jean Grey. What had the Phoenix Force done to her, and what was happening?

MUTANT MAYHEM! – THE X-MEN IN VS. SYSTEM, PART 1

The X-Men characters featured in the X-Men set essentially cross three major “eras,” with a few other characters in there for good measure. Those three eras are the Dark Phoenix Saga, the Morlock/Mutant Massacre era (which coincided with the Freedom Force and re-introduced the Hellfire Club), and the history of the Acolyte movement. The new set also touches upon the Astonishing X-Men and X-Treme X-Men, and it has a few scattered characters from other eras, but those are not as ingrained in the set as the other three plot lines are.

 

Some readers of my column may remember my history of the original five X-Men and their origins. The X-Men in the Silver Age lasted only 66 issues, and it wasn’t until Giant-Sized X-Men #1—followed by X-Men #94—that the X-Men started to gain in popularity. This was the turning point in comics history, and it is widely regarded as the divisionary line between the Silver Age of comics and the Bronze Age. Dave Cockrum and Len Wein helped Chris Claremont set up the new X-Men in 1974, and Claremont took the writing reins himself in ’75. However, from #94 until #129 (which introduced Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde), there were a series of ups and downs for the title, as people were interested in this new team—especially a team without Professor X, who had left at that point—but many weren’t ready to commit yet. John Byrne’s entry as artist (and later co-creator) of the book helped. He came in at #108, and #109 introduced Weapon Alpha, setting the stage for Alpha Flight’s introduction in #120. This storyline is proudly remembered by all of us Canuckistanians who eagerly await 2009 in the hope that Jeff Donais has been telling the truth about an Alpha Flight set!

Claremont was at the top of his writing game, and what made him unique among Marvel writers at the time was his (pardon the pun) uncanny way of plotting out stories 20 to 30 issues in advance, so that something that happened 15 issues earlier would come back as an important plot point much later on. When X-Men #129 came out, plots and subplots that had been slowly laid down and hinted at for 40 issues came to a head in what has been arguably the single most important comic book run in Marvel history—The Dark Phoenix Saga.

The main Saga was eight issues long, from #129 to #137, and its repercussions were felt in issues of X-Men for a couple of hundred issues and throughout several X-title spin-offs. The Saga introduced Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, and the Hellfire Club, and it fully integrated Marvel Earth into a wider Universe. Before, we had Captain Mar-Vell and the Kree-Skrull War, the coming of Galactus, and Thanos and the Eternals of Titan—each of them stemming from plotlines that were extraneous to the happenings of Earth itself (save perhaps Galactus, who would have eaten Earth, but I digress). With the Dark Phoenix Saga, other alien cultures began to take notice of Earth as more than just a strategic foothold in a pan-galactic battlefield or a light after-dinner snack. Instead, Earth became the home to inhabitants who could become powerful enough for more advanced civilizations—like the Shi’ar—to take notice and be wary of.

THE VOCAL MINORITY

The previous version of Dazzler in Vs. System (Dazzler, Alison Blaire from Marvel Origins) was from when she was already established as a character and an X-Man. Dazzler, Rock Star, however, is a different matter altogether. She’s in her original disco costume from when she was a performer—complete with roller skates—thrilling audiences with a dazzling combination of pop music and brilliant light effects. Her mutant power is to transmute sound to light; the louder the sound, the more energy her body stores, and the more light she produces. In fact, if she didn’t forcibly contain and release the sound, she would be emitting bits of light all of the time, almost like radiation, which would literally cause her to glow.

The differences in stats for the Alison Blaire and Rock Star versions merely reflects the specific powers that the cards are focusing on, not her experience level. The characters in this game are not always placed into drops chronologically. That is to say, an older, more experienced version of a character will not guarantee that it will be at a higher drop. Alison Blaire’s power is to literally dazzle her opponent, blinding him or her and forcing an exhaust. Like Rock Star, the ability is contingent on being part of a team. Alison Blaire forces you to discard an X-Men character card because she is helping her teammates and they are helping her, using each other’s abilities to gain an advantage over their opponents.

Rock Star is from a different era, however. The importance of “teamwork” is only beginning to make an impression on her. When discovered by the X-Men, she immediately helped them defeat the Hellfire Club’s armored soldiers. She would stick with the X-Men and train alongside them, sharpening her skills, and more importantly, her control over those skills. Cyclops in particular would help her increase the precision and power of her light blasts, using his experience with his optic blasts and his presence as a leader to guide her through her mutant “growing pains.” Her light blasts are a form of energy projection as well, which is what grants her range, albeit with a fairly low ATK. She isn’t a full-fledged X-Man yet, so her ability—causing an opponent to lose 1 endurance when a character team attacks—isn’t contingent on those characters being X-Men. However, the importance of working as a team is beginning to grow on her, so each character involved in that team attack causes a loss of 1 endurance, which can be quite brutal in an off-curve aggro strategy such as the Faces of Evil deck. She can also make an interesting character to use in multi-player, as she doesn’t have to target the opponent she’s attacking.

Kitty Pryde is better known as Shadowcat to Vs. players. Unfortunately, none of the Shadowcat versions in the game specifically match her Dark Phoenix Saga era. Shadowcat, Kitty Pryde is from slightly later, when she found Lockheed. Shadowcat, Pride of the X-Men is from when she first became Shadowcat in the late ’80s, and Shadowcat, Katya from this set is her Astonishing X-Men version. At one point, there was to be another version of her in this set, but alas, ’twas not to be.* 

Kitty’s ability is to “phase.” That is, her body becomes ethereal, and she can shift her molecules between those of the material around her. This allows her to become like a ghost and pass through solid objects, be they people, tables, walls, and so on. Her Kitty Pryde version is a younger version of her character, when she was still figuring out her powers and was just learning how to allow her fellow X-Men to phase with her. You see, Kitty can phase whatever she is touching as well, so when grabbing the hand of a fellow X-Man, the X-Man will phase—hence, giving that character a +1 DEF bonus during an attack as she potentially phases him or her out of danger.

Pride of the X-Men takes this ability one step further. At that point, she had even more control over her phasing and could grab people and literally phase them out of danger—through a wall and out of the combat zone. So, if a character is in danger, she can pop him or her out of danger by phasing away from the battlefield. She also has evasion, as she can make herself intangible. She can’t attack you (which is why she stuns, effectively taking her out of combat), but she is unhurt (so that she auto-recovers at the beginning of the recovery phase). Kitty has been known to go on “rescue detail” during combat, such as in the Astonishing X-Men when facing down Ord. While the rest of the X-Men were facing off against him, she was sneaking in and phasing the hostages out one by one from right under the noses of the guards.

Finally, in her Katya version, her DEF is a little lower than that of Pride of the X-Men because this is stealth-Kitty. Whereas Pride of the X-Men is focused on a high DEF and is more of a defensive card altogether, this is the Kitty who is used for recon missions—sneaking into Benetech, taking out security systems, and so on. With a simple discard, she can pop in or out of the hidden area once per turn, moving in and out of the shadows, difficult to see coming and difficult to track down, ghosting to and fro. If you can get ahold of her, you can make her pay for that lower DEF . . . but that’s a big “if”!

NEXT WEEK: Showdown with the Hellfire Club!

Questions? Queries? Comments? Send ’em along and I’ll try to get them answered in the column! Email me at:

Kergillian (at) hotmail (dot) com

* We do see this young Kitty Pryde in Harry’s Hideaway, munching down some ice cream with Ororo. They hit it off from the moment they met and would become, essentially, sisters from then on. Kitty would help Storm through the tumultuous time when she lost her powers, and Storm would help Kitty through several traumatic losses in her own life, from Douglas Ramsey’s death to that of Colossus.

Also known by his screen name Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the VS community since day one. He started the first major online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, and it now boasts well over 1,850 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://web.archive.org/web/20070425140718/http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG

(Metagame Archive) R&D Notes: The X-Men Starter Deck

By Patrick Sullivan

Starter deck design and development present a unique challenge to us over here at Vs. System. With our expansion sets, anything goes. We can introduce new keywords, design cards with 30 words of text, make complicated interactions, and use timing nuances to our hearts’ content. Part of making a rewarding game for experienced TCG players is having complex cards and interactions, and we expect that players purchasing our expansion-level content can handle that. In fact, the primary reason for the strategic depth of Vs. System are these sorts of complexities, and the upside of having cards such as these far outweighs the occasional headaches that you, the player base, might suffer.

Starter decks are a much different animal. We have to work under the assumption that there will be people purchasing the starter who have never touched a TCG before, since starters are a great way for new and inexperienced players to get their feet wet with a new game. However, there is some natural tension between this and making the starter game deep enough that our new Vs. player will want to check out what the expansion sets have to offer. Imagine a game of Vs. where the characters have no flight, no range, and no text beyond stats, and where the support row has been removed from the game entirely. This would be a pretty easy game to teach someone, but I doubt it would hold anyone’s interest for more than a few minutes. However, the more you add to the game, the more likely it is that you will lose new players before they even get started. Imagine if, in your first game of Vs., you were subjected to a Teen Titans Go! / Press the Attack / Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal turn. The likely outcome is that you would never touch the game again, because you didn’t understand what was going on, so the whole experience was frustrating. When creating starter deck content, we have to walk a fine line between ease of play and making a fun and rewarding gaming experience.

Another issue arises because new players aren’t the only ones buying these starter decks. Since these decks are tournament legal, competitive players have an interest in finding new, exciting cards. Also, because the starter decks either re-feature a set of teams or coincide with the release of an expansion, casual players want to get any cool new additions to their favorite teams. While we certainly don’t want to release starters full of busted cards, at the same time, we do want to make the players who shelled out a couple of bucks feel like they got their money’s worth. Once again, there is a very fine line between these interests.

Finally, we need to make sure that the teams feel like their expansion counterparts. For pre-existing players, we want the teams to feel cohesive with their established archetypes, and for new players, we want the cards to “make sense” when they add expansion-level content to their starter decks.

In summary, when creating a starter deck, we need to:

1)     Make sure it’s simple enough that a new player can pick up the game easily.

2)     Allow for enough complicated interactions that the new player retains interest in the game.

3)     Ensure that there isn’t so much overpowered content that starter decks result in drastic metagame shifts. We don’t want to force competitive players to purchase four of every deck.

4)     Provide enough cool content that existing players who decide to buy one are satisfied with their purchase.

5)     Have the teams in the starter feel like their expansion counterparts.

With all that said, here’s a look at some of the new X-Men and Brotherhood cards that players both new and old will get a chance to play with shortly.

Toad, Leaping Lackey has a lot of things going on for a variety of Brotherhood archetypes. Lost City / Avalon Space Station decks have often played Toad, Mortimer Toynbee at the 2-drop slot since he’s a very efficient character, and the newest Toad certainly has a high enough power level to be considered. For The New Brotherhood decks, he makes a reasonable backup to Sabretooth, Feral Rage at 4, as his potential to have greater ATK and flight is valuable for that aggressive strategy. With the new emphasis on dealing breakthrough in the X-Men expansion, Toad helps out admirably, dealing lots of breakthrough himself while busting up formations for the traditionally flight-light Brotherhood. Toad does well enough in an aggressive deck that I anticipate he’ll find a home in a variety of Brotherhood decks for some time to come.

Colossus is, well, big. Really big. In fact, Colossus is the first affiliated, baseline, 10 ATK / 10 DEF character with no drawback in the history of the game. While some of the X-Men’s traditional weaknesses at turn 5 have been shored up by Wolverine, The Best at What He Does, X-Men decks are often glutted with recovery effects that make Wolverine’s ability redundant. Playing Colossus on turn 5 is almost always advantageous. He stuns practically every other 5-drop in the game naturally, while being out of reach for all but a select few 5-drops. Vs. is often a game about raw stats and endurance management, and Colossus sets a new standard for 5-drops in both of these categories.

Cerebra is a card that makes starter-level play enjoyable while filling a niche role in Constructed decks. Nothing is worse for new players than getting to turn 7 and missing your 7-drop, if for no other reason than you want to get your big fat foil into play. Cerebra helps find your 7 (not to mention your other drops) by drawing you cards and burning through your early drops. For Constructed, while the X-Men have always had locations to filter through their deck, this is the first one that nets you cards as you do it. For a deck like X-Stall that has plenty of high drops and lots of effects that require a discard, Cerebra does quite a lot for nothing in return. Expect this card to show up a bit in high curve X-Men decks.

Sabretooth, Killer Instinct is another cross-section of starter- and Constructed-level interests. For starter decks, we want to introduce some basic concepts, one of which is that attack order matters. Sabretooth is the type of card that gets across this concept in a simple enough way that it doesn’t slow down the game. New players pick up that they should attack with Sabretooth last, if at all possible. For Constructed, he has a lot of competition with Sabretooth, Feral Rage, Sabretooth, Victor Creed, and Sabretooth, Savage Killer, but for Modern and Silver Age, if you aren’t that interested in attacking the hidden area, this version can do quite a bit more damage. In terms of breakthrough and attacking up the curve, this Sabretooth gets the job done well.

As a final note, none of the characters in the starter deck are Mutant stamped. This was a conscious decision on our part, and we here at R&D debated it for quite a while. The decision was finally made for two reasons. First, we wanted to keep the cards as simple as possible, and our starter decks are already filled with words that have no meaning for starter-level purposes. For example, versions are never mentioned, and team affiliations could easily be removed from cards and replaced with rules in the starter deck regarding team attacking and reinforcement. Adding information on cards that doesn’t need to be there only increases the odds of confusing a new player. Furthermore, having some content that is “expansion only” adds some excitement for a player who goes out and buys a booster for the first time.

Second, we didn’t want our Marvel Modern players to have to go out and buy four starters to compete at the Pro Circuit or in the PCQ season, and adding Mutant traits could have created that result. While we would like our players to purchase the new starter decks, and we feel that there is a reasonable amount of tournament-level content in them, we don’t want to force you to buy them just to stay competitive. Isn’t that sweet of us?

I hope that I’ve given you a bit of insight into starter deck development, so now you know why making a bunch of generic-looking cards isn’t as simple as it looks. Hopefully, these cards look splashy enough that you’ll want to buy a starter to add to your X-Men and Brotherhood decks. If nothing else, pick up a copy, grab a friend who doesn’t play, and give these decks a spin. They’re a blast to play, and you might just introduce someone to a new hobby.

(Metagame Archive) Two Turns Ahead – Playing Control

By Tim Willoughby

I am writing today’s article on Valentine’s Day. There are all sorts of potential links that I could easily let myself roll into that would be perfectly entertaining, but I’m pretty sure that by now, Geordie Tait (Metagame.com picture wizard, incredible writer, and all-around nice chap) is pretty bored with including pictures of Lanterns in Love and Pleasant Distraction.

There is more to Valentine’s Day than love, romance, a card, and possibly some dead flowers. The lines between love and hate are sometimes easily crossed. With passion and conviction, one can achieve great things—great and terrible things.

I have heard the expression that “revenge is a dish best served cold” more times than I have had hot dinners. In actuality, I think that this sentiment can quite easily be applied to any number of other powerful motivating emotions.

The thing that makes humans a step above animals is our ability to control our instincts and primal urges. There is nothing innately wrong with being aggressive, forceful, and impulsive, but without any reasoning behind such actions, they can get you in all sorts of trouble.

In my experience, there are a number of different types of Vs. System and TCG players. A lot of the time, players get classified by the style of decks that they play, or the field in which they have experienced the most success. This is easily done, but it isn’t necessarily very useful when looking to improve your own game. I’m sure there are plenty of players (and spectators) who have long since written me off as a “writer” who has more interest in spinning a good line or two than winning games and stringing those wins together to win tournaments.

But here is the news: Writing is what I do. A gamer is who I am.

Everyone has some motivation for playing Vs. System, or indeed for doing anything else. For some, it is the potential financial rewards. For others, it is the opportunity to excel at something, and the fame that comes from winning on an international stage is reward enough. I would sincerely hope that everyone who plays Vs. System at any level has a whole bunch of fun in the process, though for some, this fun will come from the pressures of competition, and for others, it will be through making some crazy plays against some good friends.

These motivations will in turn lead players to conduct themselves in particular ways. I, for example, have as much fun with the personal interaction of the game, be it joking with people or messing around with their heads in mind games, as I do with working out the best play and making it in order to win the game. This can lead me to putting myself into situations where my potential to win the game is put into jeopardy. If it weren’t for the fact that I love the pressure of playing for higher and higher stakes as I perform better in events, I probably would not do very well at TCGs.

As it is, I try to collect wins more fiercely than many I know collect their Extended Art rarities. I’ve seen other players who conduct themselves in such a fashion that it seems clear that they are more concerned with not losing than they are about actually getting the win. They play with a fear of committing to plays that can eventually make losing a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are simply looking for good times, you can have nearly as much fun losing the game as winning, and if you don’t like the pressure of playing for the top spot, I can see why losing might not seem so bad. Finding joy in losing isn’t something I really like to do (and being an Englishman, I do like a good whine), but I’m aware that there are always some people having a ball on the bottom tables. More power to them.

There are a few common traits that I have noticed about the best players, which might be worth trying to cultivate if one is looking to succeed at the highest level. The top players tend to be intelligent and have a good grasp of the game’s finer strategic points. While it is tricky to spin intelligence from nothingness, I am of the opinion that with appropriate motivation, practice, and study, Vs. System is straightforward enough for anyone to learn to play at a very high level.

Unfortunately, there is more to being a champion than knowing how to play.

A good friend of mine once told me that being a champion is something you feel in your gut. You know inside yourself that you are a champion, and it is simply a question of proving such to everyone else. At last count, my friend had won easily $100,000 playing TCGs, and I have every confidence that he will win even more.

People are all different, and top players too will conduct themselves in various manners. Even at his most businesslike, Dave Spears has a nasty habit of being “good times” while playing. Josh Wiitanen has repeatedly proven himself to be a talker, whether winning or losing. Andre Muller typically plays at a brisk pace, while the Matthew Tatars and Eugene Harveys of the world are taking their sweet time in their pursuit of the win.

While the Kiblers and the De Rosas are definitely a lot of fun, they also have the capacity and tendency to realize when situations require more thought, and they will do whatever it takes in order to find the right play. When it comes to the crunch, these players can control their initial impulses so that they don’t let things run away from them. Passion and desire are definitely there, fuelling moments of aggressive or seemingly impulsive play, but they are kept in check and used only when necessary.

When the Germans played Squadron Supreme in Los Angeles, it felt like a control deck. When Mike Dalton played Sinister Syndicate/Marvel Knights beatdown in Amsterdam, he was beating down but still seemed in control. Be a control player. Control your own destiny. Passion is your motivator. Win the way you want to. If winning means having fun, you will play differently than someone whose “win” is to beat all comers. Find your level and make it your own.

Until next time,

Tim “Puts a Fire in Your Belly” Willoughby

timwilloughby@hotmail.com