(Metagame Archive) Fan Card Crossover Week 5 – Power . . . At Any Cost!

By The Ben Seck

In what proved to be our closest week of polling for the Fan Card Crossover ever, the art description handed in by Ryan Hartman has closely edged out Gregory Rowbotham’s fine entry. Ryan wins four foil versions of Nyssa when she is printed in the Legion of Super-Heroes expansion at the end of the year!

I’ll now reveal the finalists from last week’s competition and how they did in the voting. Greg’s entry was tremendously close to taking the vote. You can even see that Metagame.com’s own Rian Fike made it to the final five.

  1. Ryan Hartman – 26.6%
  2. Gregory Rowbotham – 24.4%
  3. Mike Mullins – 20.9%
  4. Rian Fike – 17.4%
  5. Jeffery Petty – 10.7%

 

Here is the winning description:

Nyssa Raatko

Character Image

Setting: A steamy, vapor-filled room with a boiling Lazarus Pit possibly in the background.
Action: A dramatic foreground pose showing Nyssa cradling her sister, Talia, staring at what would be the viewer. Talia has a tortured look on her face—she has been repeatedly killed by Nyssa and revived via the Lazarus Pit. Nyssa’s knife should be prominent in the picture.
Focus: Nyssa’s face.
Color Focus: The reddish hue of Nyssa’s personal Lazarus Pit should put a tint on everything.
Keywords: Protective. Manipulative. Seductive.

Now that we have chosen most of the cosmetic aspects of your card, it’s time to get your hands dirty in the actual game-related mechanics. This week’s design tutorial will look into choosing what resource point cost Nyssa should be, and how we look at a team’s strengths and weaknesses in that context.

Like all TCGs, Vs. is fundamentally a resource management game, where exploiting your resources (i.e., resource points, cards, and endurance) to the fullest degree lets you attain supremacy over your opponent. So when we look at a team’s weaknesses, we often turn to how many resources that team is bringing out, and at what cost. In the early history of the game, decks that contained Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius and Sabretooth, Feral Rage dominated the fourth turn, as they gave vastly superior returns. This is less likely to happen now, since Vs. currently encompasses off-curve strategies that seek to maximize their advantages in other ways. But since League of Assassins is first and foremost a curve deck (that is, a deck that seeks to put out one character using the full number of resource points available), we should look at when they are at their weakest.

I’m not going to show all the available characters, but rather, we’re going to look at the ones that have seen the most play so far:

1-drops: Josef Witschi, Malaq, Thuggee

2-drops: Talia, Daughter of the Demon’s Head, Bronze Tiger, Benjamin Turner, Hassim

3-drops: Hook, Kyle Abbot, Demon’s Hound, Ubu, Ra’s al Ghul’s Bodyguard

4-drops: Ra’s al Ghul, Eternal Nemesis, Ra’s al Ghul, Immortal Villain, Merlyn, Deadly Archer

5-drops: Lady Shiva, The Destroyer, Ubu, One of Many, Bane, Ubu

6-drops: Merlyn, Archer Assassin, Ra’s al Ghul, Master Swordsman

7-drops: Lady Shiva, Master Assassin, Ra’s al Ghul, Undying

8-drops: Ra’s al Ghul, The Demon’s Head

Looking at this lineup, it becomes clearer that League has some issues during drops 1–3 as well as at 6. The strongest area of the League curve is at four resources, where Ra’s al Ghul, Eternal Nemesis and Merlyn, Deadly Archer are very reasonable drops. It’s not that any of these drops are particularly bad—it’s simply that the depth of the team requires fleshing out.

A canny player should look behind the drops, keeping an eye out for redundancies in the strategies that the League pursues. League of Assassins has three primary strategies: counting stunned characters, manipulating locations, and direct KO’ing of the opponent’s characters. The list above demonstrates the key issue with building League decks—there is nearly always only one drop for each strategy option, which means that if the deck doesn’t hit its primary characters, it will often drop a card that serves no purpose beyond its ATK and DEF values. It’s also important to note that late League drops are usually played because of their stats, while early drops tend to have more powerful effects.

Now that we are armed with this information, we need to decide which general direction we would like to take with our card. This week, I am going to give you two elements to vote on: the resource cost and the card’s thematic direction.

What Cost?

1–8

What League theme?

  • Keeping and counting stunned characters
  • KO’ing characters directly
  • Manipulating locations
  • Plague counters
  • Removing team affiliations

 

To vote, email fancardcrossover@gmail.com with your name and UDE number (if you have one). Then, put your choices in the header of the email. It’s time to make your voice heard!

Join me next week, when we look into team themes and how to design cards from every direction.

Good gaming,

TBS

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(Metagame Archive) Keyword Categories

By Mike Hummel

When we begin design on a new set, we spend a good deal of time reviewing what will eventually become its new mechanics or keywords. The reality of this process means that many of the mechanics proposed at the beginning of the design cycle never make it into the final set.

To clarify, we are definitely NOT looking to create a new mechanic just so we can present something different with each set. Each new team that we release already gives us the ability to present players with different play patterns. Playing a Squadron zero hand deck, an X-Statix single character deck, or even a Kang deck with the non-keyword text “Kang is not unique” provides players with a unique new way to play the game.

While the mechanics that eventually make it into the sets have a strong thematic link to the teams that appear with them, R&D needs to ensure that the rules defining these new keywords help expand the established parameters of the game in both a fun and functional way. Here are a number of design expansion categories we look at when evaluating a new mechanic, along with some examples of previous keywords that fall into each category.
Expanding the Functionality of an Existing Card Type

Examples here include “boost,” “transferable,” and “dual-affiliated” characters. These keywords enable a given card type by providing it with additional functionality beyond its original rules within the game engine. With the boost mechanic, we wanted to provide a larger window of play opportunity for characters beyond their printed cost. A boosted character could potentially have relevance much later in a game than a standard character. This would allow for more diversified deck builds and would help facilitate Sealed play situations where players didn’t have access to optimized character pools.

The transferable keyword provided similar enhanced playability for equipment cards. Equipment works on the same cost axis as characters, meaning that it competes for space in decks with character cards. It also becomes unplayable if an equipment card is drawn instead of a character, since it must equip to a character in play in order to work. With the transferable keyword, we could make equipment better than characters in certain areas of the game. While players could only recover a single character each turn (usually their biggest), a piece of transferable equipment could continue to jump from character to character, potentially surviving the entire game. Finally, dual-affiliated characters added to the existing character card rule of printed team affiliations by doubling them—a simple mechanic that adds significant diversity to deck construction and multi-team decks.
Altering the Existing Rules of the Game

Examples here include “invulnerable” and “cosmic:” keywords which either overwrite or rewrite rules that already exist in the game. For example, stun endurance loss is a day one game rule that requires a controlling player to lose endurance equal to a character’s cost when that character becomes stunned. Invulnerability negates this game rule for characters with this keyword. Before the cosmic keyword, players had full access to a character’s powers so long as that character was not stunned. Cosmic allows certain characters to receive powerful game effects at lower costs (with a balancing component of making the text “turn off” whenever the character becomes stunned).
Introducing Additional Costs or Card Type Categories

Examples here include “willpower” and the Mutant traits. Willpower provides an additional way to cost certain effects. In addition to resource points and threshold costs, cards can reference a prerequisite amount of willpower needed before a given effect can be generated. This facilitates the creation of new types of decks that work to generate willpower over other standardized goals such as hitting your curve every turn. The Mutant traits provide an additional layer of card pool division beyond team affiliations. To gain access to certain powerful cards and effects, players need to explore the strengths of dual-team or even tri-team decks that contain characters from one of the three different trait categories.
Creating New Game Rules

Examples include “concealed,” “evasion,” and “reservist.” The concealed ability clearly alters the basics of game play by creating a brand new play area as well as expanded combat rules that define how hidden characters can be attacked. Evasion and reservist are in a bit of a gray area, however. I could have just as easily included them in the first category, since they increase the functionality of character cards. I decided to place them in this category because they interact with game rules that go beyond how character cards are played. Before evasion, you could not choose to stun your own characters and were limited to only one recovery during the recovery phase. In addition to expanding the functionality of character cards, evasion created new game rules for how characters could become stunned and how they could recover. Similarly, for the reservist keyword, while it creates additional flexibility for character cards, it also created new game rules for bringing a card from your resource row into play. 
0-for-7!  

Congratulations to Vidianto Wijaya for winning Pro Circuit Atlanta! Have fun spending your hard-earned $40,000 and playing with your shiny new Extended Art Savage Beatdown. Maybe you can spare some of that money to buy me a pie, because sadly, my pie record is now 0 and 7. In yet another tearjerker, Squadron Supreme lost the player pie bet by just one vote to Morlocks Evasion. Avengers Reservist was picked as the most likely deck to win, followed by Morlocks Evasion. Seventeen different types of pie were picked as the voters’ favorite, with a three-way tie between cherry, pumpkin, and apple. I’ll try to continue my losing streak next time, and I’ll see everyone at Pro Circuit San Francisco.

(Metagame Archive) Draft 1 Coverage: Josh Wiitanen

By Olav Rokne

Las Vegas native Josh Wiitanen, hot off his success at $10K San Francisco, came through Day 1 of Pro Circuit Atlanta with a 7–3 record. He is looking to build on that and add another Top 8 performance to his list of achievements.

“Chances are good—I need eight wins; seven-and-two might do it if I get lucky on the tie-breaks.”

Wiitanen is seated in the fifth place on table four.

“That’s the fan club,” he says, gesturing at me reporting and taking notes. Wiitanen knows the field—he can easily rattle off the names of every player at his table, can tell you their team affiliations, and can work out the strengths and weaknesses of each. He’s facing Roy St. Clair, Jonathan Brown, William Postlethwait, Di Shi, Pat Coyle, Loren Nolen, and Quang Nguyen.

“I like this table—I don’t have anyone from the top teams. They don’t know about the strategy I’m going to try and push.”

First pack, first card he sees is Psycho-Pirate—a Secret Society 8-drop that he picks over Gorilla City and All Too Easy.

“This guy is the nuts,” he says later. “I think it would have been greedy to pass him up and see if he would come around the table for the ninth pick.”

Wiitanen’s team—which includes such luminaries as Adam Prosak, Dave Spears, Doug Tice, and Nick Little—has worked out that since there are only four decent attack pumps in the set, a stall strategy is possibly the best.

“Everyone thinks this format ends on turn 7, so we’re aiming to win on 8,” he says. “I would have passed it for Sinister Citadel, or a Glass Jaw, or a good attack pump, or a Balance of Power—but Psycho-Pirate is the best 8-drop in the set.”

As his second card, Wiitanen is passed a Gorilla Grodd. It’s a card that would be a first pick for many players, and one that in many ways has defined this Draft format up until now. He takes it over the only Lex Luthor, Nefarious Philanthropist he’ll see all draft.

“If someone drafts the Injustice Gang deck, that could be a tough match for me,” he says. He proceeds to take an Aquaman, Arthur Curry over Booster Gold, Quadromobile, Criminal Mastermind, and Captain Boomerang, “Digger”.

“The low-drops are just there for defense. I’m not planning to do a lot of attacking early on, just conservative attacks,” he says.

He targets Crystal Frost ◊ Killer Frost, Cold-Hearted Killer as his next card, for her high DEF value and her ally ability, choosing her over the popular Slaughter Swamp.

“Crystal Frost’s DEF is awesome; they need a pump to get through her,” he says, noting that that’s one fewer of the scarce cards that he’ll have to face on turn 7.

By this time it’s clear that no one else at the table is going for the same strategy. He’s seen three 8-drops passed to him. As his sixth card, he chooses a second copy of Aquaman, Arthur Curry over an Amazo and a Copperhead.

“The set has only four decent attack pumps, so the point of this deck is to make your opponent’s attacks harder,” he says. “Drafting a deck like this is tricky, but they should never have the double offensive pump to get through your defensive pump.”

The last cards in the pack include Funky Flashman, Membership Drive, Plastic Man, Identity Crisis, and Amazo—who gets passed to him as a last pick. He’s doing well for rares so far.

“Amazo is just about the best thing I could get as a last pick—if I have it, then it means that one fewer opponent has an 8-drop,” he says. He’s feeling good about the draft so far.

His second pack offers him a Divided We Fall and an Air Strike in an otherwise unimpressive pack—he opts for the Air Strike, because if nothing else, it’s one fewer pump for his defensive deck to face later.

But he gets passed an über-pack—Gorilla City, The Joker, Headline Stealer, All Too Easy—and Wiitanen passes them all over for Hector Hammond, Mind Over Matter. The third pick yields him a Faith, which he takes over Disband the League and Tomorrow Woman. It’s a choice that he says comes down to defense value.

“For the 2-drop, all I’m looking for is something that will survive and won’t let through too much breakthrough,” he says.

His next pack makes him choose between Hector Hammond and Poison Ivy—but Wiitanen prefers brains to beauty and goes with the super-futuristic mind.

“My preferred 4-drop is John Stewart, Emerald Architect,” he says. “But I haven’t seen any yet.”

He’s in luck with the next pack—but he passes it up for an Ultra-Humanite. He seems tempted by Superman, Avatar of Peace, but decides that no one wants to mess with the monkey. The rest of the second pack yields him Red Tornado, Elongated Man, Guy Gardner, Egomaniac, and the Divided We Fall, which makes it back around. He later decides to cut the Divided We Fall—but maintains it’s a solid card.

“It’s better than they give it credit for. It’s good for a double stun,” he says. “But I don’t want to attack directly. I just want to make conservative attacks and survive.”

By the final pack, Wiitanen has plugged in his iPod—he’s bobbing his head to the beat, which is a little disconcerting. He opens a pack with Gorilla City, Scarecrow, Psycho Psychologist—and picks up another Killer Frost over anything else. The second pick yields him a much-needed Wall of Will, which he takes over a Field of Honor. He later notes that he needs the Field of Honor and hopes that it will come back around. There’s another copy of All Too Easy—if anyone is playing Injustice Gang, they’re going to have a field day.

“Field of Honor is really good if you can get it out for turn 7,” he says. “With Guy Gardner in play and Hal Jordan in front, they’re not going to be able to stun anyone on their first attack—they can’t play attack-pump, and almost no one can get through that formation.” As a third pick, Wiitanen scores himself another Hector Hammond—he’s got a lot of options for powering up this game. The rest of the pack is unimpressive—a Faith and an Ocean Master are all that might hold interest. As a fourth pick, he gets a Reform the League, which he takes mainly to keep it out of the hands of any JLA players.

“I thought that someone would be playing JLA—and that’s about the best card for them,” he says. “It shouldn’t have made it that far on the table. I don’t know if they’ve been doing enough draft preparation.”

It’s his eighth card that really raises eyebrows though—a Sinister Citadel, which Wiitanen calls the first card to draft in the set. The ability to sack characters before Grodd can take them, combined with the ability to move counters around—it’s a card that has everything. Wiitanen is perplexed that everyone at the table had passed it up before it got to him.

“That’s the zeroth pick,” he exclaims. “I’ve windmill-picked this card so many times—to me it counts as a defensive pump.”

Two cards later he’s rewarded for waiting—the Field of Honor is his. The last card in the pack? Another 8-cost character, Starro the Conqueror.

“This is simply the best deck I’ve ever drafted,” Wiitanen beams. “If ever there was a 3–0 deck, this is it.”

He’s got a monopoly on 8-cost characters, with Amazo, Starro, Psycho-Pirate, and Dr. Fate in his hand—and if he can make it to that turn, he’ll be golden. But he did pass up four copies of All Too Easy along the way.

“I’ll be going for evens,” he says. “And hoping that no one drafted Injustice Gang.”

Josh Wiitanen’s First Draft

Characters
1 Psycho-Pirate, Roger Hayden
1 Ultra-Humanite, Evolutionary Antecedent
1 Guy Gardner, Egomaniac
1 Gorilla Grodd
1 Hal Jordan, Hard-Traveling Hero
1 Kanjar Ro
2 Crystal Frost ◊ Killer Frost
1 Poison Ivy, Kiss of Death
2 Hector Hammond, Mind Over Matter
1 Despero
1 Funky Flashman
1 Captain Boomerang, “Digger”
2 Red Tornado
3 Aquaman, Arthur Curry
1 Plastic Man, Eel O’Brian
1 Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny

Plot Twists
1 Funky’s Big Rat Code
1 Air Strike
1 Reform the League
1 Wall of Will

Locations
2 Slaughter Swamp
1 Sinister Citadel
1 Satellite HQ
1 Field of Honor

(Metagame Archive) The Price is Right — Reverse Engineering

By Nate Price

Starting bright and early tomorrow, the Vs. System community will descend upon Atlanta with one thing in mind—to take home the $40,000 and add their names to the annals of Vs. System history. It also means that the writers have to get up bright and early to begin the coverage for all of you lovely people out there. Ugh . . . I am not a morning person. Sacrifices must be made, though, and I’m looking forward to a good time. It’s going to be a fun weekend that I’m sure will have many surprises in store for everyone.

The last PC taught us some very important lessons. First, learn to draft. I know it’s been said a billion times since PC Los Angeles, but even sweeping the Constructed portion of the tournament (which is an incredibly impressive feat and very difficult to do) doesn’t guarantee a spot in the Top 8. Aaron Weil managed a perfect 10-0 record on Day 1 and unfortunately couldn’t manage to win a game on Day 2 (which isn’t nearly as hard as sweeping the first day). Again, congratulations on your impressive run of the tables, Aaron, and I’m sorry it had to end the way it did.

Second, PC Los Angeles showed us not to count players out simply because we’ve never heard of them before. Karl Horn managed to stay within striking distance of the Top 8 all weekend before putting the pedal to the metal and securing himself a berth in the Top 8. He then piloted his New School deck through three different decks in the Top 8 to take down the title. The consistency he showed in such a diverse field, especially with such a difficult deck, proved that he had some game. After having played with him since the PC, I can guarantee that he won’t be a dark horse anymore—he’ll be a frontrunner.

Finally, the last PC painted a picture of the upcoming format. That might need a little explanation. Yes, they’re two different formats. Yes, they’re about four months apart. There is a connection, though. It proved that the Avengers, Squadron Supreme, and Faces of Evil decks were capable of succeeding in a Golden Age field, which was way more powerful than the Marvel Modern Age field that will be seen in Atlanta. If a deck was good enough to be a Golden Age threat, it’s definitely good enough to be a Marvel Modern Age threat.

It’s kind of odd to be saying that, because it’s the reverse of such thinking that I’m used to hearing. It’s rare that a new deck comes out and makes an immediate impact on the Golden Age format. Generally, the Golden Age format is defined by standards that are merely upgraded as time goes on. Curve Sentinels, Teen Titans, and Common Enemy have gone through more mutations than I can remember and were always the decks to be reckoned with in Golden Age.

New sets tried their best to add new decks to the format. Web of Spider-Man produced a number of Spider-Friends–based decks, none of which could be considered tier 1. Marvel Knights showed the first signs of hope with the search engine that became New School (which doesn’t really count since it was built from so many different sets), as well as the MK Concealed deck. That led into Green Lantern Corps, which produced the GLEE deck that made a showing in Golden Age for a while. None of these decks, though, were really powerful enough to become tier 1 choices.

The Avengers changed all of that. Faces of Evil, Avengers reservist, and Squadron Supreme tore up the field in Los Angeles. Aaron Weil’s undefeated deck was an Avengers build, and Squadron put two players into the Top 8. Such numbers are difficult to ignore.

In order to be considered good, a deck either has to be better at doing something an already established deck does well, or it needs to do something completely new that has a major impact on the format. All three of the abovementioned decks did just that. Avengers was a better curve deck than the best curve deck in the format. You guys know which one I’m talking about. It’s the one with “curve” in its name. As for Faces of Evil and Squadron, they were just lightning quick. Being able to kill on turn 5 is no joke and really difficult to defend against.

The fact that a deck is being considered for the transition from Golden Age to Modern Age is rather unique. Generally, it works the other way around. I’m used to decks being spawned in a narrow card pool environment, proving themselves worthy, and then being upgraded to work in the larger card pool format. It takes a lot of power to break right into the Golden Age metagame. Most decks aren’t given enough supporting cards right away to be a factor on the larger stage. UDE has done a good job of upping the power level of the decks to be ready immediately for Golden Age use. I’m not sure if this was intentional or just lucky, but it was very good for the tournament scene.

Vs. System is a game of affiliation. For good or for bad, the success of any deck hinges upon its affiliations and the ease with which it mixes and matches them. So many cards are team stamped that a deck with a very narrow team base has a very narrow card pool from which to choose. Decks such as New School, which are reliably able to access multiple teams, have access to a much more varied card pool. But relying on multiple Team-Ups comes with its own set of problems. As the saying goes, “Live by the Team-Up; die by the Team-Up.” If you don’t draw them in a deck that relies on them, you’re toast.

Generally, a deck needs enough characters and plot twists of its chosen affiliations to create a power level that can make an impact on the Golden Age scene. If the power doesn’t exist, the deck doesn’t exist. That’s the reason why so many teams never make it to the Golden Age stage—they just don’t have the power. Decks that are solid but unspectacular, such as League of Assassins, The New Brotherhood, and Spider-Friends, are missing that extra oomph needed to push them to the next level.

With The Avengers, UDE has managed to package enough firepower into one set that most of the teams were able to make an immediate impact on Golden Age. The Avengers beat their way in, and Faces of Evil and Squadron Supreme blazed their way into Golden Age with relatively little help from other teams. This was something that other teams hadn’t been able to accomplish previously. The bar had been raised along with the power level.

There’s one thing I can guarantee from all of this. If you look at the decklists from the most recent Golden Age tournaments, you’ll see that Squadron, Faces of Evil, and Avengers decks require very little help from other sets. Most of them only run about ten cards that don’t have “MAV” at the bottom. This guarantees that the power level at the PC will be quite high. Also, since these decks are all quite powerful and none have a distinct advantage over the others, it should be a well-balanced format. This will be a huge boon to the game. In prior Modern Age formats, one deck was so overwhelmingly powerful that it was effectively the only deck in the format. That won’t be the case this time. Things are incredibly well-balanced. There are multiple decks from which to choose. There are decks for all levels of skill as well as all styles of play. This should be an incredibly fun format.

The only thing left to see is whether or not The X-Men­ can live up to the exceptional design of The Avengers. From what I’ve seen so far, chances look very good. The teams all look balanced, and the power level seems to be on par with that of the decks from The Avengers. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the decks in action at PC Atlanta.

One of the best parts of this new set is that, if my observations hold, we should see a new Golden Age deck or two out of the lot that show up at the PC. It’s a sort of poetic justice that the Marvel Modern Age PC is so well put together and in balance that we should see it drawing from other formats as well as lending to them. I suppose that in a few days, we’ll see how right I am. Keep checking back at Metagame.com for the ongoing coverage. This is sure to be a fun and refreshing PC not only for the players, but also for the viewers.

As always, questions and comments can be sent to the_priceis_right@yahoo.com. See you guys at the PC!

(Metagame Archive) Cerebro: Pro Circuit Atlanta Primer

By Paul Ross

With Pro Circuit Atlanta on the horizon, it’s time to dust off this article for anyone who missed it last time around. I’ve updated the last section with the new end-of-match procedure announced just before PC LA, but the information has otherwise stood the test of time. Please send any questions to vsrules@gmail.com, or come up and say hi at the PC. Good luck to all!

This article is aimed at players planning to attend PC Atlanta or aspiring to compete in any high-level tournament in the future. Although some of the advice is for newer players, I encourage PC veterans to read through the article as well, because it was inspired by a couple of questions from a pro. As well as answering those questions, I’ve included some “big event” tips along the way. Enjoy!

Question 1: Player A has the initiative and recruits Two-Face, Split Personality, then Player B recruits. During B’s formation step, some effects are played, and then A chooses odds. B wants to respond, but A explains to him that he cannot respond to Two-Face’s effect and proposes to call a judge. When the judge arrives, A explains, “He had his formation, effects were played, then I chose odds.” Both players agree on this, so the judge goes to the head judge to verify his ruling, which is that you cannot respond once Two-Face’s controller has chosen odds, as at that point, the effect has resolved. Now, A never gave B a chance to respond to the triggered power, as he never announced it. It’s basically the wrong question with an absolutely correct answer, and Player B suffered as a result. I personally think (as Player A was a name player with good rules knowledge) that he cheated here somewhat. He tried to gain an advantage by not announcing the triggered power. I don’t know how often this happens, but I wanted to point it out so that judges always check if every step was played correctly when they arrive at a table.

Yeah, I’ve seen this question before, and I agree—it’s a dangerous answer. While it’s theoretically correct, it fundamentally misses the point. The point is this: If Two-Face’s controller doesn’t say something like, “At the start of my attack step, put Two-Face’s effect on the chain, pass,” then he has made a misplay (because he has to give his opponent an opportunity to respond before choosing odds or evens—the game should never be about who can say something faster than his or her opponent).

Is it a misplay that warrants an official warning? No, because it’s understandable why a player would announce a choice as he or she plays an effect that requires him or her to make a choice. Similarly, we don’t give warnings to every player who says, “Transfer my equipment to character X,” rather than, “Transfer my equipment. Any response? OK, choose character X,” even though the former is technically incorrect.

So what is the correct call? Simply rewind the game to the point before the triggered effect resolves so that Player B can respond. The next question is usually, “If Player A chooses odds too early, and Player B gets to play responses, is Player A then bound to choose odds after those responses?” The answer is no, because the game has been rewound, and that decision has been reset.

All this applies for Null Time Zone as well. You make your choice when the effect resolves, not when it’s announced, so the correct way to play it goes something like, “I play Null Time Zone. Any response?” rather than, “I play Null Time Zone, choosing Teen Titans Go!” If your opponent makes the latter misplay, simply explain that he or she doesn’t have to choose a card until resolution, and then play any responses you have, noting that he or she is not bound to choose the same card on resolution as was mistakenly announced.

I’ve read posts on how this is potentially open to abuse (deliberately announcing choice X with the intention of choosing Y on resolution), but I maintain that the best approach is to educate players with articles like this, rather than bash them over the head with penalties for announcing effects incorrectly. If every PC competitor reads this article, then anyone trying to abuse such cards will clearly stand out.

What if you play Null Time Zone correctly, and then your opponent asks something like, “What card do you name?” In this case, the ruling must be that your opponent has passed. It’s possible that he or she is genuinely confused about the timing, but a far more dangerous possibility is that he or she is trying to bait you into revealing your choice prematurely. By ruling that this question constitutes a pass, we eliminate the latter. Again, the hope is that player education will reduce the former.

So what related wisdom can we extract from this question? Well, first of all:

1. Clear communication between players is essential at a high-level tournament.

For example, both players should always know who has priority. Whenever you pass, say so clearly. If you’re not sure whether or not your opponent has passed, always ask, “Do you pass?” Below, I’ve listed some areas where communication is particularly important.

A. The attack step has a lot of potential for miscommunication, which can be largely avoided if players follow a simple script:

  • Propose an attacker or attackers on a defender but don’t exhaust them.
  • Ask, “Legal?” or wait for your opponent to say so.
  • Exhaust your attacker or attackers.
  • If you think you might play effects, say something like, “Before I pass . . .”

 

In addition, if you want to verify endurance loss before passing to conclude the attack, make sure you phrase it as a question. (For example, you could ask, “If I pass, both characters stun and I’m taking 1 breakthrough, right?”)

B. Both players should track both endurance totals, preferably using a pen and paper, and preferably starting from 50 and counting down. Most importantly, both players should verbally verify each and every time either endurance total changes. It should be impossible for players to disagree over endurance totals if both follow this procedure.

C. When you play a character with boost, verbally specify that you’re boosting the character as you play it. While it’s true that it’s obvious you want to boost a Sentinel Mark V if you play it on turn 5, it’s equally true that it requires little effort to say it out loud as you play it. Please make that effort.

D. Yet another area where saying things out loud is a good idea is character positioning. If you play a concealed—optional character, always verbally specify where you’re dropping it. Similarly, if you only control one character, make sure it’s hyper-clear what row that character is in. Again, it may be obvious that you want the character without range in the front row, but why not say it and remove all doubt?

I concede it might be possible to take communication too far—I once watched a PC competitor announce every character he played by name, identity, and version—but I’d actually prefer PC players to err on the side of too much communication rather than not enough.

2. Players always have the right to appeal to the head judge.

In the scenario that was described, I can only imagine the head judge didn’t get the same report that I was given, because rewinding the game to allow Player B to respond is a no-brainer. Always remember, even if a floor judge claims to have conferred with the head judge, you still have the right to appeal. You always have the right to a personal discussion with the guy (or gal) in red, even if it’s just to ensure he or she has heard your story.

Newer players are often hesitant to appeal a ruling because, to borrow from the wise words of Messrs. Donais and Elliott, they fear they might be “being a dick.” I’m here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. It’s your right, and you should feel completely free to exercise it. If a player decides to abuse the privilege and appeal every ruling, then he or she will quickly become known to the head judge, and not in a good way. For everybody else, though, know that the option to appeal is there, and use it when you need it.

One more general comment on the subject of calling judges: if you’re unsure whether or not to call a judge, then you probably should. If you’re uncertain about anything, it’s always a good idea to ask a judge, and it may be a bad idea to ask your opponent. Simply raise your hand and yell, “Judge!”

Question 2: Slow play. Fast players realize that it’s good to put slow players under time pressure. However, there should not be a disadvantage to those playing a little more slowly (whatever the reason). I have to admit that I am not the fastest player, but I just need time to think through all the options I have.

Details: Turn 5, off-curve deck, many options on both sides. Player A has the initiative, and Player B is recruiting. Player A calls a judge and explains that Player B is already 2 minutes and 15 seconds into his recruit step. Now, Player B is certainly under pressure as the judge is waiting and watching, which makes things go even more slowly, as he has been interrupted in the thinking process. I do not like the time counting of the other player here. He was already planning this and nobody really is able to figure out how long he took for this round already. What do you think about this?

The issue of slow play is certainly a complex one. Players like you defend their right to think through important decisions, while many others bemoan the frequently long waits between PC rounds. Who’s right? Well, the starting point must be that PC rounds should not take significantly longer than 30 minutes each.

Breaking it down, 30-minute rounds mean that each player has just 15 minutes to make all the decisions associated with his or her deck. That’s 15 minutes to lay every resource, recruit every character, arrange every formation, propose every attack, and ponder every recovery. So to address your first point, players can think through all the options they like, as long as they are each able to do so within 15 minutes.

If you require 25 minutes to make those decisions, it’s not fair to force your opponent to squeeze his or her decisions into the remaining 5, and if you both require 25 minutes, it’s not fair to force every other player to wait an extra 20 minutes for your match to finish. Yes, it’s a complicated game with lots of decisions, but if 300 players of the same game are waiting for you, you’re playing too slowly.

Looking at your scenario, if a judge saw a player burn more than 2 of his or her 15 minutes on a single recruit step, that player would definitely get a slow play warning. But in your scenario, the judge didn’t see it. When it comes to slow play, a judge can only rule on what he or she witnesses, not what one player says about another. Rather than secretly timing your opponent  . . .

3. If you suspect your opponent of slow play, call a judge sooner rather than later.

A judge’s options are far more limited when called to watch a slow game with 2 minutes left compared to a slow game with 20 minutes left, and yet players seem reluctant to call their opponents for slow play before it’s too late. Again, this is not “being a dick.” I think most, if not all, players would like a faster PC, and this is where it begins.

Judges only have the relatively blunt weapons of warnings and game losses to combat slow play (and both were handed out at PC LA, and both will doubtless be handed out in Atlanta). But to be most effective, these weapons need to be directed by the player community policing itself. If you’re concerned about slow play, it’s far more constructive to call a judge on a slow opponent rather than complain to a judge while you’re waiting between rounds. The earlier you call one, the better.

How early? Well, assuming an average game lasts 7 turns, each player has roughly 2 minutes per turn to make all of his or her decisions. Given that later turns are usually more demanding, you’ve got to buy time with more efficient play on the earlier ones. If an opponent takes the “full” 2 minutes to agonize over decisions on turn 2 or 3, then your game is likely to go long. Another approach is to keep half an eye on surrounding matches. If more than one player has dropped his or her fifth resource, and you’re just finishing your third turn, again, your game could be in danger of timing out.

When you call a judge on a slow opponent, it is far better to do so between turns if possible, rather than mid-decision. Wait until the recovery or draw phase, and when the judge arrives, say something like, “Our match is lagging. Could you please watch us for slow play next turn?” As in your scenario, I’ve seen players take their time with their build, then call a judge to hurry their opponents on theirs, and I agree that it’s borderline unsporting conduct. Judges are aware of this tactic, so there’s certainly no need for the opponent to feel unduly pressured in such cases.

Let me conclude by saying I’m not completely without sympathy for slow players. In fact, as anyone who has played me in a post-PC friendly game will vigorously attest, I’m one myself. So what would I do if I were to play at a PC? Above all, I’d choose a deck I could play quickly. Even if I were convinced that EMS was the best deck in the format, I would reluctantly conclude that it’s not the best deck for me, because I can’t play my half of a game in 15 minutes. Once I’d chosen a fast deck, I’d practice against popular decks until common decisions became second nature. At the event, I’d make sure to be seated as early as possible each round, shuffle quickly and efficiently, and try to power through the opening turns of each game.

If all of us more “methodical” players adopt the same practices for PC Atlanta, hopefully, we’ll see fewer matches timing out. However, if a match does time out, it’s important that both players know the . . .

4) End-of-Match Procedure

There are no draws in Vs. System, so if your game times out, finish the current turn. If there is no winner, play one additional turn. When endurance totals are compared at the end of that turn, the player with the greater endurance total wins. If endurance totals are tied, the player who has the initiative when endurance totals are compared loses the game.

After a match concludes, both players should sign the result slip and then call a judge. The judge will verify the result and sign the slip. Once collected by a judge, the result on a slip is final.

That’s the end of the match, and this is the end of the article! Thanks for reading, and please pass this on to any friends attending PC Atlanta. Your comments (and rules questions) are always welcome at vsrules@gmail.com.

(Metagame Archives) The Avengers Crowned Best TCG Expansion of 2005!

Press Release 

INQUEST GAMER FANS CROWN VS. SYSTEM™ ‘AVENGERS’ SET AS  ‘BEST TRADING CARD GAME EXPANSION OF 2005’

 Vs. System Wins ‘InQuest Gamer Fan Award’ Two Years in a Row

 

CARLSBAD, CA. — March 17, 2006 — Upper Deck Entertainment’s (UDE) Vs. System this week continued to receive the highest accolades in the industry, with “The Avengers” earning InQuest Gamer magazine’s 2006 Fan Award for Best Trading Card Game Expansion.  InQuest Gamer — published by Wizard Entertainment (Wizard, ToyFare, Anime Insider) — presented the award at the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Trade Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.  Names of additional winners will be published in InQuest Gamer #133, on sale in April. 

“‘World’s Mightiest Heroes’ is a pretty apt description for ‘The Avengers,’” said InQuest Gamer Magazine Associate Editor Brent Fishbaugh.  “It came down like (Thor’s) hammer on the rest of the nominees.”

Vs. System artist Ariel Olivetti, who has created more than 140 Vs. System TCG cards – including gamer favorite Spider-Man, Peter Parker (MAV-209), also won an InQuest Gamer Fan Award for Best Trading Card Game Artist.

Every year, thousands of readers vote for their favorite trading card, role-playing, miniature and video games, making the InQuest Gamer Fan Awards one of the leading expressions of popular support in the industry.  Last year, the Vs. System’s “Marvel Origins” set honored with the Best New Trading Card Game Award; InQuest Gamer also named Vs. System the “Game of the Year” in its January 2006 issue.

Released last August, “The Avengers” showcases some of the Marvel Universe’s most dynamic characters as they continue their fight against the greatest threats to humanity.  Power-packed characters in the set include Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, among others.  Signature teams in the set include The Avengers, The Thunderbolts, The Masters of Evil and Squadron Supreme

The Marvel Trading Card Game incorporates the Vs. System — UDE’s game engine that represents epic Super HeroÔ battles in a TCG format.  In Vs. System, each player begins the game with his or her own team of Marvel Super HeroesÔ or Marvel Super VillainsÔ, and then tries to knock out all of his or her opponents. The game is specially designed to be played at every level of competition, from casual games to professional-level tournaments, and can be played in a variety of formats with any number of players.

For more information on the Vs. System and UDE products, Internet users can log on to www.upperdeckentertainment.com.  

About Upper Deck Company

The Upper Deck Company, LLC is a premier sports/entertainment publishing company that delivers a portfolio of relevant, innovative and multi-dimensional product experiences to collectors and sports and entertainment enthusiasts.  

About Marvel Enterprises Inc.

Marvel Enterprises Inc. is a leading global entertainment licensing company with the world’s largest character library of more than 5,000 properties that have entertained generations for over 60 years. Principally focused on licensing, Marvel has talented creative teams in its Consumer Products (licensing), Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics and Toy Biz divisions. These divisions support the development of a broad range of entertainment (film/television/DVD), consumer products, toys, comics/trade paperbacks and promotions based on the Marvel characters. Visit http://www.marvel.com for more information.

Marvel, Wolverine, Professor X, Rogue, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are used with permission. Copyright Ó Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.marvel.com.

Super Hero(es) and Super Villains are co-owned registered Trademarks.

(Metagame Archive) Place Your Bets

By Mike Hummel

In a department full of gamers, sometimes the best way to settle a dispute is with a friendly wager. A recent example was a bet made between Jeff Donais and Senior Product Manager Cory Jones. They had two very different opinions about when the World of Warcraft expansion would release. They made an agreement to buy an original piece of artwork from the upcoming WoW TCG and split the cost. Whoever won the bet would get to keep the piece and hang it in his office. Currently, signs are good that Cory is going to win.

Two years ago, right before the first PC, Jeff and I made the very first “pie” bet. At that time, Marvel Origins had been out for a while and DC Origins had just released. There was strong speculation at the event that a deck featuring a team or teams from the Marvel set would win the event. The night before the event, members of the R&D team were testing a number of competitive decks we had designed to get a feel for what we thought had the best chance of winning. I was testing an early Teen Titans build.

I forget the specifics of how the conversation started, but when Jeff saw that I was testing a DC deck, he joked that a Marvel deck was sure to win the event. I couldn’t resist the challenge, so I bet Jeff that a DC deck would win. Then we had to determine what would be won for winning the bet. Since the consensus at the time by the majority of people present was that a Marvel deck had the better chance of winning, Jeff agreed that I didn’t have to give up anything if I lost. I also think that Jeff secretly wanted a DC deck to win because Marvel was getting all the hype (as the game’s first release), so win or lose, Jeff was coming out ahead in his own mind.

We were testing right after dinner and there was talk of getting some dessert just before Jeff showed up. So, I challenged Jeff that if a DC deck (a deck in which the majority of characters came from DC Origins) won the PC, he would have to buy me a pie. I came so close to winning that pie when the Rigged Elections deck took second place that I could almost taste it.

When it came time for the second PC, I knew I had to try to win that elusive pie. We updated the winning parameters for the second bet. I could choose any deck to win (I wasn’t limited to a specific brand anymore), as long as I didn’t pick what was generally believed to be the best deck in the format. The best deck was determined from R&D testing results and opinions, previous tournament-winning decks, and input from pros and web postings.

Sadly, my current record is 0 for 6. I’ve come close so many times, it’s not even funny. For the first Marvel Modern Age tournament, I predicted that the winning deck would be a dual-team deck with one team from Marvel Knights and the other from the Spider-Man set. My downfall was that I also predicted that the team from Marvel Knights would be Marvel Knights. For the last PC, I predicted that the winning deck would feature the Avengers team. I was so pumped at the end of Day 1 when the only undefeated deck was an Avengers deck. But alas, at the end . . . still no pie for me. But at least I get a small amount of comfort knowing that the deck predicted by the majority to win only won twice.

This time, I really want that pie, and I’m turning to you for help. I’m going to let you pick which deck I’ll be choosing for the pie bet. I’ve set up an email address specifically for this bet: thepiebet@hotmail.com. If you want to help, I need you to include three things in your email. First, I need to know what you honestly believe will be the winning deck next week. I want karma on my side, so we have to stick to the spirit of the bet. That means that the pie bet, in your opinion, has to be what you think is the second best deck in the format. Since we’re betting on pies, also include your favorite type of pie. If I win, I’ll pick the pie from among everyone who submitted the winning pie bet.

You don’t need to include a full decklist when submitting your choices. I just need basic information like team(s), central deck theme (Avengers reservist, evasion Morlocks, Mental Mutant), any key focal cards, or a linked player name who used the deck in a previous event. So, the three things I need are the deck you think will win the event, the pie bet (the second-best deck in the format), and your favorite type of pie. I’ll post the results in my next article after the PC.

I can’t wait to read the recap of this piece in the weekly review article . . . “Senior Game Designer Mike Hummel teaches us the value of pies in the Vs. System.” Good luck to everyone attending the PC this week. As a new daddy, my daily 3 a.m. diaper changing duties are going to prevent me from attending this one, but I’ll be glued to the Metagame coverage. Have fun, and go out there and win me a pie!