(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!

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