(Metagame Archive) One Step Beyond: Taking the Plunge

Steve Garrett 

I recently read a post someone had made on an Internet forum stating that as soon as a player attends a PCQ tournament, he or she can no longer be considered “casual.” After all, PCQ is the abbreviation for Pro Circuit Qualifier. While I can see the point of such an argument, I don’t agree with it. Simply attending a PCQ does not necessarily mean that you have given up casual play in favor of the Holy Grail of the Pro Circuit. My first PCQ experience was not motivated by any great master plan for Vs. System world domination. It was not the first step on the road to a life of fast cars and fancy restaurants. When I entered a PCQ for the first time, I did it simply to find out how good I was.

Anyone who regularly attends a Hobby League or simple casual play nights will know and understand their role in the “food chain.” Some players simply win more games than others—it’s a fact. This can be attributed to a number of things. Someone with a limited card pool can sometimes suffer. For example, having access to four copies of Savage Beatdown as opposed to four copies of Mega-Blast can give someone the edge. Having a better understanding of the game is an obvious advantage. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can copy a decklist from Metagame.com’s archives, but unless you have the aptitude to use the deck to its maximum potential, you will only get so far.

Your store has a food chain, be it unspoken or not. The sharks sit happily at the top, waiting for the unsuspecting minnows to stray into their feeding ground. While this will sustain the status quo, it is not a good environment for the big fish to evolve. The shark needs to venture further afield, away from the small pool in which he is king. If you want to improve, you’re not going to accomplish it by beating up on the same guy week in, week out. This is another time where I can draw a parallel between Vs. System and my other love—the martial arts. I am forever trying to get my students to go to other dojos in the area to train with new people. If you practice with someone every week (be it in Vs. System or the martial arts), you get to know his or her strategy or play style, leaving you no surprises and, ultimately, nothing to keep your instincts sharp. The old saying that familiarity breeds contempt is quite appropriate.

You may think that this sounds a little like the ramblings of an elitist pro rather than a self-confessed casual player, but I don’t think so. Surely, the casual player is entitled to try to become the best player he or she can possibly be. Being labeled as “casual” is often akin to being “not good enough for the Pro Circuit” in some people’s eyes, and I take exception to that. I am a casual player. My goal is not to win a PC (although I wouldn’t complain if I did). I just want to play the game and have fun. But I do want to be the best player I can possibly be. It was this aim that led me to participate in a PCQ. Please don’t misunderstand me—I am not arrogant enough to think of myself as a “big fish,” but I certainly relished the challenge of testing myself against new players wielding unknown decks. This is often known as playing outside of your comfort zone, and anyone hoping to improve his or her game should certainly consider doing that.

So, I had decided to try my hand at a PCQ—the only problem was how to find one. This is done quite easily through the PCQ schedule at UDE.com. I found a tournament not too far from me, and after securing the necessary day release pass from my wonderful wife (she is a Vs. System widow and doesn’t have a clue about the game), I began thinking about the type of deck I wanted to run. Now, although I was keen to test myself against players who would undoubtedly be running tier 1 decks, I was not quite prepared to sell my janky soul and run such an abomination myself. So, to the drawing board I went. Whenever I try to build something new, I generally flip through my binder until I find one card that I particularly like and then proceed from there, adding cards that support or further the theme. The card that sparked off my imagination this time was Hannibal King. One of the first decks I ever used was a Brotherhood burn deck, and since then, I’ve always liked the burn theme. I believe there’s a little pyromaniac in all of us.

Here’s what Hannibal King does:

Activate >>> When target character is put into a KO’d pile during the combat phase this turn, its controller loses 5 endurance.

Now, the effect is pretty good, and the Marvel Knights team has some decent KO effects, but, in my opinion, a job’s not worth doing unless you can do it with at least two teams. The KO theme didn’t seem strong enough in a straight Marvel Knights deck. The KO cards were there, and War Wagon has obvious synergy with Hannibal King, but it just did not seem potent enough for me. So, what did I need to do to increase the potency of these two cards? I irradiated them. Cosmic Radiation goes a long way to boosting the power of Hannibal King and War Wagon. Cosmic Radiation is a ridiculously good card that features in so many of my decks; some don’t make it out of the drawing board, but this one certainly did. Multiple activations per turn seemed to be the way to go in my mind. Also, given that the Marvel Knights team has the best team-up engine in Dagger, Child of Light and Midnight Sons, getting to use Cosmic Radiation shouldn’t be too difficult.

“King Cosmic”

Characters

4 Dagger, Child of Light

4 Hannibal King

1 She-Thing, Sharon Ventura

1 Invisible Woman, Protector

4 She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters

2 Luke Cage, Street Enforcer

1 Yelena Belova ◊ Black Widow, Enemy Agent

1 Medusa, Medusalith Amaquelin

1 Moon Knight, Marc Spector

1 Thing, Heavy Hitter

3 Human Torch, Hothead

3 Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man

2 Thing, The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing

1 Dr. Strange, Stephen Strange

1 Silver Surfer, Norrin Radd

Plot Twists

4 Cosmic Radiation

4 Wild Ride

4 It’s Clobberin’ Time

3 Judge, Jury, and Executioner

3 Midnight Sons

3 Have a Blast!

3 Global Domination

2 Flame Trap

1 Signal Flare

Equipment

3 War Wagon

The idea behind the deck was not too complicated. The aim was to save up the cosmic trickery and try to go off on turn 6 with Hannibal King and War Wagon burning repeatedly. I tested the deck thoroughly down at the local store, and it performed well in that environment. It was not uncommon for me to cause 40+ endurance loss and clear my opponent’s board. But how would it fare against the likes of Teen Titans and other tier 1 decks?

The day of the tournament arrived and I was eager to get started. I had to travel about 40 miles, which may not seem like a major distance, especially for those of you in America, but some of that journey was around the dreaded “M25.” (If the Devil ever designed a road system, that is it!) I arrived at the tournament and did a little trading before the proceedings got underway. I arrived there early enough to enter the Sealed Pack event, so I used that as something of a warm-up. I did quite well and was in sixth place when I had to make the tough decision to drop for Constructed. I had come there to test my deck, after all, so it seemed silly to pass up the opportunity.

The day went quite well and I ended up in fourth place. Along the way, I claimed victory over tier 1 decks like Curve Sentinels and New School. I lost one very close game to Teen Titans, where I missed everything until turn 4 but managed to claw my way back into it when both Terra, Tara Markov and Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter decided to have a day off. My quarterfinal loss was against Sam Roads, creator of the multi-team “Both Guns Blazing” deck. His trademark deck worked quite perfectly, and I sat through two games of total “child-lock.” (For the uninitiated, this is an extremely effective strategy for protecting your characters via A Child Named Valeria and Catcher’s Mitt.) All I could do was sit back and watch as my board was stunned through repeated activations of Dr. Light, Arthur Light and Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter.

The experience of playing in a PCQ was incredibly valuable to me; it was a good test of my skills and highlighted areas of my gameplay that I needed to improve on. The tournament also showed me weaknesses in my deckbuilding. If you miss drops or vital cards because of poor deck construction, you are less likely to get away with it at a PCQ or higher-level event. The Hobby League can be quite forgiving of such errors, but there is not as much slack at premier level events. If you are a casual player who goes to the same store week after week, I strongly urge you to take the plunge and try your hand at a PCQ. A Pro Circuit Qualifier is an awesome opportunity to learn more about the game we love. The lessons you can learn from attending such a tournament will only enhance your ongoing enjoyment of Vs. System. Please don’t be put off by the name of the tournament—these events are not the exclusive domain of the hardened pro or the Pro Circuit hopeful. Once you’ve experienced one, I’m sure you’ll be hungry for more. Next time, though, why not take a friend from the store and get him or her hooked as well?

I’m going to round off today’s article by leaving you with a little homework. This is something I used to run on VsRealms.com, and it proved to be quite fun. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Deckbuilder Challenge Cup. The idea is simple: You, the avid reader, have to design and submit a deck that conforms to certain restrictions that I set. I will pick a “Top 5” from all the submitted decks and put those five up for a public vote. Then, after public voting is closed, the top three decks will be awarded points as follows:

1st Place: 5 points

2nd Place: 3 points

3rd Place: 1 point

These points will then be added to a leader board. This week, I will post the first challenge, and in an upcoming article I will announce the Top 5. This is meant to be a bit of fun, so please don’t throw your teddy out of the pram if I do not choose your deck.

So, onto the first challenge:

Deckbuilder Challenge #1: The Cosmic Challenge

The rules of this challenge are as follows:

Your deck must use four copies of Cosmic Radiation.

Your deck must use at least two teams.

The deck must be 60 cards (no more, no less).

The following cards are banned for the purpose of this challenge: Dr. Light, Arthur Light, Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter, Advanced Hardware, Flamethrower

Please send your submissions to kamiza989@gmail.com. Be sure to title your email “Deckbuilder Challenge 1.” Please include your name and/or screen name, and pick a name for your deck. Go for it, guys; I can’t wait to see the submissions!

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