(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack Clinic: Infinite Crisis, Part 3

Alex Brown

This week, I have a very challenging pool for you to sort through. Funnily enough, when I had to conjure something from this mess in the heat of the moment, I thought that I had distinctly fewer options than I realize there are now; I guess hindsight is like that.

While some card pools offer power spread across several affiliations, this one seemed to lack power everywhere. That inspired me to consider some avenues that I had often dismissed as desperate before but suddenly considered plausible. Read through the following and see if you would have reached similar conclusions.

The Pool:

JSA

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein

2 Chay-Ara, Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Huntress, Earth 2

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

2 Superman, Earth 2

The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero

Living Legacy

Advance Warning

Allied Against the Dark


Shadowpact

2 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy

2 Ibis, Prince Amentep

Nightmaster, Demon Slayer

Blue Devil, Big Blue

The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

2 The Oblivion Bar

Abjuration

Checkmate

Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorn

2 Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw

Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Harry Stein, King in Check

Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Secret Checkmate HQ

Laser Watch

Villains United

Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo

Cheetah, Feral Feline

Alexander Luthor, Duplicitous Doppelganger

Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant

Dr. Polaris, Force of Nature

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

2 Black Adam, Teth-Adam

Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double

The Calculator, Crime Broker

Black Adam, Lord of Kahndaq

Join Us or Die

No Mercy

Baddest of the Bad

Grand Gesture

Arms Deal

Secret Six

2 Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue

Scandal, Savage Spawn

House of Secrets

Legacy/Unaffiliated

Lois Lane, Earth 2

Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity

Kilowog, Drill Sergeant

Mordru, Dark Lord

 Rann

Epic Battle

Burning Gaze

Death from Above

2 Relentless Pursuit

Defend Yourself!

Thanagarian Invasion

Deflection

Amulet of Nabu

Tricked-Out Sports Car

Unfortunately, our JSA seems just a little too scant to run as a main team.  is incredible, and Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade is an early favorite of mine, but overall the pickings are slim. We might be able to hold out for an off-curve deck, which, although unlikely in Sealed Pack, has several candidates in Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein; two copies of Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion; the aforementioned Kate Spencer; and Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist. Otherwise, cards like Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero and Superman, Earth 2 are just not that great without a lot of support. They are fine as filler, and there is a neat combo between Supes and Huntress, Earth 2, but it’s not much. Living Legacy is mediocre, and The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero isn’t much more than a glorified trick.

Similarly, our Shadowpact pool seems especially awkward. Many of the Shadowpact cards are really only good in dedicated, almost mono, builds. Ibis, Prince Amentep and The Oblivion Bar fall into this category for me. It is too bad that we have doubles of both. I don’t really think Nightmaster, Demon Slayer is worth either his status as a free 9 ATK / 9 DEF for 20 endurance or as a vanilla 9 ATK / 9 DEF for 5 resource points. Abjuration is good but misses out due to a lack of numbers—the Blue Devils and The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel are not much of a team by themselves. If we are looking to an off-curve build, perhaps doubles of the 1-drop Nightmaster, Jim Rook could encourage us a little, but so far, things are looking pretty grim.

Looking to Checkmate for inspiration, we perhaps find a glimmer of hope. We have an acceptable amount of 2- and 3-drops and a decent curve for the rest of the game. Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army is a great Sealed Pack card, and Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw is also very good. Unfortunately, while I am a big fan of Harry Stein in Draft, he is awful in Sealed. I could play him in a pinch, but he sort of dictates that you win very quickly. With the plot twist support we have, we can jettison any ideas of that. With a lone Secret Checkmate HQ in Checkmate, we are going to need a lot from Villains United to get a deck that is remotely serviceable.

Villains United seems to be the deepest of our major affiliations at first glance. We have a non-character selection that is definitely above average with Baddest of the Bad, Grand Gesture, and No Mercy. We have double Black Adam, Teth-Adam, who is very good. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, we don’t really have much of a curve at all. Like all of the other teams, we are distinctly lacking in 4-drops. We only have a single 2-drop, and our 3-drops are mediocre Sealed cards. I don’t really like The Calculator, Crime Broker as a finisher because his concealed status is a huge liability, and Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double doesn’t have enough support.

Going into the Secret Six and leftover cards, we don’t really have much of a deck. Fortunately, if we still want to take the curve route, we have double Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue to save our 4-drop problem. That guy is one of the best 4-drops in the set for Sealed Pack. Mordru, Dark Lord; Kilowog, Drill Sergeant; and Scandal, Savage Spawn are all playable if need be. Our equipment is pretty good, but the plot twists aren’t very much at all. Because this pool seems exceptionally mediocre to me, I am thinking of trying something radically off-curve with Thanagarian Invasion, Death from Above, and the equipment to help me out.

I tend to be pretty rigid with what sort of curve I think works for various strategies. While I advocate a 0-4-4-4-3-2-2 (on turns 1-7) curve for normal Sealed situations, this pool clearly demands that I try to do something a little different. With recent sets becoming better and better for Draft, I almost default to an off-curve strategy to get an edge on my opponents. Superficially, I stick to a 6-6-3-2-2-1-0 (on turns 1-7) curve or thereabouts. Still, I have certain requirements for those characters.

First, unless possessed of some other combat-relevant ability, all the 1-drops I play must have 2 or more ATK. They are in the deck to attack, so there must be a reasonable chance that they will stun an opposing 2-drop (hence why I also love 3 DEF 2-drops when playing curve). The essence of off-curve is being able to attack up the curve. Second, my 2-drops must have 3 or more ATK or some sort of other combat-relevant ability. This is again because you need all the help you can get when going up the curve. Many 3-drops have 5 DEF. A 2-drop with less than 2 ATK will need help from a first-pick quality card even to have a chance of stunning that sort of character. Third, the deck needs at least two team-ups to ensure that I can team attack whenever I want. Finally, there needs to be a sufficient number of pumps that provide +2 or greater. I usually want three or four, or a number greater than that to provide a cumulative effect of +2 or more three or four times. As you can see, this sort of deck can be exceptionally rare in Sealed. Maybe I just have high standards.

So, if we look to the cards that can fulfill the sort of standards I require, we come up with the following:

1-drops

2 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo

Cheetah, Feral Feline

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein

2 Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity

2-drops

Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant

Team-Ups

Rann

Allied Against the Dark

Pumps

Tricked-Out Sports Car

Amulet of Nabu

Laser Watch

2 Relentless Pursuit

Defend Yourself!

Thanagarian Invasion

Death from Above

Burning Gaze

Epic Battle

There does seem to be a solid basis for a deck here, but there are a few causes for concern. While there are several solid 1-drops, there aren’t many good 2-drops. On top of this, Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne has loyalty—reveal, so we would need about seven Checkmate characters to be moderately comfortable with that. Our team-up situation is the bare minimum, but considering that we are cutting guys from so many teams, we probably need another team-up to take this deck into battle. Fortunately, we have a lot of pumps for this format, so there is probably room to try to make a playable build from this. I know that I talk a lot about curve and things like that, but you should see those things as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. One point of practicing the rules is to learn when they should be broken.

In trying to make a better build of this pool, I think we want to cover the 2-drop spot first. We have an abundance of quality 1-drops, but we also have a teaming-up problem. We are going to need an excess of 1-drops to cover the lack of an extra 2-drop (though a 2-drop would probably be our mulligan condition with this deck). We do have ongoing plot twists to use leftover resource points, inefficient as that may be. Additionally, equipment can go a long way if we fail to draw a 2-drop. With this in mind, I think we should drop Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity to take some of the pressure off the team attacks, and we should commit to playing all of the equipment and ongoing pumps. Clearly, we are going to need all of our 2-drops. Our plot twists will be necessary with our reasonably average character base, so I think we should commit to playing all of them except Epic Battle, which will probably be the most situational of them all.

2 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo

Cheetah, Feral Feline

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein

2 Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant

Rann

Allied Against the Dark

2 Relentless Pursuit

Defend Yourself!

Thanagarian Invasion

Death from Above

Burning Gaze

Tricked-Out Sports Car

Amulet of Nabu

Laser Watch

This gives us a core of twenty-three cards to work with. To fill out the rest of the deck, we are going to look at our mid- and late-game cards. Typically, we want to play characters that have efficient ATK-to-cost ratios, like 5+ ATK 3-drops, 8+ ATK 4-drops, and so forth. Concealed is a huge plus for late drops, as we need as much firepower for the victory turn as possible. Finally, we will defer to characters that can also provide an extra benefit to our early game if they are available.

As a postscript, we have an extra incentive to support our 2-drop Black Thorn with Checkmate characters.

The characters who fit the bill are:

3-drops

2 Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Huntress, Earth 2

4-drops

Kilowog, Drill Sergeant

Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice

Harry Stein, King in Check

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

5-drops

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Mordru, Dark Lord

2 Black Adam, Teth-Adam

Blue Devil, Big Blue

6-drops

Scandal, Savage Spawn

Huntress, Reluctant Queen

2 Superman, Earth 2

With our preference for Checkmate characters, characters with concealed, and characters with high ATK values, it is pretty easy to include both copies of Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw and Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice. Although it might seem like we are doing a lot for the sake of the loyalty on one card, it’s important to remember not only that the loyalty is crucial to our early game, but also that we lose nothing with Checkmate characters in this regard. As we get to the later drops, flight becomes more important than concealed because we won’t need characters to stick around so much as be efficient in combat. For that reason, I think Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army is an easy choice, as he is also Checkmate and definitely no worse than the other candidates.

Getting into the harder choices, I think the offensive potential of Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist overshadows the concealed status of Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive for the final 3-drop spot. On top of this, I would like to include a single 6-drop for a few more options. The candidates are Huntress, Reluctant Queen and Superman, Earth 2. Flight is probably better, but there is an argument for greater Checkmate representation. I will edge it to Superman for now, but if we don’t get another Checkmate character for the final slot, Huntress might just squeeze in.

For the final slot, I would much prefer an extra 4-drop over a 5-drop. Often I prefer two of each, but I am very happy with the other slots, so I’ll stick to filling out the lower curve first. Hawkman seems like the best guy for the job, as there are a few power-ups lying around and he combines 8 ATK with flight. This could suggest that Blue Devil, Big Blue make the cut instead of Annihilation Protocol, which goes to show you how hard it is to get an entirely correct build. Alternatively, we may have to go back to Huntress, Reluctant Queen to up our Checkmate quotient.

With a nod to the above difficulties, this is the build I would most likely run:

Characters

2 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo

Cheetah, Feral Feline

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein

2 Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant

2 Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Superman, Earth 2

Plot Twists

Allied Against the Dark

2 Relentless Pursuit

Defend Yourself!

Thanagarian Invasion

Death from Above

Burning Gaze

Locations

Rann

Equipment

Tricked-Out Sports Car

Amulet of Nabu

Laser Watch

Really, I just wasn’t feeling very adventurous that weekend, and I chickened out of playing that list at the last minute. I didn’t think my team-up situation was good enough, but looking over the deck now, it definitely seems impressive enough on paper. It is considerably difficult to embolden yourself to go against the grain and play an off-curve deck in Sealed Pack, and I just wasn’t brave enough in the end.

Instead, I went with a rather generic curve deck, thinking that I could just beat players with superior skill on the board. The deck I played looked like this:

Characters

Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy

Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant

Huntress, Earth 2

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

Ibis, Prince Amentep

2 Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue

Kilowog, Drill Sergeant

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

Blue Devil, Big Blue

2 Black Adam, Teth-Adam

Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Superman, Earth 2

Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double

The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

Plot Twists

Allied Against the Dark

Epic Battle

Burning Gaze

Death from Above

Relentless Pursuit

Defend Yourself!

Thanagarian Invasion

Deflection

Locations

Rann

Equipment

Laser Watch

Amulet of Nabu

Although I had very little time to build my deck, I made up my mind that I was simply going to play the most efficient combat-based characters and plot twists that I could. If it had above-average ATK, regardless of affiliation, it made the deck. I was unhappy with the deck overall, even though I was able to post a 3-1 record with it.

I had an uncanny knack for hitting Sasha Bordeaux, Knight in every game. The fact that I equipped her three times may say something about my success rate. Sasha seems like a cornerstone of Checkmate builds in Sealed Pack, providing the best options to break open a curve with her combination of ATK enhancements and all-around efficiency.

At the 3-spot, I was happy to settle for the regular 5 ATK / 4 DEF standard after this tournament. In a curve deck, I don’t expect much from 3-drops, but they need to hold their own. Funky abilities on cards like Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist and Ibis, Prince Amentep can be awesome when triggered, but for a straight curve deck, I like the other characters I had better. Curve games are won with later drops.

As with Sasha, I was able to hit Ragdoll in every game. This might make more sense when you consider that I had two of them. Clearly, his ability to recover is amazing, but I thought he could get caught out due to the loneliness of his affiliation. In the end, this was never a problem, and his capacity to stick around was definitely a large part of a couple of my victories.

Black Adam, Teth-Adam and Blue Devil, Big Blue both seem like excellent characters in Sealed Pack. While I prefer the former, 10 DEF can be a real pain for some decks to deal with, forcing them to waste pumps too early. Still, a 10 ATK character with flight and an ability that screams board advantage cannot be denied. It will be interesting to see who players prefer as the 5-drop of choice.

Although I chose not to include both copies of Superman, Earth 2 because I expected to have to play a 6-drop on turn 7 a lot of the time (thus avoiding uniqueness issues), I never regretted it. Both Superman and Huntress, Reluctant Queen were fine as finishers, so I didn’t have to rely on the slim possibility of shenanigans from Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double. The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel held his own when I had to play him.

To be frank, I don’t like Burning Gaze in Sealed. I just don’t think it does enough, although I must admit that I am not a fan of tricks that pump DEF on attack unless the format encourages off-curve builds over curve builds. Similarly, some people are calling Epic Battle a skill-tester, but I think it’s just a mediocre card. Pumps are often used to send someone up the curve, but the resulting payoff (sending your bigger guy down) is often negated by this effect

Relentless Pursuit seems like it could be really important in this format, as there are several hidden characters that can provide more than just nuisance value on your initiatives. Thanagarian Invasion could be a first-pick plot twist in Draft and is far superior to Death from Above. I wasn’t really able to get into a position to max out on Defend Yourself!, though I don’t like to invest in that sort of card, anyway; I think that ensuring stuns on defense is overrated, at least to the point of having cards in your deck that do so exclusively.

Overall, I think the deck I played was quite serviceable, but I wish I’d played the off-curve deck just to gain some insight into how viable that sort of plan is in Sealed. Much like last week’s concluding sentiments, it seemed like a terrible waste to be considering a play of Kilowog, Drill Sergeant at a Sneak Preview tournament. Still, hopefully you can see the process I went through in this tournament. I did spend a very long time trying to find an off-curve deck I liked, but I just couldn’t do it. Fortunately, once I had made my mind up, I was able to build an average curve deck very easily and post a decent result with it.

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