(Metagame Archive) One Step Beyond: The Alternate Win

Steve Garrett

“If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”


     —Bruce Lee

I’ve used this quote many times in my life. Why? Simply because it is one of the most relevant truths I have ever read. This quote is from Bruce Lee’s book, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, and like many martial art philosophies, it is has relevance in other areas of life. In fact, it was this passage that helped me change from the geek-basher I used to be. Having an open mind and being prepared to approach things a little differently can be extremely worthwhile and rewarding. If you are flexible in your approach to any task, you are more likely to get the maximum benefit from what you undertake. This is the approach I take to Vs. System. There are defined and established tournament-viable decks that have done consistently well on the tournament scene. Although the teams, builds, and characters may change from month to month, one thing holds true for the vast majority of them—they all win by reducing your opponent’s endurance to 0.

Today, I want to take you on a guided tour of some of the other ways in which you can win a match. The alternate win condition is an incredibly fun goal.

Dodgy Politicians

Rigged Elections was the first alternate win card to gain any kind of serious recognition. A young fellow by the name of Craig Edwards piloted the deck to an awesome runner-up position in the inaugural Pro Circuit event at Gen Con Indy in August 2004.

Craig Edwards, Second Place, PC: Gen Con Indy 2004

Rigged Elections


4 Alfred Pennyworth

4 Invisible Woman, The Invisible Girl

4 Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards

8 GCPD Officer

1 Ratcatcher

2 Query and Echo

1 Barbara Gordon ◊ Oracle, Information Network

1 Ant Man

1 Ventriloquist ◊ Scarface

1 Frankie Raye

4 Harley Quinn

Plot Twists

3 Signal Flare

4 Marvel Team-Up

4 Cosmic Radiation

4 Bat-Signal

4 Fizzle

4 A Child Named Valeria

4 World’s Finest

2 Rigged Elections

For those who are a little new to the scene, the idea of the deck is to achieve the required twenty-five ballot counters by using Alfred to fetch and carry Cosmic Radiation for you. You exhaust your board to feed the ballot box, play Alfred, and irradiate your characters. The butler will then scuttle off to find you another copy of that oh-so-handy Cosmic Radiation. The process is then repeated as many times as possible. At the time, the deck would win consistently on turn 5 . . . as long as it wasn’t facing the popular Common Enemy deck. With the amount of Child Lock decks that have been floating about recently, I’m surprised that no one has had any success with an updated version. Perhaps the current tournament environment is too aggressive for this to be viable?

The next big showing for an alternate win deck was at Pro Circuit New York in May 2005. Metagame.com’s very own Michael Barnes (of Team Alternate Win Condition) piloted a very dreamy deck into the Top 4 of the big show.

Michael Barnes, Top 4, PC: NY 2005

Xavier’s Dream


4 Alfred Pennyworth

12 GCPD Officer

4 Dazzler, Alison Blaire

4 Longshot, Rebel Freedom Fighter

4 Beast, Dr. Henry McCoy

1 Lacuna, Media Darling

Plot Twists

4 Xavier’s Dream

4 Bat-Signal

4 Fizzle

4 Total Anarchy

4 Pleasant Distraction

3 Marvel Team-Up

3 A Death in the Family

1 Flame Trap


4 Avalon Space Station

This deck really caused a stir when it turned up at PC: NY. Not only was  not widely regarded as tournament viable, but the way this deck was constructed was also just . . . crazy. Basically, Total Anarchy was used to KO one’s own characters, thus satisfying the condition of Xavier’s Dream in a rather alarming fashion (“face-to-foot” style Vs., as it will now be called). The likes of GCPD Officer and Dazzler kept endurance loss to a minimum, while Longshot and Alfred were used to find the necessary pieces of the puzzle. Brilliant—that is truly thinking outside the box! The recent X-Men set rekindled a personal interest in this deck. Can the likes of Xorn and the new recovery tricks available to the X-Men help to re-establish this deck?

Since then, alternate win condition success has dried up on the tournament scene. Recent times have seen a shift toward super-aggressive decks like Avengers reservist, Squadron Supreme, and Faces of Evil / X-Faces. But does this mean the end of the risky strategy? Far from it. Last week, I spoke about The Joker, Emperor Joker, so I won’t linger too much on him, but the potential is there. If you goldfish the Emperor Joker deck (a one-person exercise where you draw through the deck as if you were playing an actual game), you’ll find that (in theory) you will deck out your opponent almost every game. This, of course, means nothing in a competitive environment. Your deck not only has to function well, but it also has to be able to beat other decks that are likely to be played. If everyone plays Anti-Green Lantern rush, then you will have a struggle on your hands. My personal hope is that the current metagame will move away from rush decks for a little while. If the flavor of the month hangs around for too long, you soon get tired of the taste.

One curve / stall deck that has done well in recent months (in spite of the overwhelming number of rush decks) is G’Lock. Here are the basics: The name is short for Green Lantern lock, and the deck aims to survive until turn 8 or even 9, at which point it has several ways to secure victory. The builds vary considerably and I’ve seen many different characters employed as the finisher—Mogo, The Living Planet; Apocalypse; Ghost Rider, Danny Ketch; and Professor X, Mental Master, to name but a few. There have been quite a few discussions surrounding the viability of using Captain Marvel, Champion of Magic as the win condition. This obviously fits in very nicely with our theme for today.

G’Lock tends to have more than enough endurance to go around thanks to the antics of Katma Tui, so paying 25 endurance is not as big a problem as it would normally be. The main obstacle is Captain Marvel’s loyalty restriction. I’ve been thinking about the deck myself, and the best way around it (in my humble and probably misinformed opinion) is to throw a couple of useful Shadowpact characters into the later turns of the build. Zatanna, Showstopper is a nice inclusion because she has willpower 5, she feeds Katma Tui, and card drawing is never to be scoffed at. I wouldn’t feel comfortable just adding in a 6-drop, though. Any time I’m looking to play an 8-drop with loyalty, I have a personal rule that the 7-drop in the deck must share a team affiliation. That means choosing between The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel and Shazam, The Sorcerer. Neither of their abilities are particularly relevant to the strategy of the deck. Shazam’s could come in handy in a pinch, but nine times out of ten, if we get this far, we’ll be ahead on endurance anyway. Shazam’s loyalty—reveal troubles me a bit. I think I’m going to play this one safe and go with The Phantom Stranger.


1 Sonar
1 Arisia
2 G’Nort
3 Salakk
2 Black Hand
1 Olapet
4 Kyle Rayner, Last Green Lantern
4 Dr. Light, Master of Holograms
2 Oliver Queen ◊ Green Arrow, Emerald Archer
2 Malvolio

3 Katma Tui
1 Gorilla Grodd

1 Zatanna, Showstopper
1 Sinestro, Green Lantern of Korugar
2 The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel
2 Captain Marvel, Champion of Magic

Plot Twists
4 The Ring Has Chosen
4 Helping Hand
1 Emerald Dawn
1 Rain of Acorns
2 Enemy of My Enemy
1 Guardians Reborn
3 Lanterns in Love
1 No Evil Shall Escape Our Sight

3 Willworld
3 Birthing Chamber
3 Book of Oa

1 Catcher’s Mitt
1 Chopping Block

The thing I like about this deck is that if you get to turn 8 in a mirror match, you’re going to have to work pretty hard to lose the game. The matchup with Emperor Joker would be interesting, and the win would probably be dependent on who has the even initiatives, because both win conditions can (and would) occur within the recruit step.

There are other alternate win conditions out there. I was on the receiving end of Ape, Metamorph’s annoying ability at a City Championship event. In the finals, I was up against a Morlock evasion deck and I was sporting my team’s Kung Pow reservist deck (Avengers / Brotherhood). On turn 7, I had the initiative and a very healthy board. I had enough firepower to beat my opponent on endurance, but as soon as I dropped below 0, he used Ape’s ability. I had more than enough left in the tank to take him well below my endurance total, but the alternate win condition came around to bite me in the bum.

Another alternate win card that debuted in the most recent set was . I was lucky enough to write the preview article for this card over at VsRealms.com. At the time, little else was known of the team setup. Now that I’ve seen the rest of the team, I feel that there is definitely some potential to make this card work, but I am yet to hit upon a decklist that I think is worth printing in this column. (If anyone wants to share a viable list, feel free to email me.)

Hopefully, the forthcoming Silver Age format will allow for some alternate success. I can’t wait to see what comes out of Pro Circuit San Francisco. My heart is itching for something new to take the spotlight, although my head says not to get my hopes up. If you’re attending the PC, take a moment to meditate on Bruce Lee’s words. Do not be controlled by what has gone before. Open your mind to the potential of playing something different; be mindful of what you will face, but not fearful of it.

Steve Garrett



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