(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack 101: JSA

By Doug Tice

If you followed my logic in last week’s article on The Calculator, you might be wondering if I’ve had a chance to try out the deck. Well, I managed to get up an Infinite Crisis draft at my local store this past weekend and I made an attempt to draft it. Unfortunately, it did not materialize quite like I wanted. I’m still working to understand how to value my Infinite Crisis draft picks, and I’m sure the other players at the table were in the same boat. For Sealed Pack, you are much less in control of what cards you will play than you are when you draft your deck, and therefore I feel it is much easier to evaluate options with a Sealed Pack mindset. So, whereas I am confident that I can provide you with a solid foundation for Sealed, I will admit that I am not ready to give many Infinite Crisis­–specific drafting tips yet.

I will spare you most of the details of how and why I lost my first round of the draft. One decision made before even a single card was played probably sealed my doom. I kept a hand containing my 4-, 5-, and 6-cost characters and ultimately paid the price for that decision. I managed to recruit absolutely no characters until turn 3, where all I could muster was a 2-drop. Don’t give up hope yet, though—I’ll be sure to touch on The Calculator in a future article if I have the opportunity to play the deck in any of my Sealed Pack experiences. And in case you’re wondering why I did not mulligan that hand, I’m afraid that I have no good explanation. The only excuse that might make sense would be for me to say that by some twist of misfortune, I had only one 4-, 5-, and 6-drop in my deck, but that was not the case.

Moving along, this week I will be taking an in-depth look at the JSA team for Sealed Pack play. The JSA team reminds me of my old high school days; generally speaking, my classmates and I all adhered to the same curriculum, but when the break or lunch bell rang, we all split into our little cliques.
The Athletes

Huntress, Earth 2 – Ranked # 1 in the state in tennis.

Batman, Earth 2 – The star basketball player who has been dunking since junior high.

Wonder Woman, Earth 2 – Holds the school record in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Power Girl, Earth 2 – Captain of both the volleyball and track teams.

Superman, Earth 2 – As the school’s quarterback and captain of the football team, he is seen as the leader of this group.

Of these characters, Batman and Huntress are the weakest, but I like all five of them. Superman and Power Girl have the most potential to outright overpower an opponent. I particularly like the interaction of Huntress and Wonder Woman. Batman’s power will be of value at times, and his stats are certainly fine.

With only five JSA characters sharing the Earth 2 version, it is no surprise to me that few other cards in Infinite Crisis reference this version. With Multiverse Power Battery in play, I can control up to but no more than two copies of each of the different Earth 2 characters. Sorry, but I’m not throwing a ticker-tape parade on account of this card. Lois Lane, Earth 2 and Brainiac, Earth 2 hardly add enough from outside the JSA team to warrant attempting to base a Sealed deck around the Earth 2 version, either.

I won’t go so far as to try to relate every one of the JSA’s characters individually to one of my old high school classmates, but I will continue with the clique comparison for the sake of fun.
The Trendy Clones

Some trendsetter got this gang’s attention. Now they all want to be just like him or her. To know one member of this clique is to know them all. They all share an identity.

Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion; Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero; and Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior are all fine character options at each of their slots in the curve. I had hoped that Katar Hol’s power would be easier to exploit, but I’m finding that there just aren’t enough cards referencing a character’s identity to take true advantage.

Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion and Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine’s stories are about the same as their male counterparts. They are quite acceptable characters whose powers provide some mild benefits.

Richard Tyler ◊ Hourman, Man of the Hour is great. I will always be happy to have a copy of this card in my deck. How fitting it is that Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo, the rare card among the three Hourmen, would be the strongest. This 3-drop edges out the 4-drop only slightly because so few 3-drops are game-breaking. At higher costs, many more characters have supercharged powers. Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine is still good but falls a little short in comparison with the other two, simply because 11 ATK does not typically stun a character of one cost greater (a 6-drop, in this case).

Few other cards in this set reference a character’s identity. A Moment of Crisis would help if Katar Hol were already in play, but other than that, its text is nothing more than “Draw a card.” It could be half of a two-part plot-twist combo with Double Play, I guess. The payoff of turning the Double Play would probably be stunning one more of your opponent’s characters than you would without the combo, but I’m going to say that the investment of playing both of those cards in Sealed Pack is too much. Insert similar comments about Heroic Rescue. Taking Up the Mantle does not do enough to warrant its inclusion in a deck. Of course, sometimes you just have to play whatever you get, so at least this card permanently modifies a character’s stats.

Living Legend should be a fine addition to a Sealed Pack deck if you have the Hawkmen and Hourmen. I imagine it will require a critical mass of at least five different characters who share no more than two identities to play Living Legend by itself. In combination with A Moment of Crisis, Living Legend becomes a straight character-search plot twist.
The Likeable Guy(s) Who Can Fit in with More than Just One Clique

I always liked that guy in school. His JSA counterparts are no different. Two JSA characters share the Mr. Terrific identity and both provide significant ATK and DEF bonuses to your characters. Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man should make every Sealed Pack deck you build if you’re playing the JSA team. Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist won’t always make the cut for my deck because I usually try to play a solid 2-7 curve. I would be happy to include him, though, and certainly would in a more focused Draft deck.
The Intellects

Don’t let their versions fool you; these characters are not restricted only to Golden Age Vs. System gameplay. Terry Sloane manages to be accepted by this crowd, as well. The characters in this group have little in common other than a portion of their version name.

Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian is rare, so you won’t have too many opportunities to play this card. Nevertheless, his power is a potential game-ender.

Charles McNider ◊ Dr. Mid-Nite, Golden Age Academic is my least favorite of this group. His power doesn’t excite me.

Jay Garrick ◊ The Flash, Golden Age Speedster is yet another rare in this group. His power might not let you stun a 5- or 6-drop without playing an ATK pump, but that’s his only downside, which is not much to worry about at all. Wesley Dodds ◊ The Sandman, Golden Age Gunman would be great if he could exercise his power on a 5-drop or greater. Usually, by turn 5, a 2-drop will not be lingering around, but I have certainly played games where my 2-drop made it that far. It may also sometimes be correct to underdrop on turns, thus making Wesley Dodds a fine character. I also like Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist a lot because of his natural ability to stun up the curve.
The Loners

Within the typical group of loners, you should find a lot of hidden talent spread widely across the group’s members. Of course, the loners don’t want to be acknowledged as a group. It would defeat their purposes. Very few of them interact with the athletes, the intellects, or the trendy clones, but occasionally they do come together to achieve a common goal.

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein is one of the few 1-drops that I’d consider for Sealed Pack play. Black Adam, Ruthless Hero is fine, as well. Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal is one of the most fun Vs. cards to play. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. He is that one specific loner that you just can’t help loving no matter how hard he tries to seem distant. Dr. Fate, Lord of Order is very large if equipped with a copy of each of the Fate Artifacts. If you get to turn 8, though, playing any unmatched 8-drop will probably win you the game.

Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder does not excite me, though I might be more inclined to play the card if I had a copy of the rare Thunderbolt, Yz in my deck. Yz is a little smaller than the 5-drops I prefer to play, but I certainly do like his power, and you should, too.

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade; Sand, Sanderson Hawkins; and Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore should always make my deck as more than acceptable filler. If Kate Spencer’s free power were not limited to attacking characters of higher cost, I would like it a lot more. When trying to draft a JSA off-curve deck, I would want cards like Kate Spencer in the 2-drop slot.

The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero’s high DEF value, flight, range, and his peculiar way of powering-up any of your characters with the promise of returning to do so again later make him seem to me like the best 7-drop the JSA team has to offer.
Other JSA-Related Plot Twists

I will try to play Advance Warning anytime I get it in Sealed Pack. Defensive tricks are scarce in this set, just as this card is rare. Deflection is not JSA-stamped, but with a number of characters that gain a benefit from being exhausted, it is the other defensive plot twist that I would consider when playing the JSA team in Sealed Pack.

Allied Against the Dark and Justice United are both basically generic Team-Ups that are flexible and available whenever needed.

Brothers in Arms is best on turns when your opponent has the initiative and characters are more readily available to exhaust as part of costs. I think Brothers in Arms makes the grade because it is flexible and provides another outlet to exhaust those characters with the built-in bonuses when exhausted.

In the locations department, The Rock of Eternity seems to have little value in Sealed Pack, but JSA Headquarters is top-notch.

The solitary equipment card specific to the JSA team, T-Spheres, is very powerful. If you read my Infinite Crisis Sneak Preview article a few weeks ago or if you have played with this card, I’m sure you agree.

During some downtime at Pro Circuit San Francisco, I plan to conduct a little Sealed Pack experiment that I’m sure will provide us all with some valuable insight into Sealed Pack deck construction. Next week, I will introduce you to the experiment before delving into coverage of the Shadowpact team. Be sure to read next week; I anticipate that the experiment will be a fun learning experience for both you and me.

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