(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack Clinic: Infinite Crisis, Part 4

Alex Brown

For this week’s Sealed Pack Clinic, I have a generally mundane pool that really doesn’t offer much beyond a single direction. Still, while last week’s pool seemed awful, I found a 3-1 deck within it. This week’s pool only offered me 2-2, but I consider it much more powerful. Perhaps I missed something in making this deck, I am not sure. If anything, trying to build this deck teaches you how to maximize your 37th-40th cards. While I don’t think I did as well as I might have, it pays to evaluate each card individually and not just see them as automatic choices because of a weight in team numbers.

The pool:

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein

Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

Batman, Earth 2

Wonder Woman, Earth 2

Power Girl, Earth 2

Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian

Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Dr. Fate, Lord of Order

T-Spheres

Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer

Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman

Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy

Blackbriar Thorn, Druid of Cymru

Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective

Dr Occult, Richard Occult

Blue Devil, Big Blue

Black Alice, Lori Zechlin

Zatanna, Showstopper

Zatanna, Showstopper

Abjuration

Mystical Binding

Stepping Between Worlds

Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Graziella Reza, Knight

Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw

Harry Stein, King in Check

Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

Brother I Satellite

Secret Checkmate HQ

Traitor to the Cause

Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo

Alexander Luthor, Duplicitous Doppelganger

Dr. Polaris, Force of Nature

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

Bizarro, ME AM BIZZARO #1

Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard

Talia, Daughter of Madness

The Calculator, Crime Broker

Systematic Torture

Coercion, Team-Up

No Mercy

Fiddler, Isaac Bowen

Brainiac, Earth 2

Catman, Thomas Blake

Animal Man, Buddy Baker

Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue

Kilowog, Drill Sergeant

Pariah, Herald of Doom

Scandal, Savage Spawn

Harbinger, Multiverse Messenger

House of Secrets

Checkmate Safe House

Help Wanted, Team-Up

Revitalize

Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

I Still Hate Magic!

Burning Gaze

Relentless Pursuit

Return Fire!

Laser Watch

Looking over the JSA, I found myself fairly happy. I had several excellent 1-drops if I needed them, and I also had my favorite 2-drop in the whole set, Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade. More importantly I had numerous playable 3s and 4s, as well as a decent 5-drop in Wonder Woman, Earth 2. Power Girl, Earth 2 is one of the better 6-drops in Sealed Pack, as she can break open a late game or even substitute as a 7-drop in a pinch. I also had two other very playable 7-drops, and I had access to the powerful T-Spheres. All in all, the JSA would easily be able to provide the backbone of a strong curve deck, and they even offered off-curve options to boot.

Superficially, the Shadowpact cards seem fine. However, by this stage of the Sneak Preview, I had really gone cold on Shadowpact. I was far from dismissing the affiliation as useless (that is an almost ignorant thing to do), but cards like Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman, Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective, Dr. Occult, Richard Occult, and Zatanna, Showstopper didn’t really impress me as Sealed cards. I could see them being powerful in Draft with some focus in a deck, but overall they didn’t really do much unless the themes of the team, such as being under 25 endurance (which is already risky), were firing. Generally I think the Blue Devils are quite good in Sealed, where size is paramount, but overall I just wasn’t hot on Shadowpact. This is something of a shame because their plot twists tend to be very good, with game-winners in Abjuration and Mystical Binding. Still, I wasn’t going to touch Shadowpact unless the other teams I had fell short of the mark.

Fortunately, Checkmate held a few options. I don’t mind Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army at all, finding that the potential of such abilities often acts as enough of a deterrent that you often effectively have a 3 ATK / 3 DEF to begin with. If you only ever have to pitch one card, he seems fine, as in curve decks where you often have a few cards lying around (the choice of what to discard is much easier later in the game when you are drawing dead drops). Double Sasha Bordeaux, Knight is very good. The 3-drops are ok. Even if I am loathe to play 4 ATK / 5 DEF characters at that slot, Graziella Reza, Knight looks as though she might be able to make it to 5 ATK / 5 DEF in this deck. While Harry Stein, King in Check is a bit of a risky proposition, Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop is excellent, with an ability that directly counteracts the cost of exhausting a 4-drop. Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army is a powerful Sealed card, though I am distinctly unimpressed by Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype. In the non-character department, things don’t really get much better than Brother I Satellite. If we have a good chance of having a Checkmate character at most of the early drops, which it looks like we do, this card single-handedly will double the chances of us playing this affiliation in an on-curve deck, as it effectively gives us an extra character at each drop. If we are going to be heavily Checkmate, Secret Checkmate HQ seems ok.

The Villains United pickings look pretty slim. Utility 1-drops are not really my style, as I feel that you only get a very small window in which to draw them (i.e., the first six cards) before they become dead cards. Dr. Polaris, Force of Nature, Talia, Daughter of Madness, and The Calculator, Crime Broker are also cards I don’t think stand up to four rounds of tussling on the curve. Considering we only have a few cards left, the Villains United plot twists seem like a waste of time, although it is something of a shame to let Systematic Torture go. Bizarro and Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard are good enough characters to make any deck that needs some help at those slots, but that is about it for Villains United.

Generally, the members of the non-core teams are decent. After having two bad experiences with Kilowog, Drill Sergeant, the guys I thought playable were Catman, Thomas Blake, Animal Man, Buddy Baker, Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue, Scandal, Savage Spawn, and Harbinger, Multiverse Messenger. Ragdoll is the only character who is at a level good enough where you might think about displacing a guy in one of your major teams, but the others could serve as fine filler if need be. My generic plot twists, equipment, and locations seemed a bit dry, but I was very grateful to have two generic Team-Ups this time around in Checkmate Safe House and Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up. Laser Watch and I Still Hate Magic! are automatic inclusions in any deck, and for a curve deck, Revitalize can be very good at blunting an opposing initiative or simply maintaining a character advantage. I am a fan of Relentless Pursuit in this format, even if it seems a bit underpowered. Burning Gaze and Return Fire! are both generally average cards, but they could make the final cut if I couldn’t find anything better.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason to go anyway else besides a Checkmate/JSA curve deck. There are several appealing things about a Checkmate/JSA build to me, such as a character search card in Brother I Satellite, decent characters early on that are in-team, and access to cards that can break the late-game open like Power Girl, Earth 2 and Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian. Here is the skeleton of the deck:

Characters

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

Graziella Reza, Knight

Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Batman, Earth 2

Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Wonder Woman, Earth 2

Power Girl, Earth 2

Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian

Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists

I Still Hate Magic!

Forbidden Loyalties

Locations

Checkmate Safe House

Brother I Satellite

Equipment

Laser Watch

T-Spheres

This build already seems pretty good, though it is patchy in places. Fortunately, we do have several guys on the bench who can easily make it onto the team. Specifically, it looks like we need two extra 4-drops, an extra 5-drop, and an extra 6-drop. The spare 4-drops are so good that I think I may have gone a little crazy here. Now while Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1 is definitely in the deck, being able to cover the 4- and 5-slot (as well as easily swinging up the curve when I hit him as my turn 4), Animal Man, Buddy Baker and Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue are also very good. In the end, I made a decision to go with the biggest fliers I could, so I put in Animal Man and Bizarro at the expense of the in-team Batman, Earth 2. I felt that with so much flexibility, I would rather have the largest characters who could take advantage of a multitude of board positions than play a guy with a fairly weak ability and no access to the back row. Ragdoll was left out for similar reasons, as I wanted to take the game by the scruff of the neck early, and not just hang on. The extra 5-drop was a pretty easy choice in Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard, and I wasn’t too concerned about having to run Scandal, Savage Spawn, as my only other option was Zatanna, Showstopper, who I cannot abide.

After all those changes, I was left with this:

Characters

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

Graziella Reza, Knight

Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Animal Man, Buddy Baker

Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1

Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Wonder Woman, Earth 2

Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard

Scandal, Savage Spawn

Power Girl, Earth 2

Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian

Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists

I Still Hate Magic!

Forbidden Loyalties

Locations

Checkmate Safe House

Brother I Satellite

Equipment

Laser Watch

T-Spheres

It was pretty easy to fill in the rest of the non-character slots. All I had to do was decide whether or not Secret Checkmate HQ was worth my time. In the end, I decided that it wasn’t, as I wasn’t sure I could always team-up Checkmate with the right team considering the splash I had made in the middle of the deck. I wasn’t prepared to give those characters up for an effect I think greatly overrated (i.e., insurance on stunning back). That left me with the filler plot twists mentioned earlier. It may surprise some of you that I went with Return Fire! over something like Secret Checkmate HQ. I am a big fan of surprise burn, even awkward-to-use burn like a non-Villains United use of Return Fire!, as many Sealed games end with players being ultra-conservative to ensure victory. Often a 6-point endurance loss is enough to push the game just that little bit you need to win.

So, the final deck:

Characters

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

Graziella Reza, Knight

Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Animal Man, Buddy Baker

Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1

Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Wonder Woman, Earth 2

Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard

Scandal, Savage Spawn

Power Girl, Earth 2

Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian

Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists

Return Fire!

Relentless Pursuit

Burning Gaze

I Still Hate Magic!

Forbidden Loyalties

Revitalize

Traitor to the Cause

Locations

Checkmate Safe House

Brother I Satellite

Equipment

Laser Watch

T-Spheres

I thought this deck was fairly strong, and definitely capable of going undefeated. Unfortunately, I was unlucky in my last game. All in all, I was very disappointed since the other games were more deliciously destructive than a knife doing what it does best with hot butter.

All of the 2s were good, as I had suspected. Even Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army turned out to do exactly what I had planned, and it even pumped my 5-drop Robot once (though I still lost!). Sasha Bordeaux, Knight is probably the best 2-drop in the set for Sealed Pack.

Graziella Reza, Knight was disappointing, as I didn’t have a location at the time, nor did I draw one before I had to KO her and leave my opponent’s 3-drop on the table. Otherwise at 3 I only ever recruited Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine, who is always at least adequate for my tastes. I have heard good things about Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker, Obsessed Outlaw, but I was never able to recruit him.

I never regretted Animal Man, Buddy Baker or Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1, though I missed my 4-drop in one game. Both characters are strong enough in straight curve decks that every deck should be interested in them, as Animal Man is pretty much an 8 ATK / 8 DEF with flight that you probably can’t reinforce or team attack with (which is still very good), and Bizarro is the definition of board advantage. The other game I had Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop, who wasn’t bad, but my lack of a 2-drop in that game made her look a bit silly.

Wonder Woman, Earth 2 is average. Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard is obviously awesome, even without being affiliated with other characters around him, and Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army is another excellent choice at 5. I might have picked up that the Robot could be another 7-drop, but in hindsight, I didn’t have the options at 5 to want to play fewer 7s and an extra 5, which is usually done in formats where winning on evens is common.

As for my late game, Power Girl, Earth 2 was the only character who held her own. The one time I wanted to use Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian for his text, I needed plot twists too much to be able to do so. Black Adam, Ruthless Hero was very difficult to use when defending, even with Return Fire! floating around in my deck. As you might have guessed, Scandal could stun back, but that was about it.

Brother I Satellite was as good as it seemed, and it will surely be a big card in Draft. The Team-Ups were obviously excellent, particularly as I had so many teams in my deck beyond the usual two. Traitor to the Cause was difficult to get going, as I only drew it in terrible positions, though when I did get it off it was good times and mildly shocking to my opponent. The other plot twists, with the exception of the undeniably good I Still Hate Magic!, were mediocre at best for me. I didn’t really have many other options, but perhaps I should have gone with the Secret Checkmate HQ, although it wouldn’t have saved me in the games I lost.

Tune in next week, when I will look at some methods to test for Booster Draft when you can’t get eight people together. After that, I will get into some more Draft walkthroughs.

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