(Metagame Archive) Draft 101: X-Men at PC San Francisco

By Doug Tice

In this article, I will take a look at the importance of deck synergy in terms of drafted decks using the three X-Men decks that I drafted at Pro Circuit San Francisco. Because Infinite Crisis is the current set being played in Sealed Pack events, you might think that there is little or nothing that you can learn from reading about my final three X-Men drafting experiences. But in truth, the fact that my examples are from X-Men drafts is irrelevant. No matter what the card set, being able to draft a deck with oozing synergy is what wins tournaments. So, look not to this article for specific card-based tips. Instead, please read on in hopes of gaining a better understanding of what deck synergy really is and how it makes all the difference between good and great results.

After a strong 8-2 Day 1 performance with “Ivy League,” I was sitting near the top of the standings in 14th place. Getting off to such a good start was wonderful, but it also presented a difficult challenge; joining me for the first round of drafting were my teammates Karl Horn, Adam Bernstein, and Adam Prosak. Other top pros, such as Mike Dalton and eventual Pro Circuit: San Francisco champion Ian Vincent, were also in my pod. Mastering this table was going to take some very good drafting and playing, and just might require a little luck, too.

I began my draft with Tommy, Runaway, a flexible pick that I would prefer to put into a strong Morlock evasion-themed deck. I tried to stay as open to my options as possible until I could get a clear signal about what was being passed my way. I took a sixth-pick Bum’s Rush to be the “green light” to focus on a Morlock evasion deck. This draft was covered here, so if you are interested, you can get all of the details.

The deck I ended up with was nothing short of a powerhouse. Here is the list.

1-Drops

1 Jubilee, Jubilation Lee

1 Electric Eve, Live Wire

1 Tommy, Runaway

1 Artie, Arthur Maddicks

2-Drops

1 Dazzler, Rock Star

1 Shadowcat, Katya

2 Tar Baby, Adhesive Ally

3-Drops

1 Beast, Feline Geneticist

1 Healer, Life Giver

1 The Beautiful Dreamer, Dreamweaver

1 Caliban, Mutant Bloodhound

4-Drops

1 Hump, Servant of Masque

1 Bishop, XSE Commando

1 Storm, Leader of the Morlocks

5-Drops

1 Cyclops, Blue Leader

2 Polaris, Acolyte

6-Drops

1 Iceman, Deep Freeze

1 Callisto, Morlock Queen

Plot Twists

1 Bum’s Rush

1 Shrapnel Blast

1 Turnabout

2 Retribution

1 The Forsaken, Team-Up

1 Mutopia, Team-Up

1 Good Samaritan

Locations

1 X-Corp: Hong Kong

1 The Alley

If you’re familiar with drafting and playing with the X-Men set, then you probably agree that this deck is just about off the charts. The two copies of Polaris are what keeps this deck somewhere within the stratosphere.

So, how was I able to draft such an incredible deck at a table with so much strong competition? I believe the answer is that I did a great job of reading signals and I also got a little lucky. I look forward to writing more about reading signals in a draft, but for now, I’d like to try to focus just on synergy.

Does this deck ooze with synergy? The answer is yes. In my article analyzing the results of “The Experiment,” I noted that Jason Hager asked, “What is this deck designed to do?” Looking back at these three drafts, I think I was asking this question to myself as I evaluated each of my picks.

This deck was designed to rule the combat phase, mostly on turns 4, 5, and 6. The objective was to get the most positive effect from evading smaller characters in early turns in order to achieve the big payoff in the middle to late turns. Cards like Retribution, Bum’s Rush, and Shrapnel Blast could be used to their fullest potential with this combination of cards. To help speed the game along, I had numerous small evaders and extra burn from a few of my characters and from The Alley.

Why Polaris? First of all, I had to pass on a number of opportunities to snag more ideal 5-drops to ensure that my lower curve and powerful plot twists were plentiful. Because cards like Bum’s Rush and Shrapnel Blast require a critical mass of stunned characters, I had to draft the smaller characters with evasion at a premium. The payoff was, of course, having a deck with layers of synergy. Polaris wasn’t just a flying “vanilla” character, though. The Morlocks characters have a very hard time breaking up formations because none of them have flight. With two copies of Polaris and one copy of Storm, there would still be a chance that Polaris could give all of my characters flight for one critical turn. Also, I ended up playing one copy of Iceman, which would require discarding an Energy card. Since Polaris also met this requirement, she fit the bill quite nicely.

As you might guess, I fared quite well in my first draft. I won all three of my rounds and found myself second seed in the tournament and at the top draft table for my next round. This table was almost as stacked with top Vs. System professionals as the first pod. Karl Horn, Vidianto Wijaya, Kim Caton, and Tim Batow joined me and a few others at this table.

Here are the thirty cards I registered at the end of this draft:

1-Drops

1 Lockheed, Saurian Sidekick

1 Electric Eve, Live Wire

1 Tommy, Runaway

1 Toad, Hopalong

1 Kleinstock Brothers, Acolyte

2-Drops

1 Tar Baby, Adhesive Ally

1 Cannonball, Blast Field

3-Drops

2 Joanna Cargill, Acolyte

1 Healer, Life Giver

1 Caliban, Mutant Bloodhound

4-Drops

1 Bishop, XSE Commando

1 Havok, Critical Mass

1 Hump, Servant of Masque

5-Drops

1 Feral, Maria Callasantos

1 Wolverine, The Best at What He Does

1 Marrow, Gene Nation

6-Drops

2 Callisto, Morlock Queen

Plot Twists

2 Kill or be Killed

2 Turnabout

2 Immovable

2 Neutralized

1 Special Delivery

1 Mutopia, Team-Up

1 Brave New World, Team-Up

The deck I ended up drafting had a ton of upsides but lacked synergy. With six combat-modifying plot twists and two “Finishing Moves,” it looks on the surface as if this deck might be able to hold its own. But against top competition, a deck that fails to gel completely can fall apart at the seams.

Here is the breakdown of this deck’s weaknesses. First of all, this was supposed to be a Physical trait­–stamped deck. I managed to scrape fourteen Physical characters together, but I filled the rest of my curve with four Energy characters and one non-Mutant. The two Immovables might still prove their worth, but would fall short of their full potential if I was not able to get those five non-Physical characters to share the Physical trait via the one Brave New World at some point during the game.

If I had been able to draft a few more Physical characters and another copy or two of Mutopia, then my team-stamped plot twists would have been more playable in every situation. Turnabout and Neutralized are both very strong cards, but only if they can be played at almost any given time. This deck had ten Morlock characters, but only five X-Men.

Notice that the character curve is lacking depth in 2-drops also. I played an extra 1-drop, Lockheed, to give me more chances of playing something on both turns 1 and 2. Lockheed also upped the count of X-Men to five, a number that is dangerously low to be playing two Turnabouts with. Unfortunately, Lockheed’s potential upside is lost in a deck with only four characters sharing the Energy trait.

The bottom line is that this deck was far too dependent on its two Team-Ups with four Brotherhood, five X-Men, and ten Morlocks characters and its too few 2-drops. This deck probably could have been saved if three of the 1-drops had instead been about two more 2-drops and one more Brave New World or possibly Mutopia. A Physical deck with oozing synergy would have eighteen to twenty characters all sharing the Physical trait and about three Mutopias enabling me to ignore team stamps and maximize incredible cards like Immovable.

It is difficult to say whether I botched a few of my draft picks or not. It’s tough to admit, but I probably did. With the deck listed above, I knew that I was going to need a little luck to win one or two matches. I had no expectation of winning all three.

At the end of round 16, I felt pretty lucky to have won one of my three matches. I still managed to hang onto seventh seed going into the final draft despite my 1-2 performance. Seated around the table with me were some more of the usual suspects. My teammate Gabe Walls joined me, along with Vidianto Wijaya, Kim Caton, Tim Batow, and Ian Vincent.

During this draft, I picked up on an early signal that X-Men were being under-drafted, as was the Energy archetype. By the end of pack 1, I already had three copies of Iceman, Deep Freeze in my card pool, one of which was a gift given to me thirteenth pick. Have a look below at my favorite deck of the three that I drafted in San Francisco.

1-Drops

1 Pyro, Freedom Force

1 Angel Dust, Adrenaline Junkie

2-Drops

1 Cannonball, Blast Field

2 Shadowcat, Katya

3-Drops

1 Bevatron, Hellion

1 Xorn, Shen Xorn

1 Caliban, Mutant Bloodhound

4-Drops

1 Bishop, XSE Commando

1 Havok, Critical Mass

2 Unuscione, Acolyte

5-Drops

1 Cyclops, Blue Leader

1 Gambit, Ragin’ Cajun

6-Drops

3 Iceman, Deep Freeze

7-Drops

1 Rogue, Anna Marie

1 Fabian Cortez, Acolyte

8-Drops

1 Magneto, Ruler of Avalon

Plot Twists

2 Magnetic Force

1 Drain Essence

2 Super Hero Showdown

2 Mutopia, Team-Up

2 Brave New World, Team-Up

1 Enemy of My Enemy

Going into pack 3, I was constantly repeating to myself the number of characters I needed to draft at each stop in my curve. I opened Enemy of My Enemy and was delighted not only to snag a money rare, but also to pick up a card that would help me cheat on multiple drops. Playing only three characters at the 3-cost slot and two with a cost of 5 was acceptable because I had the Enemy of My Enemy. I would still have preferred to have gotten one more 5-drop, but one that fit this archetype was never passed late enough for me to draft it.

I would really have loved to have drafted one more 2-drop. I played Angel Dust because she might be able to compete with opposing 2-drops in a pinch. Aside from those few small imperfections, this deck’s character curve was chocked full of very strong characters at each slot who all worked together and shared the Energy theme.

Notice that there are not any ATK modifiers in this deck. Notice the 8-drop. Notice the four Team-Ups. This deck was designed to do something. The object of this deck was to last into the later turns, where playing multiple 7-drops and an 8-drop would dominate the match. Every card in this deck played a role in achieving this goal.

I lost a very close game to Ian Vincent in round 17, but I got back on track to win again in round 18. With one round to go, I was back up to seventh seed but needed a win to make the Top 8. I got an easy win in round 19 with a great draw against one of the weaker decks in my pod, and the rest is history. I made a short appearance in the Top 8, then exited quietly when I lost to Gabe.

I couldn’t resist telling a little of my story about how I fought my way into my first Top 8. Trust me, I tried my best to make this article more about Draft deck synergy. I hope that I have come close to hitting my mark of illustrating why a deck needs to be focused on a goal in order to be absolutely great. As always, I hope reading this article has been fun and somewhat educational. I’ll be back in a week or two to (hopefully) entertain and educate once again.

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(Metagame Archives) Draft Clinic: Alex Brown

Alex Brown

Hurrah! This is the first week of Infinite Crisis Booster Draft. Disappointingly, I can’t make a celebrity out of anyone else in my local playgroup this week, as we could only get eight for a draft. What this means is that yours truly had to put his name into the hat to make up the numbers. In turn, this also meant that I had the pleasure of holding up the whole draft by writing down picks and such. It is with painstaking care that I bring you this first look at drafting Infinite Crisis. No doubt your until now uninformed opinions of my own drafting will be put to the test, and there will be sweet revenge for all of those I chastised in earlier columns. Enjoy!

Pack 1, Pick 1

Ishmael Gregor ◊ Sabbac, Malevolent Marvel; Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant; Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Coercion, Team-Up; Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; House of Secrets; Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Join Us or Die; Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade; Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian; Catman, Thomas Blake; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Wonder Woman, Earth 2; Nightshade, Shadow Siren

Although this pack has a pretty straightforward pick, it is interesting nonetheless. I don’t think there is much of a case for taking anything except Kate Spencer first pick. I tend to pick 3+ ATK 2-drops over anything else early on, as they are the common denominator between drafting off-curve and on-curve decks. Regardless of which style of deck you end up with, you will always need 4+ 2-drops. Kate Spencer is one of the best 2-drops in the set and the only early-pick JSA character here. Alan Scott and Wonder Woman are decent, but hardly first picks.

Aside from this, the pack holds a few other important features. It contains a strong Villains United weenie contingent led by Dr. Psycho (who is good, but not at the level of Kate Spencer). At the time, I think I overrated this, assuming that those characters and the Coercion would send a few players down the line into Villains United. Really, there is only a lot of good filler here and I shouldn’t have been so concerned about it. Finally, the Checkmate 5-drop is an excellent third or fourth pick, so this pack is really set up to be straightforward downstream.

My Pick Then: Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

My Pick Now: Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Pack 1, Pick 2

Coercion, Team-Up; Relentless Pursuit; Black Adam, Teth-Adam; Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Abjuration, Magic; Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne; Knightmare Scenario; Jay Garrick ◊ The Flash, Golden Age Speedster; Epic Battle; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Superman, Earth 2

With relatively little experience with Infinite Crisis Booster Draft (five drafts so far), I made a few mistakes in judgment here, although my pick was certainly fine. I considered the choices to be between Black Adam, Black Thorn, and Knightmare Scenario. My first mistake was that Abjuration should definitely have been a contender, and probably the pick. I am loathe to take Shadowpact at all, especially so early, but there are always archetypal cards that can turn the most mediocre of affiliations into a powerhouse Sealed Pack deck. Abjuration is that card for Shadowpact. While I don’t really have the space to embellish that statement here (rest assured I will in my card-by-card review at StarCityVs.com in a few weeks), I am convinced that I made a major misevaluation here. If Shadowpact had died out over the next few picks, I would have wasted one pick, but if it was open, as it usually is, I would have had the only common in the team that really justifies them.

So, having already erred with Abjuration, I think I also judged Knightmare Scenario a little too highly. Still, as I didn’t pick it, it is probably of little consequence. But in hindsight, it wasn’t really a contender this early in the draft. Black Adam is definitely an acceptable pick here, but I tend to shy away from committing to an on-curve deck so early in the draft. Additionally, I had mistakenly assumed that I had put more than one person on the scent of Villains United with my first pack. I picked Black Thorn here, who is a good pick even with her loyalty. She is a 3 ATK 2-drop, which as stated above is very important to me, and she gives me a toehold in Checkmate, the deepest affiliation in the set. Given that I had been passed a great Checkmate plot twist, too, I considered it safe to push into this affiliation.

My Pick Then: Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

My Pick Now: Abjuration

Pack 1, Pick 3

Abjuration, Magic; Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne; Deathstroke the Terminator, Lethal Weapon; Dr. Occult, Richard Occult; Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective; Black Adam, Ruthless Hero; Collecting Souls, Magic; Alexander Luthor, Duplicitous Doppelganger; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion; Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity; Deadshot, Dead Aim; Traitor to the Cause

At the time, I was unconcerned, but if I had taken the first Abjuration, I would have been looking very good with a second one here. Unfortunately, I was committed to a different path. There are several other decent third picks here. Black Thorn, Deathstroke, Carter Hall, and Deadshot are all fine depending on where you want to take your deck. For me, however, the path was clear.

I tend to try to draft against the grain. I feel that in a one-game format, you need to be doing something different to get an edge. For that reason, I default to off-curve rather than on-curve, as long as the format can support it. When I draft off-curve, I like to have six 2-drops and six 1-drops, and I find that the benefit of the strategy is that the 1-drops tend to come around late. Unfortunately, the 2-drops do not. Having had more experience than most with this strategy, I know that you really have to snap up the good 2-drops while you have the chance. Typically, this means 3 ATK and concealed status. Given that I think Checkmate is the easiest affiliation in which to get a good deck, and that the last pack suggested to me that I could get a good run from my dominant passer, I was very happy to take another Black Thorn here. The only issue is that this gives me a bit of uniqueness grief if I want to go off-curve, but that is almost negligible at this stage.

My Pick Then: Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

My Pick Now: Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne (though it clearly should be Abjuration if I had taken the first one)

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Collecting Souls, Magic; The Oblivion Bar; Check and Mate!; Allied Against the Dark, Team-Up; Amanda Waller, Queen; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Batman, Earth 2; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; No Mercy; Magical Lobotomy, Magic

This pack is the big time for me. By far, the two strongest cards are Checkmate. Who is better, Amanda Waller or the Robot? In this case, there is a correct answer. The Robot is excellent with 10 ATK and flight—very powerful indeed. On top of that, you get a decent boost ability, a KO effect that can be situationally game-breaking, and awesome synergy if you can get other OMACs into your deck. Still, Amanda Waller is better here.

The Queen is as good a skill tester as any in this format. When trying to be flexible early in the draft, Amanda Waller is the ultimate in keeping your options open. While she’s a decent beater in an on-curve deck, she is gold for off-curve. There she can hold the 4-slot down; stay hidden to keep numbers on off-initiatives; and most of all, be the best finisher you have. Remember, off-curve is about doing more with your resource points than your opponent is doing with his or hers. Being able to drop two 4-drops on turn 6 is about as good as it gets for off-curve. As I was looking to be off-curve at this stage (but always looking to stay flexible), Amanda Waller is definitely the pick here.

My Pick Then: Amanda Waller, Queen

My Pick Now: Amanda Waller, Queen

Pack 1, Pick 5

Catman, Thomas Blake; Traitor to the Cause; Connie Webb, Knight; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder; Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Multiverse Power Battery; Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion; No Hope; Systematic Torture; Zatanna, Showstopper

Though I had made a significant error with the Abjuration(s), it looked as if I had gotten away with it last pack. Unfortunately, this pack posed a new type of problem. While I like Traitor to the Cause a lot, I will never take it this early, even with two concealed 2-drops. The strongest card in the pack is clearly Systematic Torture, but taking it would really put me in a bind. It is not so much that I was worried about having put my neighbors into Villains United (which I was), but that moving into an affiliation because of a plot twist is very dangerous. Abjuration is one thing, especially when it’s such a high pick, but moving into the middle of the draft, things will get much more complicated if you want to be tricky.

The issue is that this is absolutely a Villains United signal. Regardless of there having been a better VU card in the pack before, there could really have been only one in the last three picks for someone not to slam this with even the faintest hope of being VU. This means that not only is the rest of this pack probably going to have a few VU cards in it, but also that I can rely on stuff in the third pack, too. At the time, I was worried that I was trying to go off-curve and the KO effect probably wouldn’t be as necessary as another character, but in the end, I think I made another mistake. I took the Hawkgirl, reasoning that I could go JSA / Checkmate off-curve (probably the strongest off-curve archetype), where 2 ATK characters with flight for 1 are obviously the goods. Still, I didn’t need to be this loyal to Kate Spencer this early in the draft. I should have taken the Systematic Torture and bitten the bullet. Overall, it is just a better card, and if my seat was right for off-curve, I would find more 1-drops later on.

My Pick Then: Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

My Pick Now: Systematic Torture

Pack 1, Pick 6

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs; Double Play; Grand Gesture; Baddest of the Bad; Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally; Superboy, Earth Prime; True Name, Magic

Given that I was committing myself to off-curve, I made a pick some of you might find surprising and snapped up Obsidian. This guy is amazing in off-curve, where you not only burn through plot twists, but you also need all the pumps you can get, even at the cost of a resource. Also, 8 ATK and flight is very tidy. Obviously, it was a bit depressing to see a Grand Gesture here, but once the Torture had been passed, I could never get into VU again. Superboy is of minor consideration here because if I wanted to slip back into curve, I would do so with affiliated guys.

My Pick Then: Obsidian, Todd James Rice

My Pick Now: Obsidian, Todd James Rice

Pack 1, Pick 7

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; Lex Luthor ◊ Mockingbird, Evil Exile; Threat Neutralized; Huntress, Reluctant Queen; A Moment of Crisis; Dodge the Bullet; Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic; Zatanna, Magical Manipulator

If you thought I didn’t really get good value for a sixth pick, then my seventh pushed me even further off-course. I took Huntress, who is fine, but not really what I am looking for in off-curve. You could make a case for Threat Neutralized, but I thought I better hedge my bets and keep some semblance of curve if it had to straighten out.

My Pick Then: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

My Pick Now: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Pack 1, Pick 8

Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster; Help Wanted, Team-Up; Jamie Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle, High-Tech Hero; Divination, Magic; Return of Donna Troy; Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally; Death from Above

Another fairly dry pack. I think the call here is fifty-fifty, with me keeping my off-curve dream alive with Jamie Reyes. You can make a case for Death from Above, giving me something else to do with resource points and a better option for an on-curve deck (which was looking like a much bigger possibility), but I think Jamie offers more. Death is a just not good enough a lot of the time, as the ATK bonuses are not really anything more than average for their cost. Jamie gives me a beater, even if unaffiliated, who can be used for benefit if drawn when irrelevant to the board. All I had to do was pick up some equipment.

My Pick Then: Jamie Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle

My Pick Now: Jamie Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle

Pack 1, Pick 9

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; ; House of Secrets; Join Us or Die; Catman, Thomas Blake; Wonder Woman, Earth 2

I definitely made a mistake here. I picked Sasha, thinking that it looked like I had to get back on-curve. Wonder Woman is clearly better than Sasha. She’s playable, but not really pickable. It’s interesting that the Zazzala wheeled over Coercion; there are definitely fewer VU drafters than usual.

My Pick Then: Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

My Pick Now: Wonder Woman, Earth 2

Pack 1, Pick 10

Knightmare Scenario; Epic Battle; The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Nightmaster, Jim Rook

Obviously, I was surprised to get this back. SLAM!

My Pick Then: Knightmare Scenario

My Pick Now: Knightmare Scenario

Pack 1, Pick 11

Abjuration, Magic; Collecting Souls, Magic; Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity; Traitor to the Cause

Funnily enough, I didn’t really see this as an aberration at the time. I remain deeply embarrassed (and bemused by the player who took the first one but not the second one—he probably took Dr. Occult out of the pack, which is definitely wrong, but it’s not like I knew this at the time!).

My Pick Then: Traitor to the Cause

My Pick Now: Abjuration, Magic (defensive draft)

Pack 1, Pick 12

Collecting Souls, Magic; Check and Mate!; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall

Who knows, my deck might need an edge if it is mediocre.

My Pick Then: Check and Mate!

My Pick Now: Check and Mate!

Pack 1, Pick 13

Traitor to the Cause; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder

My Pick Then: Traitor To The Cause

My Pick Now: Traitor To The Cause

Pack 1, Pick 14

True Name, Magic

Pack 2, Pick 1

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee; Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon; Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up; Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine; Death from Above; No Hope; Harry Stein, King in Check; Magical Conduit, Magic; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero; Divination, Magic; Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally; Roy Harper, Arsenal, Knight; True Name, Magic

With just enough gas to be acceptable as a first pack, I had some choices to make. Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero is the best card in the pack, though he needs archetypal assistance. Having passed the A Moment of Crisis earlier, I had already missed out on one of the crucial cards for making this guy good. Aside from that, I would definitely need to go back to on-curve with this guy, and I already had two 4-drops. Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight is decent, but really I can only make a case for him as an extremely conservative pick to stay in my affiliation. If I was going to go back on-curve, I’d be better off risking a bit more for more gain with Hawkman.

In the end, I went with Hawkgirl. Hawkgirl is a strong character (5 ATK and flight) who keeps my options open. I had yet to pick up any 3-drops, and she can slot right into off-curve or on-curve easily. Her power-up ability is much more useful than it seems, as well.

My Pick Then: Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

My Pick Now: Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

Pack 2, Pick 2

Ishmael Gregor ◊ Sabbac, Malevolent Marvel; Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion; Watch the Birdie!; Collecting Souls, Magic; Jay Garrick ◊ the Flash, Golden Age Speedster; Dr. Fate’s Tower; Ahmed Samsarra, White King; Thanagar; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Amulet of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double; Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

I made a terrible pick here. I don’t know whether it was because I was playing infinite Constructed before this or that I saw Nick Little bash Luke Bartter with this guy at the $10K in San Francisco, but I chose Ahmed Samsarra. In Constructed, his King status might not be such an issue, but in Sealed Pack, he is a whole different kettle of fish. On top of that, Samsarra wants to attack in Sealed Pack, not use his ridiculous ability. This guy could be good in the right deck, but mine wasn’t it.

What makes the pick so bad is that one of the best cards in the set, Dr. Fate’s Tower, was in this pack. Sure I didn’t have any Fate Artifacts, but they are not that hard to pick up and I already had Jaime Reyes to ensure that if I got all of them, I would be looking very good. On top of this, I had no locations for my Knightmare Scenario yet. This pick was a terrible error, and I think it was the biggest reason I wasn’t able to win this draft. Sure, I wanted to try out Ahmed, but the pick here was crystal clear.

My Pick Then: Ahmed Samsarra, White King

My Pick Now: Dr. Fate’s Tower

Pack 2, Pick 3

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee; Knightmare Scenario; Connie Webb, Knight; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; Justice United, Team-Up; Traitor to the Cause; Graziella Reza, Knight; June Moon ◊ Enchantress, Good Witch; Revitalize; Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1; Return Fire!

There are several decent cards in this pack, but only one that’s good for me. I need locations stat!

My Pick Then: Knightmare Scenario

My Pick Now: Knightmare Scenario

Pack 2, Pick 4

Join Us or Die; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Knightmare Scenario; Allied Against the Dark, Team-Up; Huntress, Earth 2; Lois Lane, Earth 2; Epic Battle; Heroic Rescue; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

While I would dearly have loved to have taken the third copy of Scenario, that would make my deck incredibly narrow and demand that I not only be mono-Checkmate (I had zero Team-Ups at this stage), but that I also pick up at least four locations. At this stage, I couldn’t guarantee that. Fortunately, the wonderful Annihilation Protocol gives me my first 5-drop, and a backup should I want a more aggressive curve.

My Pick Then: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 2, Pick 5

Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Ahmed Samsarra, White King; Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Double Play; Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion; True Name, Magic; Checkmate Armory; I Still Hate Magic!; Spectral Slaughter, Magic; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall

D’oh! I have no idea how I Still Hate Magic! came this far, but whatever, I’ll take it. Unfortunately, that means I have to let another Ahmed go, but given how fragile he tended to be in the game I played later, this might have been a good thing.

My Pick Then: I Still Hate Magic!

My Pick Now: I Still Hate Magic!

Pack 2, Pick 6

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive; Relentless Pursuit; Epic Battle; Huntress, Reluctant Queen; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Help Wanted, Team-Up; The Monitor, Guardian of the Multiverse; Black Alice, Lori Zechlin; Death from Above

Okay, without getting any more cheap 2-drops, I think my off-curve dream is over. I could hold onto it with Death or Pursuit, but this would be really bad drafting on my part. Sometimes, you have to know when to quit. Huntress, Reluctant Queen is easily the best card here for my deck, and with double Knightmare Scenario and no locations yet, I would have to take risks elsewhere.

My Pick Then: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

My Pick Now: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Pack 2, Pick 7

Amanda Waller, Queen; Watch the Birdie!; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion; Connie Webb, Knight; Checkmate Armory; Threat Neutralized; Pawn of the Black King; Nightshade, Eve Eden

That stinks. Three great cards for my deck, and this late in the draft, too. Well, as much as Pawn of the Black King would be devastating, I am in no position to take it right now. Threat Neutralized takes on extra significance with Ahmed in my pile, but it would still be a subpar trick that is protecting one other card in my deck. Black Queen is the best pick, and I feel sorry for myself and the awesome off-curve deck I almost had.

My Pick Then: Amanda Waller, Queen

My Pick Now: Amanda Waller, Queen

Pack 2, Pick 8

The Oblivion Bar; Kilowog, Drill Sergeant; Grand Gesture; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Ultra Humanite, Metahuman Manipulator; Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs; Cheetah, Feral Feline

Until now, it didn’t look like it had cost me anything not being in VU. Further, Cheetah is so good that I briefly reconsidered off-curve. Unfortunately, without Team-Ups and needing three more 2-drops in the last pack (as well as a bunch of locations), it was only a fantasy. I thought about cutting here, but I forced myself to swallow my pride and take the location. Oblivion Bar would do nothing in my deck except facilitate my Knightmares, but at this stage, I had to give them something.

My Pick Then: The Oblivion Bar

My Pick Now: The Oblivion Bar, with a nod to Cheetah, Feral Feline

Pack 2, Pick 9

Harry Stein, King in Check; Magical Conduit, Magic; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Divination, Magic; True Name, Magic; Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee;

Magical Conduit sticks out like a sore thumb here, but my deck isn’t good enough for me to cut it. Still with only two 3-drops, my choice is clear.

My Pick Then: The Penguin, Arms Merchant

My Pick Now: The Penguin, Arms Merchant

Pack 2, Pick 10

Collecting Souls, Magic; Dr. Fate’s Tower; Thanagar; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

The funny thing about Vs. Draft is that sometimes a pick can be so clear cut to begin with, and then a few clicks later, it is completely different. Having missed my chance at accumulating the necessary two-plus Fate Artifacts I needed to make this card good, I had missed my chance at Dr. Fate’s Tower. It still would have been an automatic slam if there wasn’t another amazing location in the pack, but that’s how quickly things can change. Simply enough, at this stage, with my deck in dire need of locations but also needing Team-Ups, I had to take Thanagar. That didn’t make me happy, but I had no one else to blame.

My Pick Then: Thanagar

My Pick Now: Thanagar

Pack 2, Pick 11

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee; Connie Webb, Knight; Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder; Justice United, Team-Up;

An easy pick.

My Pick Then: Justice United, Team-Up

My pick now: Justice United, Team-Up

Pack 2, Pick 12

Join Us or Die; Lois Lane, Earth 2; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

Going back into on-curve, there was a chance I would need another 7-drop.

My Pick Then: The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

My Pick Now: The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel

Pack 2, Pick 13

True Name, Magic; Spectral Slaughter, Magic

My Pick Then: Spectral Slaughter, Magic

My Pick Now: Spectral Slaughter, Magic

Pack 2, Pick 14

The Monitor, Guardian of the Multiverse

Pack 3, Pick 1

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Coercion, Team-Up; Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian; Deadshot, Dead Aim; Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Zatanna, Showstopper; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Revitalize; Return Fire!; Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1; Graziella Reza, Knight; Magical Lobotomy, Magic

At this stage, I was starting to get paranoid about 2-drops, having not seen any for a long time. For that reason, I probably made an error in taking Deadshot here. My thinking was that I would need to dedicate all of my marginal picks to getting locations, so I had to secure my curve first. Still, if that was the case, Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army or Graziella Reza, Knight were probably better picks, Deadshot is fine, but in my deck, I would find few ways to make a lot of use of him, so I probably should have passed him. This pick came down to pressure, and while not exactly wrong, it is likely incorrect. Between the other two picks, Checkmate 4-drops seem harder to come by (as I couldn’t play Harry Stein), so I would run the Robot, who has some synergy with my hidden 2-drops and Annihilation Protocol.

My Pick Then: Deadshot, Dead Aim

My Pick Now: Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 2

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Sasha Bordeaux, Knight; Traitor to the Cause; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel; Deathstroke the Terminator, Ultimate Assassin; Richard Tyler ◊ Hourman, Man of The Hour; Double Play; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Ragman, Redeemer of Souls; Burning Gaze; Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1; Target Acquired

Well, there’s the 2-drop I wanted. Still, even worse, there is the 7-drop Deathstroke who would have been the big payoff for being Villains United. Oh well. Still, there is really only one pick for me here, locations or not.

My Pick Then: Target Acquired

My Pick Now: Target Acquired

Pack 3, Pick 3

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Brother I Satellite; Wonder Woman, Earth 2; Thanagarian Invasion; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Superman, Earth 2; Epic Battle; Amulet of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Surveillance Pawn, Army; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Heroic Rescue

YAUS! As soon as I saw the location, I couldn’t have cared less if the pack had a Wonka Golden Ticket in it. Sure Thanagarian Invasion is excellent, but there simply wasn’t a card I needed more at this stage than Brother I Satellite. With my second playable location (and maybe third if I could find no more), I had a curve fixer as well. This would take a lot of the pressure off my late-game and make Ahmed a ton better.

My Pick Then: Brother I Satellite

My Pick Now: Brother I Satellite

Pack 3, Pick 4

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Nightmaster, Jim Rook; Threat Neutralized; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Helm of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Systematic Torture; Scandal, Savage Spawn; The Calculator, Crime Broker; Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero; Catman, Thomas Blake;

Paul Van Der Werk must have loved it as I passed him his second Systematic Torture to go with his Deathstroke. Fortunately for me, I got a great pick in my second Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army. At this stage, I desperately needed another 5-drop, and between these and the search location, I could reliably skip on running the rubbish Phantom Stranger as backup. Letting another Hawkman through is definitely bad, but at least I had shipped them in opposite directions.

My Pick Then: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 5

Catman, Thomas Blake; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Brother I Satellite; Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Deflection; Divination, Magic; Dr. Fate, Lord of Order; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man;

Oh . . . my . . . god. It doesn’t get any better than this. For further explanation, see Pack 3, Pick 3 and add exclamation points to taste.

My Pick Then: Brother I Satellite

My Pick Now: Brother I Satellite

Pack 3, Pick 6

Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Sasha Bordeaux, Knight; Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic; Lex Luthor ◊ Mockingbird, Evil Exile; Revitalize; Jay Garrick ◊ The Flash, Golden Age Speedster; Zatanna, Showstopper; Carter Hall ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Champion

I would have felt unbelievably vindicated if I had not picked up a Deadshot in the first pick of this pack. Unfortunately I did, but I still had a hole at my 3-slot, so Kendrick was an okay pick. I usually can’t stand 4 ATK on a 3-drop, but being concealed tempers this somewhat. It also gives me a non-Ahmed guy to search out on turn 3 if I am feeling fragile.

My Pick Then: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

My Pick Now: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Pack 3, Pick 7

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Catman, Thomas Blake; Batman, Earth 2; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Baddest of the Bad; Fiddler, Isaac Bowin; Zatanna, Showstopper; Stepping Between Worlds

Given that my remaining holes in the curve tended to be at the 4- and 5-slot, this was a big pick. While Obsidian had the flavor of the first pack, after having settled back into on-curve, Batman is a better pick.

My Pick Then: Batman, Earth 2

My Pick Now: Batman, Earth 2

Pack 3, Pick 8

The Calculator, Evil Oracle; Taking Up the Mantle; The Calculator, Crime Broker; Shazam, The Sorcerer; Relentless Pursuit; Secret Checkmate HQ; Rook Control

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. The 3-drop Calculator should never, ever go this late. He is the sort of guy I could take first pick, first pack. Well, I guess that’s the madness of the third pack. Paul on my left might be just about ready to propose when I pass him this! Luckily, there is a definite pick for me here in Secret Checkmate HQ, though the pack has a lot of quality for an eighth pick.

My Pick Then: Secret Checkmate HQ

My Pick Now: Secret Checkmate HQ

Pack 3, Pick 9

Alan Scott ◊ Sentinel, Golden Age Guardian; Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Zatanna, Showstopper; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Revitalize;

Heh. As it so often seems to happen with the third pack, a card I was willing to take first pick wheels to me. C’est la vie!

My Pick Then: Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 10

Obsidian, Todd James Rice; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel; Double Play; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army;

Good times. The 3-drop is a little mediocre on his own, but my double Annihilation Protocol makes him a certain starter.

My Pick Then: Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick Now: Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 11

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Heroic Rescue

Might as well take the decent 3-drop. This pack shows you how much of a mistake I made picking the 7-drop Sasha earlier.

My Pick Then: Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

My Pick Now: Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

Pack 3, Pick 12

Threat Neutralized; Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; The Calculator, Crime Broker

Capping off a good run of picks, I get a decent kicker here. A bit of insurance for Ahmed, a bit of a pump, but all-in-all a heck of a twelfth pick. I thought at this stage that the third pack had really rescued me.

My Pick Then: Threat Neutralized

My Pick Now: Threat Neutralized

Pack 3, Pick 13

Catman, Thomas Blake; Dr. Fate, Lord of Order

8-drops are terrible, but this 3-drop shouldn’t be this late.

My Pick Then: Catman, Thomas Blake

My Pick Now: Catman, Thomas Blake

Pack 3, Pick 14

Zatanna, Showstopper

This was the deck I ended up with:

Characters

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

2 Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

Deadshot, Dead Aim

Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Ahmed Samsarra, White King

Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

The Penguin, Arms, Merchant

2 Amanda Waller, Queen

Obsidian, Todd James Rice

Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Batman, Earth 2

2 Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

2 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

Plot Twists

Threat Neutralized

Target Acquired

2 Knightmare Scenario

Justice United, Team-Up

I Still Hate Magic!

Traitor to the Cause

Locations

Secret Checkmate HQ

2 Brother I Satellite

Thanagar

I went with a more middle-heavy curve because not only did I lack a few good extra plot twists and locations to go beyond the normal eleven (the second Traitor would have been too many), but also because I had so many power-ups that I wanted to be able to use the Brother I Satellites as combat tricks as well as curve fillers.

Funnily enough, I went a disappointing 1-2 with this deck. I lost the first game against Troy Armstrong, who was able to hit an awesome curve but nonetheless played well to take out a close match. Ahmed proved horrible in this match after he played Watch the Birdie! on it. This might seem random enough, but I got pounded earlier because my first few drops were hidden! I won the second game fairly easily after Adrian couldn’t hit a good curve at all. Finally, I lost the last game to James Kong, who brickwalled my turn 5 attack with Annihilation Protocol onto Black Alice with two Abjurations and a payment of half his life. It didn’t matter that I had +7 ATK, including OMAC Robots, giving him +2 ATK for the power-ups via Kendra Saunders. Good game.

Overall, I think my deck was okay. There were definitely elements that didn’t work as well as I would have liked (e.g. Ahmed), but overall, the power level was very high. I remain firm in my belief that Checkmate is the deepest affiliation in Infinite Crisis. Still, although my deck was very good, there was definitely a higher level of draft available in this tournament of which I wasn’t able to take advantage. Luke Bartter won with the Hawkman deck featuring Dr. Fate’s Tower. Paul lost in the finals to him with the VU nuts that I had passed him. Kongy beat me with the best mono-Shadowpact deck I have seen in a long time.

Mistakes I made earlier in the draft kept me from keeping my deck ahead of the pack. Remember, when you are drafting, you cannot evaluate your deck in a vacuum. You are dealing with much of the same information as everyone else; you are trying to draft the best deck at the table, not an artificially above-average deck. While I would have had to have had exceptional foresight to have snapped up the Villains United goodness that was coming through, I was definitely in a position to take advantage of the nut-high Shadowpact that was coming through, as well as the Fate Artifact engine that is so powerful in this format. There is even a possibility that the Hawkman deck could have been mine.

If you go back through the picks of this draft, you will find that I agree with most of the picks I made even now. However, the majority of the picks I disagree with were major mistakes. It pays to analyze your own drafts and see where you could have done better. We all need to realize that sometimes, even one mistake can be the difference between 1-2 and 3-0.

(Metagame Archive) Cerebro XXX – The Vin Diesel Edition

By Paul Ross

Hi All,

There’s been a considerable amount of rules excitement since the last installment of Cerebro (all of which is summarized here as usual), but the avalanche of Crisis questions in my inbox can be held back no longer!

Let’s say I control The Rock of Eternity and Atom Smasher. At the start of my attack step, the Rock triggers and its effect goes on the chain. In response, I activate Atom Smasher. Is he then flagged as an exhausted character? Can my opponent then flip, say, War of Attrition to KO the Rock and stop Atom Smasher from readying?

Zac O.

The Rock of Eternity is a fairly exotic card in terms of timing, so it’s well worth taking a closer look at it. The key point is that “the start of your attack step” is an instant in time. A good analogy is that the Rock of Eternity takes a “picture” of the game at this instant as its power triggers. A short time later, its triggered effect is added to the chain just before you get priority. If you choose to activate Atom Smasher in response, it doesn’t change the fact that he was ready in “the picture.”

After both players pass in succession, the Rock’s triggered effect resolves, readying all JSA characters you control that were exhausted in “the picture” and exhausting all other characters you control. This happens whether or not The Rock of Eternity is still face up in your resource row.

I have been trying to put together an Injustice Gang / Anti-Matter swarm deck using Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Royal Genetrix, who reads, “At the start of the recovery phase, you may put an Army character card with cost 1 from your hand into your front row,” and Anti-Green Lantern, who reads, “At the start of the recovery phase, KO Anti-Green Lantern.” I was hoping that once Zazzala’s effect actually resolves to bring AGL into play, the start of the recovery phase will have passed, meaning that AGL won’t self-destruct that turn.

Lee B.

Yep, that’s right. Anti-Green Lantern must be face up in play as the recovery phase starts in order for its power to trigger.

I am interested in playing Secret Six Victorious during Silver Age, but I want to know the exact timing of the card and what my opponent can and can’t do to interfere with it. Let’s say I have the initiative on turn 5 and I have the needed characters in play. I play a resource and then flip up Secret Six Victorious (I want to flip it up at the start of my recruit step, so I believe this is the correct time). My opponent plays Breaking Ground targeting Secret Six Victorious. Does the win condition go on the chain and therefore resolve even though the card is no longer there? If not, then can I flip Secret Six face down in response to the Breaking Ground and then flip it up after the Breaking Ground has resolved?

Jason H.

Okay, first things first. If a resource has a power that triggers at the start of a certain phase or step, that resource must be face up before that phase or step starts. I’ve seen a number of players come unstuck at high level tournaments by announcing things like, “At the start of my recruit step, I’ll flip Book of Oa,” which technically means that they’re flipping the resource after its trigger event has already passed for the turn. The correct announcement is, “Before my recruit step starts, I’ll flip Book of Oa”—a minor change that could save you some major grief at your next big event.

So, to answer your questions:

 

 

 

In response to the triggered effect of Secret Six Victorious, my opponent activates June Moon ◊ Enchantress, Good Witch targeting my Deadshot, Dead Aim, then plays Absolute Dominance in response. Is Deadshot removed from the game before I win the game? If I were somehow to get another Secret Six character into play before the Secret Six Victorious triggered effect resolves, would I still win the game?

Jason H.

Yes and yes!

If I use Chomin’s power to stun Firestar during the recovery phase, can I put her triggered effect on the chain, activate Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic in response (targeting Firestar), and then choose to burn my opponent but keep Firestar in play?

Jason H.

Yep, that all works. As Firestar’s triggered effect resolves, you may choose to KO her and burn your opponent even if she can’t be KO’d. The key is that her KO is neither a cost, nor checked by the words “if you do.” It’s just one part of the effect, and if it can’t be done, it doesn’t stop the rest of the effect from happening.

If I play Magnificent Seven with four or fewer resources, do I draw a card first or trigger ally powers first? Or do I have a choice in the matter?

Eric H.

Technically, ally powers trigger before you draw the card, but their triggered effects are not added to the chain until after the entire Magnificent Seven effect is done resolving. So the sequence goes:

  • Resolve Magnificent Seven (triggering ally powers and drawing a card)
  • Ally effects are added to the chain (in the order of their controller’s choice)
  • Primary player gets priority

 

BWA HA HA HA HA! negates a non-ongoing plot twist effect that targets a character. Can this stop Hard Sound Construct? Can this stop, say, the triggered effect of the 7-drop Two-Face (as his effect is not that of an on going plot twist)? I assume you can only stop plot twists, but I’m just making sure.

Eric H.

BWA HA HA HA HA! and all similar effects currently use the template “negate target effect from a non-ongoing plot twist” to remove the confusion about the possibility of targeting non–plot twist effects. Hard Sound Construct’s effect is also an illegal target for BWA HA HA HA HA! because it targets a character card rather than a character. A character card is also a character only while it is in a front or support row.

I control Shayera Thal ◊ Hawkwoman, Thanagarian Enforcer and Oliver Queen ◊ Green Arrow, Hard-Traveling Hero and power-up a character I control. I resolve Shayera’s effect first to search for an equipment, then play another effect before Oliver’s effect resolves. My opponent responds with yet another effect, and then we let these two effects resolve. Does Oliver’s ally effect resolve then, despite the initial power-up being far removed? Also, does my opponent get the chance to respond to the targeting of the character that Oliver tries to stun?

Eric H.

Yes and yes. Effects will resolve no matter how many effects are played in response, and an effect’s targets must be chosen as it’s added to the chain. So, your scenario breaks down as follows:

  • Initial power-up resolves, triggering both ally powers
  • You add Oliver’s effect to the chain first and choose its target
  • You add Shayera’s effect second
  • Both players pass, causing Shayera’s effect to resolve; as it does, you discard a card and search your deck for an equipment card
  • You play a new effect and pass
  • Your opponent responds with another effect
  • Both players pass, causing your opponent’s effect to resolve
  • Both players pass, causing your effect to resolve
  • Both players pass, causing Oliver’s effect to resolve; as it does, you may exhaust Oliver and stun the target you chose earlier

 

Can I play Enemy of My Enemy from my hand, put it on the chain, pay the cost of discarding a character card, and then play another effect before the search resolves? For example, I have three cards in hand: Enemy of My Enemy, Panacea Potion, and a character card. Can I play Enemy, discard the character card, play the Potion in response, resolve its effect, then search for a character?

Eric H.

A masterful sequence of play!

My friend and I were looking at the new Infinite Crisis cards and a question came up about Amanda Waller. We wondered if it was possible to boost her for 3 to get 6 points back, and then use those points to boost Elimination Protocol, thereby getting three 4-cost characters for the price of 7 resource points.

Douglas

Yep, sounds good. You’re restricted to using the 6 bonus points only to recruit Checkmate character cards, but since boost is an additional cost to recruit, it satisfies the restriction.

I have two questions about the current Bizarro text: “Your opponents cannot gain endurance.” If my opponent activates The Oblivion Bar to gain 5 endurance, can I flip Bizarro World in response to stop that endurance gain?

Robert F.

Yep, that works. The Oblivion Bar’s effect will resolve but do nothing.

An opponent attacks my Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1. Can I flip Bizarro World before Bizarro becomes stunned to stop the endurance gain? Can I also flip it in response to the stun (assuming I wanted to play a little risky?)

Robert F.

Yes to both, essentially. You can’t actually respond to the stun, but you can respond to the triggered effect that Bizarro’s power puts onto the chain. As long as Bizarro World is face up as that effect resolves, it does nothing.

When Mordru comes into play, can I choose anything as his identity? Or does it have to be the identity of a character I control? If I can choose anything, and I choose “Earth-2,” will he be considered an Earth-2 character for the purposes of cards like Superman, Earth-2?

Dave S.

The identity need not be that of a character you control, but it must be an identity that exists in the game. In other words, either:

  • The printed identity of a character card
  • Or the printed name of a character card with no printed identity

 

“Earth-2” is a version rather than an identity, and so is not a valid choice.

When Mordru comes into play, I choose a team affiliation and an identity. Can the affiliation be “unaffiliated”?

Dennis C.

Similarly, the chosen affiliation must be one that exists in the game. “Unaffiliated” describes an absence of affiliation, and so can’t be chosen for Mordru.

If I choose the identity “Batman” when Mordru comes into play, do I control Batman for the purpose of checking Superman, Big Blue Boy Scout’s requirements?

Dennis C.

No. Superman checks when you control a character named Batman (or an object with a power like Azrael ◊ Batman, Knightfall’s).

If I control Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man and I recruit Mordru, can I choose the “Spider-Man” identity and the Spider-Friends affiliation and not KO Spider-Man? Will Mordru then get bonuses from cards such as Going My Way?

Martin T.

If you recruit Mordru, the uniqueness rule checks only for other objects named Mordru you control. It ignores identities. In addition, the uniqueness check is made as part of resolving Mordru’s recruit effect before his power even triggers.

Going My Way is an excellent card to demonstrate what bonuses Mordru will and won’t get in your scenario. He will be able to attack this turn as if he has flight and range because he has the Spider-Friends affiliation. However, he won’t get +1 ATK because his name is not Spider-Man.

Hi, I have a question about Bizarro Ray. For the shortest explanation, I am going to use Aunt May, who has 0 DEF. If I attack her, and then use Bizarro Ray, would her DEF be -1, or can a character’s DEF not go below 0? Would she be stunned by Bizarro Ray?

lm16

Other than endurance, which has a few additional rules, negative values are treated as 0 except for purposes of further raising or lowering them. After Bizarro Ray’s effect reduces Aunt May’s DEF, it then asks what her DEF is. Because this question is simply checking her DEF, rather than attempting to further raise or lower it, it receives the answer “0,” and so Aunt May becomes stunned.

If I use Misappropriation to transfer an opposing Image Inducer to one of my characters, who then controls the transferable trigger?

Adam S.

The two relevant rules are:

  • You control all equipment equipped to characters you control

 

  • The player who controls the source of a triggered effect as it triggers is the controller of that effect

 

In other words, if Image Inducer is equipped to a character you control, its power triggers at the start of your formation step and you decide whether and where to transfer it.

Also, if a character is stunned in response to having equipment attached, what happens to the equipment?

Adam S.

I should start by clarifying that you can’t respond to “having equipment attached,” but you can certainly respond to an effect that intends to attach equipment as it resolves.

If that equipment is being recruited, it’s put into its owner’s KO’d pile because all targets of its recruit effect were illegal on resolution.

If that equipment is being transferred by Misappropriation, it stays where it is, because equipment can’t be transferred to a stunned character.

Most other transfer effects don’t target the destination character—that character is chosen on resolution—so there’s no window to stun that character in response to that choice.

I control High-Tech Flare Gun equipped to Character A. I pay 1 endurance to use its payment power during my recruit step, then transfer it to Character B during my formation step. Can Character A still attack hidden characters this turn?

Randy M.

Yes. “Equipped character” is used only to identify a character as the payment effect resolves. Once that character is identified (Character A in your question), that character can attack hidden characters this turn whether or not it’s equipped.

Bonus extra: If you now pay another 1 endurance, Character B can also attack hidden characters this turn.

Can I move a stunned character with The Hellfire Club?

Eduardo D.

Nope. A “character with concealed” is a face-up character with either the concealed or concealed—optional keywords. A stunned character has inactive text, and so can’t be a character with concealed.

Let’s say I’m playing a Hellfire Club deck and I have even initiatives. I play Power Play on turn 7 to steal the initiative. If the game goes to turn 8, who gets the initiative? I assume that I retain it because I have evens, but doesn’t it pass at the end of each turn?

John B.

 

The initiative does indeed pass at the end of each turn. “Evens” and “odds” are just a system for tracking who started the game with the initiative and how many turns have since passed, but a card like Power Play disrupts that system. To answer your question, if you enter turn 7’s wrap-up with the initiative, your opponent will start turn 8 with the initiative, regardless of who started the game with “evens.”

Does Fatality, Flawless Victory’s effect go on the chain. If it does, can I respond to it by playing a card like No Mercy or Baddest of the Bad?

SPADEoftheACE

Yes and yes. If the character to be KO’d is no longer in play as Fatality’s triggered effect resolves, it does nothing. Here are answers to two more Fatality FAQs at no additional cost!

  • Recovering the character to be KO’d in response doesn’t stop it from being KO’d

 

  • If both Fatality and a 3-cost character become stunned during the conclusion of an attack, Fatality’s power does trigger because powers that trigger off a character becoming stunned look at the game state just before that character becomes stunned to determine whether or not they trigger

 

My opponent controls Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard, and I control a 5-cost character equipped with Cloak of Nabu. Mr. Freeze attacks the equipped character and there is a mutual stun, so my opponent targets the equipped character with the vengeance effect. Does vengeance check the game state before the character was stunned? If it does, then surely the equipped character cannot be targeted, because the equipment would still be active . . .

Ross G.

Not quite. It is true that powers that trigger off a character becoming stunned check the game state just before that character becomes stunned to determine whether or not they trigger. So, in this case, Mr. Freeze’s power does indeed trigger because he was non-stunned at that point in time.

However, his triggered effect is not added to the chain until after the attack concludes, just before the next player gets priority. At this time, the equipped character is stunned, and so it can be targeted by Mr. Freeze’s effect.

Can Talia, Beloved Betrayer target herself with her vengeance effect? I think she can, since her effect is added to the chain after she is stunned, at which point she is a legal target.

Dave S.

Absolutely correct, for the reasons discussed in the previous question.

I recover Feral with Good Samaritan. My opponent then attacks Feral with Ra’s al Ghul, Eternal Nemesis. Ra’s would cause 3 breakthrough, but that breakthrough is reduced to 0. Does Feral get KO’d?

Dan C.

No. If an amount of breakthrough is reduced to 0 or less after applying all replacement modifiers, no breakthrough is caused.

I know that Utility Belt negates payment effects (any text to the right of one of those >>> thingies.) My question is: is evasion considered a payment power? On a lot of cards I see the reminder text (Stun this character >>> Recover this character at the start of the recovery phase this turn), which leads me to believe that it’s a payment power. If so, can Utility Belt negate the recovering effect of evasion?

Alan H.

You’re correct until you hit your last sentence; then things get interesting. Yes, evasion is a payment power, which means the effect that reads “Recover this character at the start of the recovery phase this turn” is a payment effect and can indeed be negated by Utility Belt.

However, if you choose not to negate that effect, it resolves ands creates a modifier that waits for the start of the recovery phase this turn. At the start of that phase, that modifier triggers and puts a triggered effect on the chain that reads “Recover this character.” Utility Belt can’t target that effect because it is triggered, not payment.

I control Total Anarchy and my opponent controls Multiple Man. If Multiple Man becomes stunned, does he get KO’d? Or can my opponent resolve Multiple Man’s effect before Total Anarchy’s to remove him from the game and put two more into play?

Eiigth

When it comes to simultaneous triggered effects controlled by different players, the order of resolution depends on who the primary player is. In such cases, the primary player’s triggered effects are added to the chain first and resolve last.  

Who is the primary player? During your attack step or during your steps of the build phase, you are the primary player. Outside of the steps of a turn, the primary player is the player with the initiative.

I recruit Rem-Ram from my resource row, reveal the top four cards of my deck, and put a reservist card into my hand. Can I put that card into my resource row to “reservist-replace” Rem-Ram?

Dave F.

No. You may only choose a card from your hand to “reservist-replace” Rem-Ram immediately after announcing his recruit effect and putting it on the chain. This happens before his power even triggers.

As an additional cost to play Brothers in Arms, I exhaust Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat. Does the target get +4 ATK or +7 ATK?

Natalie G.

The target gets +7 ATK. Brothers in Arms checks the ATK of the character you exhausted as it resolves.

When my opponent attempts to put a cosmic counter on Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal, can I jump across the table and clamp his or her mouth shut to prevent the “say ‘Shazam!’” part of the cost from being paid?

Jay B.

Despite your commendable enterprise, your insightful strategy breaks one of the fundamental rules of the game—you can’t stop a player with priority from paying a cost.

So, having ensured that Vs. System remains a non-contact sport for at least the foreseeable future, my work here is done! Please keep your questions incoming to vsrules@gmail.com.

P.S. Thanks to the fine folk of Ontario for their hospitality last weekend.

(Metagame Archive) Pro Circuit Indy Judge Sponsorships

By Toby Wachter

If you’re a judge and you’d like to be sponsored for Pro Circuit Indy 2006, Judge Manager Ian Estrin has posted the information you’ll need to apply. Check it out:

Hello Judges,

The next stop on the $1,000,000 UDE Pro Circuit will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana from August 10-13, 2006. The UDE Judge Certification Program will be offering sponsorship for this event to a limited number of judges. This is a phenomenal chance to improve your judging skills and to work with some of the most talented judges and players in the industry.

If you are interested in applying for sponsorship, please email judge@upperdeck.com with the subject line, “Sponsorship for Pro Circuit Indianapolis 2006.”

This sponsorship opportunity will be open from Tuesday, June 13, 2006 through Tuesday, June 27, 2006. No sponsorship applications will be accepted after 11:59 pm, Pacific Standard Time, on June 27, 2006.

There are two types of sponsorship: full and partial. Please indicate your sponsorship needs in your reply. If you only require a partial sponsorship, please list the type you need. This will increase your chances of receiving partial sponsorship.

Full Sponsorship: Upper Deck Entertainment covers the full cost of your airfare and hotel for the duration of the event.

Partial Sponsorship: Upper Deck Entertainment covers the full cost of EITHER your airfare OR your hotel for the duration of the event.

If you are selected for sponsorship, a UDE staff member will contact you between July 5 and July 7, 2006 to let you know the type of sponsorship you have received and to arrange travel to the event.

Minimum Application Requirements

  • Expertise in current Vs. System rules.
  • Proficiency with current UDE Tournament Policies.
  • Must be eighteen years of age or older.
  • Ability to work long hours with minimal breaks. Most days will be at least twelve hours long.
  • Ability to assist event staff with duties other than judging, including tournament area maintenance, player registration, side event logistics, game demos, and so on.


General Information

  • Pro Circuit Indianapolis 2006 will be held from August 10-13, 2006 at the Indianapolis Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Last Chance Qualifiers will be held on Thursday, August 10, 2006. Sponsored judges will be expected to judge at these events.
  • We are looking for judges who have excellent player management skills, in addition to a baseline of rules knowledge.
  • If you are not available to judge on Thursday, August 10, you may still be considered for sponsorship.
  • Each judge will receive $50 cash (U.S. dollars) during each day of judging to offset the cost of meals, snacks, taxis, parking, etc.
  • A judge may be scheduled for work outside of the Pro Circuit area. Talented judges are needed for side events, particularly on Saturday and Sunday.
  • The dress code is a black and white UDE judge shirt, black slacks, and black shoes. If you do not have a UDE judge shirt, a shirt will be provided for you at the event at no cost.
  • If you are not selected to receive sponsorship for this event, please do not be discouraged. We receive hundreds of applications and only require a very small number of judges. If you continue to work hard and advance your skills, you will most certainly be considered for a future event.
  • If you are not selected to receive sponsorship but still wish to volunteer at this event, please send an email to judge@upperdeck.com with the subject line, “Judge Volunteer for Pro Circuit Indianapolis 2006.”

 

Include the Following in Your Email

Please email judge@upperdeck.com with the subject line, “Sponsorship for Pro Circuit Indianapolis 2006.” The following should be included in the body of the email:

  • Name
  • Sponsorship type requested (full, partial-hotel, partial-flight)
  • Date of birth (mm/dd/yyyy)
  • UDE number
  • Vs. System rules certification level
  • Days you are available to work
  • Email address
  • Mailing address (street, city, state, ZIP, country if from outside the United States)
  • Phone number
  • Events you regularly judge
  • List of premier events you have judged, if any (PCQs, $10Ks, Pro Circuits)
  • Any special requirements (hotel, flight, food, disabilities, and so on)

 

If You are Selected for Sponsorship

  • Judges will have to provide a signed copy of the judge waiver prior to attending this tournament.
  • Judges are expected to act in a professional manner at all times, and any judge not doing so will be asked to leave the venue immediately.
  • Judges will need a credit card to cover incidental expenses at the hotel (room service, movies, laundry, and so on).
  • Judges will cover their own transportation to the airport and hotel.
  • Judges may be assigned to share a room with one other judge.
  • Judges may not have friends, spouses, players, or volunteers stay in their rooms, for liability reasons.
  • Judges will pay any changes to the hotel or flight schedule that cost more than the original purchase price.
  • Many judges may wish to take the advanced level Vs. System Rules Knowledge Exam. While we will try to rotate judges so that they are able to take this exam, no judge is guaranteed a chance to take the exam at this event.
  • Bring comfortable shoes and socks.
  • Be prepared to work very hard for the duration of the event.

 

If you have any questions regarding this email, please email judge@upperdeck.com.

Sincerely,

Ian Estrin

Judge Manager

Upper Deck Entertainment

 

Toby Wachter
Managing Editor, Metagame.com

(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack 101: The Experiment, Results Analysis

By Doug Tice

Well, folks, I’m back from San Francisco and I can definitely say that I had a blast. I finished seventh overall, losing in the quarterfinals to my teammate Gabe Walls. If you’ll remember, I noted in my opening paragraph from last week’s article that I was worried that too many players would come prepared to combat our powerful Ivy League deck. I was right. Sage, Xavier’s Secret Weapon would not have made her way into anyone’s decks if players hadn’t been tipped off that The Donkey Club was bringing Ivy League to the event. While we still managed to place four members of our team into the Top 8, I feel that we would have done tremendously better if we had brought the element of surprise. All in all, though, this was a great event for us.

But I’m not writing to brag or whine about Pro Circuit San Francisco. I’m writing to share the exciting results of “The Experiment.” If you didn’t read last week’s article, here is a quick summary: I opened five random Infinite Crisis booster packs and recorded the contents. Then my plan was to ask three of my teammates to build independently what they would play in a Sealed Pack event from this card pool. My participants were Jason Hager, “The Constructed Genius”; Tillman Bragg, “The Well-Balanced Master”; and Neil Reeves, “The Sealed Pack Genius.”

Once again, here is the card pool presented to each of the participants.

Legacy Characters

1 Lois Lane, Earth 2

1 The Penguin, Arms Merchant

1 Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

1 Animal Man, Buddy Baker

1 Ultra-Humanite, Metahuman Manipulator

Unaffiliated

1 Mordru, Dark Lord

Secret Six

1 Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

1 Deadshot, Dead Aim

1 Catman, Thomas Blake

1 Parademon, Apokoliptian Ally

1 Scandal, Savage Spawn

1 Lex Luthor ◊ Mockingbird, Evil Exile

Shadowpact

1 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

1 Nightshade, Eve Eden

1 Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman

1 Dr. Occult, Richard Occult

1 Ragman, Redeemer of Souls

1 Blue Devil, Big Blue

1 Zatanna, Showstopper

Villains United

1 Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo

1 Cheetah, Feral Feline

1 The Calculator, Evil Oracle

1 Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1

Checkmate

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

1 Arthur Kendrick, Knight

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Harry Stein, King in Check

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

1 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

1 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

1 Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

JSA

1 Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Equipment

1 Amulet of Nabu

1 Laser Watch

1 Tricked-Out Sports Car

Locations

1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

1 Dr. Fate’s Tower

Plot Twists

2 Coercion, Team-Up

1 Conjuration, Magic

1 Double Play

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Join Us or Die

1 Justice United, Team-Up

1 Knights’ Gambit

2 Knightmare Scenario

1 Magical Conduit, Magic

1 Pawn of the Black King

1 Revitalize

2 Return Fire!

1 Systematic Torture

2 Taking Up the Mantle

1 Target Acquired

1 Thanagarian Invasion

1 Threat Neutralized

1 True Name, Magic

1 Traitor to the Cause

Tillman and I flew to San Francisco together, so he was the first to participate in the experiment. I chose not to participate myself in the hope that I could be non-biased in my journalistic adventure. His approach to building the deck, although limited by the amount of space provided by his tray table, was to look at the depth of characters in each team. Being that there were so few Villains United characters, he quickly eliminated them and got to work.

After about twenty minutes, this is the build that Tillman presented.

2-drops:

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

1 Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

3-drops:

1 Arthur Kendrick, Knight

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

4-drops:

1 Harry Stein, King in Check

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

5-drops:

1 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Mordru, Dark Lord

6-drops:

1 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

7-drops:

1 Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists:

1 Knightmare Scenario

1 Threat Neutralized

1 Target Acquired

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Revitalize

1 Thanagarian Invasion

Locations:

1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

1 Dr. Fate’s Tower

Equipment:

1 Amulet of Nabu

1 Laser Watch

After reviewing his build, a few of his decisions struck my interest. I was particularly surprised that he chose to play Harry Stein but chose to not play the second Knightmare Scenario.

Here are the questions I asked Tillman. I planned to ask the other participants almost all of the same questions, as well.

Me: Why Harry Stein?

Tillman: I think he’s really good. You have Knights at 2, 3, and 5. Threat Neutralized and Revitalize help to get around his drawback.

Me: When you received the card pool, what were your first impressions?

Tillman: Checkmate really stood out. There was just barely enough depth in two teams to keep from playing a third.

Me: What were your most difficult decisions?

Tillman: The decisions to cut the second Knightmare Scenario, whether to play Tricked-Out Sports Car, and whether to play Fate’s Tower were all pretty tough.

Me: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being extremely easy and 10 being extremely hard to build, where would you rate this card pool?

Tillman: I’d say 2 or 3. There were no decisions to make concerning characters. The deck nearly built itself.

Me: What are the shortcomings/strengths of this card pool?

Tillman: The 2-drops and 3-drops couldn’t be any better. There are few pumps in the card pool and the 5-drops and 7-drops could be a little better.

Me: After discussing the build (I had quizzed him about a few of his other decisions), do you wish you had made any different choices?

Tillman: Harry Stein might be a mistake. I probably should have played the other equipment (Tricked-Out Sports Car) and the other Knightmare Scenario

Tillman and I shared a room with Neil Reeves and Adam Bernstein. The night before the big event, I sorted the card pool back into its original order so as not to leave any trace of Tillman’s build. Neil was happy to play along in the experiment and took a crack at building the Sealed Pack deck.

Here is the build that Neil submitted.

2-drops:

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

1 Prince Khufu à Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

3-drops:

1 Arthur Kendrick, Knight

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

4-drops:

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

5-drops:

1 Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Ragman, Redeemer of Souls

6-drops:

1 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

7-drops:

1 Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists:

2 Knightmare Scenario

1 Threat Neutralized

1 Target Acquired

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Revitalize

Locations:

1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

1 Dr. Fate’s Tower

Equipment:

1 Amulet of Nabu

1 Laser Watch

1 Tricked-Out Sports Car

Neil’s build differed from Tillman’s by only three cards (they are shown in bold). Neil opted not to take a risk on Harry Stein, but he kept the Threat Neutralized in just for its one-time +1 ATK / +1 DEF bonus. Looking back on this decision, I think I disagree with keeping Threat Neutralized in the deck. I probably would have cut this in order to splash some other off-team 4-drop.

Here are the questions I asked Neil:

Me: You are playing only three characters the 4-cost slot. Is that enough?

Neil: It should be fine. There aren’t really any other options.

Me: Tillman chose to play Mordru as his third 5-drop. Mordru is basically on-team. I see that you chose Ragman instead. Did you consider Mordru, and why did you choose Ragman instead?

Neil: Ragman is just too good. He’s a 5-cost 12 ATK / 10 DEF. That’s just too good to pass up. The other guy (Mordru) has flight and range, but it’s worth ignoring teams to play Ragman.

Me: When you received the card pool, what were your first impressions?

Neil: There were only two deep teams. Shadowpact got a second look, but Checkmate and JSA fit better. Strangely, there were six different Secret Six characters.

Me: What were your most difficult decisions?

Neil: I wasn’t sure if I wanted to splash an off-team 4-drop and/or 5-drop. I also really wanted to play about two Shadowpact 1-drops, but that would have led me to playing a third Team-Up card, which I just couldn’t fit.

Me: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being extremely easy and 10 being extremely hard to build, where would you rate this card pool?

Neil: 2 or 3.

Me: What are the shortcomings/strengths of this card pool?

Neil: The 2-drops are awesome. There is great synergy and search with Samsarra, Brother I Satellite, Fate’s Tower, and so forth. I really wish I were playing some 1-drops.

After seeing Neil’s build, I thought, “Well, Jason is sure to build this deck similarly.” Both Tillman and Neil rated this as being pretty easy to build, and I was inclined to agree. I fully expected to be writing this article tonight to examine only the minute differences in my three teammates’ builds. Even if that were the case, there could still be much to discuss. But I was pleasantly surprised as I watched Jason work with the card pool on Sunday.

As Jason sifted through his options, I noticed that he had quite a few small stacks of cards. I missed my opportunity to get a closer look, but suffice it to say, he was already thinking outside the box in which Tillman and Neil had designed their decks.

I left Jason to his work while I watched Gabe and Tillman play a match from a little Donkey Club six-man draft. In each of the games where Gabe played Conjuration, Magic, he lost almost as a direct result of the endurance he had paid. Jason overheard me saying something about Conjuration, looked up with the grin of a kid on Christmas morning, and said, “Are you talking about this card pool? Because I am definitely playing Conjuration. It’s awesome!”

Here is the deck my Constructed Genius submitted:

1-drops:

1 Nightmaster, Jim Rook

1 Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

2-drops:

2 Sasha Bordeaux, Knight

1 Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

1 Deadshot, Dead Aim

3-drops:

1 Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man

1 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

1 Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo

4-drops:

1 Dr. Occult, Richard Occult

1 Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot

2 Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Hero

5-drops:

1 Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

1 Blue Devil, Big Blue

6-drops:

1 Zatanna, Showstopper

1 Power Girl, Earth 2

7-drops:

1 Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

Plot Twists:

2 Knightmare Scenario

1 Threat Neutralized

1 Target Acquired

1 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

1 Justice United, Team-Up

1 Conjuration, Magic

Locations:

1 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Safe House, Team-Up

Equipment:

1 Tricked-Out Sports Car

1 Laser Watch

In case you have never seen the types of decks that Jason plays in Constructed formats, you might want to take a look at Ivy League, Evil Medical School, and New School. Do you notice what those decks have in common? Jason loves to play a high Team-Up count. He also fancies having quite a few teams in play on his side of the table all at once.

It looks to me like Jason’s build will be a little less reliable than those submitted by Tillman and Neil. While I generally think that Sealed Pack is more about finding the most consistent thirty-card build, Jason’s approach forced me to step back and re-evaluate a number of cards that I had written off because of their teams or team-stamping.

Jason had a lot to say about his decisions. Most interestingly, he stated, “This deck is built to fail one attack. Once you do that, you win the game.” Again, I was impressed with this statement. Neither Neil nor Tillman made any mention of what the deck was designed to do.

Me: Why splash for Fiddler?

Jason: Since he is free, you can play him on the turn that you want to fail the attack. With one of the two Katar Hol ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Heroes in play and/or possibly a Prince Khufu à Hawkman, Eternal Warrior in the hand or KO’d pile, you are almost assured to fail at least one attack.

Me: Why play Deadshot over Sarge Steel?

Jason: Deadshot is the best 2-drop in the deck! He’s an extra character that keeps coming back!

Me: So you really like Conjuration, huh?

Jason: On my turn 5 initiative, I’d be happy to pay 15 for Zatanna.

Me: When you received the card pool, what were your first impressions?

Jason: There were almost no Villains United characters, but there were quite a few nice Villains United-stamped plot twists. Checkmate’s characters were deep, but there were only three locations available.

Me: What were your most difficult decisions?

Jason: There were just so many good plot twists from which to choose.

Me: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being extremely easy and 10 being extremely hard to build, where would you rate this card pool?

Jason: 5.

Me: What are the shortcomings/strengths of this card pool?

Jason: Its teams are all over the place, so it will be hard to make the most of Mr. Terrific. Brick-wall potential with this deck is very good, though.

I showed Jason how Neil and Tillman built their decks and then asked him if he had any afterthoughts. His reply: “I can’t believe they didn’t play Fiddler!”

So, what can be learned from this experiment? Here are just a few examples of what I learned.

1: After seeing Jason’s build, I tried tossing a late-picked Deadshot, Dead Aim into a deck I drafted later that night. I have to admit, I was quite pleased with the card.

2: After hearing Jason say, “This deck is designed to . . .” when referring to a Sealed Pack deck, I decided that “What does this deck do?” is a question I will continue to ask myself as I build my Sealed Pack decks in the future.

3: Neil’s Ragman and Tillman’s Mordru were both options I think I might have overlooked if I had built the deck beforehand.

For those of you whose hopes were high that I would get input from the unlikely fourth contestant, Alex Jebailey (“The Instinctive Apprentice”), I’m sorry to say that he did not attend Pro Circuit San Francisco. I felt that “The Experiment” was a wonderful learning exercise for me, and I hope that you share that sentiment. I enjoyed this exercise so much, in fact, that I plan to do it more frequently. I think I will need a new title for the exercise, though. Future installments of the series formerly known as “The Experiment” will now be called “The Study.”

(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack Clinic: Scott Hunstad, Infinite Crisis

Alex Brown

Welcome back to my article series taking a look at the different deckbuilding approaches of some of Australia’s top Sealed players. This installment follows immediately from last week’s article about Luke Bartter’s Infinite Crisis Sealed Pack deck. This week, I’ll give you an inside look at Bartter’s opponent that night, Scott Hunstad. Scott has already been featured in one of the articles I did on drafting The X-Men. Fortunately, Scott is no shrinking violet, and he was quite welcoming of the attention!

This is the pool Scott opened:

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein

Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder

Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist

Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Charles McNider ◊ Dr. Mid-Nite, Golden Age Academic

Superman, Earth 2

The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero

Taking Up the Mantle

Brothers in Arms

Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee

Nightmaster, Jim Rook

2 Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman

Dr. Occult, Richard Occult

Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs

2 Blue Devil, Big Blue

Zatanna, Showstopper

Dr. Fate, Hector Hall

Mystical Binding, Magic

Aspiring Pawn, Army

Sarge Steel, Knight

Ahmed Samsarra, White King

Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Graziella Reza, Knight

Elimination Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

Target Acquired

Knights’ Gambit

Pawn of the Black King

Rook Control

Checkmate Armory

Cheetah, Feral Feline

Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

Dr. Light, Furious Flashpoint

The Calculator, Evil Oracle

Sinestro, Villain Reborn

Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor

Fatality, Flawless Victory

Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard

Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double

The Calculator, Crime Broker

Coercion, Team-Up

No Mercy

Baddest of the Bad

Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity

Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

Deadshot, Dead Aim

Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue

Mordru, Dark Lord

Secret Six Victorious

Return of Donna Troy

A Moment of Crisis

Burning Gaze

Deflection

2 Defend Yourself!

Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

Multiverse Power Battery

Return Fire!

Justice United, Team-Up

Dr. Fate’s Tower

Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic

Thanagar

Laser Watch

Cloak of Nabu

Amulet of Nabu

Scott started by separating the cards into characters, plot twists, equipment, and locations (seems like a common theme). He doesn’t think there is one best method of further separating the cards, but he notes that there are so many cards in Sealed Pack that you need to have some plan for organizing them from the outset. Scott doesn’t really look at the cards until separated, but like Luke, he had a keen eye for rares, particularly the big sellers.

Scott then went on to separate his cards even more, sorting team-stamped non-character cards by affiliation. He hoped to see strong Villains United and/or Checkmate representation, as he thinks those are the best teams. According to Scott, JSA is too thin for Sealed; it has good characters but too many holes in the curve. He considers Shadowpact something of a quirky team, having a lot of filler but not really much gas overall.

Scott expressed some dismay at the lack of good Checkmate locations before noting that he did have several Team-Ups, which are something of the lifeblood of Vs. System Sealed. Team-Ups can quite easily save otherwise mediocre pools when opened in sufficiency. Scott was impressed with double Defend Yourself!, which he thinks is very good. Conversely, he didn’t have anything good to say about Burning Gaze, even though he admits that it is playable. At this stage of building his Sealed decks, Scott doesn’t really have a set curve in mind. He likes to look at his best cards or teams and go from there. Scott didn’t have firm opinions on the number of 1-drops that should make his deck, for example.

Looking at his JSA, Scott had mixed emotions. He thought his original assessment of the team remained accurate—with the team lacking a good curve—but like Luke, he was impressed by the twin Mr. Terrifics. Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist and Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man could potentially provide the foundation for a fearsome off-curve deck. On top of that, Scott only had good things to say about Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein, which he believes is one of the premier turn 1 plays in the format.

Looking over Shadowpact, Scott felt that team offered more characters who filled a general curve. Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee is very, very good. Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs and double Blue Devil, Big Blue seemed okay. Dr. Occult, Richard Occult can be good. Scott mentioned that he likes Zatanna, Showstopper, particularly if his deck is trying to win on turn 6. If he’s looking to win on turn 6, Zatanna could be used to draw a few extra cards to fuel a rampage, and defending on turn 6 is never bad with 13 DEF. Still, there just wasn’t much of a deck there.

Fortunately, Scott had extremely good Villains United characters. Fatality, Flawless Victory, Sinestro, Villain Reborn, and Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor could all be superstars at their slot. Scott believes Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double, Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard, and The Calculator, Evil Oracle could be the best characters in the format at their respective drops. On top of all of this, Scott had Cheetah, Feral Feline, Baddest of the Bad, No Mercy, and Coercion to ensure he didn’t have to look elsewhere for the bulk of his deck.

Still, Scott had to feel a little exasperated when his Checkmate pool turned out to be decidedly average. Ahmed Samsarra, White King is obviously very powerful, but he is restricted by loyalty—reveal. Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army is quite good, and it could definitely be a splash possibility. Sarge Steel, Knight is definitely good, but the rest of the team seemed to be 4 ATK / 5 DEF, which Scott and I both believe to be weak. A quick look at his possible ATK pumps showed that this weakness could not be overcome, so Checkmate was unlikely to be a support team to Villains United.

Of his non-featured-team cards, Scott liked Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue, though he couldn’t really see himself wanting it that much, as his Villains United 4-drops were so good. Scott thinks Deadshot, Dead Aim is awesome, and he would include it in any deck. Scott really likes free characters, and the concealed potential of this card would allow him to return it (and hide it) whenever he wanted.

Realizing that his options were essentially limited to what Villains United could cough up and the other teams could support, he started with the Villains. This was his initial skeleton of the deck:

Cheetah, Feral Feline

Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon

Deadshot, Dead Aim

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

The Calculator, Evil Oracle

Fatality, Flawless Victory

Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor

Sinestro, Villain Reborn

Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard

Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double

The Calculator, Crime Broker

At this stage, Scott wasn’t happy with what he had to work with. He thought that he would need all the ATK pumps he could get from characters, as he had almost no pumps in his non-character cards (only Laser Watch and Burning Gaze). In this vein, Scott put both Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist and Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man in his deck with the intention of building something of a short curve. He explained that his options were so poor on the curve that this was really all he would be able to get out of this deck. He would need to hit the ground running, playing a character on the first turn to try to out-tempo the better decks he would theoretically face in a real tournament.

According to Scott, it’s very important that you’re able to assess what is a good pool and what is a bad one in Sealed Pack play. When your options are limited, you need to push the envelope more, taking more risks to try to beat the best decks. When your pool is decent—like Luke’s was last week—you are much better off building a consistent deck that is able to take advantage of its general superiority to the majority of other decks. Scott said that this sort of evaluation is not really possible until you have seen several Sealed Pack pools in a particular format.

With something of an off-curve plan firmly in mind, Scott was happy to add Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder to his deck. This would give him another search card to go with Baddest of the Bad, meaning he could be looser with some parts of his curve. Unfortunately, Scott isn’t a fan of Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman, so he had only three 2-drops he was considering. This is really bad news for an off-curve deck. Scott decided to rely on his 1-drops to fill the hole, because he thinks that a 1-drop is still able to trade with a 2-drop at least half the time.

To clean up the edges, Scott decided to add Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue, as he was likely to be playing more than one 4-drop per game due to the nature of his curve. Scott went down to three Team-Ups—cutting Justice United—and found Brothers in Arms as an extra pump to add to the mix. Finally, Scott considered playing The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero as a potential pump, showing how much he was clutching at straws in building this deck. Eventually, he decided to leave it out.

Here’s Scott’s final list:

Characters

Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein

Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist

Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity

Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder

Cheetah, Feral Feline

Deadshot, Dead Aim

Sarge Steel, Knight

Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

The Calculator, Evil Oracle

Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist

Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man

Fatality, Flawless Victory

Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor

Sinestro, Villain Reborn

Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue

Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double

The Calculator, Crime Broker

Plot Twists

Coercion

No Mercy

Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

2 Defend Yourself!

Brothers in Arms

Deflection

Baddest of the Bad

Burning Gaze

Locations

Thanagar

Equipment

Laser Watch

In Scott’s estimation, Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein is in the running for not only the best turn 1 play, but also one of the best 1-drops ever (particularly in combination with the Mr. Terrifics). Being of such low cost, he can really save a lot of endurance in the late game. As an aside, Scott says not to attack with him until he is at least 4 ATK. Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist goes a long way, and he is probably a first pick in any off-curve deck given that his effect is not team-stamped. Since Scott was playing off-curve, this guy enabled him to maintain characters on off-initiative turns as well. Scott thought Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity wasn’t as strong; one needs a crazy good location like Brother Eye to play him as anything but filler. Jakeem Williams, JJ Thunder was also disappointing for Scott, never being effective in combat or having the team affiliation to look for the appropriate late-game cards. Cheetah, Feral Feline seemed good, especially in combination with Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon and Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double for big pumps. Additionally, she was just good at smoothing out draws with the bounce effects.

Sarge Steel, Knight didn’t turn up for Scott often enough for him to make a decent assessment. Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon is fine as a 2 ATK / 3 DEF character, as the effect is good enough to play regardless, and people often forget the vengeance trigger. Deadshot, Dead Aim was a card Scott particularly liked, but due to the many concealed characters in these games, being able to use him as a free attack on a 2- or  3-drop didn’t happen as much as he would have liked. Scott had no regrets about not playing Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman, as without ATK pumps, she was never going anywhere.

Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive wasn’t expected to serve as much more than filler, and her ability never really burns for more than 2. Concealed is good for keeping guys, though. Scott says The Calculator, Evil Oracle is insanely good, especially in combination with a deck that can hit a 1-drop. Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist is fantastic in short-curve decks, always going up the curve. Under-dropping is never bad with this guy around. Being able to play powerful 1-drops on later turns should not be underrated. Michael Holt ◊ Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man has been discussed at length. Needing everyone to be JSA can be tough, but overall, is there anything bad to say?

Fatality, Flawless Victory was surprisingly poor for Scott, taking out some of his own guys at times! She’s probably more a Constructed card than a Sealed or Draft card. Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor seems good, but with Scott’s only 6-drop being of the same name, he didn’t really want to play him that often. Scott admitted that when he did play him he was good, but he was clunky in his deck. For Sinestro, Villain Reborn, Scott couldn’t do much more than gush. Having 8 ATK, flight, and a hugely relevant ability is pretty good. Sinestro has to be attacked last in case you have defensive pumps, so he is often extremely effective. Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue wasn’t more than filler in this deck, but he’s good enough that he wasn’t out of place.

Scott was adamant that Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard was the best character in the deck. Having him stunned is good, having him not stunned is good, and 9 ATK / 10 DEF seems to be very annoying in combat. Again, what hasn’t been said before here? Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army attacks for 10, and that’s all that matters in Scott’s mind; Scott thinks the ability is not as relevant as many people believe—but it is still a 10 ATK with flight.

Scott thought Alexander Luthor, Diabolical Double was the second-best card in the deck. Having 14 DEF is ridiculous on a 6-drop, and drawing cards is never really bad (and goes nicely with the next card). The Calculator, Crime Broker is average by Scott’s estimation, as he didn’t really suit the deck he was playing. He may be good because he can swing back for a lot of endurance loss when your opponent has odds, but he still requires a pump to hit 7-drops, which can be rough.

Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up was quoted as being the best Team-Up there is as an offensive and defensive trick, and Coercion was never really going to be bad with Villains United as the major team. No Mercy was only used by Scott once (in response to Revitalize), but Scott pointed to Luke’s 3-drops being concealed often enough that this card wasn’t usually relevant. Defend Yourself! was excellent for Scott, allowing his many 1-drops to take out bigger characters. For his type of deck, this was invaluable. Scott really liked Brothers in Arms, thinking it highly underrated. It is much better on defense, but it is also good insurance on attacks. Deflection was good for Scott, as he had many characters on the table often enough to make this upwards of +4 DEF. Baddest of the Bad was good as well; Scott could play fewer of the higher drops, and there was always a situation where he had more than one character stunned, so paying the cost wasn’t hard. Burning Gaze was as weak in his deck as Scott suspected, but he said that he had to play with what he had. Thanagar was pretty much just a super team-up, which can’t be bad, especially considering how many random teams Scott was forced to run. Finally, Laser Watch is pretty much a staple, and Scott said he couldn’t imagine a situation where he wouldn’t run this card, particularly in a format where ATK pumps are sometimes sparse.

Scott never really found his feet with this deck. He was still able to win games, but without the requisite 2-drops for an early game, the late-game characters for a curve deck, or even the plot twists that would make any sort of combat deck, there was little he could do.

That should be the last of the Infinite Crisis Sealed Packs I examine, so stay tuned to this column for our first look at Infinite Crisis Draft next week!

(Metagame Archive) Theoretically Speaking: Goals

By Shane Wiggans

Welcome! How are all my favorite readers doing this week? I am a bit more upbeat than my normal self, so let me tell you why: Pro Circuit San Francisco was a blast! No matter how many times I attend these events, I always leave feeling satisfied, whether I’m the runner-up, ranked thirtieth, or even if I don’t get a win at all on Day 2. (And yes, all three of those things have happened to me.)

Last week, I gave you an after-the-fact PC preparation guide that I wrote as I got ready to attend Pro Circuit San Francisco. Specifically, I mentioned the deck that I planned on taking to the Pro Circuit. While I did very well for myself (thirtieth overall), Tim Batow surpassed me in excellence. There was a reason I was not the only person picking him for a Top 8 performance, and he did not disappoint. Unfortunately, he took a loss to the eventual PC Champion, who played a deck that was very much like a mirror match. However, even out of disappointment can come joy.

DR. LIGHT AND . . . TIM BATOW?

I’m not sure how long this has been a tradition, but whenever a member of the Top 8 at the Pro Circuit loses, the winning-challenged individual gets a chance to pick an oversized card of his or her choice. After Tim Batow lost, he picked a card that will likely follow him around the rest of his life: Dr. Light, Master of Holograms. Why would such a card follow him around, do you say? Well, let’s consider some facts:

  1. Tim Batow is small.
  2. Dr. Light brings small characters into play.
  3. Add in an oversized card, and you have a recipe for hilarity.

 

The night after Day 3, we decided to take full abuse of the great fun that was “activating” Dr. Light to bring Tim Batow “into play.” Tim was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and Michael Barnes grabbed the oversized card and stood just outside the bathroom. The bathroom was in a hall of the room, so it would appear that when Michael exhausted Dr. Light, Tim would be brought into play. As we tried admirably to restrain our laughter, Tim called out that it was way too quiet. He opened the door and saw Mike holding the oversized card, and we told him we would not let him out of the door unless Dr. Light brought him “into play.” And so Dr. Light exhausted, and Tim Batow emerged, ready for action! Needless to say, we laughed about that all night, and I am here to tell you today that I luckily caught it all on film and may one day treat you with a clip . . . but, alas, that day is not today!

In all seriousness, that story would not be possible without Tim making an amazing performance at the Pro Circuit with an extremely solid deck. In this article, I am going to go through the many decisions an individual faces when contemplating a curve-based deck.

GOALS . . . AGAIN?

I tend to talk about goals when I write these articles; having a focus is vital when optimizing any deck. If your deck tries to do too many things at once, bad things can happen. You may end up accomplishing a couple of goals, but that could be at the cost of efficiency and power. Consistency is important to most pros when developing new decks, and it requires a clear purpose or goal.

The best example I can give of this is the Squadron Supreme deck that I took to the Pro Circuit in Atlanta. That deck was built with one purpose and one purpose only: to smash face. It didn’t care what your opponent did. The deck had no contingency plans if it was to face a certain matchup. It was wall-to-wall aggression. The reason it succeeded was because it was not muddled down trying to do too many things. By maxing out the drops and utilizing cards that played to the deck’s aggressive strengths, we were able to make the deck’s draws consistently predictable and powerful.

HOW DO YOU PICK A GOAL?

Good question. Back in the early days of Vs. System, I believed the game was a simple “I run my guy into your guy” type of game. I have naturally found out that this is not always the case. Sometimes, decks operating on such principles can do well, as I previously explained. Other times, though, you have to think harder and longer and consider concepts other than sending your biggest guy into theirs.

What are some commonly picked goals? Well, obviously a straight combative deck is a popular archetype. Also, there are combo decks, which my team has gained some notoriety for. There are also defensive decks, whose main goals are to brick-wall attacks and then swing back for the win. This was the type of deck that my team decided to take to Pro Circuit San Francisco.

In the end, deciding what goals you want your deck to accomplish will largely depend on the current metagame. If there is a lot of low-curve rush, build a deck that combats that with weenie hate so as to allow an alternative goal, such as a straight aggressive curve. Likewise, in a field dominated by curve builds, an off-curve deck that can get a win quickly and with little liability can capitalize on what is being played.

WHAT’S NEXT?

For Pro Circuit San Francisco, my team decided to go with a curve-based deck that brick-walls attacks. Our next question became, how do we accomplish this goal? Working within Silver Age, our card pool was limited, and we hit the head of the nail on the first try. Here’s the decklist I ran at the PC:

Characters

4 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

4 Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1

4 Connie Webb, Knight

1 Deathstroke the Terminator, Ultimate Assassin

4 Dr. Psycho, Mental Giant

4 Genis-Vell ◊ Photon, Transformed

1 Kang, Kang Cobra

2 Maxwell Lord, Black King

2 Mikado and Mosha, Angels of Destruction

1 Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

1 Ultron ◊ Crimson Cowl, Dark Disguise

Plot Twists

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Knightmare Scenario

4 Threat Neutralized

Locations

1 Bizarro World

2 Brother Eye

4 Brother I Satellite

4 Checkmate Safe House

1 Latverian Embassy

1 Phantom Zone

1 Slaughter Swamp

1 The Science Spire

Equipment

4 Knight Armor

Checkmate seemed an obvious choice in helping us achieve our goal. There were several cards that really drew us to the team, and I will share some of those with you in hopes that when you are building your deck and thinking about your goals, similar kinds of cards will catch your eye.

Checkmate Safe House, with its +1 DEF for all support row Checkmate characters for the whole turn, just screamed to be used. It was actually conceivable to get two to three copies in play; that would give all your characters that qualify essentially an ongoing Spider Senses. I know you know that is good!

Knight Armor is just flat-out amazing no matter how you describe it. It gives you an additional +2 DEF while defending, and it practically gives you a From the Shadows while attacking. Being able to give this effect at no cost (as all that is required is for you to control a Checkmate character), this card further validated our feelings that this team was for us.

Knightmare Scenario is one of those plot twists that seemed like a new version of an old card. Remember Army of One from Hellfire Club? I sure do. That card was a pain to deal with and presented a constant threat of bouncing attacks. Well, Knightmare Scenario does the same thing, but it is a little more versatile. First, you can give the bonus to any character, albeit at one half of the intended benefit. Second, there is not a “control only one visible” character restriction.

LYNCHPIN STATUS

Almost every successful deck has a lynchpin. This is that one character that totally sets the pace and often sets up the win condition. Now, don’t get me wrong—this doesn’t mean bomb rare, or what have you. It refers to a card or group of cards that either gets your deck moving or finishes the job.

For the deck that we took to the PC, Ahmed Samsarra was the man. He searched out that key location I mentioned earlier, Checkmate Safe House, and could also find any number of other tech locations. However, there was a huge problem. He had this annoying little text in his box that said that whenever he would be put into the KO’d pile from play, we’d lose the game. Well, to be honest, that didn’t scare us. His stats and activated ability were so strong that we knew he would be more of a “win the game” card than a “lose the game” card.

One thing I learned by playing Ahmed, though, was that focusing on a card that furthers your goals also means that you must minimize the cards that exploit the given card’s weaknesses. This is incredibly important. If playing a certain card makes you vulnerable to a certain play, you must determine two things. First, is the benefit that the card provides worth the risk? In Ahmed’s case, we felt it was. Second, is there any way to lessen the impact of the card’s drawback? We were also able to answer this question affirmatively, for the most part. Out of seven players playing the deck at the PC, we played a total 70 matches, and only three were lost due to Ahmed’s King text. (I held the dubious distinction of losing twice to it. If you want more information on that fun experience, check out Ben Seck’s Day 1 blog.)

CHARACTER SELECTION

This section can be considered somewhat obvious, but sometimes it may not be. Just because you know what you want your deck to accomplish does not mean that the characters will jump out of your sleeves, pages, or boxes into your hands. Rather, careful consideration should be paid to the characters that make your deck. Just because a character “seems” like a good fit doesn’t mean that it is.

Merlyn, Deadly Archer is a great example. The way our deck was coming together, it seemed that Merlyn would be right at home. We were playing lots of locations as well as a way to search out locations and fit them into our row. So why didn’t we play him? Well, we did . . . at first. He was in all of our builds in the beginning because of his “obviousness.” Unfortunately, the defensive stance that we wanted the deck to keep was a hard fit for Merlyn. He was only good on our attack step, and even then he was incredibly fragile, as his ability depended on him maintaining a cosmic counter. There were ways to save him—like Rook Control—that we tested briefly, but we felt like we would be losing the focus of the deck if we tried to get too tricky. Thus, eventually, we cut Merlyn.

Let me say this now: just because we cut Merlyn does not mean it is not a good card. On the contrary, Ian Vincent‘s deck abused the crap out of Merlyn for the win. He just did not fit into what we wanted our deck to accomplish. That is the point of this little section. You have to really test what you decide to play. If you know for certain you want your deck to accomplish a certain goal, you may be forced to eliminate a character that could potentially be game breaking in a different (or even similar) deck.

THE DREADED CURVE

This part is really not that hard to figure out. The more drops you play at any given slot, the higher the likelihood you will hit said drop. This obviously changes with the varied search methods available. The more search cards you play (like Enemy of My Enemy or Brother I Satellite), the higher your chances of hitting your desired drops and potentially making your mulligan condition easier to identify.

The standard curve that I normally like to use is as follows:

1-drop: 0-4

2-drop: 4-8

3-drop: 4-6

4-drop: 4-6

5-drop: 4

6-drop: 3-4

7-drop: 1-2

As I mentioned above, running search cards will skew the numbers at each drop, as you don’t need to play as many actual characters when you up the number of plot twist and location effects to search them out.

You also need to consider whether a certain number of characters is needed in your deck to function. Obviously a reservist deck would run infinitely more characters than my team did at PC San Francisco. The goals of each deck will dictate this area of deck construction as well, which further illustrates the importance of knowing the goals of your deck.

ALL THE REST

If you have made it this far with your deck, you likely have slots open. Your characters are set. Your goal-accomplishing cards like Checkmate Safe House are in. Now you have room for tech cards. When determining these last slots, you have to make a judgment call as to whether or not playing techy cards will be a benefit or burden to your deck. This, again, is largely determined by the metagame, where maybe one card is great against one deck and then lousy against all the rest. You, as the master deckbuilder that you are, must make this call. Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you get it wrong. There is no hard-and-fast rule here, as the face of the metagame can change overnight.

There were cards in our deck that we thought were great metagame calls that I honestly felt we could have done without. For example, Ultron ◊ Crimson Cowl. He was included primarily to deal with Marcus Daniels ◊ Blackout and El Guapo. Unfortunately, as a team, we saw those cards approximately once throughout 70 matches. That slot likely would have been better filled with a card like Sage, Xavier’s Secret Weapon, or maybe Metallo. In the end, finding these last few cards is a guessing game.

IN THE END

I want to thank you for wading through some of the decisions that my team and I made in regard to how to build the deck we played at the PC. Hopefully, you learned a little something about deck construction. I know that I may not have touched on everything, but every deckbuilder has his own personal preferences, and sometimes you just have to go against the grain. All in all, I feel that the blueprint above can get you on your way to developing a strong, focused deck that could make some waves.

 

 

You can reach Shane at piercedlawyer@yahoo.com, and he will likely read your email in hopes of finding future deck ideas! Or, he may just answer any questions you may have. It’s anyone’s guess at this point!