(Metagame Archive) Draft Clinic: Jonathon Luey

Alex Brown

This week, this column covers the international globetrotter Jonathon Luey. Originally from New Zealand via Europe, Jon has made a name for himself drafting in Sydney. Although he has been known for his wacky Constructed decks, such as Villains United / Revenge Squad (hint: Talia + Mercy and Evil Oracle + Mr. Mxyzptlk), he is probably now better known as the last guy to beat Alex Antonios in a premier event Top 8 (he bested him in the final of a Sealed Pack PCQ a while back). Jonathon’s draft is one of the smoother ones I’ve covered, but I still found plenty to talk about!

Pack 1, Pick 1

Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; Surveillance Pawn, Army; Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up; Huntress, Reluctant Queen; Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine; Detective Chimp, Shoeless Gumshoe; Kilowog, Drill Sergeant; Jacob Lee, Knight; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Black Adam, Teth-Adam; Collecting Souls, Magic; Target Acquired; Batman, Earth 2; No Mercy

This is the kind of pack I like to see first up. It contains a fairly standard power gradation and no bombs. I like this sort of pack because not only are you guaranteed a solid pick, but also the rest of the picks will unfold predictably behind you. That makes it easy to pigeonhole your opponents in certain teams.

This pack has a number of staple picks and several decent filler picks. I think we can identify Kendra and Black Adam as acceptable first picks; Huntress, Forbidden Loyalties, Batman, No Mercy, Target Acquired, and the Chimp as staples; and the Pawn, Animal Man, and Jacob Lee as the decent filler.

Kendra and Black Adam are a cut above because they can dominate a game by themselves. As Kendra is a little more reliant on other cards to be above merely good, I would go with Black Adam here. As it stands, I also think quality 3-drops (and particularly JSA 3-drops) tend to be easier to get than 5-drops. Finally, I think Villains is a slightly stronger team overall. Given all of these little differences, I would have gone with Black Adam. Jonathon went with Kendra.

Jonathon’s Pick: Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

My Pick: Black Adam, Teth-Adam

Pack 1, Pick 2

Laser Watch; Scandal, Savage Spawn; Scandal, Savage Spawn; Return of Donna Troy; Help Wanted, Team-Up; Jaime Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle, High-Tech Hero; Adam Strange, Champion of Rann; Burning Gaze; Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue; No Mercy; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Sasha Bordeaux, Knight; Cheetah, Feral Feline

After the satisfyingly linear initial pack, we are thrown a bit of a curveball here. This pack is by no means weak, but it lacks the sort of direction I like from my second picks. There are a lot of mid-range cards here, but I don’t think anything stands out as a signal or an easy take. Cards like Ragdoll, No Mercy, and Laser Watch are all fine but don’t really have that second-pack feel about them.

What should you do in a situation like this? The most important thing to do, assuming that you have a decent working knowledge of how to assemble a curve and negotiate character selection alongside non-character selection, is to think about the format. In this case, you might consider the difficulty of obtaining decent 6-drops. This pack does have Scandal, who is serviceable, but there are two copies, so you can expect one to wheel. No Mercy is decent, but we have just passed Black Adam from a straightforward pack, and the plot twist alone is not strong enough to negate an entire second pack. Laser Watch is the best generic card in this pack, but this format is more about synergies and strong teams than it is about efficient attacks.

Jonathon solved this difficult puzzle admirably. He chose Adam Strange. In this format, 2-drops are not so important, but you still want good ones and Adam Strange gives you some flexibility in that regard. Although he is almost unaffiliated, his KO ability probably just edges out the need to take a more forceful stance with Sasha Bordeaux (who I would nonetheless consider an acceptable pick). In picking Adam Strange, Jonathon avoids making a wasteful pick here, even if he might not be entirely satisfied with his second pick power-wise.

Jonathon’s Pick: Adam Strange, Champion of Rann

My Pick: Adam Strange, Champion of Rann

Pack 1, Pick 3

Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore; Allied Against the Dark, Team-Up; Coercion, Team-Up; Deadshot, Dead Aim; Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man; Threat Neutralized; No Mercy; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Ted Grant ◊ Wildcat, Golden Age Pugilist; Amanda Waller, Queen; The Penguin, Arms Merchant

Fortunately, the power level picks up again here. For a third pick, there are several quality options. It would seem that the pack is split between solid Checkmate and JSA characters, with the 5-drop OMAC Robot and Waller for the former and Wildcat and Hourman for the latter. These cards are all relatively similar in standing, so there seems to be no need for Jon to move away from the direction he established with his first pick. Given that he already has a 3-drop JSA character, the Hourman is a strong pick.

Jonathon’s Pick: Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

My Pick: Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

Pack 1, Pick 4

Stepping Between Worlds, Magic; Amulet of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Knight Armor; Laser Watch; Conjuration, Magic; Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Checkmate Armory; Target Acquired; The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Knightmare Scenario

Here we reach the crossroads. There is no decent JSA card in this pack. Instead, there is a glut of Checkmate goodness. On top of this, there are the archetypal Conjuration and Amulet of Nabu. Which option should we take?

Firstly, I think both the Conjuration and Amulet would be bad picks here. Conjuration is extremely powerful but needs a very forgiving deck built around it, and I don’t think you should move into that sort of deck because of Conjuration. Rather, I think you should already be in it with earlier picks like Dr. Occult, Abjuration, and The Phantom Stranger, whose applications are less stringent. Shadowpact is the most temperamental of teams, and unless you can force it from the first pick, you need to be absolutely sure you can get the pieces you need first. As a rare, Conjuration precludes you from knowing for sure at this stage, as many players see it as a risk. Likewise, I think the Fate Artifact decks are not worth pushing for without a Dr. Fate’s Tower. Their popularity demands that you prioritize non-character cards, but you still need to draw all of the parts if you don’t get the Tower. Picking either of these cards would be very risky here.

Instead, I think Jonathon made the intelligent decision and moved into Checkmate. The last pack had Checkmate options, as did the second pack. At this stage, it is still early enough to move in before the door shuts and the players on your left are too entrenched for you to get anything out of the second pack. So which card to take? I don’t think we want the 2-drop here, as the loyalty is prohibitive if Checkmate turns out to be a flash in the pan. Really, the choices are between Target, the Armor (the Armory is not strong enough on its own to pick here), and Knightmare Scenario.

Target is criminally underrated, but I don’t think it’s the pick here. Target is the sort of card you want to flesh out an already solid deck. In a sense, it’s a card that gives your deck insurance; it’s not necessarily a “win more” card, but rather a card that makes sure you don’t lose once you have an edge. I feel similarly about Knight Armor. Both are strong cards, but you don’t want to move into a team for these cards by themselves. If Checkmate dries up, they aren’t the sort of cards you want to run in your support team. Knightmare Scenario is the pick. All of these cards can win you a game, but Knightmare Scenario will win you more games. It can turn around a difficult situation or it can cement your victory march. It does require a location to be used optimally, but the potential upside is so great here that we should take the risk.

Jonathon’s Pick: Knightmare Scenario

My Pick: Knightmare Scenario

Pack 1, Pick 5

Thanagarian Invasion; Surveillance Pawn, Army; Manitou Dawn, Spirit Shaman; Stepping Between Worlds, Magic; Catman, Thomas Blake; Knight Armor; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop; Baddest of the Bad; The Calculator, Crime Broker

This is as interesting a fifth pick as you will ever see. Without any JSA again, we are fortunately left with enough gas in the pack to show us that Checkmate was the right move. Still, how do we go about fortifying that choice? Or do we do something different?

At this stage, I would have welcomed the chance to cut off Checkmate. The third pack we passed was very dangerous, as both Waller and the OMAC 5-drop are not cards we should expect to wheel. Having clearly been given the green light for Checkmate from our right, I see this as the time to build a dam between you and your downstream player. With that plan, do we take Vostok or Knight Armor? Both of these cards are excellent. Still, I am sure Vostok is the right pick. I think she is not only the best 4-drop of the team, but she also fits into our existing curve perfectly. The nail in the coffin for me is that even if someone behind you picks up on Checkmate, when they find themselves starved of characters, they will have nowhere to go. Knight Armor might be the better card in the abstract, but it certainly isn’t in this specific instance.

For his own reasons, Jonathon took Thanagarian Invasion, which is a good card, but a wasted pick in my opinion. Maybe Jon wasn’t ready to sell his soul to Checkmate yet, but I find that drafting Checkmate gives you almost too many options for your non-character count. Between the locations, equipment, and excellent blue, you are almost never short of a good row. For this reason, wherever there is a good character in the pack, I would take it without hesitation.

Jonathon’s Pick: Thanagarian Invasion

My Pick: Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

Pack 1, Pick 6

Arthur Kendrick, Knight; The Rock of Eternity; Laser Watch; Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity; Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic; No Mercy; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Collecting Souls, Magic; Brothers in Arms

The viable picks are Laser Watch, Kendrick, Neutralization Protocol, and the Clinic. At this stage, we should probably be focused on characters, and given that Checkmate looks to Knight Armors primarily for its equipment, I think we can dismiss Watch (playing more than two equipment cards is not something I like doing very often). The Clinic is just not strong enough to consider seriously without more location needs. Between the characters, I think Kendrick is definitely the pick. His 4 ATK is a worry, but concealed makes up for it. The Robot is only really good when you are guaranteed a shot at playing the 5-drop. Overall, it is mediocre and not really a pick when there is an on-team option at the same drop.

Jonathon’s Pick: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

My Pick: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Pack 1, Pick 7

Connie Webb, Knight; Black Adam, Lord of Kahndaq; Mordru, Dark Lord; Cheetah, Feral Feline; Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up; Brother I Satellite; Sand, Sanderson Hawkins; Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Wow. Things are certainly falling into place for John. Although a Forbidden Loyalties this late is distracting, the Brother I Satellite is probably the premier pick for the Checkmate team. Not only does it up our location count, but it also provides pinpoint search, which is one of the best effects a card can buy.

Jonathon’s Pick: Brother I Satellite

My Pick: Brother I Satellite

Pack 1, Pick 8

Stepping Between Worlds, Magic; The Oblivion Bar; Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion; Scandal, Savage Spawn; Laser Watch; Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice; Double Play

This is a good strong pick for eighth. Given that we passed on Valentina, this is impressive and lucky. At this stage, Jon has to be liking his deck.

Jonathon’s Pick: Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice

My Pick: Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice

Pack 1, Pick 9

Surveillance Pawn, Army; Huntress, Reluctant Queen; Kilowog, Drill Sergeant; Jacob Lee, Knight; Collecting Souls, Magic; Target Acquired

With Jon’s draft going from strength to strength, I think it would be fair if the table were witness to a little squeal of delight at this juncture. Funnily enough, the options were so good that I think I would have made a different call than Jon. John picked Target, which is fine, but I think a number of factors make Huntress the better choice. Not only are 6-drops hard to get, but Huntress is also the only Checkmate 6-drop at all. More than this, I think the strategy of denying your downstream drafters characters should hold sway here. Many players don’t seem to see the latent power of Target, but everyone recognizes a wheeling Huntress as a signal.

Jonathon’s Pick: Target Acquired

My Pick: Huntress, Reluctant Queen

Pack 1, Pick 10

Scandal, Savage Spawn; Scandal, Savage Spawn; Jaime Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle, High-Tech Hero; Ragdoll, Resilient Rogue; Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Although I considered Ragdoll second pick (however briefly), it is no longer an option because we don’t need to play it safe at all. I actually like Jaime Reyes and Scandal late in packs, but this draft has given Jon better options and this pack is no different. A second Kendrick is good enough to take here instead of a safe 6-drop or a search card for equipment we don’t have yet.

Jonathon’s Pick: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

My Pick: Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Pack 1, Pick 11

Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man; Threat Neutralized; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; The Penguin, Arms Merchant

Geez, can it get any better? That this 5-drop wheeled is incredible, as I consider it one of the most important Checkmate cards. Its flexibility makes it a good 5-drop or a playable 7-drop.

Jonathon’s Pick: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 1, Pick 12

Apparently yes, it can. If we hadn’t taken the first Target, it would be the pick here, but Knight Armor is the better call at this stage. We want at least one Knight Armor in a Checkmate-heavy deck, and getting it twelfth is too good to pass up, even for a +2 pump when defending or attacking. The flexibility that having both will provide us is ideal, and getting it all in the first pack is ridiculous. It’s incredible that Checkmate Armory is still here, too.

Target Acquired, Knight Armor, Checkmate Armory

Jonathon’s Pick: Knight Armor

My Pick: Knight Armor

Pack 1, Pick 13

Knight Armor, Madame Xanadu

Okay. This has probably been the best first pack I have seen drafted in this format, and possibly ever. I don’t know why no one else wants Checkmate, but I don’t think Jon has any complaints.

Jonathon’s Pick: Knight Armor

My Pick: Knight Armor

Pack 1, Pick 14

Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity

Pack 2, Pick 1

Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore; Cheetah, Feral Feline; Dr. Occult, Richard Occult; Death from Above; Black Adam, Ruthless Hero; Ahmed Samsarra, White King; Join Us or Die; Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade; Abjuration, Magic; Check and Mate; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Ragman, Redeemer of Souls; Burning Gaze; Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1

This pack is great from my perspective. We get the safe pick in Kate Spencer (still the best 2-drop going around) or the situationally amazing Ahmed Samsarra. Jon took Kate and I think he made the right call.

Ahmed is very powerful. In Draft, his location-searching ability isn’t that hot (though it’s still decent), but his massive body is good. Still, you basically need to be applying pressure from turn 1 to justify the greater risk of him being KO’d via cards like Watch the Birdie! and Relentless Pursuit. Unless you can do this, you are basically just playing an attacker who can’t really be stunned on curve but has to be played in the hidden area, thus negating any use for his huge DEF. Overall, I think you need a more specific deck to take advantage of Ahmed, and Jon’s deck isn’t that deck. For starters, it is already so good that there is no need to take risks. Taking the best 2-drop in the set is pretty good compensation, anyway.

Jonathon’s Pick: Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

My Pick: Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

Pack 2, Pick 2

Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Deadshot, Dead Aim; Ishmael Gregor ◊ Sabbac, Malevolent Marvel; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Rann; Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine; Magical Conduit, Magic; Adam Strange, Champion of Rann; Watch the Birdie!; Deathstroke, Lethal Weapon; Terry Sloane ◊ Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist

This pack is a good example of how priorities shift in Vs. System Booster Draft. Kendra is probably the best card pound-for-pound, yet we have three acceptable 3-drops at this stage. We also have a couple of good 2-drops, so if everything else is equal, the second Strange or a Black Thorn is probably not on our radar either.

Watch The Birdie! is fine, but there are better cards in the pack at this stage (remember what I was saying about Checkmate non-character cards?). Those cards are Rann and Terry Sloane, and they present totally different options for the deck. I like 1-drops a lot more in this format than ever before (at least outside of off-curve), and Terry is one of the best. Still, Rann seems to do more for our deck. It gives us a pseudo-Team-Up (and is a nice touch with Strange), which is useful even though our effects will generally be Checkmate-stamped. More than that, it gives us an otherwise good location, allowing us to pick up more Knightmare Scenarios, Brother Eyes, and other cards that take full advantage of the heavy Checkmate deck we plan to build from our first and third packs. I don’t like giving Terry up when I’m in JSA, but this time, it’s worth it.

Jonathon’s Pick: Rann

My Pick: Rann

Pack 2, Pick 3

Zatanna, Showstopper; Secret Checkmate HQ; The Calculator, Crime Broker; Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo; Absolute Dominance; Alexander Luthor, Duplicitous Doppelganger; It’s Not Over Yet; No Mercy; Burning Gaze; Ragman, Redeemer of Souls; Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

This pack is a little thin for a third pack, but we do have a few options. There isn’t much else for us other than Prince Khufu and Secret Checkmate HQ (Zatanna is an option if we are paranoid about 6-drops). Secret Checkmate HQ is a bit awkward. Its status as a location is a little misleading in that it is often replaced before it can really add up for other Checkmate effects. Still, players often miss that it can be used on a single visible defender and then create a turn-long bonus for your otherwise concealed team. I am not as big a fan of the card as some, but it is definitely a contender.

Still, from this pack, I would pick Prince Khufu. At this stage, and remembering that characters for base-Checkmate decks are more important, I think it is the better pick. On top of this, we saw several excellent non-character Checkmate cards wheel in the first pack, so it is no stretch to see us pick up a few more cards that way. Finally, we do have many non-character cards already.

Jonathon’s Pick: Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

My Pick: Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

Pack 2, Pick 4

Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor; Death from Above; Rann; Zatanna, Magical Manipulator; Wonder Woman, Earth 2; Knight Armor; Mystical Binding, Magic; Baddest of the Bad; Harry Stein, King in Check; Surveillance Pawn, Army; I Still Hate Magic!

I am sure that most of you saw the I Still Hate Magic! and automatically wind-milled it. Well, I don’t like generic pumps here as much as in other formats, but it is definitely the pick.

Jonathon’s Pick: I Still Hate Magic!

My Pick: I Still Hate Magic!

Pack 2, Pick 5

Amanda Waller, Queen; Coercion, Team-Up; Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Lex Luthor ◊ Mockingbird, Evil Exile; Allied Against the Dark; Sinestro, Villain Reborn; Mystical Binding, Magic; Ragman, Patchmonger; Connie Webb, Knight

This is another pretty easy pick for Jon, as there is no reason to take Connie Webb over a solid 4-drop that doubles as late-game insurance.

Jonathon’s Pick: Amanda Waller, Queen

My Pick: Amanda Waller, Queen

Pack 2, Pick 6

Rann; Sand, Sanderson Hawkins; Nightshade, Eve Eden; Animal Man, Buddy Baker; Madame Xanadu, Cartomancer; Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Ibis, Prince Amentep; Aspiring Pawn, Army

This pack presents some strange choices. For a sixth pick, we could feasibly choose between Sand, Animal Man, Rann, and Aspiring Pawn. Jon chose Sand, which I think is the worst pick of those listed. Sand can be very good, but I don’t think we have the sort of deck that can continually ensure that he’s the last one stunned. If I were worried about the 4-slot, I would probably have picked Animal Man, who I think is just a better card overall. At the moment, we only have Rann for team-ups anyway, and a non-Checkmate 4-drop is not going to be targeted by our best plot twists regardless.

Still, I would have chosen between Rann and the Aspiring Pawn. I am starting to warm to the school of three 4-drops (or four 4-drops and two 5-drops), at least in this format, so I wouldn’t have been worried with two good ones already. Rann is a fairly solid card, though we do already have one. Without a Brother Eye, we don’t need a lot of locations; we really only need three to make sure we can Knightmare in the late game (brickwalling is better when you give your worse opponents time to burn their tricks). We have two good ones already.

Perhaps strangely to some of you, I would have taken Aspiring Pawn here. The Pawn is a bit of a risk, but if you can hit him on turn 1, you will be in a dominant position more than half the time. In this format, I think you need to push the envelope a little bit, and with a Brother I Satellite in the deck, this guy gives you a lot of oomph. This is risky, but given that we are only really giving up an average 4-drop or a second Rann, it’s worth it in my mind.

Jonathon’s Pick: Sand, Sanderson Hawkins

My Pick: Aspiring Pawn, Army

Pack 2, Pick 7

Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Heroic Rescue; Catman, Thomas Blake; Thanagar; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; Secret Six Victorious; Justice United, Team-Up; Brothers in Arms

This pack is a little more difficult than it looks at first. The Robot seems like the obvious pick, but there is room for concern. For starters, we have much more JSA than the first pack would have suggested, but no Team-Ups. The Justice United can help out that situation. Secondly, Thanagar is excellent, even if it is awkward with Rann. We will only need one location to power Knightmare Scenario at this point.

I would still go with the OMAC, but I think that is because the 7-drop situation in this team is so poor. We go to three 5-drops now, but really, we are looking to play one of those OMACs on turn 7. The other cards could be fine picks, but on most occasions, protecting your curve is better.

Jonathon’s Pick: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick: Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 2, Pick 8

Double Play; Threat Neutralized; Dr. Occult, Richard Occult; Blue Devil, Dan Cassidy; Witchfire, Rebecca Carstairs; Pariah, Herald of Doom; Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Jon took Hawkgirl, which I don’t like. I think 1-drops are good in this format, but I like utility 1-drops more than attacking 1-drops. There is just too much room for a good defense to run them all the time. My choice would have been between taking the Threat Neutralized and defensively drafting the Occult.

There is very little room to hate draft in Vs. System, but if you think deeply about why, you will know when to break the rules. Typically, defensively drafting is not advised because you need to play so many of your picks. But if you are not going to play your pick, then surely stymieing someone else could be okay. Are we going to play the Threat? I don’t think so. We already have seven non-character cards. Typically, we will run between ten and twelve (I prefer eleven) non-character cards. Threat is the type of card that will be edged out by better cards during deck construction. Given how we have been able to wheel good Checkmate non-character cards in this draft already, I think we can rely on picking up those three to five picks later on. In this instance, I think a late Dr. Occult is so good that I would just stop the madness here.

Jonathon’s Pick: Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

My Pick: Dr. Occult, Richard Occult

Pack 2, Pick 9

Dr. Occult, Richard Occult; Death from Above; Black Adam, Ruthless Hero; Check and Mate; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Ragman, Redeemer of Souls

This pack still has a number of good cards left. If I were willing to hate the Occult, would I do it again here? No, but I’d be happy I got the first one.

There are decent picks here that we will play. Now that we have two 5-drop Robots, the 3-drop OMAC seems okay. Black Adam is an okay 7-drop who we might want to play instead of another 5-drop (or the OMAC 5-drop on turn 7), but I don’t really like him. Finally, Death from Above is a decent plot twist that, unlike Threat, targets anyone, offers a little insurance on a loose curve, and gives the all-important flight to attackers.

I would have gone with the Death. I don’t like the 3-drop OMAC at all, even with its bigger sisters lurking. More often than not, you lose turn 3 for the chance of a marginal edge on turn 5. It’s not really my style. As for Black Adam, I like to take any opportunity I can not to play 7-drops that do nothing before turn 7 in this format. With three good 5-drops already, I’d hedge my bets on getting another 5-drop instead of playing an average 7-drop. I would take the Death and ask you to note how it is a lot more flexible than Threat Neutralized.

Jonathon’s Pick: Black Adam, Ruthless Hero

My Pick: Death from Above

Pack 2, Pick 10

Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Magical Conduit, Magic; Adam Strange, Champion of Rann

Jon went with Neutralization Protocol here, which I obviously don’t like after the last pick. I think a quality 2-drop like Adam Strange is a better pick here. In this format, 3-drops tend to be easy to get, but 2-drops can be difficult. Even going from a generic curve of four 2-drops and four 3-drops, it looks like we need one more of each. I would rather play an above average 2-drop than a below average 3-drop. As a side note, the late Conduit is unnerving.

Jonathon’s Pick: Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick: Adam Strange, Champion of Rann

Pack 2, Pick 11

Secret Checkmate HQ; The Calculator, Crime Broker; Absolute Dominance; No Mercy

An easy, on-team, pick.

Jonathon’s Pick: Secret Checkmate HQ

My Pick: Secret Checkmate HQ

Pack 2, Pick 12

Mystical Binding, Magic; Harry Stein, King in Check; Knight Armor

How many Knight Armors is too many? I think two is enough, but more importantly, I think if we can get any other non-character cards than the two Knight Armors we already have, we are going to play them. Without special reason, three equipment is a lot. With seven non-equipment, non-character cards at this stage, I don’t think we want the third Armor. Given the state of the first pack, it seems safe to pass it.

Still, I think Jon erred in taking Harry here. Let’s face it; Harry is not going to make his deck. Mystical Binding might very well make an already good deck (we have passed some strong Shadowpact late). I would have made another defensive draft here.

Jonathon’s Pick: Harry Stein, King in Check

My Pick: Mystical Binding, Magic

Pack 2, Pick 13

Mystical Binding, Magic; Connie Webb, Knight

Ugh, I think we have to pass the second one. I definitely feel more comfortable with fewer 4-drops and later drops in my deck than usual with Connie Webb in the mix. Although I don’t really like the mechanic, I have been forced to look at them in a new light after my opponents have continually smoothed their curves with them.

Jonathon’s Pick: Connie Webb, Knight

My Pick: Connie Webb, Knight

Pack 2, Pick 14

Nightshade, Eve Eden

Pack 3, Pick 1

Weather Wizard, Mark Mardon; Helm of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Death from Above; Power Girl, Earth 2; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore; Magical Lobotomy, Magic; House of Secrets; Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade; Nightmaster, Demon Slayer; Deflection; Graziella Reza, Knight; Mr. Freeze, Brutal Blizzard; A Moment of Crisis

With no 6-drops to speak of at this point, this is an easy pick. We have to pass some very good cards, but we can be thankful we got a card we sorely needed.

Jonathon’s Pick: Power Girl, Earth 2

My Pick: Power Girl, Earth 2

Pack 3, Pick 2

Alexander Luthor, Duplicitous Doppelganger; Nightshade, Shadow Siren; Tricked-Out Sports Car; Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Death from Above; Nightshade, Eve Eden; Divination, Magic; Catman, Thomas Blake; Power Girl, Earth 2; Deflection; Transmutation, Magic; Kilowog, Drill Sergeant; Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Having seemingly lucked out in the first pick of this pack, I would have thought this pick would be an easy choice. Instead, Jon went with Deflection, which, it must be said, is one of the premier plot twists in the deck. Still, I don’t think it’s really what this deck needs. Taking the Power Girl here really leaves us with only a 4-drop and a 2-drop that we have to have, though we probably want another five-drop as well (and maybe another 4-drop if we want to be conservative). On top of that, we need two more non-equipment, non-character cards. While Deflection is top notch, I don’t think it is a priority here.

Managing the composition of your deck can be hard at the best of times. The thing is, at least for me, when it is the best of times, like with this draft, you should be more conservative. When your deck is a bit dicey, you need to take more risks. I think Power Girl is the safe pick here.

Jonathon’s Pick: Deflection

My Pick: Power Girl, Earth 2

Pack 3, Pick 3

Zatanna, Magical Manipulator; Mystical Binding, Magic; A Moment of Crisis; Lex Luthor, Champion of the Common Man; Checkmate Armory; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; House of Secrets; Helm of Nabu, Fate Artifact; Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop; Rex Tyler ◊ Hourman, Inventor of Miraclo; The Penguin, Arms Merchant; Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive

Bingo! We wanted another 4-drop and we got a great one. Rex Tyler is fine, but we already have four 4-drops. Let’s hope that the Armory wheels.

Jonathon’s Pick: Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

My Pick: Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

Pack 3, Pick 4

Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight; Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective; The Calculator, Noah Kuttler; Lois Lane, Earth 2; Living Legacy; Thanagar; Taking Up the Mantle; Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity; End of All That Is; Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath

Really, this pick asks us what we are most worried about for our deck. Roy will be little more than a generic 9 ATK / 9 DEF character in our deck. Alternatively, we could take Thanagar and add the third location to our deck.

I think Jon made the right call with Roy. I don’t think he wants to play Black Adam at the 7-slot, at least not with the Robots available on turn 5 (around half of the games I have seen in this format are over on turn 6). Roy gives us more time on turn 5, and given that we only really have Scenario begging for locations, I think that’s where we should take our risks.

Jonathon’s Pick: Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

My Pick: Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

Pack 3, Pick 5

Threat Neutralized; Zatanna, Showstopper; Count Vertigo, Werner Vertigo; Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Sand, Sanderson Hawkins; Graziella Reza, Knight; Double Play; Richard Tyler ◊ Hourman, Man of the Hour; Grand Gesture

This is why I liked the Power Girl earlier. Jon is forced to pick up another 7-drop here in case it dries up (there were no Scandals likely to wheel, though Twisted Telepath nearly always comes back). If he didn’t have to, he could have gotten an Hourman 4-drop (giving him three great 4-drops and four good ones). I might still have taken the Hourman and looked to run Amanda as a 6-drop, though without Team-Ups, that is a bit risky. I really don’t like off-color 6-drops that aren’t Scandal (13 ATK feels so safe).

Jonathon’s Pick: Zatanna, Showstopper

My Pick: Richard Tyler ◊ Hourman, Man of the Hour

Pack 3, Pick 6

Scandal, Savage Spawn; Cheetah, Feral Feline; The Calculator, Crime Broker; The Oblivion Bar; Charles McNider ◊ Dr. Mid-Nite, Golden Age Academic; Help Wanted, Team-Up; Return of Donna Troy; Target Acquired; The Spectre, Soulless

There’s the sort of plot twist we want. There isn’t any much better pick, though no Team-Ups is a bit of a worry for our team-stamped blue.

Jonathon’s Pick: Target Acquired

My Pick: Target Acquired

Pack 3, Pick 7

Collecting Souls, Magic; Rose Psychic, Ghost Detective; Amadeus Arkham, Architect of Insanity; Harry Stein, King in Check; Deathstroke, Lethal Weapon; Surveillance Pawn, Army; Dr. Fate, Hector Hall; Dodge the Bullet

I like this pick. This Pawn is underrated. When you consider the other options we have in this pack, it is nonetheless an easy pick.

Jonathon’s Pick: Surveillance Pawn, Army

My Pick: Surveillance Pawn, Army

Pack 3, Pick 8

Death from Above; Leslie Thompkins’s Clinic; Charles McNider ◊ Dr. Mid-Nite, Golden Age Academic; Surveillance Pawn, Army; Ragman, Patchmonger; Brothers in Arms; Heroic Rescue

Jon liked Death here, and I would probably go with him. There could be a case for the Clinic, but for the sake of quality, I don’t think I want to run a card that really only exists in the deck as a two-card combo for Knightmare Scenario. We might have to get a bit lucky for the extra pump.

Jonathon’s Pick: Death from Above

My Pick: Death from Above

Pack 3, Pick 9

Arthur Kendrick, Knight; Magical Lobotomy, Magic; House of Secrets; Nightmaster, Demon Slayer; Graziella Reza, Knight; A Moment of Crisis

Given that we already have four 3-drops and that Graziella is likely to be underpowered in this deck, I would have gone with Magical Lobotomy, which can punch well above its weight when used twice in one turn. The 3-drops are a non-issue for me, though I would go with the third Kendrick over Graziella.

Jonathon’s Pick: Graziella Reza, Knight

My Pick: Magical Lobotomy, Magic

Pack 3, Pick 10

Tricked-Out Sports Car; Nightshade, Eve Eden; Transmutation, Magic; Kilowog, Drill Sergeant; Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

We are sort of a bit late for getting the last 2-drop, but we got lucky there; this is a very easy and relieving pick.

Jonathon’s Pick: Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

My Pick: Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Pack 3, Pick 11

Checkmate Armory; House of Secrets; Zatanna, Magical Manipulator; The Penguin, Arms Merchant

I should have reminded Jon to buy the guys on his right a drink. Everything has gone right for him in this draft.

Jonathon’s Pick: Checkmate Armory

My Pick: Checkmate Armory

Pack 3, Pick 12

Living Legacy; Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath; End of All That Is

I would have hated on the Dr. Psycho. We were never going to play the Legacy.

Jonathon’s Pick: Living Legacy

My Pick: Dr. Psycho, Twisted Telepath

Pack 3, Pick 13

Threat Neutralized; Double Play

Obviously.

Jonathon’s Pick: Threat Neutralized

My Pick: Threat Neutralized

Pack 3, Pick 14

The Spectre, Soulless

Jonathon ended up with this deck:

Characters

Chay-Ara ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Companion

Retrieval Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Adam Strange, Champion of Rann

Prince Khufu ◊ Hawkman, Eternal Warrior

Kate Spencer ◊ Manhunter, Fearless Renegade

2 Arthur Kendrick, Knight

Kendra Saunders ◊ Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine

Neutralization Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Adrian Chase ◊ Vigilante, Street Justice

Amanda Waller, Queen

Sand, Sanderson Hawkins

Valentina Vostok ◊ Negative Woman, Bishop

2 Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot, Army

Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Knight

Hourman III ◊ Hourman, Time Machine

Power Girl, Earth 2

Zatanna, Showstopper

Plot Twists

2 Target Acquired

Knightmare Scenario

I Still Hate Magic!

Thanagarian Invasion

Death from Above

Locations

Rann

Brother I Satellite

Checkmate Armory

Equipment

2 Knight Armor

I would have played Connie and Surveillance Pawn over Hawkgirl and Sand, and maybe Secret Checkmate HQ over Death from Above. Still, this deck is pretty tight and it was a joy to watch it come together.

Jonathon ended up going 2-1 with this deck, which I thought was a shame because it is the best deck I have seen drafted while writing this column. His loss came to a deck that just curved out from turn 1 with equipment. I guess Vs. is like that sometimes. The worst part is that the deck’s performance has given weight to the claim around these parts that getting covered brings a curse. You might have noticed that no one I have covered has won the draft yet. I swear it has nothing to do with me, but try telling that to the natives!