(Metagame Archive) Fan Card Crossover: Week 10, Epilogue

By The Ben Seck

After many months of designing, testing, and votes, we finally have a card! And she is a thing of beauty. The final vote that you, the fans, made was for her ATK and DEF, which was won in a landslide:

A)     11 ATK / 14 DEF – 52%

B)     14 ATK / 12 DEF – 26%

C)     12 ATK / 13 DEF – 22%

This result is not really that surprising, considering that she has a most likely defensive ability. But the moment you have been waiting for . . . I present to you, ladies and gentlegamers: Nyssa Raatko, Daughter of the Demon!

I’m sure you’ll agree, the art we got from Admira Wijayadi captures perfectly the art description we submitted. Nyssa also comes at a time when League of Assassins is getting quite a lot of play, with the “Deep Green” deck piloted by Pro Circuit San Francisco Champion Ian Vincent featuring Talia, Beloved Betrayer, Talia, Daughter of Madness, Merlyn, Deadly Archer, and Pit of Madness! Nyssa is a perfect fit in that deck, both protecting your Ahmed Samsarra, White King from unfortunate KO effects as well as feeding off the inevitable resource row of locations.

I’d like to thank every person who was involved in this process; it was a challenging task to undertake. I’m sure we’ll do this again in the future, so please send any suggestions or comments for the next Fan Card Crossover to fancardcrossover@gmail.com.

Until next time, good gaming!

TBS

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(Metagame Archive) Heralds of Galactus Preview: The Infinity Gauntlet

By Michael Barnes

I’m a bit torn about how to approach this preview. Typically, I tend to chatter about all kinds of meaningless drivel before I get to the subject at hand. In the case of my regular column, I generally force my readers to indulge me as I ramble on with some kind of meaningless story about where I went to eat last week, or my favorite music/movie/TV show, or how “The Sauce” activated Boris, Personal Servant of Dr. Doom when I had Mageddon on my side of the board. Since I have a captive audience, I am free to perform such shenanigans at my whim.

However, previews are a different animal. I am well aware that many of you scrolled immediately down to check out the preview card without even bothering to examine any of my prior discourse. Such activity almost tempts me to insert random lines like “Email BigSpooky and win fifty dollars!” or “Shane Wiggans is a n00b!” into these opening paragraphs to see if anyone actually reads them. Fortunately, my better judgment—as well as my wish to avoid paying out large sums of money or incur the wrath of TAWC’s Tattooed Man—keeps me from such folly.

Well, since you came here for the card and not my storytelling, I’ll shut up and get to the nitty-gritty. I present to you the most powerful equipment card in the Vs. System: The Infinity Gauntlet!

 

No, that is not a misprint . . . The Infinity Gauntlet really is a 10-cost equipment card!

Unlike the preview cards that I have done in the past, I do happen to know a fair bit about The Infinity Gauntlet and its origins. Thus, before we get into mechanic and gameplay discussions, I’m going to let my inner Kergillian take over and tell you a little bit about this amazing glove.

“To Infinity and Beyond!”

Once upon a time, there was a nihilist named Thanos. He was a rather vicious individual and a rabid follower of Death (not the state of being dead— the actual, corporeal embodiment of Death). Fortunately, Thanos was dead himself, so he couldn’t really threaten the universe too much from six feet under. However, Death decided that she wasn’t really happy with the current scheme of the cosmos, so she decided to resurrect Thanos to carry out her dark mission. His task: kill half of the sentient beings in the universe.

Now, Thanos is a pretty tough guy, but we are talking about the universe here—it’s a rather large place! He could travel as fast as Santa Claus and still probably never move quickly enough to eventually wipe out half of existence. While considering this problem, Thanos stumbled upon the secret of six jewels known as the Infinity Gems.* These gems were powerful relics that granted the bearer complete control of one of the six aspects of the universe: Mind, Power, Reality, Space, Time, and Soul. While each of these gems was powerful in its own right, their true power was revealed when they were brought together to form an artifact known as The Infinity Gauntlet. The Infinity Gauntlet bestowed upon its wearer instant omniscience and omnipotence. Basically, the lucky person who wields The Infinity Gauntlet has the power to rule all of creation and shape it to his or her liking.

Armed with this knowledge, Thanos petitioned Death to grant him the power to assemble the Infinity Gems. Through a clever series of ploys, Thanos was able to wrest each of the six Infinity Gems from the grasp of its controller . . . and just like that, Thanos became the newest god on the block!

Given the immense power that Thanos now held, it seemed likely that no force in the universe would be able to stop him. This scenario seemed particularly likely when Thanos managed to defeat an assembly of the Earth’s mightiest heroes, the combined forces of the most powerful celestial beings in existence, and Eternity (the living embodiment of the Marvel universe). However, one man was able to successfully oppose Thanos: Adam Warlock. Warlock had supposedly given his life many years before defeating Thanos in one of his earlier nefarious schemes. The truth, however, was that Warlock was living on a world within the Soul Gem. While he really only desired to spend the remainder of his days at rest within the gem, the eminent peril that the universe faced due to Thanos’s possession of The Infinity Gauntlet forced him back to this plane of existence.

Adam Warlock claimed to know Thanos better than Thanos even knew himself. According to Warlock, Thanos had the raw ability to rule the universe unopposed. However, Thanos secretly lacked the desire to hold onto this power, as he didn’t deem himself worthy of it. This prophecy came to fruition when—after he had defeated the most powerful beings in the universe—Thanos lost The Infinity Gauntlet to his granddaughter, Nebula, through sheer carelessness. Thanos had grown too big for his britches—literally—and expanded his essence throughout the cosmos, leaving his body unattended. In that moment, Nebula snatched The Infinity Gauntlet from her grandpappy’s hand.

Given the relative inexperience of the newest holder of The Infinity Gauntlet, Warlock—with the help of several of the assembled heroes—was able to gain control of The Infinity Gauntlet back from Nebula. This seemed a turn in the right direction for the universe, as the artifact now resided with a reasonably benevolent being. Unfortunately, in the brief amount of time that Adam Warlock held The Infinity Gauntlet, he managed to stir up a whole new set of troubles.

The Infinity War

The Living Tribunal is the judge of all realities as well as all events within these realities. He alone controlled the power to determine whether the Infinity Gems would be allowed to work in unison to form The Infinity Gauntlet. In the situation with Thanos, the Tribunal deemed that Thanos’s possession of The Infinity Gauntlet was justified, as he only sought to replace Eternity’s grand scheme with his own (i.e., “survival of the fittest”). However, in the case of Warlock, the Tribunal was not satisfied that Warlock could adequately control the power of The Infinity Gauntlet. Thus, he ordered that the Gauntlet be disassembled, and the gems be given to new custodians. Grudgingly, Warlock complied and bestowed five of the gems to beings that he deemed capable of protecting them, keeping the Soul Gem for himself. This group of guardians became known as The Infinity Watch.

Prior to relinquishing The Infinity Gauntlet, however, Adam Warlock had performed a dire act. In his preparation for “godhood,” Warlock determined that he needed to rid himself of all emotions that might compromise his judgment. Thus, the good and evil sides of Adam Warlock were expunged from him. One would assume that this would leave a single neutral being in the form of Adam Warlock . . . but Adam Warlock is no simple being, and the act of eliminating his good and evil sides created two new beings: The Goddess, who was the embodiment of the good of Adam Warlock; and Magus, who represented the whole of Adam Warlock’s evil. The Goddess managed to create problems for Warlock and the rest of the Marvel universe in The Infinity Crusade series, but since that story really doesn’t involve The Infinity Gauntlet, we’ll skip it and take a look at Magus.

Upon his creation (or recreation, as it were, since Magus had actually existed some time before as a version of Adam Warlock gone bad . . . long story), Magus traveled to several parallel dimensions to collect a new set of artifacts known as the Cosmic Cubes. These items, while not collectively as powerful as The Infinity Gauntlet, nonetheless gave Magus a great deal of power—enough to send Eternity into a coma and set the entire Marvel universe into frenzy once more. To deal with Magus, Warlock decided to reassemble The Infinity Gauntlet. Unfortunately, the plan did not work as he had hoped. The combined power of the gems did not give Warlock the godlike level of power he once had due to the Tribunal’s decree that the Infinity Gems could no longer be used in unison. Gamora (guardian of the Time Gem and acting on behalf of Adam Warlock) and Galactus asked the Tribunal to reverse this ruling so that Magus could be stopped. The Tribunal called upon the decision of Eternity, who was just starting to reawaken after being battered around by Magus and the Cosmic Cubes. Eternity declared that the Infinity Gems could once more be allowed to combine to form The Infinity Gauntlet . . . right as Magus stole the gauntlet from Adam Warlock!**

Still, Adam Warlock was able to thwart Magus’s plans by replacing the Reality Gem with a fake, thus denying Magus the complete and total power of The Infinity Gauntlet. After regaining control of the Infinity Gems, Warlock absorbed his evil half into the Soul Gem, giving a new spin to the traditional portrayal of the devil within. He then dispersed the Infinity Gems back to their appointed guardians. Finally, Eternity declared that The Infinity Gauntlet would not be allowed to be reformed ever again, regardless of the circumstances. Thus, The Infinity Gauntlet, possibly the single most powerful weapon in the Marvel universe, disappeared into Marvel’s pantheon of long lost storylines.

Infinite Power in the Vs. System

Getting back to the Vs. System, let’s take a look at how The Infinity Gauntlet will affect the game. Obviously the first thing that jumps out is the card’s cost. Prior to Heralds of Galactus, there wasn’t a single equipment card that cost more than 2 resource points to recruit. The list of 2-cost equipment cards is extremely short, and none of these cards saw significant play. This was in large part due to the fact that no one wanted to waste 2 precious resource points on an equipment card, regardless of how amazing the equipment card’s effect might be. That said, it would seem “somewhat” unlikely that a 10-cost equipment would ever be viable.

This, of course, is where the first part of The Infinity Gauntlet’s text comes into play. Sure, you could wait until turn 10 and drop The Infinity Gauntlet onto one of your characters—but if you’re really enterprising and scheming like Thanos, then you can bypass The Infinity Gauntlet’s recruit cost by collecting the Infinity Gems. From a flavor perspective, this is a really cool design element. In order to wield the awesome power of The Infinity Gauntlet, a player can go on a “Thanos Quest” of his or her own to collect all six of the Infinity Gems. Of course, it probably goes without saying that Heralds of Galactus will contain six other equipment cards in the form of the Mind, Power, Reality, Space, Time, and Soul Gems, and that these equipment cards will all be powerful in their own right. It should be interesting to see what these cards look like and if players will be forced to choose between using the Infinity Gems versus hoarding them to bring The Infinity Gauntlet into play.

The Infinity Gauntlet’s ability, naturally, is even more interesting than its alternate cost. There has been quite a bit of speculation about what kind of effect The Infinity Gauntlet would have once it was made into a Vs. System card. These ideas ranged from the spectacular—like “Equipped character gets +20 ATK / +20 DEF and cannot be targeted or stunned”—to the outrageously spectacular—like “When you recruit The Infinity Gauntlet, you win the Pro Circuit.”

Here is what I saw:

Exhaust equipped character à Stun target character.

Other cards that stun characters always have some attached cost or condition, like “KO a resource you control,” or “with cost 3 or less,” or “only during the combat phase.” The Infinity Gauntlet has no associated cost whatsoever. What does this mean? It means that the character that you choose to equip with The Infinity Gauntlet automatically becomes more powerful than any character your opponent controls!!! Think of the possibilities! Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria is one of the biggest and baddest in the game, but a single Wild Sentinel equipped with The Infinity Gauntlet can stop the armored despot in his tracks. Magneto, Master of Magnetism could normally toss Wolverine, Logan and his adamantium-laced skeleton around like a rag doll. However, if you drop The Infinity Gauntlet on Wolverine, then Magneto goes from being a “Master of Magnetism” to a “Master of Lying Face Down on Your Opponent’s Side of the Board.” And just imagine the fun when Onslaught tries to go head-to-head with Aunt May while she’s armed with The Infinity Gauntlet. Who wants pie now, sucka?!?

As far as gameplay goes, The Infinity Gauntlet may not be as easily absorbed into the competitive metagame as the Fate Artifacts were. However, it will definitely be a mainstay of casual play. Late game cards like Gamma Bomb and Imperiex have found consistent play in many different casual decks. Apparently, the thrill of playing the most powerful cards in the game to any kind of success is a great enticement to many Vs. System players. One could certainly take the approach of stalling until turn 10, then spending all of his or her resource points on The Infinity Gauntlet. However, it seems more likely that player will focus more on the alternate recruit cost: seeing how quickly he or she can assemble all of the Infinity Gems to bring out The Infinity Gauntlet for free. A deck that manages to get out The Infinity Gauntlet on turn 4 or 5 could certainly be a force to be reckoned with.

So get ready, people. The Devourer of Worlds is coming, and he brings with him the most powerful equipment card in the Vs. System to date! Will you be up to the challenge of collecting all of the Infinity Gems so that you can unleash their combined power on an unsuspecting opponent? Only time will tell. Be sure to attend the Heralds of Galactus Sneak Preview on August 26-27 for your chance to wield the limitless power of The Infinity Gauntlet!

Okay, so that last part was kind of cheesy, but I can’t help it! I’m so excited! The Infinity Gauntlet is finally here!

*Okay . . . so technically Thanos knew about the Infinity Gems long before this time—like the first time he tried to collect all of the Infinity Gems (but failed because Adam Warlock wouldn’t surrender the Soul Gem). But it wasn’t until this time around that he learned about the true power of The Infinity Gauntlet (you know—the ability to wield godlike power over all you survey . . . as opposed to the power to blow up a few stars). I only mention this little tidbit to appease all of the comic purists. Yes, The Infinity Gauntlet did exist in the Marvel universe prior to The Infinity Gauntlet series. But since this series is where The Infinity Gauntlet truly came to prominence, I decided to keep our story limited to the events surrounding this time period.

**The reason for this long-winded explanation is to explain the image depicted in the card. The character wielding The Infinity Gauntlet is, in fact, Magus. Hopefully this will prevent some confusion for those of you who might have first thought that it was Adam Warlock or Thanos. I’m a bit torn about how to approach this preview. Typically, I tend to chatter about all kinds of meaningless drivel before I get to the subject at hand. In the case of my regular column, I generally force my readers to indulge me as I ramble on with some kind of meaningless story about where I went to eat last week, or my favorite music/movie/TV show, or how “The Sauce” activated Boris, Personal Servant of Dr. Doom when I had Mageddon on my side of the board. Since I have a captive audience, I am free to perform such shenanigans at my whim.

 

However, previews are a different animal. I am well aware that many of you scrolled immediately down to check out the preview card without even bothering to examine any of my prior discourse. Such activity almost tempts me to insert random lines like “Email BigSpooky and win fifty dollars!” or “Shane Wiggans is a n00b!” into these opening paragraphs to see if anyone actually reads them. Fortunately, my better judgment—as well as my wish to avoid paying out large sums of money or incur the wrath of TAWC’s Tattooed Man—keeps me from such folly.

 

Well, since you came here for the card and not my storytelling, I’ll shut up and get to the nitty-gritty. I present to you the most powerful equipment card in the Vs. System: The Infinity Gauntlet!

 

 

No, that is not a misprint . . . The Infinity Gauntlet really is a 10-cost equipment card!

 

Unlike the preview cards that I have done in the past, I do happen to know a fair bit about The Infinity Gauntlet and its origins. Thus, before we get into mechanic and gameplay discussions, I’m going to let my inner Kergillian take over and tell you a little bit about this amazing glove.

 

“To Infinity and Beyond!”

Once upon a time, there was a nihilist named Thanos. He was a rather vicious individual and a rabid follower of Death (not the state of being dead— the actual, corporeal embodiment of Death). Fortunately, Thanos was dead himself, so he couldn’t really threaten the universe too much from six feet under. However, Death decided that she wasn’t really happy with the current scheme of the cosmos, so she decided to resurrect Thanos to carry out her dark mission. His task: kill half of the sentient beings in the universe.

 

Now, Thanos is a pretty tough guy, but we are talking about the universe here—it’s a rather large place! He could travel as fast as Santa Claus and still probably never move quickly enough to eventually wipe out half of existence. While considering this problem, Thanos stumbled upon the secret of six jewels known as the Infinity Gems.* These gems were powerful relics that granted the bearer complete control of one of the six aspects of the universe: Mind, Power, Reality, Space, Time, and Soul. While each of these gems was powerful in its own right, their true power was revealed when they were brought together to form an artifact known as The Infinity Gauntlet. The Infinity Gauntlet bestowed upon its wearer instant omniscience and omnipotence. Basically, the lucky person who wields The Infinity Gauntlet has the power to rule all of creation and shape it to his or her liking.

 

Armed with this knowledge, Thanos petitioned Death to grant him the power to assemble the Infinity Gems. Through a clever series of ploys, Thanos was able to wrest each of the six Infinity Gems from the grasp of its controller . . . and just like that, Thanos became the newest god on the block!

 

Given the immense power that Thanos now held, it seemed likely that no force in the universe would be able to stop him. This scenario seemed particularly likely when Thanos managed to defeat an assembly of the Earth’s mightiest heroes, the combined forces of the most powerful celestial beings in existence, and Eternity (the living embodiment of the Marvel universe). However, one man was able to successfully oppose Thanos: Adam Warlock. Warlock had supposedly given his life many years before defeating Thanos in one of his earlier nefarious schemes. The truth, however, was that Warlock was living on a world within the Soul Gem. While he really only desired to spend the remainder of his days at rest within the gem, the eminent peril that the universe faced due to Thanos’s possession of The Infinity Gauntlet forced him back to this plane of existence.

 

Adam Warlock claimed to know Thanos better than Thanos even knew himself. According to Warlock, Thanos had the raw ability to rule the universe unopposed. However, Thanos secretly lacked the desire to hold onto this power, as he didn’t deem himself worthy of it. This prophecy came to fruition when—after he had defeated the most powerful beings in the universe—Thanos lost The Infinity Gauntlet to his granddaughter, Nebula, through sheer carelessness. Thanos had grown too big for his britches—literally—and expanded his essence throughout the cosmos, leaving his body unattended. In that moment, Nebula snatched The Infinity Gauntlet from her grandpappy’s hand.

 

Given the relative inexperience of the newest holder of The Infinity Gauntlet, Warlock—with the help of several of the assembled heroes—was able to gain control of The Infinity Gauntlet back from Nebula. This seemed a turn in the right direction for the universe, as the artifact now resided with a reasonably benevolent being. Unfortunately, in the brief amount of time that Adam Warlock held The Infinity Gauntlet, he managed to stir up a whole new set of troubles.

 

The Infinity War

The Living Tribunal is the judge of all realities as well as all events within these realities. He alone controlled the power to determine whether the Infinity Gems would be allowed to work in unison to form The Infinity Gauntlet. In the situation with Thanos, the Tribunal deemed that Thanos’s possession of The Infinity Gauntlet was justified, as he only sought to replace Eternity’s grand scheme with his own (i.e., “survival of the fittest”). However, in the case of Warlock, the Tribunal was not satisfied that Warlock could adequately control the power of The Infinity Gauntlet. Thus, he ordered that the Gauntlet be disassembled, and the gems be given to new custodians. Grudgingly, Warlock complied and bestowed five of the gems to beings that he deemed capable of protecting them, keeping the Soul Gem for himself. This group of guardians became known as The Infinity Watch.

 

Prior to relinquishing The Infinity Gauntlet, however, Adam Warlock had performed a dire act. In his preparation for “godhood,” Warlock determined that he needed to rid himself of all emotions that might compromise his judgment. Thus, the good and evil sides of Adam Warlock were expunged from him. One would assume that this would leave a single neutral being in the form of Adam Warlock . . . but Adam Warlock is no simple being, and the act of eliminating his good and evil sides created two new beings: The Goddess, who was the embodiment of the good of Adam Warlock; and Magus, who represented the whole of Adam Warlock’s evil. The Goddess managed to create problems for Warlock and the rest of the Marvel universe in The Infinity Crusade series, but since that story really doesn’t involve The Infinity Gauntlet, we’ll skip it and take a look at Magus.

 

Upon his creation (or recreation, as it were, since Magus had actually existed some time before as a version of Adam Warlock gone bad . . . long story), Magus traveled to several parallel dimensions to collect a new set of artifacts known as the Cosmic Cubes. These items, while not collectively as powerful as The Infinity Gauntlet, nonetheless gave Magus a great deal of power—enough to send Eternity into a coma and set the entire Marvel universe into frenzy once more. To deal with Magus, Warlock decided to reassemble The Infinity Gauntlet. Unfortunately, the plan did not work as he had hoped. The combined power of the gems did not give Warlock the godlike level of power he once had due to the Tribunal’s decree that the Infinity Gems could no longer be used in unison. Gamora (guardian of the Time Gem and acting on behalf of Adam Warlock) and Galactus asked the Tribunal to reverse this ruling so that Magus could be stopped. The Tribunal called upon the decision of Eternity, who was just starting to reawaken after being battered around by Magus and the Cosmic Cubes. Eternity declared that the Infinity Gems could once more be allowed to combine to form The Infinity Gauntlet . . . right as Magus stole the gauntlet from Adam Warlock!**

 

Still, Adam Warlock was able to thwart Magus’s plans by replacing the Reality Gem with a fake, thus denying Magus the complete and total power of The Infinity Gauntlet. After regaining control of the Infinity Gems, Warlock absorbed his evil half into the Soul Gem, giving a new spin to the traditional portrayal of the devil within. He then dispersed the Infinity Gems back to their appointed guardians. Finally, Eternity declared that The Infinity Gauntlet would not be allowed to be reformed ever again, regardless of the circumstances. Thus, The Infinity Gauntlet, possibly the single most powerful weapon in the Marvel universe, disappeared into Marvel’s pantheon of long lost storylines.

 

Infinite Power in the Vs. System

Getting back to the Vs. System, let’s take a look at how The Infinity Gauntlet will affect the game. Obviously the first thing that jumps out is the card’s cost. Prior to Heralds of Galactus, there wasn’t a single equipment card that cost more than 2 resource points to recruit. The list of 2-cost equipment cards is extremely short, and none of these cards saw significant play. This was in large part due to the fact that no one wanted to waste 2 precious resource points on an equipment card, regardless of how amazing the equipment card’s effect might be. That said, it would seem “somewhat” unlikely that a 10-cost equipment would ever be viable.

 

This, of course, is where the first part of The Infinity Gauntlet’s text comes into play. Sure, you could wait until turn 10 and drop The Infinity Gauntlet onto one of your characters—but if you’re really enterprising and scheming like Thanos, then you can bypass The Infinity Gauntlet’s recruit cost by collecting the Infinity Gems. From a flavor perspective, this is a really cool design element. In order to wield the awesome power of The Infinity Gauntlet, a player can go on a “Thanos Quest” of his or her own to collect all six of the Infinity Gems. Of course, it probably goes without saying that Heralds of Galactus will contain six other equipment cards in the form of the Mind, Power, Reality, Space, Time, and Soul Gems, and that these equipment cards will all be powerful in their own right. It should be interesting to see what these cards look like and if players will be forced to choose between using the Infinity Gems versus hoarding them to bring The Infinity Gauntlet into play.

 

The Infinity Gauntlet’s ability, naturally, is even more interesting than its alternate cost. There has been quite a bit of speculation about what kind of effect The Infinity Gauntlet would have once it was made into a Vs. System card. These ideas ranged from the spectacular—like “Equipped character gets +20 ATK / +20 DEF and cannot be targeted or stunned”—to the outrageously spectacular—like “When you recruit The Infinity Gauntlet, you win the Pro Circuit.”

 

Here is what I saw:

 

Exhaust equipped character à Stun target character.

 

Other cards that stun characters always have some attached cost or condition, like “KO a resource you control,” or “with cost 3 or less,” or “only during the combat phase.” The Infinity Gauntlet has no associated cost whatsoever. What does this mean? It means that the character that you choose to equip with The Infinity Gauntlet automatically becomes more powerful than any character your opponent controls!!! Think of the possibilities! Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria is one of the biggest and baddest in the game, but a single Wild Sentinel equipped with The Infinity Gauntlet can stop the armored despot in his tracks. Magneto, Master of Magnetism could normally toss Wolverine, Logan and his adamantium-laced skeleton around like a rag doll. However, if you drop The Infinity Gauntlet on Wolverine, then Magneto goes from being a “Master of Magnetism” to a “Master of Lying Face Down on Your Opponent’s Side of the Board.” And just imagine the fun when Onslaught tries to go head-to-head with Aunt May while she’s armed with The Infinity Gauntlet. Who wants pie now, sucka?!?

 

As far as gameplay goes, The Infinity Gauntlet may not be as easily absorbed into the competitive metagame as the Fate Artifacts were. However, it will definitely be a mainstay of casual play. Late game cards like Gamma Bomb and Imperiex have found consistent play in many different casual decks. Apparently, the thrill of playing the most powerful cards in the game to any kind of success is a great enticement to many Vs. System players. One could certainly take the approach of stalling until turn 10, then spending all of his or her resource points on The Infinity Gauntlet. However, it seems more likely that player will focus more on the alternate recruit cost: seeing how quickly he or she can assemble all of the Infinity Gems to bring out The Infinity Gauntlet for free. A deck that manages to get out The Infinity Gauntlet on turn 4 or 5 could certainly be a force to be reckoned with.

 

So get ready, people. The Devourer of Worlds is coming, and he brings with him the most powerful equipment card in the Vs. System to date! Will you be up to the challenge of collecting all of the Infinity Gems so that you can unleash their combined power on an unsuspecting opponent? Only time will tell. Be sure to attend the Heralds of Galactus Sneak Preview on August 26-27 for your chance to wield the limitless power of The Infinity Gauntlet!

 

Okay, so that last part was kind of cheesy, but I can’t help it! I’m so excited! The Infinity Gauntlet is finally here!

 

 

 

*Okay . . . so technically Thanos knew about the Infinity Gems long before this time—like the first time he tried to collect all of the Infinity Gems (but failed because Adam Warlock wouldn’t surrender the Soul Gem). But it wasn’t until this time around that he learned about the true power of The Infinity Gauntlet (you know—the ability to wield godlike power over all you survey . . . as opposed to the power to blow up a few stars). I only mention this little tidbit to appease all of the comic purists. Yes, The Infinity Gauntlet did exist in the Marvel universe prior to The Infinity Gauntlet series. But since this series is where The Infinity Gauntlet truly came to prominence, I decided to keep our story limited to the events surrounding this time period.

 

**The reason for this long-winded explanation is to explain the image depicted in the card. The character wielding The Infinity Gauntlet is, in fact, Magus. Hopefully this will prevent some confusion for those of you who might have first thought that it was Adam Warlock or Thanos.

(Metagame Archive) Sealed Pack 101: Heralds of Galactus Sneak Preview

By Doug Tice

It’s new set time! I just got home from my local Heralds of Galactus Sneak Preview event, and playing with the new set was a blast. I always enjoy Sneak Preview events, but I think my first impression of Heralds is that it may be the best set yet for Sealed Pack.

I thought I’d share my card pool and then attempt to illustrate the thought process that led me to the thirty cards I chose to play. One of the teams in Heralds of Galactus has me really rethinking traditional curve methodology. When you see my build, you will probably understand what I mean.

Here are the seventy cards I received:

Doom

Klaw, Sonic Construct

Moloids, Army

Valeria Von Doom, Heir to Latveria

Mole Man, Moloid Master

Iron Man, Illuminati

Divinity, Vampiric General

Invisible Woman, Baroness Von Doom

Mr. Fantastic, Doom’s Adversary

Ultron ◊ Ultron 11

Purple Man, Subtle Manipulator

Dorma, Atlantean General

Heralds of Galactus

Galan, Famished

Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Optimistic Youth

Destroyer, Soulless Juggernaut

Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Soul Searcher

Plasma, Replacement Herald

Morg, Corrupt Destroyer

Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Harbinger of Death

Air-Walker, Harbinger of Despair

Firelord, Harbinger of Havoc

The Fallen One, The Forgotten

Morg, Harbinger of Extinction

Inhumans

Lockjaw, Inhuman’s Best Friend

Luna Maximoff, Only Human

Franklin Richards, Creator of Counter-Earth

Black Bolt, Illuminati

Tonaja, The Responsible One

Crystal, Elementelle

Nahrees, The Negative One

Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans

Karnak, The Shatterer

Maximus the Mad, Mental Manipulator

Invisible Woman, Flame On!

Kree

Captain Att-Lass, Starforce

Dr. Minerva, Starforce

Commander Dylon Cir, Lunatic Legion

Mar-Vell ◊ Captain Marvel, Soldier of the Empire

Lunatic Legionnaires, Army

Ronan the Accuser, Starforce

Kree Public Accusers, Army

Supremor, Starforce

Legacy

Wolverine, Skrunucklehead

Litterbug, Killer Cockroach

Titannus, Alien Conqueror

Plot Twists

Assault and Battery

Astral Suppression

Conquered Planet

Cosmic Order

Elemental Battle

Extended Family, Team-Up

Final Decree

I Hunger

Intergalactic Summit

Interstellar Offensive

It’s Slobberin’ Time!

Pacification

Power Struggle

Pressed into Service, Team-Up

Remnant Fleet

Sworn Enemies

The Infamous Seven

The Rapture

Locations

Arsenal of Doom

Elemental Converters

Hala

Penal Colony

Taa II

The Kyln

Equipment

Mind Gem, Infinity Gem

Nega-Bands

The first card that caught my eye was Wolverine, Skrunucklehead. Why? The artwork portrayed a gremlin-like Wolverine that just looked a little strange at first glance. “Whoa, Wolverine is a Skrull?” I thought. Then I noticed that this 3-drop could reach heights of 10 ATK. That seemed pretty cool. After realizing that there weren’t too many Skrulls in my card pool, I set Wolverine aside, thinking that he might be a pretty good filler character. His power would allow him to team attack and reinforce, so his drawbacks would be minimal.

Next, I recognized one of the cards that I had read about a few days before the event. I remember seeing Karnak, the Shatterer and thinking that he looked good but also wondering if his cosmic power would be worth waiting for (and possibly passing up an opportunity to attack for). Now that Karnak was officially on the table, I figured I’d do a check to see if there were any cards in my pool that might let me add his cosmic counter without waiting around for the recovery phase. Before delving into my plot twists, though, I went ahead and set out my characters by team and cost to see where my depth along a typical curve would lie.

Arriving at a build consisting of almost exclusively two teams was easy this time around. After setting out my characters by team and cost, it looked like Heralds of Galactus and Inhumans were the strongest candidates for teaming-up.

With only a little time to process so many new options, here are the cards I finally decided to play. They are sorted by type, team, and cost and then listed alphabetically. The non-character cards are just sorted by type and then alphabetically.

Heralds of Galactus

Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Optimistic Youth

Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Soul Searcher

Plasma, Replacement Herald

Morg, Corrupt Destroyer

Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Harbinger of Death

Air-Walker, Harbinger of Despair

Firelord, Harbinger of Havoc

The Fallen One, The Forgotten

Morg, Harbinger of Extinction

Inhumans

Lockjaw, Inhuman’s Best Friend

Luna Maximoff, Only Human

Franklin Richards, Creator of Counter-Earth

Black Bolt, Illuminati

Tonaja, The Responsible One

Crystal, Elementelle

Nahrees, The Negative One

Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans

Karnak, The Shatterer

Invisible Woman, Flame On!

Kree

Ronan The Accuser, Starforce

Plot Twists

Power Struggle

It’s Slobberin’ Time!

Sworn Enemies

Interstellar Offensive

Pacification

Pressed Into Service, Team-Up

Extended Family, Team-Up

Locations

Taa II

Elemental Converters

The Kyln

Aside from Ronan the Accuser, Starforce, I was able to play only two teams, which is ideal. The entire card pool was light on 4-drops except for the Doom team. I’m a sucker for characters with concealed—optional and I liked the Heralds of Galactus and Inhumans’ team-stamped blue and green cards more than others. Ronan the Accuser proved to be a very powerful filler character. In the final round of the event, I was on the other side of Ronan the Accuser. It was not fun. I imagine that my opponents were pretty frustrated when I had Ronan the Accuser in play, also.

You may not have noticed, but I played a slightly awkward characters curve: three 1-drops, two 2-drops, four 3-drops, three 4-drops, four 5-drops, two 6-drops, and two 7-drops. My only explanation for playing the strange counts at 1 and 2 is that I just played the cards that I wanted to play. I was unsure about Destroyer, Soulless Juggernaut, so I just cut it as I was making my final decisions. I’m still not sure if Destroyer is any good. I wanted to play all four of my 5-drops, so I just did it. I felt that I needed a slightly higher count of characters with a cost of 4 or greater to fuel a few cool effects generated by Heralds of Galactus–stamped cards. As I mentioned above, the Heralds team has me rethinking the traditional curve. I’m not really sure how to make the most of their “4 or greater” mechanic, but I plan to try to build many more top-heavy Sealed and Draft decks to test it out.  

Here are the cards that were seriously considered for inclusion but missed the final cut.

Galan, Famished

Destroyer, Soulless Juggernaut

Wolverine, Skrunucklehead

Litterbug, Killer Cockroach

Invisible Woman, Baroness Von Doom

Divinity, Vampiric General

Maximus the Mad, Mental Manipulator

Cosmic Order

Elemental Battle

Final Decree

I Hunger

Intergalactic Summit

Mind Gem, Infinity Gem

Of these, I think Final Decree had the most potential. Cosmic Order was probably the thirty-second card. Intergalactic Summit was in the deck because I had initially overlooked Pressed into Service, Team-Up. I prefer to play two or more Team-Ups in multi-team decks. This time, though, with only the Extended Family, Team-Up and Crystal, Elementelle to go find it, I would probably have been fine.

Well, to make a long story short, the deck played out well. I didn’t have many issues with hitting my curve, and the cards that I chose to play interacted well together. Karnak, The Shatterer was very good, as I thought he would be. Adding and removing cosmic counters was fun and paid off throughout the day.

I really like the set and I look forward to playing with the cards again. Heck, I may even make my way up to New York to play with them in a week or so. If I’m fortunate enough to bring home a trophy, then I will write about the experience, but either way, I plan to start a comprehensive breakdown of the new cards next week. See you then.

(Metagame Archive) Heralds of Galactus: Karnak, The Shatterer

By Patrick Sullivan

When it was announced to us in R&D that Heralds of Galactus was on the slate, there was no doubt that it would be a cosmic set. For starters, cosmic was originally intended to represent cosmic entities, which the stories of Galactus, Silver Surfer, and other intergalactic characters have in abundance. Cosmic was a mechanic that we hadn’t explored in earnest in a long time (sure, we had the occasional cosmic character, but nothing of the scope of Man of Steel), and we were looking forward to doing it a second time.

Cosmic, besides giving us a way of thematically representing characters from other dimensions or regions of the universe (much like concealed in Green Lantern), also gives us a way of giving characters very impressive powers that are balanced by the fact that the powers are temporary. In the Man of Steel set, the cosmic abilities were rather incidental (other than Parasite, who requires quite a bit of work). Since many of Man of Steel’s cosmic characters have little going on beyond their cosmic text, and cosmic is a temporary effect, and the cosmic abilities aren’t that exciting, it’s easy to see how cosmic never really took off. Fortunately, from our perspective, this was very easy to address: we simply needed to make more powerful cosmic effects this time around.

At the same time, just having cosmic in the set wouldn’t be enough. While I think cosmic is a cool mechanic in terms of the powers it allows us to give to characters, the play experience of cosmic isn’t that different. I, as the controller of the cosmic character, try to avoid getting my character stunned. You, as the opposing player, try to stun my character. As you may have noticed, this is a pretty common strategy in Vs. System, cosmic characters or not. While cosmic may influence attack order (by knocking out a cosmic character that influences combat somehow) and character evaluation (say, stunning a cosmic 4-drop instead of a non-cosmic 5-drop to remove the counter instead of taking out the biggest character), cosmic doesn’t introduce a wildly different play pattern. There would have to be something in Heralds to make cosmic “feel” different than it did before, something that would go beyond a simple power level change. Lead designer Andrew Yip came up with a new class of cosmic, cosmic—surge, to add a new layer to cosmic characters.

Here’s the rules text for cosmic—surge:

Cosmic—Surge: [cosmic text] 

 

Cosmic—Surge is a new twist on cosmic. A character with this keyword is still a cosmic character and follows all the rules for cosmic, with two exceptions:

1. Cosmic—Surge characters do not come into play with a cosmic counter.

2. At the start of the recovery phase each turn, put a cosmic counter on each cosmic—surge character that isn’t stunned.

 

The implications of this keyword are very significant. For starters, you don’t get the cosmic character right away. You are going to have to put a little bit of work into it, either by having your character survive until recovery, adding a cosmic counter from some other effect, or using a recovery effect before recovery. However, there are some upsides to it. First of all, a cosmic—surge character can lose a cosmic character and then get it back at some later stage. Previous cosmic characters were basically “one and done”—once they got stunned, you needed to take pretty extreme measures to get the cosmic counter back. Cosmic—surge characters can replenish their counters simply by surviving to recovery. Secondly, cosmic—surge has a pretty obvious and powerful synergy with characters that remove their cosmic counters for effects. The preview card for today, Karnak, may be the most potent of the bunch.

 

Yes, you are reading that card correctly. Karnak, in essence, trades a cosmic character for a free stun on your initiative. Once you reach the sixth or seventh turn of the game, Karnak’s effect easily translates into a +15 or +16 ATK pump. As a concealed character, it’s pretty easy to get him to survive until recovery just by making safe attacks. However, if you really want to get him online on turn 5, the Inhumans have a variety of ways to get a cosmic counter on him right away. Also, the Inhumans have a lot of characters with concealed, so you’ll often have a 1- or 2-drop lingering around to maximize the power of Karnak. Before, the benchmark of efficiency was sending a character one spot up the curve with an ATK pump. Now, the new benchmark might be sending your 1-drop after your opponent’s 7-drop and using Karnak as a +16 ATK pump. In Constructed, I expect curve decks to go out of their way to fulfill his loyalty—reveal requirement, as Karnak with the initiative and a cosmic counter should almost always yield a win. In Sealed Pack, the description “bomb” doesn’t even come close to explaining how good Karnak is. Everything that’s true about him in Constructed is even more accurate in Sealed Pack, where the format is slower, more curve-oriented, and more forgiving of playing a concealed 5-drop.

I think I can speak for all of R&D when I say that we are very excited with the execution of cosmic and cosmic—surge in Heralds of Galactus. The cosmic cards in this set reward players appropriately for the costs associated with cosmic, and cosmic—surge introduces a completely different play experience for the mechanic. While Sneak Previews are always fun, this one will be especially so. The debut of Galactus himself and the return of an old mechanic will give the Preview tournaments a shot in the arm and an exciting new twist. I suggest checking it out for yourself.

And remember to bring some coins or dice. When it was announced to us in R&D that Heralds of Galactus was on the slate, there was no doubt that it would be a cosmic set. For starters, cosmic was originally intended to represent cosmic entities, which the stories of Galactus, Silver Surfer, and other intergalactic characters have in abundance. Cosmic was a mechanic that we hadn’t explored in earnest in a long time (sure, we had the occasional cosmic character, but nothing of the scope of Man of Steel), and we were looking forward to doing it a second time.

 

Cosmic, besides giving us a way of thematically representing characters from other dimensions or regions of the universe (much like concealed in Green Lantern), also gives us a way of giving characters very impressive powers that are balanced by the fact that the powers are temporary. In the Man of Steel set, the cosmic abilities were rather incidental (other than Parasite, who requires quite a bit of work). Since many of Man of Steel’s cosmic characters have little going on beyond their cosmic text, and cosmic is a temporary effect, and the cosmic abilities aren’t that exciting, it’s easy to see how cosmic never really took off. Fortunately, from our perspective, this was very easy to address: we simply needed to make more powerful cosmic effects this time around.

 

At the same time, just having cosmic in the set wouldn’t be enough. While I think cosmic is a cool mechanic in terms of the powers it allows us to give to characters, the play experience of cosmic isn’t that different. I, as the controller of the cosmic character, try to avoid getting my character stunned. You, as the opposing player, try to stun my character. As you may have noticed, this is a pretty common strategy in Vs. System, cosmic characters or not. While cosmic may influence attack order (by knocking out a cosmic character that influences combat somehow) and character evaluation (say, stunning a cosmic 4-drop instead of a non-cosmic 5-drop to remove the counter instead of taking out the biggest character), cosmic doesn’t introduce a wildly different play pattern. There would have to be something in Heralds to make cosmic “feel” different than it did before, something that would go beyond a simple power level change. Lead designer Andrew Yip came up with a new class of cosmic, cosmic—surge, to add a new layer to cosmic characters.

 

Here’s the rules text for cosmic—surge:

 

Cosmic—Surge: [cosmic text]

 

Cosmic—Surge is a new twist on cosmic. A character with this keyword is still a cosmic character and follows all the rules for cosmic, with two exceptions:

 

1. Cosmic—Surge characters do not come into play with a cosmic counter.

2. At the start of the recovery phase each turn, put a cosmic counter on each cosmic—surge character that isn’t stunned.

 

The implications of this keyword are very significant. For starters, you don’t get the cosmic character right away. You are going to have to put a little bit of work into it, either by having your character survive until recovery, adding a cosmic counter from some other effect, or using a recovery effect before recovery. However, there are some upsides to it. First of all, a cosmic—surge character can lose a cosmic character and then get it back at some later stage. Previous cosmic characters were basically “one and done”—once they got stunned, you needed to take pretty extreme measures to get the cosmic counter back. Cosmic—surge characters can replenish their counters simply by surviving to recovery. Secondly, cosmic—surge has a pretty obvious and powerful synergy with characters that remove their cosmic counters for effects. The preview card for today, Karnak, may be the most potent of the bunch.

 

 

Yes, you are reading that card correctly. Karnak, in essence, trades a cosmic character for a free stun on your initiative. Once you reach the sixth or seventh turn of the game, Karnak’s effect easily translates into a +15 or +16 ATK pump. As a concealed character, it’s pretty easy to get him to survive until recovery just by making safe attacks. However, if you really want to get him online on turn 5, the Inhumans have a variety of ways to get a cosmic counter on him right away. Also, the Inhumans have a lot of characters with concealed, so you’ll often have a 1- or 2-drop lingering around to maximize the power of Karnak. Before, the benchmark of efficiency was sending a character one spot up the curve with an ATK pump. Now, the new benchmark might be sending your 1-drop after your opponent’s 7-drop and using Karnak as a +16 ATK pump. In Constructed, I expect curve decks to go out of their way to fulfill his loyalty—reveal requirement, as Karnak with the initiative and a cosmic counter should almost always yield a win. In Sealed Pack, the description “bomb” doesn’t even come close to explaining how good Karnak is. Everything that’s true about him in Constructed is even more accurate in Sealed Pack, where the format is slower, more curve-oriented, and more forgiving of playing a concealed 5-drop.

 

I think I can speak for all of R&D when I say that we are very excited with the execution of cosmic and cosmic—surge in Heralds of Galactus. The cosmic cards in this set reward players appropriately for the costs associated with cosmic, and cosmic—surge introduces a completely different play experience for the mechanic. While Sneak Previews are always fun, this one will be especially so. The debut of Galactus himself and the return of an old mechanic will give the Preview tournaments a shot in the arm and an exciting new twist. I suggest checking it out for yourself.

 

And remember to bring some coins or dice.

(Metagame Archive) Advanced Learning: Reading the Signals

By Doug Tice

I have been anxiously looking forward to writing this article. At the same time, I’m afraid that the topic of reading signals is going to be quite difficult to explain and illustrate completely. I think a lot of readers’ expectations of an article entitled “Reading the Signals” are that the writer will say, “If you see this card passed, that is a signal, and this is how you should react.” While recognizing specific examples is part of reading signals, that knowledge will take you only so far. Reading signals is all about gathering as much information from as many sources as possible and reacting accordingly. I will do my best to highlight a number of other factors that can lead you to read signals more accurately and react more appropriately to them.

First, I’d like to take a look at the most basic signal reading:

Getting passed archetypal cards later than you would expect to see them

Lately, I have been so busy that I hardly find time to read Vs. System articles. I haven’t even kept up with some of my favorite writers. One article that I’m very glad I did find time to read, though, was Alex Brown’s Draft Clinic spotlighting Scott Smith right here on Metagame.

I suggest that you read this entire article, which gives great illustrations of specific card signals. In fact, you should make a habit of reading all of Alex’s Draft Clinic articles if you are looking to improve your drafting. If you don’t have time to read all of Alex’s coverage of Scott’s draft picks, then I suggest that you skip straight to the paragraph related to pack 1, pick 1 and read through pack 1, pick 6. Pay special attention to what Alex points out in his comments about Scott’s sixth pick.

Scott failed to read a signal when the archetypal The Calculator, Evil Oracle was passed to him in an otherwise mediocre pack. Even though he drafted The Calculator, he did not keep an open mind to shifting the focus of his deck.

Which leads me to my second point . . .

Always keep an open mind

What good is reading the signals if you aren’t going to do anything about them? All too often, players who notice a few strong clues that a team is being under-drafted to their right ignore the information they are receiving, because in their minds, they have already committed to one single strategy. Committing to a single strategy works a lot of the time, as does forcing this one strategy from the get-go. Sometimes, picking up on a signal or two that something is not being heavily drafted is still not reason enough to jump right into that team or strategy. All I’m saying is just try to keep an open mind.

Misreading a signal

Sometimes, every drafter to your right takes powerful cards from a loaded pack. In some packs, a card that would go first pick without a doubt will be overshadowed by a number of other equally or more powerful first-pick quality cards. This is the biggest reason that you cannot base your signal reading only on seeing a powerful archetypal card passed later than you would have expected. Maybe what you thought was there just wasn’t there at all. This goes along with keeping an open mind. Don’t look for just one clue to be the green light. Continue to read what is being passed and don’t be afraid to admit that what you thought was a clear signal may not have been anything more than a coincidence.
Evaluation of individual picks

Hardly any two players would agree to the same ranking of all cards from start to finish. Some cards might be more generally accepted as top picks, but even this might not be the case when you sit down at a table full of strangers. You really cannot predict how others will value cards. If your understanding of the set being drafted is as strong as or better than your competition, you should be fine in this area. Sometimes, one or two undervalued cards can mean the world of difference in a draft pod full of stiff competition. As you are drafting with these strangers, the information that they give you throughout the draft by way of the cards they are passing should give you an idea of what cards your competition undervalues and overvalues in comparison with your card evaluations.

It is possible to adjust your value scale during the draft to reflect how you think the table will respond. Maybe one of the commons that you value as a first to third pick just landed in your lap eighth pick, but commons that you would have expected to receive eighth pick or later were nowhere to be seen. Let’s say that in pack 3, you open another copy of that common that you were thinking would never do a lap around the table, but in that pack, you also have the option to take the common that you previously hoped would be passed to you later. Picking the card that is lower on your value scale with hopes of your previously top-ranked common coming back to you as late as ninth pick might just be the right thing to do.
Knowing your competition

The more you know about the players sitting around your draft table, the better chance you have of correctly interpreting the information you receive as packs are being passed. Relating to both this topic and the above evaluation topic, take a look at a quote from Ian Vincent’s look back at his final draft pod at Pro Circuit San Francisco.

“Going into the draft, I was under the impression that a lot of the top players underestimated the X-Men in general and X-Treme Maneuver in particular. I was looking to draft them again.”

Having the opportunity to use two previous same-day drafts’ worth of gathered information is an instance that occurs most often at the Pro Circuit. You might be able to squeeze in three drafts in one day at your store to try to simulate this scenario, but that is not the point. If you know one or two of the players sitting at your table, you should use what you know about their draft preferences to help you read what is being passed.

Going a step further, when you hear other players casually discussing draft strategies, listen up! What you learn from them will also help you. I’m not just saying that if you know player A likes to draft Team X and player B likes to draft Team Y that you should pre-set yourself to draft Team Z. You should look for strong Team Z signals, of course, but you should also be looking for clear indications that the players to your right might be trying something different this time around.
For lack of a better word, instinct

If you have never seen the movie Good Will Hunting, you should probably at least add it to your master “movies to see” list. Please stay with me here. I’ll tie it all to Vs. System in just a moment. The following dialogue is taken from the movie.

Will: “Do you play the piano?”

Skylar: “A bit.”

Will: “Okay, when you look at a piano, you see Mozart, right?”

Skylar: “I see ‘Chopsticks.’”

 

Will: “Beethoven, okay. He looked at a piano, and it just made sense to him. He could just play.”

Skylar: “So what are you saying? You play the piano?”
Will: “No, not a lick. I mean, I look at a piano, I see a bunch of keys, three pedals, and a box of wood. But Beethoven, Mozart, they saw it, they could just play. I couldn’t paint you a picture, I probably can’t hit the ball out of Fenway, and I can’t play the piano.”

Skylar: “But you can do my o-chem paper in under an hour.”

Will: “Right. Well, I mean when it came to stuff like that . . . I could always just play.”

Even with all of the tools and methods for understanding the signals given above, there is still that “it just makes sense to me” factor that cannot really be explained. Although I do have my hot streaks, excellent plays, and lucky moments, I feel that my strongest skill (at least in Booster Draft formats) is my ability to read the signals from the cards being passed my way. Yes, I do follow the guidelines that I have set out in this article, but sometimes, when those methods break down or when all else fails, the “it just makes sense” factor kicks in and pulls me through a tough draft.

Maybe this factor can be identified as instinct. It seems like instinct is too narrow of a definition, but for the sake of trying to provide some final helpful tips, I will just say, “Trust your instinct.”
Physically signaling during the draft

I just want to take a moment to say that any effort to send or receive physical signals during a draft is nothing short of cheating. Looking to see what card the player to either side of you is about to take is strictly prohibited. Hand gestures, head nods, table tapping, and so forth are all a real quick way to get disqualified from an event and will probably land you a lengthy suspension. So please, focus on honing your signal-reading skills that are fair and appropriate for the game.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of Advanced Learning. Although it wasn’t officially dubbed the first one, I’d like to call this article about synergy the Advanced Learning pilot episode. These articles’ topics will maintain a more conceptual view but are intended to be most helpful to those players looking to step their game up to the next level. Next week, I will return to Sealed Pack 101 with Part 3 of “The Study.” In Part 2, readers were asked to send submissions of what they would have done with the card pool I received in a recent Pro Circuit Qualifier. I look forward to sharing some interesting results soon.

(Metagame Archive) Draft Clinic: JSA

Alex Brown

With the Infinite Crisis Draft season slowing down and the local scene tiring of my endless pestering for drafts, I thought I would finish off this format with more of an in-depth look at the teams of this set. Cards can never be evaluated in a vacuum; they always need context. Over at StarCityVs.com, I have been posting a card-by-card review of this set, and I think that reading that would complement this column nicely. However, this format seems to be much less about building a deck as an accumulation of good cards and more about exploiting the various subtle and not so subtle combinations that lie scattered within it. Drafting archetypes has always been an important part of the arsenal of a good Sealed Pack player, but now more than ever, a deck that seeks to be more than just the sum of its parts is needed to win in Vs. Booster Draft. This article will take a look at the synergies available to the JSA, and we will continue next week with a look at another team.
Identity

One of the themes of the JSA is identity. For the uninitiated, the identity of a character is the word(s) located immediately after a à symbol next to that character’s name on the top line of text. The line below this is the version. Before this set, identity was almost irrelevant. With Infinite Crisis and the JSA, identity was brought into the spotlight.

There are a several cards that reference identity in Infinite Crisis Draft. There are the sets of characters that share an identity: the Hawkmen, the Hawkwomen, the Hourmen, and the Mr. Terrifics (and Mordru, Dark Lord, in addition to them). Characters with the same identity can be played alongside each other without falling prey to uniqueness. To complement the identity theme of these characters, there are several plot twists that reference identity. These are A Moment of Crisis, Double Play, Heroic Rescue, Living Legacy, and Taking Up the Mantle (and Fate Has Spoken, though it is not really relevant to the JSA). So, is there anything to be gained from drafting a deck based around characters of the same identity?

Something that needs to be recognized straightaway is that, on its own, identity does next to nothing in terms of game function. Having cards that share an identity does not in and of itself provide any advantage. Without cards that can convert your character cards in hand into effects, identity is meaningless.

Only two of the characters mentioned have abilities that reference identity. They are Kendra Saunders à Hawkgirl, Eternal Heroine and Katar Hol à Hawkman, Eternal Hero. Both of these characters allow you to power-up characters in play with character cards from hand that share an identity. On top of that, they offer you bonuses that extend beyond the normal powering-up bonus.

The plot twists are generally support cards. A Moment of Crisis allows you to give a character a specific identity, which, as shown above, does little by itself. Taking Up the Mantle is a narrower way of doing this with a slight bonus. Double Play and Heroic Rescue are effects that are based on identity but are not really that powerful. Legacy is decent, but it is good only once you have certain characters of different identities at different places on the curve; it does little before then.

To take advantage of this theme, we have to place a high priority on the characters that allow us to utilize character cards with shared identities, because until we have an outlet for the plot twists, they won’t be much use on their own. Kendra offers us +1 ATK to each power-up we perform within the identity theme. Katar offers us +1 DEF for the same function. Both have the potential to be very powerful, assuming we have access to several identity power-ups. But one is definitely better than the other, at least in the sense that we are trying to build an archetype.

When you are playing an on-curve deck, which most Draft decks typically are, your ultimate goal is to brickwall someone. Brickwalling is when you force an opposing attack to fail by creating a character that cannot be stunned by your opponent’s attacker(s). This is usually done through DEF enhancement. The potential to brickwall is so devastating that any cards or combinations of cards that can offer you a realistic chance to do so regularly should not be overlooked. Katar Hol à Hawkman, Eternal Hero gives you that chance.

At first glance, an 8 ATK / 6 DEF character doesn’t look built for defending. Yet with one power-up, Katar will become 9 ATK / 8 DEF, which is nothing to sneeze at for a 4-drop and already forces any 7 ATK character to pump for a stun. With two power-ups, Katar becomes an absolute monster at 10 ATK / 10 DEF, requiring a massive effort by any 4-cost character or below to ensure a stun. So, how realistic is getting multiple power-ups regularly? For starters, there are three common Hawkmen: Prince Khufu à Hawkman, Eternal Warrior; Katar Hol à Hawkman, Eternal Hero; and Carter Hall à Hawkman, Eternal Champion. A Moment of Crisis and Living Legacy can help you turn on Katar’s text, as well. On top of this, Mordru, Dark Lord and Return of Donna Troy can add redundancy to your plan of powering-up through identity and gaining Katar’s bonus. Not only does there seem to be enough gas to ensure that if you can pick up a Katar, he will have support, but there also seems to be enough of a possibility with cards that create identities other than Hawkman to add DEF at other points on the curve.

Clearly, Kendra is great in this type of deck, and even cards like Superman, Earth 2 and Barbara Gordon à Oracle, Data Broker can be excellent complements to the overall plan. On top of those, The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero can be awesome. Make no mistake, though—this is a deck based around Katar, and he is your main priority. ATK bonuses are great, but DEF bonuses are better (particularly when powering-up boosts your ATK anyway), and an attacking 3-drop is much harder to keep on the board than a defending 4-drop. Due to the weakness of the plot twists in any other deck, you can afford to try to wheel important cards like A Moment of Crisis, Living Legacy, and Return of Donna Troy, focusing instead on picking up the important characters (like Mordru and Prince Khufu once you have Katar Hol). I don’t recommend forcing this deck until you pick up Katar himself, but you can always snag some Moments and Legacies on the wheel of the first and second packs if you are already in the JSA. You won’t see Katar Hol passed beyond fourth pick very often, but sometimes it might be just as good to deprive someone else of this powerful archetype.
Earth 2

Another theme of the JSA is that several of their characters share the version Earth 2. With Lois Lane, Earth 2; Brainiac, Earth 2; Huntress, Earth 2; Batman, Earth 2; Wonder Woman, Earth 2; Power Girl, Earth 2; and Superman, Earth 2, there is in effect a character for every drop (with a 6-drop boosting on turn 7 or 8). Each of the characters has some sort of text or ability that references characters or character cards referencing Earth 2, so there is a lot of overlap and potential synergy between the characters.

From the outset, we need to note that we cannot realistically hope to recruit an Earth 2 character each turn, as there are so few of them and no way to team them up (apart from Huntress, but I will get to that in a second). To that end, what we are looking for are two-card combinations—incidental advantages rather than a deck built around the advantage offered by a single card (such as the identity deck above). It helps enormously that all of the Earth 2 characters apart from Lois are playable on their own, and some (like Power Girl) are naturally high picks already . . . though that can also be a downside because we cannot expect to see these cards all the time. The potential scarcity reinforces the need to focus on two-card combinations.

So, which Earth 2 cards lend themselves most easily to combinations with other cards? Well, given that each Earth 2 character has an ability dependent on having other Earth 2 characters, Huntress is definitely the most flexible character for the team. Acting as the only effective team-up for the team can turn Lois into a powerhouse search card, make Brainiac into a mini-Bastion of sorts, or even allow you to exhaust characters at will with Batman. Huntress is a 5 ATK / 4 DEF character on her own, so she’s no slouch, and it seems like the longer she is able to stay on the board, the more avenues of abuse become available. Picking Huntress early will allow you to value the other Earth 2 characters more highly as the draft progresses.

I mentioned the combination with Brainiac above, and I am happy to go on record with the claim that Brainiac is probably the most underrated card in Infinite Crisis Booster Draft. Not only do you get a fantastic ability that is made game-winning by Huntress or any generic Team-Up (of which there are plenty in this set), but you also get a character that is protected by its concealed status and able to boost on turn 3 in a pinch. Brainiac regularly wheels at tables I have observed, and I am sure this means that at least six people are making errors. This format is much more defensively motivated than past formats, and having a guy on your team who doesn’t require much effort to generate -2 ATK / -2 DEF will win you more games than you might think. If anything, Huntress turning on Brainiac is the most powerful Earth 2 combination, though he can be almost as good when your other teams are teamed-up with Anti-Matter.

All of the Earth 2 characters are solid, but it seems that Huntress and Brainiac are the best picks. This is because they are fine on their own and also provide you with the realistic potential to bring your other Earth 2 cards into play. You can generally be happy picking up any of the Earth 2 characters, though to begin to think of them as Earth 2 and not just as good JSA requires that you have Huntress or Brainiac. Drafting a deck with Earth 2 synergies tends to be more about having a solid and straightforward deck with options for shenanigans, rather than the almost-combo deck that the identity theme inspires. There is a little less of a chance for downright brokenness with Earth 2, but overall, you get a much more consistent deck that will randomly just win by itself.
Off-Curve JSA

I have long been an advocate of off-curve decks, but I have found that in Infinite Crisis Booster Draft, the regular rules of building and playing off-curve don’t seem to apply so well. There is significant potential for building a strong defense in Infinite Crisis, not just from DEF modifiers like Defend Yourself!, Deflection, and various equipment, but also from recovery effects like Revitalize and It’s Not Over Yet and the plethora of concealed or concealed—optional characters that make the typical bonuses for attacking up the curve minimal. All of this has added up to make this set very difficult to exploit in terms of finding a viable off-curve strategy.

The JSA and Checkmate have the best off-curve plans in this format. For the JSA, their off-curve options are fixed on the Mr. Terrifics: Terry Sloane à Mr. Terrific, Golden Age Gold Medalist and Michael Holt à Mr. Terrific, Renaissance Man. When combined with the otherwise solid smaller characters the JSA can muster, there is potential to run riot in the right conditions. Atom Smasher, Al Rothstein; Kate Spencer à Manhunter, Fearless Renegade; and T-Spheres are all good cards in their own right, but they are almost as likely to be snapped up by on-curve decks.

If you want to play an off-curve deck based around the JSA, I don’t think you can do so without at least two copies of the Mr. Terrifics. The odds are stacked against you already, so you need some measure of consistency to your plan or you will just fall apart too easily. Even then, you need to ensure that the conditions for your combat modifiers are met. You will need a card like Relentless Pursuit to bring some redundancy to Kate Spencer, as concealed characters not only negate the ATK bonuses you need to deal enough endurance loss to win games, but they also allow defending players to maintain their board as you attack up and across the curve. You will need to be careful to play around cards like Revitalize, and always be aware of the various defensive tricks of which the Villains United and Shadowpact teams are capable. Overall, I think you need to make much riskier attacks in this format, as the potential for brickwalling is much higher in this set, so you need to press every advantage you get.

All in all, I think the JSA is a fine team to draft, though you need to keep at least one eye on some of the above synergies to win your pod. The raw power of the team can’t really match the vengeance mechanic of Villains United or even a fitted out Shadowpact deck. In your favor, some of the generic plot twists do complement your exhaustion theme, though overall you need to be doing something extra to match the best decks at your table. Fortunately, there is rarely a mediocre character on the JSA roster, so you can be sure that as long as you have a few minor combinations, your deck will have good winning chances. Although there are other strong cards in the team that I didn’t touch on, such as Jay Garrick à The Flash, Golden Age Speedster and the Hourmen, these cards tend to be obviously powerful in their application. Decent characters are a dime a dozen in the JSA, so make sure you know which ones can be just that little bit better.