(Metagame Archive) Breaking Ground Omnibus Part 3

By Michael “Big Spooky” Barnes

X-Ray Vision  (10/17/06)

Yes indeed, it’s time for Breaking Ground, and time once again for another experiment in deckbuilding. This week promises to be quite an intriguing experiment, since last week I promised that we would be looking at the amazing Kree team from the Heralds of Galactus set.

You Can’t Kree . . . Er . . . See Me!

I considered building a deck featuring the much-lauded Press mechanic. The potential to bring out multiple characters without falling too far off curve presents some unique possibilities, but a straight Press deck seemed a little too mainstream for my tastes. Moreover, Press is such a powerful mechanic that it will see play in top-tier competitive decks for a long time to come. I decided instead to focus a bit more on the resource disruption theme of the Kree team. Don’t worry, though—there will still be plenty of Press goodness in today’s deck!

Resource disruption has been around since the beginning of our esteemed game. Cards like Foiled and Have a Blast! were mainstays of decks that found competitive success in the early days of Vs. System. With the Superman, Man of Steel set, we were introduced to teams that actually thrived on resource hate. The Darkseid’s Elite team gets more powerful for every face-down resource your opponent controls, and the New Gods boast The Source, which is arguably the most powerful resource disruption card in the game. Though neither team has found any significant measure of competitive success, both are unique and fun teams to utilize in casual frameworks.

It seems to me that this may be the crux of the issue. Obviously, resource disruption has the potential to be very potent. If you drop a copy of Bastion or Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria in your opponent’s resource row, it could be a situation from which your opponent might not recover. On the other hand, there is an equal possibility that you will help rather than hinder your opponent when replacing his or her resources. What if you miss out on Bastion or Dr. Doom and instead hit Savage Beatdown or Enemy of My Enemy? You’ve effectively wasted a card to give your opponent a valuable resource for later turns. Against a reservist deck, resource row hate would never be a winning proposition.

No, Really . . . I Can See You!

I considered for a while which team would work best in unison with the Kree to achieve a framework where resource row hate was advantageous for our build. I first considered utilizing a mono-Kree build with cards like Night Vision and Hidden Surveillance to help the cause, but it seemed like this idea was doomed simply because it would need multiple cards in place at once to work properly. Next, I naturally looked to Darkseid’s Elite and New Gods for their powerful resource disruption strategies. Once again, I came to the conclusion that neither team had a sufficiently reliable method of controlling the flow of cards that are placed in the resource row. Finally, I considered the possibility of teaming with the Injustice Gang. After all, replacing plot twists in the resource row with more plot twists wouldn’t be a problem if your opponents could never use the plot twists. Still, it seemed to me that the Kree could do better.

I did a bit of reading, going over some of my older articles. Way back in my first article (my submission for “Fix Fred’s Deck”), I mentioned a character named Lonar. This rarely seen New Gods character had a very interesting ability: he could effectively set your opponent’s deck so that you could get your card of choice on top. In unison with The Source, this ability had the potential to be outrageous. But as I said earlier, I wasn’t really ever satisfied with how the New Gods seemed to operate in the Kree framework.

It was shortly after this that I recalled another gem from the Man of Steel set: X-Ray Vision. This card was remarkably similar to Lonar, both in effect and in the fact that neither saw much play. Instead of sacrificing endurance, X-Ray Vision lets you exhaust characters to manipulate your opponent’s deck. Hmmm . . . the Kree excel at putting out multiple characters every turn, and this card exhausts characters to deplete your opponent’s deck? I smell a combo!

Our beloved alien Superman is going to share his X-Ray Vision with a few less beloved aliens—the Kree—to create a resource row menace that is sure to irritate more than a few opponents.

The Build

Let’s kick it off with our standard four copies of our featured card, X-Ray Vision. While we won’t ever need more than one copy in play, we should have a few ways to make use of any extra copies that we draw.

Looking at our characters, we’ll start off with Lois Lane, Star Reporter in the 1-drop slot. As many of you may already know, I am a big fan of characters with alternate recruit costs; Lois Lane was one of the first characters that could be recruited without having to spend resource points. Perhaps more importantly, Lois Lane has an effect that is actually relevant. When she hits play, we get to sift through our top cards for a Team Superman character. Basically, Lois Lane will find use at nearly every turn, as her free recruit cost and limited character search are always useful.

For a Kree deck, there is probably no more important slot than the 2-drop. Even though our deck is not totally centered around the Press mechanic, we will be playing a lot of 2-drops to support the Kree’s focus on Press. Given our deck’s theme, it’s probably no surprise that our first 2-drop is Lieutenant Kona Lor. Looking at this character, there just isn’t anything bad to say. She starts off with an effect that is very helpful for our deck. She also sports an impressive 4 ATK, which is very helpful when we want to swing up the curve. Finally, she has Press, making the possibilities for swarming the board much more appealing.

Another key 2-drop is, of course, Dr. Minerva. Any Vs. System player will tell you that a problem with playing any kind of swarm deck is that your hand inevitably gets depleted. But we have a few tricks to deal with that problem. One of these tricks is playing characters that net us extra character cards. At 1, we saw Lois Lane in all her glory. Now we have the Kree equivalent, netting us a Kree card from the top of our deck. In addition, Dr. Minerva also boasts the Press mechanic, making her a threat from an offensive perspective as well.

To round out our 2-drops, we have a couple of other Kree “Pressers.” Obviously, we would love to play Kona Lor and Dr. Minerva as much as possible, but we cannot rely on those two characters alone to meet our particular 2-drop needs. So, we’ll also play two copies of Captain Att-Lass and a copy of Clumsy Foulup. Unlike our other 2-drops, neither of these characters has an effect that facilitates our deck’s theme. They both do, however, have Press. If for no other reason, this makes them playable in our deck.

Our 3-drop star fits the mold of our favored 2-drop. Commander Dylon Cir at 3 is very much like Kona Lor at 2—impressive front-end ATK stats, a relevant effect for our deck, and Press. It’s little wonder why we would want the good commander to lead an assault on our opponent. Of course, aggression may not always be the answer for us. In that case, we also have Colonel Yon-Rogg available to us. When our opponent puts a big defensive barrier like Katma Tui or Crystal Frost ◊ Killer Frost in front of us, we might not have the brute strength to break through. In this situation, Yon-Rogg can manipulate our forces to achieve a stun without us even having to attack. You gotta love those advanced military tactics!

Team Superman also has a couple of 3-drop heavy hitters. First is the always-imposing Superman, Red. Without his cosmic counter, Red is a bit small for a 3-drop, but that cosmic effect gives him a substantial boost when we attack with him from the front row. I guess the bottom line is that we play him because he’s an offensive threat. This sentiment is also true of our other 3-drop, Rose ◊ Thorn. Here’s the deal: you never want to play Thorn as a defender. In fact, you are better off just not playing a character than recruiting Thorn, as the combined damage you would take when she defends is greater than simply not having her in play. Of course, Press is all about aggressive offensive tactics. What could be more aggressive than a 3-drop who jumps to 7/7 while attacking? After we use Thorn to clobber one of our opponent’s big guys, we can use an effect like Stargate to bounce her back to our hand so that she doesn’t become a defensive liability. Neat!

At 4, we start winding down our choices a bit. Presumably, following the standard Press play tactics, we won’t be recruiting a 4-drop until turn 5. And with enough search tricks in the deck, we can afford to play only a few 4-drops and still be reasonably sure that we will hit our drops when we need them. First, we have Superman, Clark Kent. The fact that this 4-drop has the name “Superman” makes him playable in our deck (as it supports one of our search cards). In addition, his effect can put our opponents in a position where there is a lack of safe attacks that they can effectively make. Superman is a match for most other 4-drops and often big enough to stymie opposing 2- and 3-drops. With a little strategy, we can reduce our opponent’s attacks to near ineffectiveness.

Our 4-drop Kree character is none other than Admiral Galen Kor. It almost seems unfair to have a card that gets bigger for every character that we recruit in a turn, especially when we are playing a Press deck. Galen Kor already has respectable stats at 6/8, and when you factor in the fact that the Admiral can easily reach 12 or 13 ATK in the later turns, he seems positively broken. Never mind the fact that we also have a ton of other characters on the board!

We have a couple of strategic choices for 5-drops that will supplement our deck’s attack strength (if not our resource disruption theme). Our first 5-drop choice is the Kree curve-hater himself, Shatterax. Against a curve deck, two facts will usually be true: our characters will often be attacking and defending up the curve, and we will be recruiting more characters than our opponent will in the late turns. Shatterax allows our characters to benefit from both of these facts, giving the characters we recruit in a turn a +2 ATK boost when in combat with a character of greater cost. This tends to make up for the ATK disparity that comes from the Kree not following the established curve. It really is unfair when we can recruit several smaller characters that are just as big as our opponent’s larger ones.

Our other 5-drop helps us deal with hidden threats. Korath the Pursuer is another great Kree Press character for our lineup. Not only does he boast decent stats and flight, but he also enables our team to attack our opponent’s hidden characters. Obviously, this won’t be useful in every matchup, but against a hidden Merlyn, Deadly Archer or Ahmed Samsarra, Korath can be the difference between total board dominance and swift and certain destruction.

We will usually want to underdrop on turn 6, but in the rare case that we actually want to follow the curve, we have Superman, Kal-El. In a deck with lots of small characters, having the ability to give them reinforcement and invulnerability can be invaluable. In addition, Superman’s ability pretty much forces our opponents to attack him before they deal with any of our other characters. Given his size, this will usually mean a stunback on our opponent’s attacker. With a few defensive tricks or power-ups, we can potentially force a one-sided stun, leaving our 6-drop ready to deal with any additional attackers our opponents might have.

For the most part, we probably won’t have too many games where we go past turn 6. In the unlikely event that this does happen, though, we have a very potent finisher in the form of Ronan the Accuser, Supreme Public Accuser. This guy is so much fun! Nothing causes an opponent more pain and frustration than replacing all of his or her valuable face-up resources. Against a team like Checkmate or the Inhumans, this effect can be a game ender. Just like all of our replacement effects, Ronan the Accuser does have the potential to help our opponents more than hurt them by giving them access to extra cards, but as my good friend Rian Fike would no doubt say, this risk is well worth the potential reward.

Our plot twists are going to be our fundamental support for the deck. Obviously, if we want the Kree and Team Superman to work well together, we need to have a Team-Up for them. In our build, we’re going to rely on the power of Pressed into Service. This Team-Up can be surprisingly useful, as it will make all of our characters reservists while in the resource row. If we suffer any reciprocal resource row hatred from our opponents, we’ll have a way to ensure that we can get characters out of our resource row. Considering that we will be recruiting many of our characters multiple times, we should have little trouble effectively maintaining our resource row.

On to our character search. The Kree have an excellent location for character searching that we will discuss shortly. Still, we might want to have a little insurance to make certain that we hit our Team Superman drops. Therefore, we will also include a couple copies of Man of Tomorrow. Granted, this card is only useful for finding characters named Superman, but considering that we have Superman for our 3-, 4-, and 6-drops, it can go a long way toward getting our Team Superman characters into play and teamed-up with the Kree.

We briefly mentioned effects that bounce characters back to our hand when we talked about the 3-drop Thorn. When we find that we need to return multiple characters at once, a timely copy of Remnant Fleet could certainly be helpful. Standard game theory suggests that removing our own characters from play is bad strategy, but given the Kree’s ability to restore field presence with the Press mechanic, bounce effects like Remnant Fleet can be quite beneficial. With a copy in hand, we can ensure that characters like Lois Lane and Dr. Minerva can be reused to good effect, or that a character like Thorn doesn’t become a defensive liability.

Our final plot twist is an amazing support card for our resource disruption theme. Trapped in the Sciencells has not received much acclaim from the Vs. System community, but it can easily accelerate kills against unsuspecting opponents by one or two turns. With enough effective disruption, a single copy of Trapped in the Sciencells can burn for increasing amounts of endurance each turn. Consider how effective this could be in multiples—we could easily burn our opponents for upwards of 10 endurance loss in each of the later turns. Considering that our opponents only have 50 endurance, a couple of 10-point hits can spell a quick end for them. Of course, we need to be careful that Trapped in the Sciencells doesn’t burn us out, as well!

We’re going to lead with our best foot forward with respect to our locations. Stargate is—in a word—amazing! The goal of any Vs. System player is to find cards that work well in unison with specific strategies. Stargate is a search card that has amazing synergy with the Press mechanic. We certainly won’t have enough characters to recruit a fresh compliment of them every turn, so we need effects that can return them to our hand. Stargate not only bounces our characters, but it also gives us a search in the bargain. Consider the potential of a Stargate / Dr. Minerva combo: we return Dr. Minerva to search our deck for a character, then recruit Dr. Minerva again to get a free character with her effect. That’s a brutally efficient combo that can help us hit our curve and keep our hand intact.

Another powerful Kree location that we want to play four copies of is Hala. Consider that we will usually be recruiting multiple characters in the later turns. Hala then becomes an ATK pump for an attacker or defender of our choice. As turns progress, Hala obviously becomes more powerful. While our build may not have as many solid ATK pumps as more aggressive decks, having a reusable pump in Hala gives our build enough strength to contend with just about any deck in the environment.

Moving on, we have a couple of locations to support our resource hate theme. For the Kree, we have Planet Weapon. Here is a card that can really create problems for our opponents. Not only does Planet Weapon supplement our resource hate theme, but it also inflicts damage whenever our opponent replaces a resource. Double duty is welcome in any card, so we will gladly add Planet Weapon to our deck. Also doing double duty is Daily Planet. The building seems like an innocuous home for Metropolis’s finest newspaper, but it is also an adept resource hate card that can effectively aid our deck. First, we can glance at the top cards of our opponent’s deck. If we see anything that can help our opponent, we can get rid of it to prevent further mischief. Second—aided by our knowledge of what’s on top—we can use our resource disruption cards to place those cards into our opponent’s resource row. Imagine the cries of anguish from our opponent as we drop Mystical Paralysis into the KO’d pile, then force him or her to place Reign of Terror in the resource row! Hee hee hee!

Our final card is an equipment card that fits our theme to a tee. How good is Reality Gem? While it might be dangerous to give the Kree an Infinity Gem, the fact is that it is the perfect card for our resource hate deck. Unlike many of the newer resource disruption cards, Reality Gem can target any resource. This means that nothing our opponent plays is safe!* Moreover, we can use Reality Gem multiple times. Once the character that Reality Gem is equipped to becomes stunned, the equipment returns to our hand, ready for more shenanigans. Reality Gem doesn’t have the timing versatility that other resource hate cards boast—being playable only during your recruit step—but it makes up for this with a higher threat level than most other resource disruption cards and can see play many times in a single game.

No more questions. No more lies. It’s time for our opponents to see what kind of havoc the Kree and Team Superman can wreak on their resource rows:

What the Kree Can See

4 Lois Lane, Star Reporter

2 Captain Att-Lass, Starforce

1 Clumsy Foulup, Puppet Dictator

4 Dr. Minerva, Starforce

4 Lieutenant Kona Lor, LLegion

3 Commander Dylon Cir, LLegion

1 Colonel Yon-Rogg, Cot Helion

1 Rose ◊ Thorn, Rose Forrest

2 Superman, Red

2 Admiral Galen Kor, LLegion

1 Superman, Clark Kent

1 Korath the Pursuer, Starforce

1 Shatterax, Starforce

1 Superman, Kal-El

1 Ronan the Accuser, SPA

2 Man of Tomorrow

4 Pressed into Service, Team-Up

3 Remnant Fleet

4 Trapped in the Sciencells

4 X-Ray Vision

2 Daily Planet

4 Hala

4 Stargate

2 Planet Weapon

2 Reality Gem, Infinity Gem

This Kree variant probably won’t kill as quickly as other Press builds. It might be wise to go with odd initiatives for the deck to shoot for the turn 7 kill. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the Kree Press mechanic, combined with the burn of Planet Weapon and Trapped in the Sciencells, will allow you to win much earlier than that. Use judgment when selecting the initiative.

Stargate is probably your strongest mulligan consideration, but it would be rather difficult to give up an opening hand with a Team-Up and a good early curve that would facilitate the use of X-Ray Vision. As potent as resource disruption can be, it’s usually better to have a lock on getting your characters in hand for the late game.

A possible consideration for the deck is The Infamous Seven. You might find that you need to supplement your defensive prospects for the turns when you don’t control the initiative. Since most of the characters in the deck have range, placing them in the back row won’t be a problem. Of course, if you are working on a Golden Age variant of the deck, Cover Fire would probably be a better choice.

To quote the words of the immortal Forrest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.” I’m done and gone. I’ll see you back here next week for more extrapolations in deck theory on Breaking Ground!

*With the notable exception of World’s Greatest Heroes, of course. Quit nitpicking!

Swan Dive  (10/24/06)

Despite the fact that I rank among the world’s worst offenders at failing to respond to emails, one of my favorite perks about writing for Metagame.com is the messages that I receive from readers. I suppose it might be different if the letters that I received were derogatory, but a great majority of the email I get is positive, constructive feedback. This makes my rapport with the good people of the Vs. System community quite upbeat and entertaining. It is also a nice source of material for the articles that I write.

I will proudly admit that many of the crazy combos I write about are the products of my own personal brainstorming. To be fair, though, I am only one man. And unless I had been born with the name Tim Batow or Jason Hager, my ideas were bound to have limits. This is where the Metagame.com readers have been a source of invaluable aid in keeping me moving forward. I have often had the opportunity to present deck ideas and combos that were submitted by clever players who wanted to see their ideas come to life.

Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring deck ideas that have been inspired by reader emails. I am hoping that these will be some of the most interesting decks featured on Breaking Ground to date, as I have put a great deal of time and thought into how best to make these ideas work.

Come Visit the Moon and Check Out the Terrigen Mists!

This week’s reader submission comes from Squire Kershner. Squire has been a longtime reader who often emails me with clever ideas and suggestions for upcoming articles. One of his latest brainstorms particularly caught my eye. The Heralds of Galactus set has several cards that have a very strong interaction with cosmic counters and their accompanying effects. The Inhumans team in particular has characters with some of the most amazing cosmic effects that the game has seen. Of course, a lot of these cosmic effects are based off the new cosmic—surge mechanic. This means that, barring any other effects, an Inhumans character with cosmic—surge will not get a cosmic counter unless it isn’t stunned at the start of the recovery phase. The payoff for reaching this point can be tremendous. The difficulty in reaching this point is just about as tremendous.

One trick that the Inhumans have at their disposal is Terragenesis. This ongoing plot twist allows Inhumans to sidestep the normal cosmic—surge requirements by enabling a discard that gives cosmic counters to recovering characters. With this card, Inhumans players can afford to be a bit more aggressive, as they can obtain valuable cosmic counters even if their characters become stunned.

Terragenesis can become an MVP in cosmic Inhumans decks. Characters like Jolen and Nahrees become completely ridiculous when they are always assured of having a cosmic counter while in play. Thing, Rockhead essentially boasts 5-drop stats for the cost of a 4-drop when he has a counter. And if you thought getting hit by Karnak’s effect once was bad, just imagine the brutality of getting hit by it two or three times per game!

Still, as well as Terragenesis supports the Inhumans characters, Squire had a different cosmic character in mind when he emailed his inspired combo to me.

Say hello to Jay Garrick ◊ The Flash

“FLASH! Ah-ahhhhh!”*

The Flash was, in my humble opinion, one of the more impressive cards to come out of Infinite Crisis—especially for Sealed Pack play. With a semi-decent deck, a player can easily shoot for a turn 6 kill in most Sealed formats. In Infinite Crisis Sealed, The Flash was one of the best cards in the set for accomplishing this goal. With even initiatives, a player could send The Flash into an opposing 6-drop for the mutual stun, then recover and ready The Flash to take down an opposing 4- or 5-drop. This two-for-one trade could turn the tide of any match and allow the attacking player to swing with his or her remaining characters for heavy amounts of endurance loss.

Squire recognized that there is an interesting synergy between The Flash and Terragenesis. While The Flash may get -4/-4 every time he recovers, he could theoretically attack as long as he kept getting stunned (which is where that -4 DEF comes in handy!). When I read this, I thought it was too good an idea to pass up.

My initial draft of the deck utilized some clever combos that would allow The Flash to get the upper hand on any curve deck. One big combo was playing Epic Battle to help ensure that your opponent’s characters would stun The Flash back, thus allowing him to recover and ready. Of course, the +2 ATK he gets from Epic Battle certainly doesn’t hurt! Also, I had the notion to try Superman, Returned in the deck to give The Flash invulnerability for the turn. If you thought watching The Flash take down an entire board by himself was amazing, just imagine how much better it gets when you don’t take any stun endurance loss!

Unfortunately, as happens with many good ideas, I ran into a snag: off-curve decks. While the Epic Battle combo would allow The Flash to run roughshod over most curve decks, it did nothing against off-curve decks like Faces of Evil (which saw a remarkable resurgence at the Columbus $10K). The sad truth is that an off-curve player’s characters won’t be big enough to stun The Flash back. Since The Flash’s power relies on stunning to ready, this was bad news for the prospective combo.

Shoot. I was so close, too!

After my despondency over The Flash’s ineffectiveness against off-curve decks, I had an epiphany in the form of Swan Dive. I have always liked this card and wondered if there was a way to get it to operate more effectively. The answer, it turns out, is that you have to use it combined with The Flash and Terragenesis. This little brainstorm not only turned the off-curve dilemma into an extremely favorable matchup, but it also provided options in curve matchups. With enough copies of Swan Dive, it doesn’t actually matter that The Flash’s ATK and DEF stats are dropping. The fact that he is a 6-drop is enough to ensure that we wreck our opponent’s board!

We’ve got the JSA, we’ve got the Inhumans, and now we’re adding in the Marvel Knights. Just for good measure, we’ll also splash the Secret Six for kicks (you’ll see why shortly). Our four-team combo deck will ensure that whether The Flash is facing characters big or small, he’ll be able to take a “dive” . . . and take out our opponent’s troops.

The Build

We have a plethora of 1-drops to discuss. Obviously, since we are going to be abusing Swan Dive, we’ll be featuring the Marvel Knights team rather prominently. This is certainly not a bad thing for us, as the Marvel Knights have some of the best cards in the game for enabling team-ups. The Marvel Knights 1-drop trio of Dagger, Child of Light; Micro-Chip; and Mikado and Mosha will be a prominent part of our deck. Dagger aids us in getting the amazing Midnight Sons from our deck. Micro-Chip is a potent addition that allows us to reuse our powerful 1-cost plot twists (like Wild Ride, for example). And Mikado and Mosha needs very little explanation; it is quite simply one of the best off-curve control cards in the game.

Joining our Marvel Knights 1-drops will be Fiddler. While he doesn’t have amazing synergy with the deck, he does have some rather decent combos within our build. Also, his free recruit effect and ability to fetch a character card from the KO’d pile can be randomly useful. Our main reason for including the short-lived Secret Six musician, however, is that he gives us an outlet to utilize effects that require having Secret Six characters in play.

Our final 1-drop is Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster. Given the discard requirements of Terragenesis and some of our other effects, we certainly couldn’t be hurt by having a card that returns to our hand every turn. He is not a high priority, but having Mr. Mxyzptlk later in the game can give us the hand advantage that we need to fuel multiple cosmic counter replenishments.

Since our setup is so important in the early turns, we will usually want to underdrop on turn 2 with a couple of 1-drops. But if we find ourselves in an advantageous position, we might just want to get a 2-drop for our second turn that will give us a chance to control our opponent’s board a bit. For this we have a single copy of Wesley Dodds ◊ The Sandman. On turns when we control the initiative, The Sandman can shut down a large number of our opponent’s options. The duo of Mikado and Mosha and Wesley Dodds can create an almost stone-cold lock on turn 2 regardless of what our opponent plays. Most importantly, our opponent’s character won’t ready for the next turn, so we have one less attacker to worry about.

Turn 3 is when our setup starts to take shape. Black Panther, T’Challa is the centerpiece of many powerful aggressive decks. In our build, though, we are going to use Black Panther, King of Wakanda to find some select equipment cards to help us set up our combo.

Our primary target with Black Panther is Power Gem. Since we can bounce Power Gem back to our hand when the equipped character becomes stunned, it acts as a reusable pump. More importantly, it will usually be in our hand when we decide to bring The Flash into play. Having an equipment card that will give our win condition an extra +3 ATK while attacking a character is just as good as having an ATK pump plot twist. It is important to note, though, that Power Gem’s return-to-hand effect is optional; as long as our opponent doesn’t KO it, Power Gem will give The Flash +3 ATK on every swing.

Our other equipment card is a bit more subtle. Since hidden characters could ruin our plan of having The Flash swing on a bundle of opposing characters, we should have a way to send The Flash’s attacks into the hidden area. Thus, High-Tech Flare Gun is the call. The great thing about this particular equipment is that it is transferable. Once our equipment-fetching king finds us the Flare Gun, we can continuously transfer it to our largest character. If all goes well, it will still be in play when The Flash comes out, and he’ll gain a small ATK boost and the ability to swing at hidden characters.

Turn 4 gives us a couple of choice selections. Our preferred drop here is going to be Nahrees, The Negative One. Against aggressive decks, Nahrees can be quite helpful. Obviously, he is only truly useful once he gets a cosmic counter, but we will have a way of providing him with said counter as early as turn 4. This effectively allows us to negate one attack each turn. How? Let’s go back to Fiddler. Assume that our over-anxious opponent decides to send one of his or her characters after our tiny 1-drop. After the attack becomes legal, we can use Nahrees’s effect on the attacker. Then, we simply KO Fiddler to his own effect. The attacker would normally ready once the defender was removed, but with Nahrees’s effect, we don’t have to worry about that character attacking for the remainder of that turn or the next turn. Sweet!

We’re also going to play a copy of the 4-drop Dewoz, Dark Reflection. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a decent amount of damage before The Flash ever hits the board, but we may find ourselves in an unlikely situation where we need to keep our mid-game drops around to attack on turn 6 after The Flash clears the board. Since we will always be recruiting Black Panther in the visible area (as neither of our equipment cards have concealed—optional), we might just have to use Dewoz to move him into the hidden area. This can obviously have a negative impact on our endurance. Still, there will inevitably be situations where we need more attackers to win the game after our attacks with The Flash.

Our final 4-drop is included to give us powerful attack options for several turns. While we control the initiative, Moon Knight, Marc Spector is a very formidable 10/7. In that regard, he can be great for following up attacks after The Flash has done his damage. In the event that we are stuck with the odd initiatives, we might not want to play The Flash on turn 6. Fortunately, Moon Knight’s boost allows him to double as a 6-drop in times of need. All in all, Moon Knight is a formidable attacking force that can do a little extra damage for us when we decide to go on the offensive.

Our 5-drop may well be one of the lynchpins of our combo. While we could conceivably stun The Flash multiple times in a turn and still win despite the stun endurance loss, it would be far better for us to have a way to minimize the damage that we take. That’s where Superman, Returned excels. Invulnerability is a powerful mechanic when applied to large characters. The stats of most large characters already decrease the amount of breakthrough endurance loss that they allow when compared to smaller drops. If we remove stun endurance loss from the equation, then the overall loss becomes almost nothing. Consider our deck: If we stun The Flash four times in a given turn (not unlikely considering our build), we would normally take 24 endurance loss. That’s nearly half of our beginning endurance! But with a single activation of Superman, that amount drops to 0 . . . zip . . . nada . . . nothing! He may not be an offensive or defensive dynamo, but Superman is just what we need to make Mr. Garrick a force to be feared.

Since our combo is centered on our 6-drop, Jay Garrick <> The Flash, Golden Age Speedster, you might think that we really don’t need another character at 6. Our other 6-drop, though, is important for reasons besides attacking. Given the importance of certain ongoing plot twists in our deck, Scandal, Savage Spawn is a reasonable addition to our build. She has the ability to search out any of our Team-Ups, Terragenesis, and ongoing plot twist tech cards we might have (which we undoubtedly will). And, in a pinch, she acts as another replacement 6-drop for those games where we are forced into the odd initiatives. Setup is the key to any good combo deck, and Scandal can provide us with many of the pieces that we need to make our combo go off smoothly.

To quote Jason Grabher-Meyer, our lone 7-drop will probably never see “the light of play.” Still, The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero is helpful for several reasons. Just like Mr. Mxyzptlk, The Phantom Stranger can provide us with the means to hand advantage in later turns. While he doesn’t automatically bounce back to our hand like Mxyzptlk, The Phantom Stranger can easily be retrieved by exhausting a couple of characters. Also, JSA is one of the primary teams in our build, so The Phantom Stranger is useful as a power-up. Overall, he’s a solid choice for us.

Moving on to our plot twists, we certainly want the maximum four copies of our theme card, Swan Dive. Since this card puts us solidly into the Marvel Knights team, we also want four copies of Midnight Sons. We’re playing four copies of Dagger, so we might as well play something to fetch with her. In addition, we’re going to include another Team-Up in the form of Extended Family. We don’t have many characters with cosmic counters, but we want to make sure that those we do have get to keep those counters. For Nahrees, Extended Family can give him a counter a full turn early, allowing him to keep some of the bigger threats at bay as early as turn 4. For The Flash, Extended Family can be a failsafe should we miss or lose Terragenesis or run afoul of Scarecrow, Fearmonger. One more thing—Extended Family can team-up our various teams, as well!

ATK pumps will be somewhat important for our combo to go off successfully because we want The Flash to do as much damage as possible. We’ve already mentioned how useful Epic Battle is with The Flash. This global pump helps to ensure that our opponent’s characters will be up to the task of taking down our speedster, thus allowing him to recover and ready for more beats. Another good ATK pump for our deck will be Flying Kick. Since Flying Kick is a turn-based effect, it gives The Flash +3 ATK every time he swings in. This can certainly be valuable for subsequent attacks as our fast man starts to lose his steam. Finally, we are playing a single copy of Mob Mentality. Strictly speaking, this card is not as good as Flying Kick. Both plot twists give +3 ATK, but Flying Kick also provides the bonus of flight. So why do we even want a copy of Mob Mentality? Because it is an ongoing plot twist! This little trait makes it an ATK pump that we can search for with Scandal, giving us insurance that we will have at least one pump available for The Flash.

No Breaking Ground deck would be complete without some search cards. Obviously, the Marvel Knights team simply screams Wild Ride. Ironic that we would play Superman to protect our endurance and then include a plot twist that depletes it. Still, it is a very strong search card that enables us to set up our plays for the endgame combo. That kind of power is worth the investment of a few measly endurance points. Additionally, we have a couple copies of Straight to the Grave. In practical terms, this card will not usually help us hit our character curve (barring us having a copy of Fiddler in play), but it is nevertheless a nice card for us because it gives us easy access to Mr. Mxyzptlk and The Phantom Stranger.

Finally, we round out our plot twist selections with our ongoing plot twist tech. First up is Terragenesis. This card isn’t tech, so to speak, as it is an integral part of our core combo. Still, it is really only useful when we decide to attack with The Flash, so we really only want it in play for one turn. Thankfully, Scandal allows us to play just a single copy and still hit the combo reliably for our kill turn. Another great target for Scandal is Null Time Zone. Going into our attacks with The Flash, we don’t want our speedster slowed down by effects like Finishing Move or Heroic Sacrifice. Null Time Zone gives us a bit of protection from plot twist effects that might keep The Flash out of action. It won’t be a card that we need for every game, but in certain matchups, Null Time Zone can be the one thing that keeps The Flash up to speed.

“Here we are! Born to be kings, we’re the princes of the universe!”** Our cosmic characters are aching for a cosmic combo—let’s show them what we’ve come up with.

The Swan, The Flash, and The People from the Moon

4 Dagger, Child of Light

2 Fiddler, Isaac Bowin

4 Micro-Chip, Linus Lieberman

1 Mikado and Mosha, AoD

1 Mr. Mxyzptlk, TTrickster

1 Wesley Dodds ◊ The Sandman

4 Black Panther, KoWakanda

1 Dewoz, Dark Reflection

1 Moon Knight, Mark Spector

2 Nahrees, The Negative One

4 Superman, Returned

2 Jay Garrick ◊ The Flash

4 Scandal, Savage Spawn

1 The Phantom Stranger, WHero

4 Epic Battle

3 Extended Family, Team-Up

2 Flying Kick

4 Midnight Sons

1 Mob Mentality

1 Null Time Zone

2 Straight to the Grave

4 Swan Dive

1 Terragenesis

4 Wild Ride

1 High-Tech Flare Gun

1 Power Gem, Infinity Gem

I suppose it is a foregone conclusion that we will want to take the even initiatives with the deck, though it is certainly possible for the deck to operate effectively on odds because The Flash can recover anytime he becomes stunned, not just while he is attacking. With Epic Battle and The Phantom Stranger to aid him, he should be able to fend off any opposing baddies. Still, we would prefer to have him bringing the hurt on the offensive on turn 6 rather than trying to fight an uphill defensive battle.

Like most Marvel Knights team-up decks, this one wants to get Wild Ride and Midnight Sons online early. To that end, Wild Ride should be your mulligan. Once you have a Marvel Knights character in play, you can flip Midnight Sons and use Wild Ride to find any character in your deck. Straight to the Grave can act as a backup for our search, but it’s only effective when we have Fiddler in play. For the most part, Straight to the Grave is primarily an enabler for us to get our “free” cards (Mr. Mxyzptlk and The Phantom Stranger) into the KO’d pile for our use and abuse.

And that does it. Thanks to Squire Kershner for this week’s great combo idea. I’ll be back next week with another clever combo submitted by another clever reader. If you have a combo that you would like to see featured, send me an email with your ideas. Who knows? Your innovation may be the next deck idea to be featured on Breaking Ground!

* For those who missed the reference, it’s “Flash Gordon” by Queen. I recently got a copy of Queen’s Greatest Hits. Every time I hear this song, I sing out in a very loud voice, “FLASH! Ah-ahhhhh!” As a result, my co-workers have taken such drastic measures as walking the length of the office to avoid having to go past my cubicle.

** Yeah, another Queen lyric. Sorry about that. That’s the last one in the article. I promise. Would I lie to you?

Frankie Raye <> Nova, Optimistic Youth  (10/31/06)

Yes, I know that you’ve all been holding your breath in eager anticipation of yet another exciting week of Breaking Ground. Well, you can all finally exhale; it’s time for another bout of deckbuilding fun!

This week’s deck theme comes from a suggestion I’ve received from a number of readers. Following the last Pro Circuit at Gen Con Indy, a lot of people started to take notice of the amazing power of +1/+1 counters. When a tiny little 2-drop like Blackbriar Thorn can reach the size of an 8-drop within a few short turns, players are bound to sit up and take notice. Following the PC, I received more than a few emails requesting a deck that could accumulate +1/+1 counters the way that The Donkey Club’s Modern Age Shadowpact deck could.

Unfortunately for me, Tim Capes already beat me to the punch.

From Shadowpact . . . to Secret Society

If you followed Anand Khare’s excellent coverage of $10K Columbus, then you should already be somewhat familiar with the deck to which I am referring.

New Society – by Tim Capes


4 The Phantom Stranger, WHero

1 Gorilla Grodd

1 Asmodeus

1 Darkseid, Heart of Darkness

1 Floronic Man, Alien Hybrid

1 Scarecrow, Fearmonger

1 Mephisto, Soulstealer

2 Lex Luthor, Criminal Genius

4 Dr. Light, Master of Holograms

4 Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose

4 Deadshot, Floyd Lawton

1 Leech, Inhibitor

4 Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, OYouth

2 Mr. Mxyzptlk, TTrickster

1 Mikado and Mosha

1 Jaime Reyes ◊ Blue Beetle

1 Haywire, Suicidal Lover

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Straight to the Grave

4 The Ring Has Chosen

3 Meltdown

4 Sinister Citadel

3 Slaughter Swamp

1 Soul World

1 Phantom Zone

1 Sewer System

1 Reality Gem

Tim Capes created an extraordinary concoction known affectionately as “Lost in Space.” The deck uses multiple copies of Sinister Citadel to KO free-recruit characters like Haywire, Suicidal Lover and grant +1/+1 counters to powerful Secret Society leader characters like Lex Luthor, Criminal Genius and Gorilla Grodd. This combo, simple in concept, becomes quite difficult for opposing players to deal with because Sinister Citadel can transfer counters around to deal with threats against characters in play.

Of course, Tim’s deck was more than simply a counter-generating machine. Tim had many other clever tricks built in. Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose fit the character-KO theme well, providing additional utility by finding much-needed locations. This is particularly useful when the deck has several methods of bringing characters into play for free. Deadshot, Floyd Lawton is a great card for dealing with decks that place heavy emphasis on lower-cost characters. As long as the opponents don’t have a way to nullify Deadshot’s effect (like Cloak of Nabu), then none of their 1-, 2-, or 3-drops will be safe from harm.

But my favorite splash in the deck is Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Optimistic Youth. Obviously, Frankie Raye is useful as a free-recruit character, but her usefulness is magnified by the fact that she can accelerate your draw. As I have said countless times, I love drawing extra cards! By discarding a card with a cost of 4 or greater, Frankie Raye nets you an additional two cards. When paired with character cards that are easily recurred, like Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster and The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero, Frankie Raye actually becomes a source of hand advantage. Let’s see . . . A free character . . . that can be used to fetch a location or give me a +1/+1 counter . . . and provides me with extra cards. Is there any downside to this?

Given our flair for the unique and innovative, my teammates and I were all very impressed with Mr. Capes’s creation. A good part of our idle chitchat over the weekend involved the possibilities for the deck concept. Obviously, free-recruit characters have always been good, and they have become even better in recent sets. Not only do these free characters represent improved board position, but also many of them now have additional beneficial effects. When we have an engine like the one in Lost in Space that can provide multiple levels of utility for these characters, we can garner benefits beyond those of standard decks. The question, then, is whether there is a more efficient framework for this strategy?  This is how we arrived at Devil’s Due.

. . . To Doom

Unless you’re brand-spanking-new to Vs. System (or you’ve been in a catatonic state for the past year and a half), you should be familiar with Devil’s Due. This innocuous little card was a lynchpin for the now defunct Light Show combo that completely dominated the metagame following PC: New York 2005. To be fair, it is certainly understandable why Devil’s Due was underestimated at first glance. KO your own characters? Who wants to do that? Of course, this mindset only applies if you are referring to a standard deck strategy that wants to keep all of its recruited characters in play. Consider how the situation changes if we apply the strategy of Lost in Space. Now we have multiple characters that come into play each turn for free. While they can provide some incidental effect like drawing cards or exhausting to return The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero, their purpose in large part is to provide fodder for Devil’s Due to give counters to our characters.

But wait, there’s more: Devil’s Due is team-stamped to the Doom team. Why is this relevant? Because that means we get to play Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius! While Shadowpact and Secret Society may be potent control teams in DC Modern Age and Silver Age respectively, we have the ultimate control force in Vs. System in Dr. Doom. Not only will we get access to Dr. Doom’s plot twist–control effect and the board-control power of Reign of Terror, but we’ll also get to make our central character a behemoth. If you thought the customary 7/6 Dr. Doom was a force to be reckoned with, just wait until we drop five or ten +1/+1 counters on the good doctor.

TDC Shadowpact made Blackbriar Thorn a counter-brandishing beast in DC Modern Age. Tim Capes KO’d a slew of small characters to enlarge his leaders in Silver Age. Now we’re going to use Dr. Doom, Devil’s Due, and Frankie Raye to go counter crazy in Golden Age.

The Build

In the featured role this week, we have Frankie Raye <> Nova, Optimistic Youth appearing no less than four times. Joining her at the 1-drop spot are Boris, Personal Servant of Dr. Doom; Mikado and Mosha; and Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster. Obviously, Boris is the plot twist searcher extraordinaire for team Doom, and we could certainly use his help finding plot twists when the need arises. Mikado and Mosha is one of our control cards of choice, given the ability of these angels to stop opposing 1-drops from being thorns in our side. Finally, Mr. Mxyzptlk is one of those cards that will undoubtedly help us maintain the hand advantage we’re so eager for. I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that we’re going to be playing a copy of Haywire, Suicidal Lover in our deck. I know that he isn’t a 1-drop, but this was probably the best place to categorize him. Since we’re all about free-recruit characters, having a character card that is truly free is an added benefit to us.

Our primary 2-drop is the first piece of what my local players have affectionately dubbed “the engine.” Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose is already well renowned for her ability to trade characters for locations. Undoubtedly, there will be a few locations that we would like to get into play. Since we have a location searcher in Poison Ivy and several free-recruit characters that we can KO to her effect, we should be set to find our green cards easily. Our other 2-drop is our tech for dealing with equipment-heavy decks such as High Voltage and Fate Squad (I hear that they’re popular nowadays). Commissioner Gordon, James Gordon won’t have any Gotham Knights Army characters to bestow his attack boost on, but we really want the commish around to get rid of troublesome equipment cards. When we have to face off against a deck toting the Fate Artifacts or multiple copies of Advanced Hardware, 3 endurance will seem like a small price to pay to get rid of those problematic equipment cards.

The second component of the engine is none other than Dr. Light, Master of Holograms. Obviously, our build thrives off of bringing free-recruit characters into play. But Dr. Light gives us the added benefit of bringing characters into play even if they are not free. With Dr. Light in our build, we no longer have to fret if we miss Poison Ivy on turn 2, because the Master of Holograms can put her on the board in later turns. In addition, Dr. Light makes it possible for us to bring Boris or Commissioner Gordon into play without us having to miss our curve.

Turn 4 is where we bring out the big dog: Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius. I would assume that most of you know just how powerful the 4-drop Doom is. His ability to reuse a plot twist and block opposing plot twists makes him a force to be reckoned with, despite the fact that he is a relatively small 4-drop. Of course, Doom’s size shouldn’t be a problem in our deck, as we plan to start dropping counters on him once he hits play. 7/6? Pshaw! 17/16 is more like it!

Turn 5 shows us that it’s not just the low drops that can give Dr. Doom counters. One of the nice things about having accelerated card drawing with Frankie Raye is that we should have plenty of cards in our KO’d pile. This is the perfect environment for fueling the effect of Ultron ◊ Ultron 11. Having a 5-drop that your opponent won’t have much chance to get rid of is tremendous. In our build, Ultron is even better than usual because he becomes a continuous source of counters. As long as we have cards in the KO’d pile that we are willing to part with, we can KO Ultron to Devil’s Due. After the pittance that we must pay for his effect, Ultron returns to play, ready to do battle once more after his brief trip to the KO’d pile.

Turn 6 gives us an indication of how cards with seemingly negative effects can actually be turned into positives. Normally, we wouldn’t want to play cards that force us to send our characters in play back to our hand, but returning a card like Frankie Raye can actually be beneficial for us because it allows us to recruit her again and dig through our deck a bit more. Thus, Supremor is an excellent play for us on turn 6. Not only does this Kree giant come with a very formidable 14/14 frame, but he also provides a one-time beneficial effect for us by bouncing a character of our choice back to our hand. For anyone else, this could be a sharp penalty. But for us, we’ll gladly take the character back, especially since we’ll be getting a 7-drop for the price of a 6-drop!

Two copies of The Phantom Stranger, Wandering Hero comprise our play at the 7-slot. The Phantom Stranger, with his decent stats, flight, and range, isn’t a bad play for us; however, our primary reason for including the Wandering Hero is to supplement our hand advantage. We could easily KO our characters to Devil’s Due right after they come into play, but it would be far more efficient for us to put our characters to use before that happens by exhausting them to some beneficial effect. Not only does The Phantom Stranger make our free recruits more effective, but he is also a logical discard for Frankie Raye’s effect. This gives us a true hand benefit from her draw effect, because the tradeoff for her effect is lessened by a card. Combined with “free” cards like Mr. Mxyzptlk, The Phantom Stranger will invariably tilt hand advantage in our favor.

Our final character is Professor X, Mental Master at 8. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure that this is the correct 8-drop. Originally, I had Apocalypse filling the role, but I found that Apocalypse’s effect really wasn’t relevant in most of the games that I played. In addition, his lack of team affiliation became a bit of an issue (more on that in a moment). Professor X, on the other hand, is an affiliated character that can fill the role of both an 8- and a 9-drop. With that kind of utility, as well as a very powerful effect, he seemed like a solid choice for the role of 8-drop in this build.

We have quite a smorgasbord of goodies in our plot twist selections. Obviously, the deck needs the maximum four copies of Devil’s Due, as it is one of the core components of the engine. With the assistance of Frankie Raye, we will usually draw into one of the four copies by turn 4. If we somehow miss, though, we can use Boris to get a copy into play for us. With Haywire being a reservist, we can simply recruit Boris (or use Dr. Light to bring him into play). After activating Doom’s servant to find Devil’s Due, we can recruit our 0-drop and put Devil’s Due in the resource row to replace it.

Lately, I have tried to stay away from building decks with exclusive rares that some players may not have access to. But because this deck is a fairly focused combo deck, I decided to build with all of the cards that I would use if I were going to take this to a competitive event. So, the searchers for the deck are a couple of money rares: Straight to the Grave and Enemy of My Enemy. Yes, both of these cards are high-end searchers, and for good reason. Straight to the Grave has amazing synergy with Mr. Mxyzptlk, The Phantom Stranger, and Dr. Light. And, assuming that we have any recursion effects (which we do), it can act as a straight search card for any character in our deck. As far as Enemy of My Enemy goes, I think that we have characters representing thirteen different teams in our deck. Do I really need to explain why Enemy of My Enemy is such a powerful card in this build? I thought not.

Despite the massive number of teams in the deck, the fact of the matter is that this is still a Doom-based deck. As such, we can certainly find a way to fit team-stamped Doom cards into the build. Our first choice is Reign of Terror. This is yet another reason for our opponents to fear the man that is Doom, as he has the power to send their low drops scampering back to their hands. Still, our opponents know that Dr. Doom is the lynchpin character of the deck, and they may try to keep him in check by utilizing cards like Roy Harper ◊ Arsenal, Sharpshooter or No Man Escapes the Manhunters. So, we’ll play a couple copies of Expendable Ally to keep our opponents’ tricks at bay. What’s better than negating a targeted effect on our Dr. Doom? Negating an effect and getting +5 ATK in the process. As if Dr. Doom wasn’t big enough already! Finally, we’ll throw in two copies of Master of Puppets. This card was suggested by local area player Julian Martin, and it seems like a very strong inclusion. Obviously, we would benefit more from having multiple copies in play, so why only two copies? Well, first is the fact that we will have a lot of competition for space in the resource row. While Master of Puppets is a potent burn card, there are other cards (like Devil’s Due) that take priority over it in the resource row. Secondly, our crazy KO tactics won’t really start to happen until turn 4, so we’ll probably want to avoid playing too many cards that will be effectively dead up until that point. Still, one copy of Master of Puppets in our resource row will usually burn our opponents for at least 5 endurance on each turn after turn 5. If we play through turn 7, that’s a net effect of 15 endurance. That extra damage can end the game one or two turns earlier.

Moving on, we have the deck’s lone ATK pump. Originally, I had included Savage Beatdown because it was a guaranteed +5 ATK and could be discarded for Frankie Raye’s effect, but I found that I rarely wanted to discard my pump cards for Frankie Raye. Also, I found that I was recruiting at least three characters every turn, usually closer to five or six. In this situation, Surrounded seems like a better play. In our build, Surrounded will generally be just as big an ATK pump as Savage Beatdown, and the additional DEF boost can be helpful for characters like Ultron. Because our adamantium robot won’t generally get the benefit of counters from Devil’s Due, the extra DEF can allow him to attack 5- and 6-drops without having to worry about stunning back.

Our final plot twists are our tech cards. First, we have our answer to off-curve decks in Flame Trap. While Reign of Terror can dominate an opponent’s board on turn 4, we may find our opponents under-dropping in later turns. If we have spent the time and effort to put counters on a copy of Doom in play, then we probably won’t want to recruit a new copy just to play Reign of Terror again. Flame Trap is therefore the obvious answer. Of course, if we find that we are facing a deck for which we don’t need Flame Trap, then it is an easy discard for Frankie Raye’s effect. Now that we’ve answered the off-curve matchups, let’s answer the matchup against power-up decks. How potent will Lost City or Nth Metal be if our opponents can’t power-up? The answer is “Not at all.” A single copy of Unmasked will generally be enough to foil the plans of Big Brotherhood and Good Guys. Without the ability to power-up and make their characters larger, these decks won’t have the ammunition to take down our counter-enhanced giants.

At the end, we have the critical locations. Obviously, if we want to play our free recruits again after KO’ing them, then we will need effective recursion. Two copies each of Avalon Space Station and Slaughter Swamp are certainly a good start. With Poison Ivy, it is relatively simple to get both of these locations into play at the same time. This gives us quite a few more options; we can get extra copies of Frankie Raye to recruit, or fetch any later drops that we might have sent to the KO’d pile. Another recursion card we’ll play is Secret Sanctuary. Go ahead . . . I’ll wait while you click on the hyperlink to see what this card that you’ve never even heard of does. Hmmm hmmm hmmm . . . You’re back? Good. Of course your question is, “Why are we playing a JLA team-stamped card when there are no JLA characters in the deck?” Let’s put it this way: If we activate Secret Sanctuary, we will be able to exhaust zero JLA characters with a combined willpower of 0. Thus, we will be able to return a character card from our KO’d pile with a cost of 0 or less. Do we have anyone in our deck that this applies to? Haywire, you say? You are correct! Secret Sanctuary can fetch back our 0-drop for free. This brainchild of my little aquatic buddy Tim Batow is yet another way for us to gain hand advantage.

Our final two locations set up another nifty combo in the deck. Remember when I said that the fact that Professor X is affiliated is relevant? Now, you’ll find our why. One problem with playing a deck that has characters from thirteen different teams is that we can run into problems like not being able to reinforce or getting demolished by Betrayal. Fortunately, Infinite Crisis gave us an answer to these problems in the locations Rann and Thanagar. While these locations cannot be in play at the same time together, they both have the benefit of giving our affiliated characters a common team affiliation.* So we have an answer to our team differences in a single location? Brilliant. For our deck, we’ll go with Rann. Since our heavy hitters will be rather large, our opponents generally won’t attack them unless they are reasonably sure of a stun. Thus, the extra DEF is rarely going to make a difference. The extra ATK, on the other hand, will almost always be useful.

But that’s not all! Now that we have all of our characters sharing one team affiliation, it seems to me that if we have other team affiliations in play, we can use a Team-Up to give them a few other team affiliations as well (for example, Doom). This is the reason why we will need a few copies of UN Building. Once we have Dr. Doom in play and Rann face up in our resource row, we can flip UN Building to team-up Doom, Rann, and another team affiliation (depending on what other characters are in play). Since every affiliated character has the Rann team affiliation, and Rann is teamed-up with Doom, every affiliated character that we control has the Doom team affiliation! Now, the goodness that is Devil’s Due is no longer limited to Dr. Doom and Ultron. If you thought that Supremor was big before, just wait until he gets a few counters on him to make him the size of an 8-drop. The Phantom Stranger’s 17 DEF is respectable, but just four counters make him big enough that most 8-drops can’t stun him. And Professor X takes a quantum leap from being a small 8-drop to crushing anything that gets in his way. Now Dr. Doom won’t need Forced Allegiance to make everyone do his bidding!

We now have the technology to make Dr. Doom bigger, faster, and stronger. Let’s examine the build that’s going to give Victor Von Doom his bionic boost:

The Six Million Dollar Doom


1 Haywire, Suicidal Lover

1 Boris, PSoDD

4 Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, OYouth

1 Mikado and Mosha, AoD

1 Mr. Mxyzptlk, TTrickster

1 Commissioner Gordon, JG

4 Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose

4 Dr. Light, Master of Holograms

4 Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius

1 Ultron ◊ Ultron 11, Army

1 Supremor, Starforce

2 The Phantom Stranger, WHero

1 Professor X, Mental Master

4 Devil’s Due

4 Enemy of My Enemy

2 Expendable Ally

1 Flame Trap

2 Master of Puppets

4 Reign of Terror

2 Surrounded

4 Straight to the Grave

1 Unmasked

2 Avalon Space Station

1 Secret Sanctuary

2 Slaughter Swamp

2 Rann

2 UN Building, Team-Up

With any Doom-based deck, I usually prefer to work with the even initiatives; this allows you the first crack at the action with Reign of Terror when you recruit Doom on turn 4. Having the freedom to send an opposing Dr. Light back to your opponent’s hand before he can activate can be an enormous blessing. Of course, against aggressive decks that don’t have any control or disruption, the odd initiatives can be preferable. This will allow you the freedom to use Reign of Terror to take control of the board on turn 4, and then use your attacks (and your hopefully ginormous Dr. Doom) on turn 5 to keep your opponent at bay.

I’ve been pretty consistently holding onto any hand that has Frankie Raye and a card that costs more than 4. Getting that early draw boost can greatly aid you in hitting all of your early combo pieces. Once you have most of your combo in place, the accelerated draw provided by multiple recruits of Frankie Raye and the search capacity of Enemy of My Enemy and Straight to the Grave should help you find the cards you need to finish the game. If you happen to falter in the early turns and fail to get your combo set up by turn 4, don’t be afraid to underdrop on turn 5 or 6 so that you can get all the necessary pieces in place.

We’re done here. This wraps up another week of reader suggestions for combo decks. We’ll have a very inspired combo next week from the Ghostbuster himself, J-M Erlendson, one that will show you a way to make the most of your resources. In the meantime, if you have an idea for a Vs. System card combo that you’d like to see explored, send me an email detailing your weird and wacky idea. Who knows? It may be the latest and greatest thing to grace the pages of Breaking Ground!

* Yes, we could have played Battleworld and given all of our characters (even unaffiliated) a common team affiliation. But this would also give our opponent’s characters a common team affiliation. All things considered, it is usually not in your best interests to provide aid to your opponents.

Katrina Luisa Van Horne ◊ Amazon, Unrepentant Hero  (11/14/06)

Welcome one and all to the final Breaking Ground before Pro Circuit Los Angeles 2006. Hopefully, you’re all just as excited as I am to move into the next round of Golden Age tournaments and see what competitive deckbuilders around the globe have concocted to vie for the $40,000 prize and the title of Pro Circuit Champion.

Before I can head off to California, I have some unresolved issues that I need to deal with. In essence, I owe a few people some apologies:

  • J-M Erlendson: In my article two weeks ago, I said that I would be presenting the deck idea of the O.G. (Original Ghostbuster) last week. Unfortunately, our Gallery Pack previews were last week, so Mr. Erlendson’s deck discussion was put off until this week. More on that in a bit.
  • Tim Batow: Many apologies for all of the short jokes that I’ve made at your expense over the past year. More importantly, many apologies for all of the short jokes that I will continue to make in the years to come.
  • Alex Tennet: Mr. Tennet and I have a challenge set for PC: LA. The one of us who finishes lower in the standings must autograph a foil copy of Barnacle for the other. I would like to apologize in advance for the beating and subsequent humiliation that he will endure at my hands this weekend. Don’t forget to bring that Sharpie, buddy!


BigSpooky, Unrepentant Hero

It’s time to discuss why we’re all here. I received an email a few weeks back from John-Michael (J-M) Erlendson. Most of the message was a discussion of his deck idea. One line in particular stood out:

“Who is broken? Katrina Luisa Van Horne ◊ Amazon, Unrepentant Hero.”

His email detailed how the Thunderbolts have some very powerful tricks in characters like Paul Ebersol ◊ Techno, Gadgeteer and Speed Demon, Second Chance Speedster that can flat out win games. But these tricks are somewhat muted by the fact that they only become active in later turns. Obviously, a character like Speed Demon would be completely absurd if he could ready at any point in a game. UDE R&D managed to keep him more balanced, though, by limiting his readying ability to the later turns of the game.

So what’s a guy to do? Well, J-M asserted that having the power to give these characters the ability to operate a full turn early makes a tremendous amount of difference. Speed Demon is a pretty reasonably sized 3-drop. If he could attack twice on turn 4, then he could probably take both the opposing 3- and 4-drop down by himself (especially if he had help from Techno).

But wait, it gets better. Team Superman has often been maligned as unplayable in competitive Vs. System. True, the team does have some rather nifty cards that can be absolutely outrageous (like Kelex and Phantom Zone), but without the character infrastructure to support them, they are usually relegated to being tech cards in other decks. Despite this, J-M decided that he wanted Team Superman to get in on the action. Not only do some of the potent Team Superman early drops help in the first part of the game, but there is also an awesome possibility for utter devastation on turn 5 with Amazon and Kandor. With amazing low drops like Melissa Gold ◊ Songbird, Sonic Carapace and Superman, Red, our characters will be able to swing way, way up the curve thanks to Kandor.

Much like me, Amazon is unapologetic for her actions. That’s okay, though, because our opponents will be the ones who are sorry when we lay a low-drop beating on them!

The Build

Since I am featuring a deck by another builder, I will go ahead and post the decklist, then discuss the card choices in detail afterward.

The Bane of the n00b – by J.M. Erlendson


4 Lois Lane, Star Reporter

4 Beetle ◊ Mach 1, RHero

4 Kelex, Faithful Servant

2 Melissa Gold ◊ Songbird, SC

4 Paul Ebersol ◊ Techno, Gadgtr

2 Beetle ◊ Mach 2, MDavis

4 Speed Demon, SCSpeedster

4 Superman, Red

4 Katrina Luisa Van Horne

1 Hawkeye, Leader by Example

2 A Second Chance

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Flying Kick

4 Forbidden Loyalties, Team-Up

4 Kandor

4 Phantom Zone

4 Slaughter Swamp

1 Stormfront-1, Team-Up

We’ve already discussed a number of the cards contained within the deck. Here’s the analysis of each to explain the method behind the inspired madness.

At 1, Lois Lane, Star Reporter is a very easy call. I have always been a fan of free recruit 1-drops, and she is quite good. Not only does she allow the deck to gain board presence, but her deck depletion effect is also worthwhile. Our early drops will have strong Team Superman characters at each spot, so Lois gives a little extra insurance on our early curve. Of course, once we team-up, she can also help us by finding extra Thunderbolts characters.

Also at 1, we have Beetle ◊ Mach 1, Reluctant Hero. While the 1-drop Beetle is quite impressive with 2 ATK, flight, and range, we are more interested in what happens when he leaves the game. By removing him from the game when he becomes stunned, we can fetch a critical Team-Up. Considering how many team-stamped effects are in the deck, having our Team-Up will be very important for the proper operation of our build.

Kelex kicks off the festivities at 2. Recent events have shown that there is a pretty heavy premium placed on location search cards like Ahmed Samsarra and Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose. In that regard, it makes perfect sense that Kelex is our primary 2-drop. There will be some very potent locations available to us, and Kelex can fetch any one of those when he hits play.

Our Thunderbolts 2-drops are more for activity in the later turns. Obviously, Melissa Gold ◊ Songbird, Sonic Carapace is quite a bruiser. Currently, she is the largest 2-drop in the game with an amazing 6/3 bolstered by flight and range. Unfortunately, these impressive stats come with a dire price of allowing our opponents to reuse their resources. All other things being equal, we’d probably prefer to stick with Kelex. But Songbird is quite an impressive underdrop in later turns. If we decide to go for the kill on turn 5, we can very easily drop her and one of our powerful 3-dops instead of a 5-drop. Given her size, this seems like a much stronger play for us.

Our final 2-drop is really more of a plot twist in character form. Cards like Army of One and Knightmare Scenario illustrate just how potent a +2/+2 pump that can be used either on attack or defense can be. For our deck, Paul Ebersol ◊ Techno, Gadgeteer is our versatile pump of choice. We can only use his power on a character with a cost of 3 or less and only when we control five or more resources, but since our deck will be comprised almost entirely of low cost characters and we will have Amazon giving us an extra boost to five resources, this isn’t much of a drawback at all.

At 3, Speed Demon, Second Chance Speedster is the main man. I probably don’t need to go into too much detail as to why this guy is so good. Characters that can attack multiple times in a turn have always been held at a premium in Vs. System. Speed Demon not only allows for the possibility of multiple attacks, but his effect also actually stops him from stunning on the first attack. Speed Demon is amazing on his own, and in a deck like ours that is designed to abuse his ability, he can be completely unstoppable.

We will probably underdrop in later turns, so we should also consider some other 3-drops. Superman, Red is an excellent choice for us. While he doesn’t pose much of a defensive threat, he is extraordinary while attacking. His total 8 ATK is enough to allow us to take down almost every 4-drop in the game and several 5-drops. If we throw in the boost from Kandor, then Superman could even challenge opposing 6-drops.

If we’re looking for a more permanent boost for the later turns, then we should consider Beetle ◊ Mach 2, Matthew Davis. While Beetle isn’t much of a threat in the first few turns, he becomes quite potent once we hit our sixth resource (which will usually be on turn five thanks to Amazon). With six resources in play, Beetle jumps to 9/7. With a Team-Up and Kandor, Beetle leaps to 12/10. That’s a 3-drop, folks! Suffice to say, even the biggest beaters will have trouble matching the size of our 3-cost powerhouse.

Turn 4 is when we will always want to play Amazon. She truly is the engine for the deck, because she makes cards like Speed Demon, Techno, Beetle, and Kandor effective a full turn early. Given the level of power that these cards represent, we want to make sure that our unrepentant hero is always available on turn 4. Her 8/7 stats don’t hurt, either.

Our final character is a precautionary 5-drop for those situations when our opponents are packing a lot of weenie hate. Still, it’s hard to argue that Hawkeye, Leader by Example isn’t a great choice. His stats are amazing and he has a relevant effect for our deck. With Amazon, Speed Demon, and Kandor (along with a Team-Up) in play, Speed Demon jumps to 8/7. With just a marginal pump, Speed Demon can take down a set of opposing 4- and 5-drops without stunning on either attack. The remaining characters on our opponent’s board (if any) should be easy pickings for our massive 4- and 5-drops.

As far as plot twists go, we start off with the incomparable Enemy of My Enemy. While we do have Lois Lane to give us a moderate amount of character search, Enemy of My Enemy adds an extra level of consistency to our deck.

Of course, once we have representatives from both teams in play, we will want to get them working together. For this task, we will use Forbidden Loyalties. I have recently come to appreciate the power of +1/+1 counters, even in small doses. Given that our characters will often be trying to attack up the curve, having a little extra oomph could be a great benefit to us. Forbidden Loyalties serves the basic purpose of giving us a Team-Up, but it adds to that by giving a stat boost to a character of our choice. While a +1/+1 counter may not seem like much, it can mean a world of difference when we’re going for the win in the later turns.

Speaking of stat boosts, we will also want four copies of Flying Kick. Flying Kick is a great card in just about any deck. In a deck that has a “double attacker,” though, Flying Kick is just flat-out sick! Imagine the havoc that Speed Demon can wreak with flight and +3 ATK. There will be few characters that any opponent can play in the first five turns that can withstand the brutal beats of our 3-drop when we teach him how to fly.

Our last plot twist is insurance for a bit of board maintenance. With decks becoming faster and more aggressive, it is quite difficult to keep more than a single character in play on turns when our opponents control the initiative. Techno can be a quick way for us to help protect Speed Demon on turn 4. Still, there will be times where we’ll need to rely on recovery tricks. This is why we’re going to play A Second Chance. Although this card does have a rather steep condition of no other plot twists being played that turn, it can be invaluable for helping us recover multiple characters. After all of the attacks have concluded, we can bring back Speed Demon (or a character with a cost of 3 or less of our choice). After using our regular recovery to bring back Amazon, we’ll waltz into turn 5 with our optimal board setup.

The locations for our deck are every bit as important as the plot twists and serve similar functions. The Thunderbolts Team-Up Stormfront-1 is a pretty easy call for us. If we can’t get our primary Team-Up in Forbidden Loyalties, then we can use Kelex to search out this location. Not only do we get our needed Team-Up, but we also gain a card in the bargain.

We’ve talked about Kandor a lot already. Frankly, what’s not to like about this card? Although Kandor will usually only go live on turn 6 or later in other decks, Amazon allows us to flip Kandor a full turn early. If you thought that staring down a 6 ATK 2-drop and a 9 ATK 3-drop was bad, just imagine how much worse it gets with a 9 ATK 2-drop and 12 ATK 3-drop . . . on turn 5, no less!

Even with our massive low drops, we may find occasions when we need the extra pumps in the later turns. We’ve already mentioned how Techno is the perfect card to enhance our strategy. What’s more impressive is that we can actually reuse Techno by recurring him with Slaughter Swamp. Now we not only have a versatile stat boost card for our deck, but we also have a reliable way to return that boost to our hand. Sure, +2/+2 is good, but +4/+4 is much better.

Finally, we need to address an ancillary argument. Many of you may think that our build will suffer a bit at the hands of current Silver Age powerhouses like Faces of Evil and Lost in Space. But one thing that many Silver Age decks have in common is that they rely very heavily on KO’d pile manipulation. What does this mean for us? Quite simply, if we have a method of controlling an opponent’s KO’d pile, then we can control the game. Remember Phantom Zone? That card is the golden ticket to victory in our deck. No longer will our opponents be able to use Dr. Light, Master of Holograms or Hard Sound Construct to flood the board. We will beat them to the punch by removing those characters before they can be recurred. With Amazon in the deck, we don’t even need to worry about problems with replacing resources because she can KO any wayward characters that find their way into our resource row.

The deck will usually prefer the odd initiatives, as turn 5 kills are relatively easy given the proper setup. The optimal board at the beginning of turn 5 will be Speed Demon and Amazon. Against most decks, you’ll follow this with Songbird, and Beetle ◊ Mach 2 or Superman. With Kandor in play, this makes every one of your characters 8 ATK or more while attacking. One copy of Flying Kick on Speed Demon should give you enough power to clear the board and toss in some extra direct endurance loss to boot. If you’re forced to take the even initiatives, then Hawkeye may be a stronger play on 5 because he can set you up for the kill on turn 6.

Opening hand mulligans will usually be for Kelex. He provides you with two important things: a location for later use and a Team Superman character. The latter cannot be understated, as you will only have a few opportunities to team-up. That being said, you will usually want to use Kelex to find a copy of Stormfront-1 unless you already have a copy of Beetle ◊ Mach 1 or Forbidden Loyalties in play.

That’s all! Many thanks to J-M Erlendson for the amazing Amazon build.

Good luck to everyone attending PC: LA. If you see me there, don’t be afraid to come over for a chat; I’ll be the fool in the squirrel hat! For everyone else, I’ll be back in a few weeks with a sneak preview of a card from the upcoming Legion of Super Heroes set.

The Source  (12/05/06)

I realize that it’s now been about two and a half weeks since the festivities at Pro Circuit Los Angeles. But since we just finished two weeks worth of previews for the Legion of Super Heroes set, I haven’t had the chance to expound upon the events of the PC weekend. The metagame for the new Golden Age appears to be much more diverse than anyone could have ever anticipated. The prediction of the new reign of High Voltage and other early-game decks was trumped by the appearance of innovative control and stall builds—notably FTN’s Crisis Doom and the new and improved TDC Stall. In the end, though, it was Metagame.com’s own Adam Prosak who took home the title of PC Champion with his variant of a Doom-based counter deck similar to the one that I posted a few weeks back (though much more refined).

Sadly, the furious fighters of TAWC failed to place anyone in the money in the PC. This was due to two factors: our deck missed the metagame call and only placed two of five members into Day 2, and the two TAWC members who did make Day 2 (me and John Hall) were both completely inept at drafting Heralds of Galactus. Still, as disappointed as our team was at our poor showing at PC: LA, we had a good time overall. It’s never hard to have fun when you’ve got such dynamic personalities on a team!

The weekend was certainly a variety of extremes for me. On one hand, I lost my bet with Alex “I talk too much” Tennet, and have been forever dubbed “Barnacle.” I suppose that this was an inevitability anyway, considering that you can’t actually spell my last name without “barn.” Fortunately, my sorrow at being bested by FTN’s big-mouthed Brit turned to joy when Alex attempted to best my teammate Jeremy Blair in a battle of wits. The collective members of TAWC and FTN went to dinner together on Saturday evening. Over the course of the meal, Alex and Jeremy exchanged verbal jabs in what turned out to be a rather severe beating on Mr. Tennet. As witty as Alex claims to be, he was no match for the Kingpin. Jeremy had everyone on both teams rolling with laughter at his thorough vocal demolition of Alex . . . so much so that I was shooting soda out of my nose by the end of the evening!

All in all, it was a fine weekend. While placing in the money would have been nice, it’s important to note that you can still have a positive PC experience even if you don’t do well. I suppose the fact that my team loves Vs. System (and, more recently, World of Warcraft) makes it easy for us to enjoy playing even when we aren’t playing very well.

How to Build a Deck to Compete Within the Metagame

Generally, my team is pretty good at predicting the metagame for any given format. In the three PCs prior to PC: LA, we had developed decks that were strong competitors within the established metagame. Following PC: LA, though, I came to realize that I might be oversimplifying my analysis. Modern Age metagames are not too difficult to predict given the limited card pool available (though this will probably change when the Modern Age format expands to four sets). The Silver Age metagame is a bit more difficult, as we were trying to extrapolate a metagame in a format with which we had no experience up until that point. Our initial prediction was that PC: San Francisco would be rife with Good Guys, Squadron Supreme, Anti-Green Lantern, and Faces of Evil. This prediction was not as accurate as we would have liked. While there were plenty of Good Guys and Squadron Supreme decks, AGL and Faces of Evil were largely absent. Moreover, TDC’s Ivy League deck and FTN’s Mexican Hardware Store deck were complete surprises to us. We were fortunate in the fact that our deck had solid matchups against these decks.

This helps to explain what happened at PC: LA. Our prediction for the Golden Age metagame was a lot of Teen Titans and High Voltage. Using that prediction, my team’s deck choice of Quicksilver Fate was a good call. But it turned out that the dominant decks within the Golden Age metagame were decks that beat those two decks—Crisis Doom, TDC Stall (part deux), and Devil’s Due. Unfortunately, those decks were all difficult matchups for our deck. While we could beat most decks that could not control the early game, it was very difficult for us to contend with anything that could disrupt our deck. In several of my losses, it was a single copy of Meltdown that turned the game from probable victory to certain defeat.

So what is the lesson to be learned here? Well, the key is that when you are playing at a competitive level, you want to have a deck that can beat the predicted metagame and adapt to any surprises in the metagame. This was the key difference between my team’s success at PC: San Francisco with Checkmate / Villains United and our difficulty at PC: LA with Quicksilver Fate.

Beating the Metagame

Now for the fun stuff. Following every PC, I like to look at the successful decks from that PC and figure out what common themes (if any) exist between them. If you can find these themes, then you can also find a route to success against the decks that will define the Vs. System metagame for the months to come.

Looking at the top decks from PC: LA, we’ll find a universally well-defined theme: resource row dependency. In the early days of Vs. System, there were decks that could pretty much ignore the resource row completely and still compete quite well. For example, most of the early Fantastic Four beatdown decks didn’t play a single location or ongoing plot twist. This left them free of any resource row disruption effects that their opponents might have for them. Later on, Curve Sentinels took the cue from the Fantastic Four. Some tech cards like Micro-Sentinels and Total Anarchy made occasional appearances in the Sentinel decks, but Sentinels operated for the most part independently of the cards in the resource row.

As Vs. System has developed, though, people have begun to stand up and take notice of how powerful a tool the resource row can be. First and foremost, the resource row is the only area where locations can be put to significant use. In the early sets, there were precious few locations worth playing in competitive decks. But as the game has developed, the power of locations has increased. More importantly, characters like Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose and Ahmed Samsarra have made location search extremely easy—so much so that the prominence of locations has increased significantly.

Of course, the improved power in locations has been matched by the power of ongoing plot twists. With cards like Enemy of My Enemy allowing for an unparalleled level of off-team search, Team-Ups have become a lot more potent. In addition, ongoing plot twists like Political Pressure, Unmasked, and Devil’s Due have become tech cards (or even archetypes) for Golden Age decks to use and abuse.

The irony of all of this resource row love is that there really hasn’t been an equivalent development of resource row hate. Long gone are the times when cards like Have a Blast! and Breaking Ground were standards in control decks. Instead, these cards have taken a back seat to more board control–oriented cards. While these decks may now be more capable of dominating in terms of board control, they tend to ignore the opposing resource rows completely. Given that resource row utility in Vs. System is greater now than it has ever been, this seems like a woeful oversight to me.

“The Source” of all Resource Row Hate

Thinking about resource row disruption got me to thinking about one of my favorite cards in Vs. System: The Source. There have been two prominent statements made about The Source since its release in Superman, Man of Steel: it is an amazing card, and it is team-stamped to a team that will never be able to compete at a significant level. For the most part, these statements have been and continue to be true.

But the recent popularity (and power) of the teams from Heralds of Galactus got me thinking about that second statement. In general, the New Gods weren’t viable because they didn’t have enough strong characters to support a mono-team deck and teaming them up with another, stronger team generally produced a collaboration that was weaker than simply playing the other team alone. Still, it is worth considering playing the New Gods just to have the power of The Source at your disposal.

My recent pet deck is a Heralds of Galactus / Inhumans team-up build. It is reminiscent of the deck that Adam Prosak took to the Top 8 at $10K Columbus recently, but it spurns the Dr. Light, Master of Holograms / Poison Ivy engine in lieu of a more basic form of development. My mulligan condition is essentially for a 2-drop (San or Silver Surfer, Skyrider of the Spaceways). Getting one of these two into play pretty much ensures that I will be able to get Attilan online by turn 4. Attilan is an amazing card. When used in unison with Elemental Converters (much the way that I do in my Heralds / Inhumans deck), it provides the same benefit of a reusable Kooey Kooey Kooey or Kang, Kang Kong. . . without the associated cost! But even without the extra card draw, having the power to put any card in your deck on top of the deck is a very powerful tool.

It occurred to me at this point that I might have a neat combo here. Attilan puts any card on top of your deck. The Source wreaks havoc on your opponent’s resource row by replacing itself with the top card of your deck! We have a combo that not only totally messes with your opponent, but also gets you a free card in the bargain. Is there anything bad about this?

It’s time for the space-faring stalwarts, the New Gods, to hook up with the new cosmic kids on the block, the Inhumans. The result will hopefully be a mean collaboration where we use Attilan and The Source to set up the cards we want in our own resource row while, at the same time, doing irreparable damage to our opponent’s row.

The Build

We have a neat little curve from 1 to 8, so let’s get our character compliment settled. At 1, we have the ferocious yet lovable Lockjaw, Inhuman’s Best Friend. His stats, range, and concealed—optional make Lockjaw a fine play regardless of effects. Yet when we take into account that Lockjaw also allows us to search up an Inhumans character, he’s pretty much an auto-inclusion in our build.

Of course, our 2-drop will probably be our primary target for search with Lockjaw. Considering how much we plan to rely on key locations for our deck, San, The Alienated One will be the character we want to play every time on turn 2. Our engine leans pretty heavily on Attilan to find cards for our immediate use, so Attilan will usually be the card that we find with San. If we already have a copy of Attilan available to us, then we can simply use San to find another location (like maybe The Source, hmmm?).

Our Inhumans representative at 3 is Crystal, Elementelle. Obviously, this deck will lean pretty heavily on a Team-Up between our two teams. Crystal is one of the best (if not the best) Team-Up search cards in Vs. System. Still, as great as Crystal is, we’d really like to put a New Gods character in play on turn 3. This is the reason we’ll be playing four copies of Sturmer, War Dog. The war dog has a slight drawback in that he cannot attack unless he team attacks*, but he makes up for this deficiency by boasting a very impressive 4/7. Perhaps more importantly, Sturmer retains utility even after turn 3 with a character search effect that is just phenomenal. With a single recursion card in play (like Slaughter Swamp), Sturmer pretty much guarantees that we will hit our late curve. With that kind of usefulness, Sturmer is a no-brainer for us.

Our character compliment at 4 is very similar to the one at 3. We have a lone Inhumans representative in Triton, Aquatic Ambassador. “Garth Jr.” is probably the most poorly regarded of the Inhumans 4-drops. While the recursion effect that he boasts is excellent, it is often difficult to get his cosmic counter. Of course, we’ll incorporate a few tricks to help Triton out. Our primary character at 4, though, will be Izaya ◊ Highfather. Highfather, much like Sturmer, is already a strong choice because of his impressive stats. But Highfather’s real strength lies in his recovery effect. With an effect like The Outside World that can move Highfather to the hidden area, we can actually give our deck a source of extra recovery each turn. With such sizable characters at our disposal, we should have little problem keeping board advantage over our opponents.

Valkyra, Valkyrie of New Genesis kicks off our picks at 5. Were you wondering about those “tricks” that we might have to keep Triton from stunning? How about a +3 DEF boost from the Valkyrie of New Genesis? With more than a few characters with cosmic in our deck, Valkyra’s leader power is actually relevant; the fact that she’s 10/10 with her cosmic counter certainly doesn’t hurt. Our other 5-drop isn’t nearly as big as Valkyra, but it would be a grievous understatement to say that Karnak, The Shatterer isn’t every bit as devastating. His stats are well below average for a 5-drop, but he has an effect that essentially reads, “Remove cosmic counter >>> Your smallest character can stun your opponent’s largest character.” It is absolutely absurd when Lockjaw is taking down 6-drops. Still, there it is . . . Karnak can make a big beater of any character.

The play at 6 really depends on when the game is going to end. If we decide to go for a win on turn 7 or 8, then Big Barda, Barda Free is probably our play on turn 6. Initially she is an average 12/12, but with her cosmic counter Big Barda can leap to 16/16 during a single attack. Sure, the price is pretty hefty, but there will certainly be times when the extra stat boost will be worth the cost. Now let’s consider our option if we wish to finish the game on turn 6. Since we plan to have all face-up resources, Maximus the Mad, Mental Manipulator is an excellent finisher. Moving all of our opponent’s characters to the front row eliminates most reinforcement options that he or she might have, and gives us our choice of which opposing characters we’d like to attack. While Maximus is often maligned for his low DEF, he can be the proverbial nail in the coffin for our opponents if we control the initiative.

In many cases, we will try to go for the win on turn 7. For that, there is probably no better finisher than Invisible Woman, Flame On! Her DEF is well below where we’d like to see it, but she makes up for this with a burn effect that is just plain astounding. Whenever Invisible Woman goes into combat, she sets our opponents aflame for quite a bit of damage (usually 6 or more). Even if she does stun, she will usually dish out a lot more damage than she takes in the bargain.

At 8, we have the underappreciated Orion, Dog of War. There are certainly bigger 8-drops in the game, but Orion boasts a couple of effects that make him quite formidable. First, he has a built in Fizzle effect that can keep our opponents from using any combat tricks. Second, he has the ability to take an opposing attacker out of an attack at our discretion. Third, he’s an 8-drop! This fact alone makes him worth playing, as he will often be bigger than any character our opponent can play. Finally, since we’re already playing Lockjaw and Sturmer, I couldn’t resist playing the “Dog of War” as well!

Moving on to our plot twist selections, I have a bit of a rhetorical question for you: What does it mean when you play an Inhumans team-up deck with another team that has characters with powerful cosmic effects? Why, you’re obligated to play Extended Family, of course! Team-Ups are necessary for many multi-team decks to operate effectively, but when we have a card like Extended Family that can provide additional benefits for us, we’ve got a card that we can put to multiple good uses.

Now let’s consider some combat tricks. Despite the fact that we have some rather large defenders, we might want to have some defensive pumps to brickwall opposing attacks. For this, we will go to our old standby, Acrobatic Dodge. While it is one of the oldest plot twists in the game, it’s still one of the best defensive tricks in Vs. System. Another oldie but goodie, Flying Kick is the offensive counterpart to Acrobatic Dodge, providing a moderate turn-length ATK boost and flight to the targeted character. While we have a few characters with flight, it is a trait that is largely absent from our character selections, so Flying Kick is a strong pick for our ATK boost of choice. Of course, the turn-long boost can be quite useful when we consider our final combat trick, Exploiting the Flaw. I love this card! While it isn’t quite the equal of a card that gives you extra attacks (like Press the Attack), getting multiple attacks with a large character is still amazing. Imagine attacking a smaller character with Invisible Woman, dishing out a heap of endurance burn in the process, and then using Exploiting the Flaw to attack with her again and do another dose of burn on the second attack. Suffice to say, Exploiting the Flaw can be a great source of board advantage for us.

We have a couple of tech card choices to include. In Golden Age, it is probably a good call to play Political Pressure and Unmasked in any decks that can support them. Thanks to Attilan, we have a reliable search mechanism that can find these cards when we need them. In addition to these single-copy tech cards, we’re going to include a copy of Salvage. As we discussed earlier, we will (hopefully) be replacing The Source multiple times in a game. While we can’t rely on drawing multiple copies of The Source every game, we can use Salvage to fetch back used copies from the KO’d pile for future use. It’s a nifty combo that accelerates our draw and allows us to continue messing with our opponent’s resources.

While we already have plenty of search in our deck, a little extra help in the early turns probably wouldn’t hurt—specifically, finding a New Gods character for turn 3 or 4. This is why we’ll need a couple copies of The Exchange. This search card effectively allows us to increase the number of New Gods characters in our deck to six copies each. In order to get our engine online we need to have a New Gods character in the early turns for a Team-Up, and The Exchange is a simple way for us to get our important mid-game characters in hand.

Our final plot twist is a recovery trick that can greatly benefit our strategy. The Outside World is already a good card in that it gives us the opportunity to recover a stunned character, thus maintaining board presence. But the fact that it moves the recovered character into the hidden area is what really makes our strategy work. With a character like Highfather in the hidden area, we can all but ensure that we will maintain a stronger board position than our opponent. In addition, The Outside World can be an effective tool for recovering characters like Triton and Karnak before the recovery phase so that they can gain cosmic counters.

Obviously, we already have a couple of choice location selections for the deck in The Source and Attilan. Still, we could certainly benefit from some additional locations for our strategy. One that we would certainly like to have is Slaughter Swamp. We’ve already discussed how Sturmer can ensure that we hit our late drops, but that only works if we have a way of retrieving him from the KO’d pile to reuse him. Slaughter Swamp is probably the best call for us, as it can also be used to counter opposing Dr. Light, Master of Holograms activations.

Now let’s take a look at a few Terraform locations for our deck. Obviously, with the Inhumans “face-up resource row” strategy, we want to have a bit of redundancy built in just in case we replace into a character card. This is not a major worry, though, as the Inhumans team has some of the best Terraform locations in the game. Despite our already impressive search, we should play a couple copies of The Great Refuge. While this location doesn’t provide any additional benefits beyond a character search, it is great for helping us hit our critical early curve. Another route for us to take to “fix” our resource row is to use replacement effects of our own. This reasoning makes a strong case for the inclusion of The Substructure. While our primary engine is designed to make use of Attilan and The Source, we can substitute The Substructure in when we don’t have a copy of The Source handy. If we use Attilan before we place a face-down resource, then we can use The Substructure to replace a face-down resource with a card of our choice. Finally, what would any Inhumans deck be without Blue Area of the Moon? As my diminutive buddy Tim Batow put it, “It’s nice to have a reusable copy of Special Delivery.” Sure, our attacker could still technically become stunned, but with 5 DEF or more added in the later turns, it’s highly doubtful. This is also one way that we can have our high drops with low DEF attack along or up the curve without stunning back.

Our final location gives us a nice recovery and cosmic replenishment effect all in one. While the discard cost of New Genesis is quite high, it can be an absolute game-breaker if used at the proper time. Imagine having your opponent go for the kill on turn 7 by sending a 6-drop into Invisible Woman, thinking that his or her 7-drop will be able to attack directly for the win. Instead, we use New Genesis to recover Invisible Woman. Now, not only does our opponent have to attack into our 7-drop again, but he or she will also once again take a hefty dose of endurance burn from Invisible Woman’s effect thanks to New Genesis restoring her cosmic counter.

For our final card, we’ll include a single copy of Reality Gem. You may have noticed that our deck already has a healthy number of discard effects. As such, we don’t want to use Reality Gem too aggressively. But in situations where our opponents have a location that we can’t get at with The Source, we might want to search up Reality Gem to take care of the problematic green card. Considering the theme of the deck is resource row disruption, it’s certainly nice to have a reusable Have a Blast! at our disposal.

We’ve finished building this beast. Let’s see how the cosmic canines of the Inhumans and New Gods fare in Golden Age:

Dogs in Space

4 Lockjaw, IBF

4 San, Alienated One

1 Crystal, Elementelle

4 Sturmer, War Dog

4 Izaya ◊ Highfather, Inheritor

1 Triton, Aquatic Ambassador

2 Karnak, The Shatterer

1 Valkyra, VoNG

1 Big Barda, Barda Free

1 Maximus the Mad, MM

1 Invisible Woman, Flame On!

1 Orion, Dog of War

4 Acrobatic Dodge

2 Exploiting the Flaw

4 Extended Family, Team-Up

4 Flying Kick

1 Political Pressure

1 Salvage

2 The Exchange

2 The Outside World

1 Unmasked

2 Attilan

1 Blue Area of the Moon

1 New Genesis

2 Slaughter Swamp

2 The Great Refuge

4 The Source

1 The Substructure

1 Reality Gem

Initiative choice is largely a matter of preference. In general, odd initiatives are probably preferred. Assuming that you can get a cosmic counter on Karnak on turn 5 with Extended Family, you should have little trouble forcing unfavorable trades on turn 5 (like sending Lockjaw into your opponent’s 5-drop). Also, Invisible Woman attacking twice (using Exploiting the Flaw) can often be a game ender. Of course, with a good draw and setup, you could easily end the game on turn 6 with Maximus the Mad.

The mulligan condition is very easy: mulligan for Attilan or a way to get it. This will usually mean a hard mulligan for San or an Inhumans search card (Lockjaw or The Great Refuge). With twelve cards meeting the mulligan condition, you shouldn’t miss very often. Once you have Attilan online, you can use it to find any other cards that you might need.

When playing The Source, you need to be very conscious of timing it according to your opponent’s actions. With decks that try to abuse Poison Ivy or Ahmed Samsarra, you want to use The Source in response to your opponent using those effects. While it won’t stop the opponent from fetching a location, it will allow you to nuke a wayward copy of Devil’s Due or Straight to the Grave in the resource row before he or she can KO it for a location search effect.

Against a Crisis Doom deck, you want to use The Source on Crisis on Infinite Earths in response to your opponent declaring his or her intent to recruit Dr. Doom, Diabolic Genius. Most players will KO their Dr. Doom, Richards’s Rival to replace Crisis on Infinite Earths in response to you playing The Source (since they will lose their 3-drop anyway). Still, this is a great trade for you, as you get to trade a card in your resource row for your opponent’s 3-drop. Besides, you’ll invariably get another shot at Crisis on Infinite Earths later in the game!

That’s all, folks. Have fun creating pandemonium with The Source. While you may not be playing the most powerful deck in the game, you’ll have a world of fun destroying critical opposing resources. There’s only one word to describe the look of chagrin on an opponent’s face when you remove all four copies of Enemy of My Enemy from his or her deck: priceless!

* From a flavor perspective, it would be pretty neat to see Sturmer perform some team attacks with his fellow canine, Lockjaw. Double dog attack FTW!

Suicide, Chris Daniels  (12/12/06)

The online world is the haven of many casual Vs. System players. Without any shadow of a doubt, casual players are the lifeblood of our game. It is all well and good that the current competitive metagame features a wide variety of deck types, but one need only look to the concoctions that the casual players of our game come up with to see the possibilities present in Vs. System play.

Favorite Cards? Too Many to Mention!

Recently, I found myself reading through a thread on the VSRealms.com forums entitled “What is your favorite card and why?” There were several posts on the thread expressing a wide variety of opinions, including my own. I mentioned my affinity for Garth ◊ Aqualad, as he bears a striking resemblance to a certain Vs. System player I know. I won’t mention his name, but his initials are Tim Batow.*

Reading through the thread, I came across a post by VSRealms.com stalwart WalterKovacs. Well known in the community for his informative and well-documented posts, WalterKovacs is always entertaining. He decided to share his favorite card in the game with the community, and his choice was the wholly unexpected Suicide.

I recalled Suicide from my many, many Marvel Knights drafts nearly two years ago. Back then, he was a decent pick at 4 ATK / 5 DEF—somewhat above average for the 3-drops from the set. In addition, he possessed a rather unique effect that was occasionally relevant and certainly aided in maintaining board advantage. When compared with other 3-drops that are currently popular in Vs. System play, however, Suicide comes up a bit short.

In true fashion, WalterKovacs gave a detailed explanation of the rationale behind his choice. WalterKovacs’s current pet deck is a Secret Society / Underworld / Manhunter deck that has the sole focus of running the opponent out of cards as early as possible. One of the core combos built into the deck is KO’ing Suicide to the effect of Manhunter Giant, then reviving Suicide via his own effect. If you throw in The Fall of Oa and Deadshot, Dead Aim, then every two cards that you discard to bring back Suicide will put six cards from your opponent’s deck into his or her KO’d pile. Not a bad trade when you consider that meeting your objective will give you all of the cards in your deck.

Given my proclivity to play cool and crazy combos, I decided that I wanted to find a way to play this deck myself. WalterKovacs’s build was more focused on finding ways to abuse a single opponent. I, however, had a multiplayer tournament coming up, so I decided to develop a build that would be effective against multiple opponents.

Yes, boys and girls, it’s time for another foray into cutthroat!

How to Deck Out Several Opponents Without Really Trying

Tom Magel, the owner and proprietor of Insanity Cards and Games, has an affinity for alternate formats. One of the things that I love dearly about the tournaments at his shop is that the format changes every week. Since he’s started up the alternating format tournaments, I’ve played in:

  • Army only (all character cards must have the version “Army”);
  • Odds and evens (all cards in the deck must be odd or even cost);
  • Clone wars (only three character names allowed in each deck; all characters are non-unique).

Alternate formats such as these make deckbuilding fun and reward creativity.

Because so many of the players enjoy playing multiplayer games (a.k.a. “cutthroat”), Tom established a set of rules for multiplayer tournaments. In casual games, it’s easy for any one player to become overwhelmed since all of the other players could gang up on a single player. To combat this, multiplayer tournament rules limit the number of attacks on a single player to two per turn. Granted, a player can still be targeted with any number of effects—but with the limited number of attacks that are allowed, each player has a relatively equal chance to win the cutthroat game.

Given the restrictions placed on combat for the upcoming multiplayer tournament, I figured that I might be able to finagle a deck that would normally incur the wrath of every player—specifically, a variant on WalterKovacs’s deck depletion build. Let’s get Suicide to aid the Secret Society and Manhunters in putting every card in our opponents’ decks into their KO’d piles.

The Build

Given the deck’s intended engine focus, we obviously want to put the maximum four copies of Suicide, Chris Daniels in the deck. In order for our deck to be effective, though, we will also need characters from the Secret Society and Manhunters. One easy fix for this is playing four copies of Manhunter Clone. Not only does this 1-drop bear the stamp of both of these teams, but he also has an effect that is quite relevant to our deck. The fact that he has evasion is also important, as it means it will be exceedingly difficult for our opponents to get rid of him. It also bears mentioning that, under the cutthroat rules, we can evade Manhunter Clone after an attack becomes legal and count it as one of the two allowed attacks each turn.

Also at 1, we’re going to need four copies of Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster. Considering that we will have a drain on our hand when we use Suicide’s effect, a character that bounces back to our hand each turn can assist us in maintaining enough cards in our hand to accomplish our goal.

Moving to turn 2, we’ve already mentioned the combo with Deadshot, Dead Aim. Characters with alternate recruit costs are always good, but this one is especially potent with our strategy. Also at 2, we have another representative from the Secret Society that helps us with “decking” our opponents. James Jesse ◊ Trickster is very similar in effect to Manhunter Clone. However, Trickster is unique in that he gives the “deck-depletion-stun” effect to all of our characters. With enough stuns on our side of the board (several fueled by evasion), we can put a significant number of cards from opponents’ decks into their KO’d piles each turn.

Our third 2-drop is none other than Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose. It’s a foregone conclusion that we’re including the lovely Miss Isely in our build. There are a number of choice locations that we’ll want for our deck, and Poison Ivy is one of the best cards in the game for fetching those locations. Moreover, the fact that Poison Ivy has the Arkham Inmates team stamp is relevant, as some of our late drops are also from that team.

We’ve already discussed our 3-drop at length, and we’re going to forego playing any 4-drops. Since we have multiple low drops that are extremely important for setting up our game plan, we would rather underdrop on turn 4 than follow the curve. At 5 we have Manhunter Giant, the Manhunters’ decking machine (literally). Once we hit our full combo on turn 5, we should be set to burn through a significant portion of an opponent’s deck with Manhunter Giant and Suicide. Against an opposing deck that already plays deck depletion or draw effects, we could easily deck out an opponent on turn 5. At the very least, though, we should have no trouble sending the entire contents of any opponent’s deck to the KO’d pile by the start of turn 6.

Considering how many of our opponents’ cards we’re going to be sending to the KO’d pile, we should probably find room for a single copy of Mephisto, Soulstealer. There are only a few cards in the game that can remove opposing character cards from the KO’d pile, and Mephisto is probably the most powerful of all of these. Mephisto not only disrupts our opponents’ ability to effectively recur character cards from the KO’d pile, but he actually gains a bonus when we use his effect. With an average of 30 character cards in a deck, Mephisto can become very, very big when we finally do deck out an opponent.

Our 6-drop is primarily in the deck as another search outlet for us—this time for ongoing plot twists. Since one of our key characters for the combo, Deadshot, has the Secret Six team stamp, we can play Scandal, Savage Spawn to fetch the ongoing plot twists that we need for our combo to work effectively. Scandal can also be an effective attacker should the need arise. To be a searcher for the all-important The Fall of Oa, however, is Scandal’s real calling in our deck.

Our 7-drop is going to be Two-Face, Split Personality. He doesn’t really do anything for our decking theme, but he is a sizable character with the Arkham Inmates team affiliation. His effect might be useful if we have the initiative on turn 7, but the real reason for his inclusion is to facilitate our 8-drop, The Joker, Emperor Joker. While Mephisto and Two-Face give us outlets to win by attacking, The Joker is going to be an absolute victory condition for us.

As far as plot twists go, we’ve already stated that The Fall of Oa is our win condition. Not only is it a tool for decking out our opponents, but it also gives us an amazing source of hand advantage by allowing us to put our deck into our hand.

Our other plot twists will support our deck depletion theme in one fashion or another. Considering that Underworld will be one of our primary teams, we should consider playing four copies of Gravesite. There are pros and cons to playing this card. On one hand, Gravesite does allow our opponents the opportunity to cycle through the cards in their decks to set up optimal hands. On the other, the fact that Gravesite forces our opponents to burn through their decks is also beneficial to us. Besides, Gravesite also allows us to cycle through the cards in our deck, and it gives us a small source of endurance gain too.

Our character complement includes at least two characters from five different teams. It seems only right that we try to get some Team-Ups to get all of these different forces working together. Since we are working toward a deck cycling theme, it’s fitting that we use Funky’s Big Rat Code as our Team-Up; we get all of the benefits of a Team-Up with an additional deck depletion effect. With four copies in our deck, we have the potential to put twelve additional cards from an opponent’s deck into his or her KO’d pile without having to exhaust or KO any of our characters.

Certainly we can’t have a reliable deck without an effective character search card. Fortunately, Secret Society has one of the best in Straight to the Grave. In a perfect world, we would naturally draw into every character that we needed. This will usually not be the case; thus, since we will have plenty of recursion outlets available, we can use Straight to the Grave to find any character that we may need from turn 2 onward.

Our final plot twist gives us a great offensive and defensive boost for the later turns. After we use The Fall of Oa to deplete the deck of our first opponent, we can use the character cards in hand to fuel the Manhunter Giant / Suicide combo to deplete the decks of our remaining opponents. This will undoubtedly put a bunch of character cards into our KO’d pile. From this point, we can use Strength of the Grave to provide ATK and DEF pumps for our characters as needed. Not only can this Underworld plot twist be an amazing source of boost for our characters, it also allows us to replenish our deck. Once we’ve moved our character cards back to our deck, we can exhaust a character to The Fall of Oa to put them back in our hand.

Looking at our locations, we’re going to add a couple more Team-Ups to the mix. Specifically, we’re going to play UN Building. As mentioned earlier, we’ve got five distinct teams in the deck; having a card that can team up three of these teams makes perfect sense. In addition, this is a Team-Up that can be fetched with Poison Ivy’s effect.

For our deck to be most effective, we will need more methods of recursion. Certainly Gravesite will allow us to sift through our deck for additional cards, but the downside to this is that we will be forced to pitch cards to the KO’d pile as part of the effect. In addition, we need to have recursion tools to effectively utilize Straight to the Grave. Thus, we’re going to play four copies of Slaughter Swamp and an additional two copies of Soul World. With six character recursion locations, we should have little problem returning character cards from the KO’d pile.

What about other cards that we might want to get back from the KO’d pile? Well, we have yet another tool in Infernal Gateway. This location provides us with the third piece in our loop. Go back to the Strength of the Grave combo that I mentioned earlier. After we have returned all of the character cards to our hand, we can use Infernal Gateway to return Strength of the Grave to our hand. We can even discard three of the character cards that we have in our hand to recur Strength of the Grave, making our combo a true loop.

Suicide and our selection of deck cycling characters have arrived, and they are ready to deplete the decks of all the opponents we face! Let’s take a look at our multiplayer powerhouse:

Suicidal Tendancies

4 Manhunter Clone, CoPK

4 Mr. Mxyzptlk, TTrickster

4 Deadshot, Dead Aim

4 James Jesse ◊ Trickster, GG

4 Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose

4 Suicide, Chris Daniels

3 Manhunter Giant, Army

1 Mephisto, Soulstealer

4 Scandal, Savage Spawn

1 Two-Face, Split Personality

1 The Joker, Emperor Joker

4 Gravesite

4 Funky’s Big Rat Code

4 Straight to the Grave

2 Strength of the Grave

2 The Fall of Oa

2 Infernal Gateway

4 Slaughter Swamp

2 Soul World

2 UN Building, Team-Up

Initiative choice is largely irrelevant, as you generally don’t have the luxury in multiplayer formats to take actions that require initiative. Of course, the deck operates outside of the normal attack and defense framework, so you don’t need to worry too much about whether or not you have the initiative. If you do get the choice, though, you should opt to take the initiative on turn 7. The initiative choice in multiplayer will change depending on how many players are in the game.

A good mulligan condition is probably for Gravesite, as a single copy will allow you to see an extra card every turn. Of course, if you have a strong opening hand with several of the combo pieces, it might be tough to let that go. The best advice I can give is to use good judgment.

For those of you who don’t play much multiplayer, there are certainly options for one-on-one with this deck concept. In his post on VSRealms.com, WalterKovacs gave some neat combo ideas using Skinner or Mark Shaw to facilitate your character discards so that you can set up the aforementioned Strength of the Grave / Infernal Gateway loop. In addition, you could terraform a copy of Planet Weapon into play to force your opponent to lose a resource every turn. With enough ingenuity, it is certainly possible to take this clever combo to a competitive level.

That’s all for this week. Many thanks to WalterKovacs for the combo inspiration. I’ll be back again next week with a look at a Future Foes discard build from the Legion of Super Heroes set. Until then, take care!

*I also mentioned that Barnacle was starting to grow on me. Curse you, Alex Tennet!

Museum Heist  (12/22/06)

There really isn’t anything quite like a Sealed Pack tournament to give you an appreciation for a new set.

I just got back from $10K Orlando. Despite the fact that I didn’t finish in the money, I had a very good time at the final $10K of 2006. The Legion of Super Heroes set may very well be one of the most complex sets to date for Sealed Pack formats because there is no visible archetype that appears to be stronger than the others.

The weekend turned out to be perfect for a tournament in the fair weather of Kissimmee, Florida. A temperate climate allowed Vs. System players to battle fiercely at the tables during the tournament, and then settle outside on the hotel patio afterward for a variety of activities . . . including ping pong!

He Moves Quite Fast for a Big Guy

On Sunday morning, I happened to run across Adam Prosak and Craig Edwards engaging in a friendly game of ping pong on the hotel terrace. Now, while I may never have been the caliber of ping pong player that some of the West Virginian Vs. System players are, I was actually quite good back in college. You see, I lived in a dormitory with mostly foreign students. As I found, ping pong is much more popular abroad than it is here in the US of A, so I took the opportunity to learn a few things about the game. At first, I was awful. I couldn’t tell the difference between a back spin and a front spin, much less how to actually hit a ball with any kind of spin on it. But after a great deal of practice (and patience by my “coaches”), I started to learn the nuances of the game. Before long, I was hitting the ball with precision and accuracy and winning more games than I lost.

I wasn’t sure if I still retained any of this skill. If I had, I felt that I would have little problem dispatching Adam or Craig. So I made the off-hand remark that while either could beat me at Vs. System (as they both had before), I thought I could take them at ping pong. Adam kind of chuckled at this and took my challenge.

Sadly, I found out that playing ping pong is not like riding a bike. I played horribly! Worse yet, I discovered that Adam was slow-rolling when he played Craig, and that he was actually a much better ping pong player than he had first appeared. The end result was that Mr. Prosak utterly thrashed me, 15-7. I guess the only way I’ll ever get the best of the Pro Circuit Champ is to challenge him to balancing a general ledger, or some other accounting-related task. It would be just my luck that he turns out to be a better accountant than me, too!

A Card in the Hand is Worth Two in the KO’d Pile

After my humiliating defeat at the hands of the PC Champ, I took the opportunity to play a friendly game against Craig Edwards. We didn’t keep score, as we thought it might have been a bad omen; Craig was in the finals of the $10K! Sure enough, our avoidance of point totals and silly things like who won or lost turned out to be a good idea. Craig walked into the tournament finals after our forty-five-minute ping pong match and dispatched Will Raiman in two straight games. Will’s deck was good. So good, in fact, that I am sure that the only reason Craig won was the good luck brought on by our ping pong match.  Okay . . . maybe Craig’s drafting and play skill had something to do with his win.

Craig’s $10K-winning deck was a vicious concoction of Future Foes and Teen Titans with a particular emphasis on Future Foes discard effects. Although I had to leave to catch my flight, I did read the match coverage of the finals. One exchange between the two players particularly caught my attention:

Cosmic King attacked Dark Thanagarian, and Craig made use of his ability. With the ability on the chain, Will removed Spark’s counter to flip Many Worlds, and then replaced it to draw a card. He discarded to counter the King’s ability, and Craig played Tempus Fugit. Will ditched another card. Craig had yet another trick in the form of a power-up. Will had nothing to answer this and simply reinforced.

This attack was emblematic of the tricks that Craig displayed throughout his Top 8 matches with his Future Foes deck. With such a large number of discard effects, he was able to force his opponents to drain their hands to keep up with him. With enough of these hand-draining battles, Craig was able to win the wars against his opponents convincingly.

Hand Control: A New Perspective

The Future Foes discard theme got me thinking about the possibility of hand control decks in Vs. System. In other TCGs, hand advantage is a critical component of any successful deck. Take a game like Yu-Gi-Oh! as an example. There are numerous cards, like Don Zaloog and Spirit Reaper, whose sole purpose is to drain your opponent’s hand. Without a hand, an opponent has fewer options with which to fight back, thus giving you an inherent advantage in the game.

In Vs. System, though, hand control has not found a lot of success. There are probably a number of reasons for this, such as the mechanic of drawing two cards each turn, being able to utilize cards in your resource row, and the ease of recursion. In essence, hand advantage is nowhere near as critical in Vs. System as in other TCGs because it is nearly impossible to eliminate a significant number of in-game options. The one deck that found success with hand control—TDC’s infamous Ivy League deck from PC: San Francisco—was actually too abusive and resulted in the banning of Justice League of Arkham. I suppose the bottom line is that using hand control as a tool to eliminate opposing options to the degree that it becomes totally effective is bad for the balance of our game.

Obviously, UDE had no intention of allowing something like Ivy League to happen again, so they balanced the power of the discard effects available to the Future Foes. What made Justice League of Arkham so debilitating was that it a required discard whenever it was played. If a clever player flipped the Team-Up during the build phase enough times, an opponent would not have any cards to play for that turn. In contrast, the Future Foes have two distinct types of discard effects: optional discard effects for outside of the combat phase (like Lightning Lord) and combat-phase only discard effects (like Computo). This serves to balance the discard effects of the Future Foes—they can be annoying, but certainly not abusive.

So, what is it about the Future Foes that makes them special? If their discard effects aren’t abusive, then there doesn’t seem to be any point to playing the hand control theme. Here’s where Mr. Ben Seck and UDE R&D got clever! As we have discussed, other TCGs use hand disruption to control their opponent’s options. But we’ve also said that having that level of control in Vs. System is too abusive. Where did TBS and UDE find the happy medium? By giving Future Foes significant bonuses based on the hand control theme. Take a character like Cosmic King. Your opponent is under no requirement to discard for Cosmic King’s payment power; however, if his payment power does resolve successfully, then Cosmic King will usually be bigger than any opposing 3-drop and big enough to stun most opposing 4-drops. In essence, if your opponents want to keep their cards, then they’re going to pay a different price.

Dipping Back into the Binder for Some of those Forgotten Rares

One unique aspect of the Future Foes is that they are the first team to have a consolidated discard theme. There have been other teams with a smattering of discard-based effects—X-Men, Marvel Knights, and Arkham Inmates—but none of these teams really had enough cards to support a full discard deck.

This opens up some possibilities for cards that have been forgotten over the course of time. In a Future Foes build, these cards could be absolutely devastating. Consider the TDC Stall deck that found so much success at PC: L.A. 2006. Aside from its ability to supplement the player’s hand, one of the key traits of the deck was a heavy emphasis on locations. Imagine now how effective a card like Concrete Jungle would be: in order to get their locations face up once more, opposing players would likely have to discard their entire hand.

Another fun card for the discard theme is Mystic Chain. This equipment card was the focus of my column nearly a year ago. The key to this card is that it creates a two-card swing when you deal breakthrough—your opponent loses one and you gain one. Even with just two or three successful attacks with Mystic Chain, it can create such an overwhelming advantage that your opponent may not have any chance of recovering.

But the card that caught my eye above all others is Museum Heist. I daresay that this may be the perfect card for the Future Foes theme. As we said earlier, the Future Foes make a trade on getting bonuses if opponents fail to discard. In that respect, Museum Heist fits the theme to a tee, netting us two cards when our opponent doesn’t discard. In the past, an opponent would usually have taken the single card hit to prevent our hand acceleration. But with the bag of goodies that the Future Foes have in store, our opponents may just want to keep their cards to themselves. In any case, it’s a win-win situation for us!

Catwoman has been dangling from the ceiling long enough. It’s time for the Future Foes to join her in a Museum Heist—one that is sure to net us a pretty assortment of cards while leaving all of our opponents’ treasures in the KO’d pile.

The Build

Four copies of Museum Heist will join the build, along with our other “forgotten treasures”—three copies of Concrete Jungle and four copies of Mystic Chain. By themselves, these cards are already a powerful discard force. Once we place them in the Future Foes setting, though, we won’t have any problem forcing our opponents to discard their hands.

Along with our generic discard effects, we have some team-specific plot twists. Our first (and probably most obvious) choice is Chain Lightning. While the -0/-2 conferred by Chain Lightning is certainly reasonable, it is the second part of the effect that we are most interested in. Barring a discard on our opponent’s part, Chain Lightning takes away an additional -0/-2 from an opposing attacker or defender. This extra -0/-2 may not seem like much, but it is far more formidable than it first appears. Consider that in the mid- to late curve of most decks, the difference between the ATK of lower drops and the DEF of higher drops is 3 points. In this regard, stunning up the curve requires a 3-point ATK boost. This is where the “difficult decision” comes into play. Without a discard, Chain Lightning is a large enough pump to stun up the curve. So, our opponents will often be presented with the tough choice of taking the stun or discarding to possibly avoid it. If we can parlay a discard into a stun (maybe with another copy of Chain Lightning), then we have the best of all possible worlds for us.

Now let’s take a look at a card that can translate hand advantage into board control. Most off-curve decks like Faces of Evil and Kree press tend to drain their players’ hands from the multiple cards played each turn. In fact, these decks often go into their kill turn with no cards in hand. This makes a card like Sorcerous Suppression amazing. When our opponent has no cards in hand, Sorcerous Suppression is a free exhaust of a character for us. Even in the situation where an opponent has a card or two left in hand, Sorcerous Suppression creates another tough choice for our opponent by forcibly trading a card in hand to keep a character ready. If we force the discard of an ATK pump, it can often be a trade in our favor.

Finally, let’s look at Altered History. Recovery effects are never bad, and this one is amazing in our build. In combat oriented decks, the major goal of any build is to create favorable character trades. Attacking up the curve can be a powerful strategy, as it creates a later opportunity to attack down the curve, often without a stunback. Recovery effects can also sway combat by effectively giving a player an “extra character,” so to speak. In situations where an opponent is working to gain board advantage, keeping an extra character in play can impede chances for an opponent to advance that goal. In almost every situation, an opponent would prefer to discard than to allow us to recover. But in situations like the aforementioned off-curve decks, this could very well not be an option. In essence, there is a high likelihood that Altered History is simply a free recovery for us.

Our plot twists are not going to be limited just to discard effects. We also need to consider our character search options. Unfortunately, the Future Foes do not have a character search card that relates to the discard theme; it would be pretty cool if they did. But the Future Foes do have Fatal Five Hundred. Unlike other character search cards, this one requires a bit of planning. With several hidden characters in the Future Foes, we will often have the chance to attack an opponent for breakthrough; we can transform that into a character search for us. It’s conditional, but still quite good nonetheless. Also, we’ll toss in a couple copies of the new money rare on the block, Mobilize. Since we’re going to be playing a mono-team deck, I thought it would be fun to give Mobilize a spin. Much like Enemy of My Enemy, Mobilize has the potential to change the Vs. System metagame. For our deck, it’s simply another way to ensure that we hit our optimal drops.

For anyone who has enjoyed a significant amount of Legion of Super Heroes Sealed Pack play, our character choices will seem rather apparent. Still, it wouldn’t be Breaking Ground if we didn’t discuss these choices thoroughly. Our 1-drop is easily one of the most important cards in our deck. The Demon’s Head is indeed back, and he’s gone into politics. Ra’s al Ghul ◊ Leland McCauley has a great deal going for him. First and foremost, he’s a 1-drop with an alternate recruit cost. This means that even if we fail to find him on the first turn, he will still be useful in later turns. Secondly, he has a relevant effect for our deck. Considering that we already have some breakthrough-based effects (Fatal Five Hundred and Mystic Chain), we can benefit from a card that can eliminate reinforcement options. Of course, our opponent could discard to counter Ra’s al Ghul. But this still favors us, as forced discards give us more opportunities in later turns. Finally, Ra’s has concealed. This makes him the perfect character to use with Museum Heist. Considering that Ra’s al Ghul has a “return to hand” effect, our opponent won’t usually waste an attack or stun effect (like Mikado and Mosha) on him. In essence, he will usually be around and ready at the start of the recovery phase. More cards for us!

Moving on to our 2-drops, we’re going to start off our representation from the Legion of Super Villains with Saturn Queen. With flight and concealed, Saturn Queen is a respectable 2-drop regardless of effects. In later turns, though, she has a backup payment power that can put our opponents in a pickle. Obviously, our opponents will always want to ready their characters to take full advantage of turns when they control the initiative. Saturn Queen forces a difficult trade for our opponents by forcing a discard if our opponent wishes to ready a stunned character. Once again, tough choices. Our other 2-drop doesn’t present difficult decisions for our opponent, just a very large character. Stat-wise, Tarik the Mute is the biggest 2-drop in Vs. System. With the ATK and DEF of many 4-drops, Tarik could easily be a tough force for our opponents to deal with. He does come with the drawback that his stats drop for every card in our opponent’s hand, though. Given an average hand size of four cards, this puts Tarik at a respectable 3/3, but with our deck Tarik can become much, much bigger with little effort. Often, our opponents will have to pitch so many cards for our discard effects that they won’t be able to keep Tarik under control. And against a deck that naturally maintains few cards in hand (like Squadron Supreme), Tarik is a trump card.

At 3, Cosmic King is good. Really good. Our 3-drop is already a good-sized 5/4 with concealed. As long as we maintain his cosmic counter, though, he’ll either become a 7/6 or force our opponent to discard. Either way, we win. Still, there’s probably another character that we’d rather have on turn 3. With the current prevalence of search effects in Vs. System, Time Trapper is highly sought after. He starts with very good stats at 5/5. But that’s only the beginning for our 3-drop, as he makes investments in search effects cost so much more! Gone are the days where Kyle Rayner, Last Green Lantern nets a player a free card; now it’s a card-for-card trade. Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose and Ahmed Samsarra are now fair trades, as our opponents have to sacrifice hand advantage to search out their precious locations (and then even more cards once we flip Concrete Jungle . . . HA HA HA HA HA!). Finally, Enemy of My Enemy becomes a huge investment, requiring two discards (not to mention the copy of Enemy of My Enemy itself). When we’re forcing our opponents into three-for-one trades, it won’t be long until they have nothing left to discard.

If Time Trapper has taken care of business on turn 3, we should be sitting quite pretty on turn 4. Our primary character will be Lightning Lord. Once again, we’ll play a card that forces our opponents into an uncomfortable position: either they discard one of the (hopefully) few cards remaining in their hands, or they have to deal with a 9/9 4-drop. Not a pretty picture. Of course, Starfinger has the potential to be just as nasty. Starfinger is effectively the same size as Lightning Lord (with the two +1/+1 counters, of course). In addition, we will always get those impressive stats from him. He does have a slight drawback in that he allows our opponents to get an extra character in play, but if we’ve done our job before turn 4, this shouldn’t be an issue—our opponent won’t have a character in hand to bring out for Starfinger’s effect. In any case, he will be a large guy on our side of the board that gives us more possibilities for draining cards from our opponent’s hand.

Turn 5 is all about Computo. Truth be told, the Future Foes have some very good 5-drops in Ra’s al Ghul, Engine of Change and Atrophos, but we’re going for all-out hand advantage. Much like Mystic Chain, Computo can translate into a two-card advantage for us. With the number of cards in our opponent’s hand being so relevant to the strength of our deck, this is too good a character card for us not to play. Just imagine the frenzy we could create if we dropped a Mystic Chain on Computo. Extreme hand advantage, FTW!

Our 6-drop has flight, range, and invulnerability. Okay . . . so his invulnerability is conditional. Still, by the time we reach turn 6, we should have whittled our opponent’s hand away enough to ensure that Ol-Vir is always invulnerable. In the late game, a large part of the damage that players take is from their bigger drops stunning. We can’t necessarily keep our 6-drop from stunning, but we should be able to keep it from hurting so much.

Finally, at 7, we have Shrinking Violet ◊ Emerald Empress. The end result of all of our hard work forcing our opponents to discard their hands should be an unmatched 7-drop. At 15/17, Shrinking Violet is already pretty big for her cost. But once we force our opponent to ditch that final card, Shrinking Violet leaps to 19 ATK and gains flight. At this size, our 7-drop is a match for most 8-drops. And considering that our opponents won’t have any cards in hand, it’s highly probable that they won’t hit their 8-drops anyway!

Much like my good friend Strong Bad, we are ready to pursue our own jumble caper. Let’s see what we can heist with our completed Future Foes build:

The Cheat is Not Dead


4 Ra’s al Ghul ◊ LMcCauley

4 Saturn Queen, LoSV

4 Tarik the Mute, LoSV

2 Cosmic King, LoSV

4 Time Trapper, TManipulator

4 Lightning Lord, LoSV

1 Starfinger, Char Burrane

4 Computo, Rogue Program

3 Ol-Vir, LoSV

2 Shrinking Violet, Emerald Vi

3 Altered History

4 Chain Lightning

3 Concrete Jungle

4 Fatal Five Hundred

2 Mobilize

4 Museum Heist

4 Sorcerous Suppression

4 Mystic Chain

The deck will undoubtedly run best with the odd initiatives. This gives you a chance to get Time Trapper into play on turn 3 before your opponent can set up with search effects (like Enemy of My Enemy, for example). With a few discard tricks in the early turns, this also allows you to bring out Lightning Lord or Starfinger on turn 4 after your opponent has recruited. With any luck, your opponent won’t have a card to discard for your 4-drop’s effect, and you’ll gain a massive character. On turn 5, you should be able to put the game out of reach with Computo (hopefully equipped with a Mystic Chain).

The deck should stay consistent with six search cards and several draw and cycling effects. With a mulligan for a mid-game curve (counting character searchers as drops), you should have little problem hitting your drops. You do not want to mulligan away too many 2-drops, though, as they are fairly critical to have in play on turn 2 (so that you can use either Fatal Five Hundred or Mobilize to search out your all-important 3-drop).

The key to this deck is to force your opponent into difficult decisions when it comes to discarding. Cards like Sorcerous Suppression and Altered History can literally shift the balance of games, but only if played at the appropriate time. If your opponents are playing more aggressive decks, then wait until they commit most of the cards in their hand before playing yours. Against a more control oriented deck, it may be more important to force cards out of an opponent’s hand to prevent a strong late game.

And so ends the last Breaking Ground of 2006. Over the next couple of weeks, Metagame.com is giving the writers some time off for the holidays. In the meantime, you’ll be entertained by some of the writers’ past favorites. I have a couple of fun articles picked out for your amusement.  Enjoy the holidays, and I’ll see you again in 2007!

Multiple Man <> Jamie Madrox  (01/23/07)

Welcome to the first Breaking Ground of 2007! The Metagame.com writing team has been on a much-needed hiatus over the holidays. While we all enjoy bringing you some of the best Vs. System articles on the internet, we occasionally need a break from our writing deadlines. Suffice to say, we are rested and ready to bring you a whole new year of Vs. System entertainment.

This week is a foray into classic Marvel Vs. System. When I received the writing assignment from my boss (the venerable Toby Wachter), I was a bit confused as to what this entailed. He explained that we could explore beyond the first few Marvel sets, but we should focus on cards and themes from Marvel Origins and Web of Spider-Man. Fair enough. Our topic for our exploration of classic Marvel is . . . my father.

Yeah, I know . . . it makes no sense. But bear with me for a moment.

My father is a very wise man. I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent guy, but anytime I need to be intellectually humbled, all I need to do is get into a philosophical argument with my dad. Recently, we got into a rather heated discussion regarding the future. While I am a fairly staunch conservative, I recognize the need for change as time goes by. My father, however, is about as unbending as an old oak tree. My conservative posture is nothing compared to his. Whoever said “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” must have known my dad pretty well.

Back to the discussion. I unleashed an arsenal of arguments why change is so critical and why we must all adapt to our environments. My father had an equally impressive series of retorts regarding the benefits of “staying the course.” In response to his arguments of the benefits of remaining constant, I cleverly replied, “Dad, even you should know that the only thing constant is change.”  With that, I figured that I had trumped any response that he could give.

My old dad, however, is cleverer than I give him credit for. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips, he looked at me and said, “Son, even you should know that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Ooh . . . point to the old man!

BigSpooky’s Pa and Classic Marvel Vs. System

You may all be wondering what my father has to do with classic Marvel Vs. System. Looking back to my father’s words, I realized one thing: with respect to Vs. System, the more things change, the more they really do stay the same. Look at the most recent Pro Circuit. Three of the decks that performed well at Pro Circuit Los Angeles were Reservist New Brotherhood, Crisis Doom, and TDC Stall. All three decks were impressive and innovative, but what really stands out about them is the fact that they are evolutions of successful, classic Marvel Vs. System decks.

Reservist New Brotherhood utilizes the power of the reservist mechanic to control the movement of cards in the player’s resource row. Since reservist character cards can be recruited from the resource row, effects that replace cards in the resource row are effectively free card draws. Putting this into the framework of The New Brotherhood engine, rush players now have a much more reliable way of getting The New Brotherhood into play, and they have an easier time staying at the four resource threshold.

Crisis Doom is a powerful control build that uses Crisis on Infinite Earths to enable a splash of powerful off-team characters that support the various versions of Dr. Doom. Enemy of My Enemy allows for effective search of the character cards in the deck. But before we had Crisis on Infinite Earths or Enemy of My Enemy, we had Common Enemy. This team-up card enabled a powerful fusion of the Doom control framework with the strength of the Fantastic Four. With Signal Flare, team Doom got a reliable character search card. Common Enemy’s balance and strength placed four players in the Top 8 of the inaugural Pro Circuit.

Finally, TDC Stall is quite possibly the most effective board control deck that Vs. System has seen to date. As it has answers for both rush and control decks, most other decks will have a difficult time breaking through the stall. Of course, the key card to the stall is the infamous Puppet Master. This innocent looking 2-drop boasts a power to dominate boards that has no equal, and it has long been an important piece of stall decks in Vs. System. One of the best-known decks to abuse Puppet Master is the predecessor to the TDC Stall, TOGIT’s X-Stall. While the cards may have changed, the goal of the stall deck has not: delay the game until the later turns where the powerful late game cards can take control.

Considering the legacy of revised Marvel Vs. System classics, I decided that it might be fun to retool an old Marvel Vs. System favorite, so I channeled the spirit of Rian Fike and came up with the answer—Wild Vomit.

Multiple Reasons to Love the Purple Robots

Unless you’ve only recently started playing Vs. System, you are probably already familiar with Wild Vomit. This deck was one of the original favorites out of Marvel Origins. The many copies of Wild Sentinel in the deck serve to make each copy of Sentinel Mark IV quite large. With global board pumps and cards like Underground Sentinel Base that allow players to bring extra characters into play for free, Wild Vomit can bring out a swarm of big attackers before an opponent can even get set.

One major hindrance to this cause, though, is the issue of hand size. Trying to recruit multiple characters each turn can be difficult when you are limited to two cards each turn. How does Wild Vomit get around this problem? By using the equally infamous “Mulletman,” Longshot, Rebel Freedom Fighter! Since two-thirds of the deck is comprised of only two different cards, Longshot can net the player a few extra cards almost every turn. This solves the hand size issue and usually gives the Sentinels player a few extra cards in the bargain.

This simple, yet remarkably powerful engine made Wild Vomit a favorite of TCG pros in the early days of Vs. System. The transition to Vs. System was made easier by a deck with a limited number of characters and mechanics. Despite this simplicity, though, Wild Vomit was capable of competing with any deck in the metagame.

Wild Vomit did have a few underlying problems, however. First and foremost, the deck was completely reliant on drawing into Longshot. Even with a mulligan, there is only a 54% chance of hitting the non-mutant X-Man in the first ten cards. Without Longshot, the deck tends to fold rather quickly through hand size issues.

Secondly, Wild Vomit suffers greatly against heavy disruption. Against combat-based decks like The New Brotherhood, Wild Vomit can hold its own and often emerge victorious. Against a deck like Common Enemy, however, Wild Vomit could fold rather quickly to a single copy of Reign of Terror or Flame Trap. Anything that could impair Wild Vomit’s board presence tended to dominate the swarm deck.

As Vs. System grew, so did the breadth and complexity of the decks. Players interested in swarms were given more versatile and consistent options with decks like Faces of Evil and Kree. In addition, the pool of disruption effects expanded. Cards like Roy Harper ◊ Speedy could put the brakes on Wild Vomit before it even got started by KO’ing Longshot early. As the card pool grew, Wild Vomit faded somewhat into the annals of Vs. System lore.

Wild Redux

With this new writing assignment, I began to consider the Wild Vomit deck of old. One major problem that could be solved was the consistency of hitting Longshot. With the introduction of generic search cards like Enemy of My Enemy, Mulletman can be found quite easily by turn 3. Although the deck prefers to have Longshot in play from the first turn, having options to get him into play even as late as turn 3 are certainly welcome.

Still, the issue of disruption was one for consideration. Wild Vomit would have a very difficult time standing up to cards like Mikado and Mosha that can snipe Wild Sentinels outside of combat. Considering that the power of the Sentinel Mark IV is predicated on having other non-stunned characters in play, this makes success a difficult proposition.

When pondering this dilemma, I stumbled across another of Rian Fike’s true loves: Multiple Man ◊ Jamie Madrox. Talk about board advantage . . . Multiple Man provides a swarm effect that no other card in Vs. System can even come close to matching. Much like Mr. Madrox in the comics, Multiple Man in Vs. System can literally multiply before your eyes.

Multiple Man is a strong response to effects that would stun small characters. Cards like Flame Trap and Mikado and Mosha can be effectively negated with Multiple Man, or can even become a source of board advantage if a player has enough copies of Multiple Man in his hand. Given the hand advantage that the Longshot engine provides, Multiple Man seems like a perfect fit for a retooling of Wild Vomit.

From a flavor perspective, it may seem odd for the X-Men and their fellow mutants to be providing help to the mutant hunters. From a gameplay perspective, however, Longshot and Multiple Man are the perfect recruits to the Sentinel ranks. Let’s see what Multiple Man can add to the classic build of Wild Vomit.

The Build

Talk about short build discussions . . . there’re only eight different cards in the deck! Obviously, we’ll need a healthy compliment of Multiple Man <> Jamie Madrox—24 copies should do. For our second “Mulletman target,” we have 14 copies of Sentinel Mark IV. Much like a one-two punch, Multiple Man is the setup swing, while Sentinel Mark IV is the knockout punch. Of course, we can’t leave Longshot, Rebel Freedom Fighter out of the mix. If we want to build up our hand, we need to have Longshot in play to gain us extra cards.

Our final character is a splash card in honor of the lover of “Shiny Purple” himself, Rian Fike. Rian’s build of Wild Vomit from PC: Indy 2004 was exceptional because it contained four copies of Senator Kelly for extra burn damage. Since we’ll have search available to our build, we’re going to cut back to two copies of Senator Kelly. The anti-mutant advocate is a great play for us in the final turn of the game to push through extra burn damage.

Our lone location is Underground Sentinel Base. Consider the recent history of cards that break the resource rule: Kree decks have become more and more prominent in Silver Age tournaments around the globe, Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Optimistic Youth was an integral part of several of the Top 8 decks at the last Pro Circuit,  and, of course, the ban hammer was recently brought down hard on Dr. Light, Master of Holograms. All of these are strong examples of why free characters are so good, but one of the first and best ways to get a free character in play was Underground Sentinel Base. The exchange created by this card is fairly basic: a player sacrifices his resources for board advantage. In the early turns of the game, this is probably not a good idea. However, Underground Sentinel Base has a threshold cost of 5, so we won’t ever be using it before our fifth turn. Considering that our aim would be to win on turn 5 or 6, Underground Sentinel Base comes into play at just about the right time.

We’ve already talked a bit about our first plot twist. To make our deck competitive for the current environment, we need to have a reliable method of search to find Longshot. Thus, we’re going to be playing four copies of Enemy of My Enemy.* If you look at the text of Enemy of My Enemy, you’ll see that you can search for any affiliated character that doesn’t share a team affiliation with a character that you discard. Hence, if we were to discard a copy of Multiple Man (who has no printed affiliation), we can search for any affiliated character in our deck, which allows for a great deal of versatility. We can use Enemy of My Enemy to improve our chances of hitting Longshot by turn 3. In the late game, we can find copies of Senator Kelly to burn our opponent for some significant damage.

One of the standards of the Wild Vomit decks of old was Combat Protocols. This card is a very potent global attack pump for Sentinel characters, even though it is dependent on our opponent’s characters sharing a single team affiliation (which is certainly not a good proposition in the current Golden Age metagame). Still, Combat Protocols is a decent attack pump even if used for a single attack. Beyond that, there is always the potential that other characters we control may benefit from Combat Protocols. If we take the view that Combat Protocols is an attack pump that can only get better for us based on the number of characters that share a team affiliation on our opponent’s side of the board, then it’s a win-win proposition for us.

Finally, we’re going to play four copies of Search and Destroy. I have always thought that this card was one of the most powerful plot twists in the game. In our deck, it might as well read, “Pay 1 endurance à Stun target character with a cost of 3 or less. You may put up to two Army characters with a cost of 1 or less into play.”  In essence, Multiple Man + Search and Destroy = BROKEN! Sure, we usually won’t be able to use Search and Destroy until turn 4, when we get our first copy of Sentinel Mark IV into play (thereby giving our Multiple Men the Sentinel team affiliation), but the sacrifice of a replaceable 1-drop to stun an opposing 3-drop is absolutely amazing. With a few copies of Search and Destroy on turns 4 and 5, we can potentially wreck our opponent’s board beyond repair.

That does it for our wild update. Let’s check out our revisions on the Sentinel classic:

Multiple Vomit

4   Longshot, RFF

24 Multiple Man ◊ Jamie Madrox

2   Senator Kelly, AMA

14 Sentinel Mark IV, Army

4 Combat Protocols

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Search and Destroy

4 Underground Sentinel Base

The goal of the deck is to swarm the board with enough characters to end the game on turn 5 or 6. Odd initiatives are probably preferred, but the deck can operate well on either. Obviously, the mulligan is for Longshot. Enemy of My Enemy is pretty much a backup to find Mulletman if you fail to draw into him by turn 3.

That concludes the first of what will (hopefully) be many fun issues of Breaking Ground in 2007. Enjoy Classic Marvel Vs. System week. I’ll be back on Metagame.com soon with a preview from the upcoming Marvel Team-Up set.

*Since this was a classic Marvel Vs. System build, I tried to make sure that all of the cards in the deck were from Marvel sets. However, it bears mentioning that our primary search targets are going to be Longshot and Senator Kelly. Since we will usually be discarding Multiple Man for the search effect, we could replace Enemy of My Enemy with Vicarious Living in this build. Both cards serve essentially the same function in this deck, but Vicarious Living might be a better option for players out there who don’t have access to four copies of Enemy of My Enemy.

Ocean Master, Son of Atlan  (02/20/07)

Normally, I am not one for “tooting my own horn,” but today I plan on trumpeting like Gabriel at the Pearly Gates.

First off, I have finally succeeded in assigning my good friend and teammate Shane Wiggans a nickname that will follow him. If you read my Marvel Team-Up preview article for Devil-Slayer a few weeks back, then you may recall that I dubbed Vs. System’s favorite lawyer with the moniker of “Wiggy.” Since then, I have seen several people refer to Shane by his new pseudonym. I suppose that it’s mostly due to the irony that someone with no hair would have a nickname like “Wiggy.” Nevertheless, it warms the cockles of my heart to see that I can find new and inventive ways to give Mr. Wiggans all kinds of grief.

Secondly, I think that I may have written the funniest message board post on any message board ever. For those of you who frequent VsRealms, you may recall a thread entitled “Who Is Kergillian?” Of course, Kergillian is our resident expert on comic book lore and a frequent Easter Egg in Vs. System cards (see Funky’s Big Rat Code and Sewer System). Rather than explain the above, I decided to give a fictionalized account of Kergy’s past. In the process, I managed to ridicule crayons, pleather handbags, Canada, and numerous Metagame.com writers (including Shane Wiggans . . . again).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I had an epiphany regarding one of my pet decks. Last December, I shared with you my take on Ryan “WalterKovacs” Alarie’s deck destruction concept that used Suicide multiple times to force an opponent to send many, many cards to his or her KO’d pile. In multi-player, my build was just plain amazing, as I could effectively deck an entire table of players by turn 6 or 7. I loved the deck concept so much that I decided to start working on a version of the deck that was suitable for one-on-one play.

Brainstorming with BigSpooky

When I first started looking at ways to make the deck destruction deck (henceforth referred to as “DDD”—not to be confused with the Carlos Mencia gag) viable in one-on-one play, I had to reevaluate the engine that makes the discard loop possible. Originally, I would use Manhunter Giant / Suicide many times in a row to force all of my character cards into the KO’d pile. After that, I was free to use Strength of the Grave to return the cards to my deck. Unfortunately, this combo didn’t translate well into one-on-one play. Sure, I could continue to use the Manhunter Giant / Suicide combo to put cards into my KO’d pile, but honestly—what would be the point? Other than getting an extra defensive boost from Strength of the Grave, the loop would really serve no purpose.

In his original post (which I summarized in my article), Ryan mentioned that Skinner and Mark Shaw were both possibilities for making use of all the extra cards in your hand. Therefore, I tried both of them out. While they were both decent, neither one was exceptional. I figured that for all the work the deck put into running its opponent out of cards, there needed to be a greater payoff.

I started to look outside the box for options. I did a pretty lengthy series of searches using Dylan “DocX” Northrup’s Vs. System card search engine (http://www.io.com/~docx/vs/search.php). My initial inclination was to see if there was a card that had an effect along the lines of “Discard a card >>> Gain 1 endurance,” as endurance loss is substantial in the early turns with this deck. To my knowledge, no such card existed, and Dylan’s search engine confirmed this sad fact. Next, I looked for other effective ways to utilize excessive cards in hand. Initially, Martian Manhunter, Manhunter from Mars and Black Adam, Lord of Kahndaq seemed like good candidates; however, their 8-drop status seemed to keep them out of contention (especially when I could simply recruit The Joker, Emperor Joker on turn 8 and automatically win the game).

Then I looked at a lower-cost alternative: Bastion. The Sentinel MVP seemed to have quite a bit going for him. With a team-up, Bastion could make every one of my character cards effective and certainly enable the loop with Strength of the Grave. Still, this seemed a bit too prohibitive, as Bastion absolutely had to have a team-up to work. In addition, Bastion did nothing to utilize the remaining cards in hand (like the search cards that suddenly became dead once I had my entire deck in my hand thanks to The Fall of Oa).

To be fair, the next step probably should have been an automatic one, but it actually took me a few days to stumble across the Injustice Gang version of Bastion: Ocean Master. Now this was the card that I was looking for. He does everything that Bastion would do for the deck, only better. The stat boost that Ocean Master provides is permanent, in the form of +1/+1 counters. Also, Ocean Master can use any card in hand as a discard. (So long, extra copies of UN Building!) Most importantly, Ocean Master doesn’t need a team-up to be effective in the deck. I was already playing Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose in the build, so a team-up with Injustice Gang would be pretty simple.

I began testing with various builds of the deck to determine Ocean Master’s effectiveness. I found that when I was able to deck out my opponent and bring Ocean Master into play, the game was over. It didn’t matter how many characters or attack pumps my opponents had; they could not take down Ocean Master.* As a result, I ended up taking Emperor Joker completely out. Since the games ended on turn 6 or 7 at the latest, Emperor Joker was no longer necessary as a win condition. As a side benefit, the removal of Emperor Joker made the deck Sliver Age legal.**

It’s time for me to reveal to you my crazy concoction, the DDD. Fueled by the power of the brother of an Atlantean King, this unassuming deck can put your opponent’s entire deck into his or her KO’d pile, and then put giants on your side of the board that no opponent will ever be able to beat down.

The Build

At 1, we have Manhunter Clone showing up four times. I can’t say enough about this little guy, as he is just plain amazing in this deck. It’s extremely tempting to make him a mulligan condition, as he puts so many cards in the KO’d pile all by himself. His evasion is also useful, as we can ensure he will stick around for later turns by ducking out of the way whenever threatened. Also at 1, we have the highly underrated Orb, Drake Shannon. When I was searching for Underworld 1-drops to include in the deck, I discovered how great this guy could be. Because he has concealed, Orb will usually stick around for as long as you need him. But what really makes Orb good in the deck is his discard payment power. While we only have a few characters with concealed in the deck, we have enough to make Orb’s effect relevant. Just getting to see an additional one or two cards a game can make a huge difference in setting up a highly complex strategy. In addition, there is a certain character with concealed—Deadshot, Dead Aim—that we prefer to have in the KO’d pile. All in all, Orb is a highly effective splash in our build.

Speaking of Deadshot, Dead Aim, he is a definite “four-of” in our build. He has nice synergy with several of the cards in our deck, and he really shines as a free Secret Society character who can be KO’d multiple times in a turn for Manhunter Giant’s effect. His main reason for inclusion, though, is that he allows us to put Scandal to good use. Another Secret Society 2-drop that can certainly aid us is James Jesse ◊ Trickster. If Manhunter Clone is good for our deck, then Trickster is great. Trickster effectively turns every character on our side of the board into a way to deplete our opponent’s deck. If we are lucky enough to hit Manhunter Clone and Trickster on our first two turns, then we should have little trouble decking our opponents out by turn 6. With Manhunter Clone double-evading, these two can deplete our opponent’s deck by five cards a turn just by themselves. Throw in a copy of The Fall of Oa, and that number jumps to seven cards a turn!

Our final 2-drop needs little introduction. Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose is one of the lynchpin cards in several successful competitive decks. In our deck, her role is not nearly as significant, as we are only going to be playing two different locations. What, then, is the reason for her inclusion? For starters, one of our locations is absolutely critical to have every game, so we need her as insurance to find that location. In addition, Ivy is an Injustice Gang character (as stated earlier), so she can enable some of our later turns. Finally, she’s a 3/3 2-drop, which certainly ain’t shabby!

Things really start changing at 3. You should recall that one of the key cards to the multi-player version of the DDD utilized Suicide to great effect—so much so that he was the featured card for the article. After testing with him in the one-on-one build, I wasn’t very satisfied with the results I was getting. Usually, I would only get to return him to play once per game using his effect. Since this only resulted in an additional six cards from my opponent’s deck during a game, I thought I might be able to put the 3-drop spot to better use. After much contemplation, I went back to an old deck destruction standby: Lex Luthor, Nefarious Philanthropist. I have featured this version of Lex in a number of my articles. I believe him to be woefully underappreciated, as he has an effect with very few peers when it comes to plot twist disruption. In addition, Lex gives us a lot more than just disruption. His forced draw effect is just as effective at whittling a deck down as any deck depletion effect. Also, having another early Injustice Gang character will enable a few different plot twists that might be better suited for one-on-one play.

As a precautionary play on turn 3, we have a single copy of Skinner. If we ever reach turn 6 and we are forced to underdrop a few characters to deplete the remainder of our opponent’s deck, Skinner can be a temporary outlet for putting cards into the KO’d pile. He gets a nice stat boost for every card we pitch, so it’s certainly feasible to win games without Ocean Master in play.

As with the multi-player build, we will be taking turn 4 to underdrop some characters for additional setup. If we missed some of our important early drops, this is a good time for us to get them into play so that we can get the deck destruction engine up and running at full force.

At 5, we have the king of deck destruction, Manhunter Giant. Alongside The Fall of Oa and the other deck depletion effects we have at our disposal, Manhunter Giant can pretty much assure an opposing deck-out on turn 6. With Deadshot in play, we can deplete a significant number of cards at a time. During the build phase, we exhaust Deadshot to The Fall of Oa, then KO him for Manhunter Giant’s effect. We then exhaust Lex Luthor to bring Deadshot back into play and repeat. Then we exhaust Manhunter Giant for another go-round. With just a few cards in play, we can hit our opponent’s deck for nine cards without losing any board presence.

Our other 5-drop is not in the deck so much as a turn 5 play, but rather as a second finisher. When we manage to completely deck out our opponent, he or she should have plenty of character cards in the KO’d pile. This is the kind of meal that is fit for Mephisto, Soulstealer. While his initial stats are not at all grand, he can become an absolute behemoth once he “steals the souls” of opposing characters. After an opponent is decked out, his or her KO’d pile will have, on average, about 20 character cards. Thus, our hidden 5-drop will average 25 ATK. While this is not quite as overwhelming as our 6-drop, it is still big enough to take down pretty much any other character in the game.

We’ve already discussed the possibilities with Ocean Master, Son of Atlan at 6 in some detail. Our other 6-drop is, of course, Scandal. With strong ongoing plot twists in our deck like The Fall of Oa and Funky’s Big Rat Code, Scandal is a powerful search card that can be the difference between our deck’s success and failure. Since Deadshot is such a prominent part of the deck, we should rarely have a problem using Scandal to search out two or three ongoing plot twists a game.

Onward to plot twists. First, we need to identify the relevant plot twists in our deck engine. Obviously, one of the key components for our deck-out strategy is the Manhunter plot twist, The Fall of Oa. We have plenty of other elements that actually aid in running our opponents out of cards; however, The Fall of Oa also leads us to our late game by allowing us to put our deck into our hand. With Ocean Master putting our now-enormous hand to good use, we need to complete the loop by adding a card that puts cards from our KO’d pile back into our deck. With the versatility that Strength of the Grave offers, it is the perfect fit for our deck. In addition, it can make a fine defensive pump in earlier turns to help us survive until our critical turn 6.

As is the case with any combo deck, we want plenty of search available to us so that we can hit our optimal character curve. We are certainly going to include four copies of Enemy of My Enemy. DDD is the type of deck that Enemy of My Enemy was designed for. Five different teams have significant representation in our deck, so we want a search card that gives us the flexibility to find any of these characters. In addition, we’ll also play four copies of Secret Files. Just like Enemy of my Enemy, Secret Files can find any character in our deck. Granted, it also allows our opponent to search for a card, but considering the accelerated draw sub-theme that we have with the Injustice Gang, this really isn’t a bad thing.

Regarding team-ups, there is really only one clear-cut choice for our deck. Since our goal is to run opponents out of cards, we absolutely, positively want four copies of Funky’s Big Rat Code. It’s a team-up, it helps us deck out our opponent . . . it’s perfect! Often, we will want to use Scandal to search out extra copies even after we have all of our characters teamed-up just for the extra cards we can send to our opponent’s KO’d pile.

Our final plot twist is purely a defensive choice. Since we have so many characters with concealed and evasion, we suffer a great risk of losing a good deal of endurance from our opponents’ attacks. We have to survive until turn 6 for our deck’s win condition to go off, so we need some defensive help. The Injustice Gang probably has the strongest defensive plot twist choice available to us in Power Siphon. Our opponents will usually have plenty of cards in hand, so we should get a substantial defensive boost when we play the Siphon. With one or two copies, we can prevent enough potential endurance loss to get us safely to the key sixth turn.

Our locations are few, but quite important. First, we have a single copy of Infernal Gateway. This location gives us the ability to perpetuate our loop by allowing us to return copies of Strength of the Grave from the KO’d pile to our hand. It can also be useful for getting other cards from the KO’d pile that we had to discard in earlier turns.

Another critical location for us is UN Building. Only a few decks actually play enough different teams to necessitate playing a three-team team-up card. Our deck, though, has plenty of teams to fuel this team-up. The simple truth is that UN Building provides a great deal of efficiency, as it performs the function that two regular team-ups would for us. Considering that it can be brought directly into play with Poison Ivy’s effect, it is a card we should be able to have in play every game.

Finally, let’s look at our equipment cards. We need to first consider problems that might arise from our reliance on a single character as a win condition. In most cases, our opponent won’t have any suitable responses to deal with our oversized Ocean Master. There are, however, cards like Colonel Yon-Rogg and X-Treme Maneuver that could incapacitate Ocean Master outside of combat. For this reason, we will play a single copy of Cloak of Nabu. By nullifying effects that can target Ocean Master, we can help ensure that he remains a forceful presence on our side of the board. And since we’ll be placing our entire deck into our hand once our opponent decks out, we don’t need to play any cards to search out Cloak of Nabu—it will always be right in hand when we need it!

Finally, we have a nasty little trick for messing with our opponents. In the article for the original build, I mentioned Ryan’s idea to add Planet Weapon to the deck to force your opponent to lose a resource. Upon reflection on this idea, I decided to refine it and add a copy of Reality Gem. While Reality Gem doesn’t have the burn effect of Planet Weapon, it can be used multiple times in a turn thanks to our characters with evasion. Assuming that we control the initiative on turn 6, we could very easily knock our opponent back two or three resources.

That’s the build. Let’s take a look at our completed effort:

DDD, Version 1.0

4 Manhunter Clone, CoPK

4 Orb, Drake Shannon

4 Deadshot, Dead Aim

4 James Jesse ◊ Trickster, GG

3 Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose

4 Lex Luthor, NPhilanthropist

1 Skinner, Psychotic Shredder

3 Manhunter Giant, Army

1 Mephisto, Soulstealer

1 Ocean Master, Son of Atlan

4 Scandal, Savage Spawn

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Funky’s Big Rat Code

4 Power Siphon

4 Secret Files

2 Strength of the Grave

3 The Fall of Oa

1 Infernal Gateway

3 UN Building, Team-Up

1 Cloak of Nabu, Fate Artifact

1 Reality Gem, Infinity Gem

Initiative choice is always going to be even so that we have the chance to act first on turn 6. Should we get odds, though, we should still be able to complete our optimal board setup. The mulligan condition will be for Lex Luthor or some way to search for him. Our 3-drop enables most of our early game, so we always want to see him in play.

Is This the End?

I’ve finished with my fourth article on a deck destruction variant. For a deck type that sees little to no play in the Vs. System metagame, this archetype would seem to be overrepresented in Breaking Ground. Still, it is an archetype that will probably continue to grow in the future, and it has a great deal of potential. Looking at this version, there are certainly issues with the build that need to be addressed (like the perils of underdropping on turn 4). In that regard, I plan on making it an ongoing pet project—one that you will certainly read more about in future articles. Feel free to build up and try this unique concoction for yourself. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them.

That does it for another week. Take care, and I’ll see you back here next week for another innovative deck idea.

*My best example of this statement is a game that I played against Kree press in Tulsa over the Christmas holidays. My opponent had initiative on 6, with something absurd like eight ready characters. In addition, all of his characters were being boosted by The Lunatic Legion, and the five that had been recruited that turn were getting an extra +2/+0 from Shatterax. On my side of the board, I had Ocean Master equipped with Cloak of Nabu and a hidden Deadshot. My opponent attacked with everyone into Ocean Master. With a Hala activation and two copies of Live Kree . . . or Die!, the attack was something around 85 ATK. I discarded 34 cards to give Ocean Master +17/+17 (29 DEF total). Then I played Strength of the Grave to return 29 character cards to my deck for +0/+29 (58 DEF total). After exhausting Deadshot for The Fall of Oa to return my deck to my hand, I discarded another 26 cards to give Ocean Master +13/+13 (71 DEF total). After pitching three more cards to Infernal Gateway to return Strength of the Grave to my hand, I played Strength of the Grave again for another +0/+29 (100 DEF total!)  With the attack bouncing and my opponent facing down a 41/42 Ocean Master, he scooped. Heh heh heh!

**At least until after Pro Circuit Sydney!

Dark Lantern, Mockery (03/05/07)

By the time that most of you read this, a few things will have already occurred:

  1. I will have completed seven-and-a-half weeks in my audit rotation—only seven-and-a-half more to go!
  2. Vs. System players from around the world will have headed (or will be in the process of heading) to Australia for the first Pro Circuit of 2007, PC: Sydney.
  3. Yeah . . . because 1 and 2 occur at the same time, I won’t be among the players heading down under.
  4. Marvel Team-Up will have hit your local store shelves.


A Look at the Silver Age to Come

This last point is of particular importance. PC: Sydney will be the final Silver Age tournament before Marvel Knights rotates out of the format and Marvel Team-Up takes its place. On one hand, we’ll be saying goodbye to Silver Age stalwarts like Mikado and Mosha, Meltdown, and Wild Ride. On the other hand, the promise that the new expansion brings gives us a whole new set of opportunities for legacy teams that we love and adore. Spider-Friends have some unique control tactics that allow for an immense amount of disruption at the expense of their characters’ ATK and DEF. Sinister Syndicate may be the most potent rush team that Vs. System has seen to date, with cards and characters that trade endurance for an immense amount of power. Finally, Underworld takes up where their Marvel Knights counterparts left off, drawing upon extra resources available from the cards in the KO’d pile.

My personal interest was piqued by the Marvel Defenders. If you read Billy Zonos’s preview article on the Marvel Defenders, you probably recall that the team is a unique take on a familiar archetype. Much like the X-Statix “loner” strategy and the Hellfire Club “one visible character” theme, the Marvel Defenders focus on the strength of a single character. To accomplish this, the supporting cast of characters boasts powerful activated effects that enhance the strength of another character. I was able to experience this power firsthand at the Marvel Team-Up Sneak Preview. In one memorable game, I was able to attack twice successfully with a 14/11 Moon Knight, Fist of Khonshu . . . and that was after I paid 3 ATK to ready him!

There seems to be an immense amount of potential for the Marvel Defenders in the upcoming Silver Age. Instead of having to rely on each individual character rising to the task of taking down opposing characters, the team has one character take the role of “champion.” True to form, the champion is generally bigger and badder than any other character in play and can often attack multiple times in a single turn. The benefits of having a 15 ATK 5-drop that can attack two or three times a turn rather than a standard 3-, 4-, and 5-drop curve are undeniable.

One Down, None to Go

There is, however, one small problem with this strategy: it focuses all of its energy on a single character. While having a gigantic character attacking multiple times each turn is certainly tremendous, it only works if we are able to perform multiple successful attacks. This could be a major problem if our opponent has a few extra copies of Live Kree or Die! or What are Friends For?. With enough pump, even Aunt May, Golden Oldie can stun Galactus, Devourer of Worlds.

So, what to do? If we are going to execute multiple attacks in a turn, we may need a bit of insurance. One way to do this is to give our champion a little protection. For example, an effect like Bamf! would ensure that no matter how many ATK boosts our opponents have, our champion will survive to attack another day.

When pondering this dilemma, I perused a listing of Marvel Defenders characters for inspiration. One particular feature of the Marvel Defenders lineup stood out. Along with several characters with backup, an inordinate number of characters have substitute. Obviously, this is a mechanic that fits quite will into the Marvel Defenders theme. On the turns when we want to become aggressive, we can replace our idle characters with characters who have powerful backup powers, such as Tania Belinskya ◊ Red Guardian and Samantha Parrington ◊ Valkyrie, Chooser of the Slain.

The substitute sub-theme of the Marvel Defenders led me to recall another team that is replete with substitute characters, Darkseid’s Elite. The Darkseid’s Elite characters from Legion of Super Heroes are similar in nature to those of the Marvel Defenders, but instead of boasting backup powers, the Darkseid’s Elite characters use come-into-play effects to enhance the power of other characters. For example, Dark Thanagarian can provide a small ATK boost for a single turn, Dark Martian allows for damage-maximizing attacks by removing reinforcement options, and Dark Champion allows for the possibility of +2 ATK to all of your characters across the board.

The character that really impressed me, though, was Dark Lantern. We are looking for an effect that allows a character to attack without stunning, and Dark Lantern’s comes-into-play effect prevents a character that you control from becoming stunned while attacking that turn.

Bingo!  With a Team-Up, Dark Lantern can make our Marvel Defenders champion truly unstoppable. So, let’s fire all of the teachers so that the substitutes can come out to play.

The Build

Our featured card also kicks off our character curve. Four copies of Dark Lantern, Mockery should ensure that we always have a copy to substitute into play when we reach our kill turn.

Also at 2, we have three copies of Tania Belinskya ◊ Red Guardian, Cold Warrior. The Squadron Supreme and High Voltage decks of old proved how powerful Mega-Blast was as an ATK pump, and Tania is effectively a reusable copy of Mega-Blast. Of course, Tania actually gives the ATK bonus for the entire turn, so she almost doubles as a copy of Nasty Surprise. With an unstunable champion swinging for the fences, an extra +4 ATK could certainly be beneficial.

Finally at 2, we’re going to play a character that’s neither Marvel Defenders nor Darkseid’s Elite. Madness, you say? Perhaps. But then again, it’s hard to argue that San, Alienated One isn’t worth it. San has concealed and decent stats, which is already a plus for us. It’s his power to search for a location, though, that really makes him valuable. With a one-time trigger when he comes into play, he will be a prime candidate for replacement by one of our key substitute characters during the later turns.

Turn 3 brings a slew of additional substitute characters. Kicking off the festivities is Dark Firestorm, Mockery. While Dark Firestorm doesn’t provide any additional ATK boost, he does have a relevant effect for our deck. Since we’re substituting several characters in every game, we’ll need to get a hold of as many extra cards as possible. Dark Firestorm allows us to draw a card when he comes into play. Whether we recruit him normally on turn 3 or substitute him into play, Dark Firestorm will always replace the cost of playing him by netting us an additional card.

Our other Darkseid’s Elite character at 3 is Dark Thanagarian, Mockery. Just like Dark Firestorm, Dark Thanagarian has substitute. However, Dark Thanagarian is more important to us as a late game substitute due to the ATK bonus he provides. With the +4 ATK from Red Guardian and +2 ATK from Dark Thanagarian, our champion will be receiving some substantial ATK bonuses on our kill turn.

Our last 3-drop provides us with a bit of off-curve control. Since we no longer have Mikado and Mosha to lean on, we’ll have to depend on the archer himself, Hawkeye, Loud Mouth. He may be a little too loose with his tongue, but there aren’t many characters better at dealing with low drops. And since Hawkeye has substitute, we can bring him into play at our discretion.

Another Darkseid’s Elite Mockery sees us into turn 4. Dark Martian, Mockery has an absolutely amazing amount of potential. With cards like Funeral For a Friend and Marcus Daniels ◊ Blackout seeing play in Silver Age off-curve decks, we need to have a way to remove reinforcement channels to allow our champion to get in for significant amounts of damage. Dark Martian can be substituted into play to allow our champion to get his beats on, and then substituted back out again for additional effects.

And what, pray tell, would these additional effects be? There can be only one . . . and in this case, it’s Samantha Parrington ◊ Valkyrie, Chooser of the Slain. Oh my word, this lady is amazing! Remember that champion that we want to attack with multiple times? Sam automatically gives us another attack each turn. Once we have set up our champion for a series of massive attacks, we can activate Valkyrie to let our champion ready on its first attack. Since Dark Lantern will be protecting our attacking champion from harm, we are virtually assured of at least two attacks when Valkyrie is in play.

Turn 5 is where we turn up the heat. If we don’t control the initiative, then we will usually want to play it safe with Dark Warrior, Mockery. A character with concealed will enable us to swing back for a couple of swift strikes after our opponent has already attacked (assuming we have Valkyrie in play). With 11 DEF, we can rest fairly secure that Dark Warrior will be able to attack a couple times without getting stunned back, even if we miss Dark Lantern.

If, however, we control the initiative on turn 5, then we can probably go for the jugular with Dr. Strange, Founding Father. What’s better than +4 ATK from Red Guardian? An additional +8 ATK from Red Guardian! Of course, we need to be somewhat clever when we play Dr. Strange. You see, we can only substitute for ready characters. Thus, a bit of a problem arises if we use Red Guardian twice because we won’t be able to substitute Dark Lantern in. But we can use the chain to give Dr. Strange all of the bonuses that he needs.

Here’s how it works: Perform your normal recruit with Dr. Strange. Once his effect is on the chain, add a substitute of Dark Lantern to the chain. Then resolve Dark Lantern coming into play, and then resolve his effect. Then, with Dr. Strange’s effect still on the chain, substitute Red Guardian in for Dark Lantern and activate her backup power. Finally, resolve Dr. Strange’s effect and ready Red Guardian. Easy? No. But effective nonetheless.

While we would certainly like to win on turn 5 every game, sometimes we will need to plan for the worst-case scenario. In such a situation, having a couple of 6-drops to follow up with can’t hurt. For optimal offensive options, Silver Surfer, Prodigal Herald is a very good play. If we don’t plan appropriately, then Silver Surfer can do more harm than good, as he will exhaust everyone on our side of the board. With a slew of backup powers, though, this usually won’t be an issue. Not only can Silver Surfer hit for quite a bit, but he can also bounce characters he stuns.

Of course, we may desire a bit more finesse on turn 6. In this case, we’ll go with the wielder of the quantum bands, Wendell Vaughn ◊ Quasar, Protector of the Universe. Quasar is the same size as Silver Surfer, so he’s certainly a respectable play on 6. But our real reason for including him is his backup power. Quasar can sacrifice his own opportunity to attack and give one of our characters +4/+4 while attacking. That kind of a bonus is just immense! Some of the most powerful and widely played plot twists in the game cap at +2/+2. Granted, we do have to exhaust our 6-drop to get this bonus. So you may be asking, why on Earth would we wish to sacrifice a potential 13/12 character for only +4/+4?

I’ll tell you why—because we have a monstrous 7-drop: Hulk, Strongest One There Is. If there was ever a finisher for our deck, this is it. Hulk is already an unreal 17/17. With Red Guardian and Quasar adding their powers, Hulk leaps up to 25/21. At this point, it is doubtful that we even need Dark Lantern. There are no 7-drops and few 8-drops that could stun our big green brute. And with a little help from Valkyrie, Hulk can attack three times in a turn. Folks, that’s 75 combined points of ATK coming at our opponent. Check, please!

We now have a couple of locations to look at. First, we are going to play a single copy of 31st Century Metropolis. With San filling the role of location searcher, we want to have a Team-Up available for him to search out. 31st Century Metropolis not only gives us the requisite Team-Up to let Marvel Defenders and Darkseid’s Elite work together, but it also enables us to bring an outside character like San into the fold for a turn. San helps himself out; what could be sweeter?

Our other location is almost a no-brainer in a deck full of substitute characters. As was stated earlier, we will need to replenish our hand after playing multiple substitute characters. So, we’re going to light up the Furnace of Apokolips to help us burn through some cards. With the extra draw power, we won’t notice the drain on our hand nearly as much. More importantly, Furnace of Apokolips provides us with additional incentive to substitute characters out each turn.

At long last, we have reached our plot twist choices. Of course, we’re going to be playing a few additional Team-Ups besides 31st Century Metropolis. Considering the structure of the deck, Joining the Darkseid seems like an apparent choice. Since most of our characters have substitute, we will benefit from a moderate ATK boost. With a couple copies in play, even our support characters can be a force to be reckoned with.

Speaking of substitute characters, let’s look at our first character search card. It may not bear the name of either of our teams, but Titans of Tomorrow is a great choice for us to search for relevant substitute characters. This card doesn’t actually help us hit our character curve, but it virtually guarantees that we will get out our all-important substitute characters when we need them.

Since Titans of Tomorrow doesn’t actually help us with our curve, we will need a little more search assistance. Fortunately for us, Marvel Defenders has one of the best in The “B” Team. Sure, the discard requirement of The “B” Team is pretty stringent—a backup Marvel Defenders character. A quick count of our characters reveals that we only have ten backup characters in the deck. We’re able to search out any of those characters with Titans of Tomorrow, though, so we do have a bit of insurance. In addition, having one-sixth of our deck as legal discards for The “B” Team should be enough that we can reliably use it to search one or two times a game. Considering how powerful of a search card it is, it’s certainly worth playing.

A lot of discussion has revolved around how we can use our support characters to boost our champion. While that is all well and good, we’re still going to want a little old-fashioned plot twist ATK power. Personally, I prefer a reliable, turn-based pump with incidental benefits. Of course, I am talking about Flying Kick. I have said before that Flying Kick may be the perfect Vs. System card. It is extremely good but not at all broken. In our deck, it can lift our normally grounded Hulk into the sky to deliver some punishment all over our opponent’s board. The +3 ATK ain’t bad either!

On the flip side, we’re also going to go for a bit of defense. Where Flying Kick may be the perfect ATK pump, Acrobatic Dodge might be the perfect DEF pump; +3 DEF is a substantial boost, but not too extreme. Unfortunately, we can’t actually play Acrobatic Dodge in Silver Age. We could bemoan this fact, but luckily, the Marvel Defenders team has a card that can very effectively emulate Acrobatic Dodge: Defenders Defend! It’s certainly conditional, but because most of our characters will be exhausted on any given turn, Defenders Defend! will almost always be useful. In addition, Defenders Defend! can be occasionally useful when we miss using Dark Lantern to prevent our attacker from stunning.

Our final plot twist is one that trades a bit of damage for board control. In some cases, we will simply want to attack a couple of times each turn for maximum damage on some non-reinforceable characters. But we will occasionally find the need to gain board control. In this situation, we can trade those massive amounts of breakthrough for extra attacks with One-Man Rampage. This unique plot twist may prevent us from dishing out additional breakthrough when we play it, but with a copy or two in hand, we can pretty much clear our opponent’s board. Even though we lose some damage, we gain substantial board presence. That kind of power can’t be ignored . . . and we certainly won’t!

And with that, we’re done. Let’s see if our team of replacements can put up any kind of a fight:

Substitute Teaching

4 Dark Lantern, Mockery

4 San, The Alienated One

3 Tania Belinskya, Red Guardian

4 Dark Firestorm, Mockery

2 Dark Thanagarian, Mockery

2 Hawkeye, Loud Mouth

2 Dark Martian, Mockery

4 Samantha Parrington, Valkyrie

1 Dark Warrior, Mockery

2 Dr. Strange, Founding Father

1 Silver Surfer, Prodigal Herald

1 Wendell Vaughn ◊ Quasar

1 Hulk, Strongest One There Is

4 Defenders Defend!

4 Flying Kick

4 Joining the Darkseid, Team-Up

4 One-Man Rampage

4 The “B” Team

4 Titans of Tomorrow

1 31st Century Metropolis

4 Furnace of Apokolips

Against a rush or short curve deck, a turn 5 kill should be relatively simple to pull off. With Dr. Strange readying Red Guardian for an additional +4 ATK, he should be plenty big enough to take out any opposing characters. Of course, against a control or stall deck, we may have to wait until turn 6 or 7 to finish the game. Still, Silver Surfer and Hulk should provide enough firepower to decimate an opponent completely in the late turns.

We really want to see a character on turn 2, so we should mulligan for one of our eleven 2-drops. San is our best play, as he clinches a Team-Up. If we already have our Team-Up in hand, he can get us a copy of Furnace of Apokolips for additional card draw. Optimally, we won’t play Red Guardian until our kill turn (to save the +4 ATK for when we need it), so we may want to tighten up the mulligan for a 2-drop with concealed.

With that, we conclude the final Breaking Ground before PC: Sydney. Good luck to all who attend the first PC in the southern hemisphere. Much like every other Vs. System fanboy out there, I am eagerly anticipating the tech we will see from the best and brightest at the Pro Circuit.

Project Ragna Rok  (03/07/07)

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a person who likes to believe the best in people. Sure . . . this is an admirable quality for the most part. But it does occasionally lead to trouble for me, as less scrupulous individuals will take advantage of my good nature.

One good example of this happened recently at a Super Bowl party that my boss held. According to him, this was going to be a great extravaganza with some of the biggest names in the Dallas business world. He said that he would really appreciate it if I would come to his shindig. He was so emphatic about me attending the party that he went so far as to rent a tuxedo for me to wear to his high-class affair.

I must say that the party was a great success. And the tuxedo did look good on me—it went perfectly with the serving tray that I used to carry around drinks to my boss’s guests for the duration of the evening.

Yeah . . . I got suckered.

“I’d like you to meet my pal, Mr. Ogdru Jahad.”

Given my propensity to be easily misled by those I trust, I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised to receive the following email from Metagame.com managing editor Toby Wachter:

Hellboy . . . um . . . I mean Michael; the time has come to summon forth the ultimate doom—the Ogdru Jahad. In order to bring the Apocalypse to this plain of existence, I need you to use the key—the Right Hand of Doom—to fulfill the aim of Project Ragna Rok. Once we have brought forth the Dragon of Revelation, we shall live as gods among men! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Also, I think it would be a great deck for casual play.

-Grigori Rasputin . . . er . . . Toby

Okay, so I have the distinct impression that I’m once again being used to achieve another person’s nefarious aims. But as long as Toby Rasputin (or is it Grigori Wachter?) is calling the shots, I’m going to do what he says.

I hope you’ve all got your copies of the Hellboy Essential Collection, because we’re about to undertake our own Project Ragna Rok. We’ll team-up the B.P.R.D. and Thule Society to fulfill one of the newest alternate win conditions in Vs. System. With any luck, we won’t cause the destruction of the universe in the process.

The Build

Four copies of Project Ragna Rok serve as the foundation for our deck. Of course, unless we’re fortunate enough to face another B.P.R.D. deck, we’re going to have to KO our own characters to fuel Project Ragna Rok. Bearing this in mind, we’ll probably need to develop a strategy that allows us to work with limited characters in play. Fortunately, though, the B.P.R.D. boasts a “single visible character” theme that supports our strategy perfectly.

Our character curve kicks off at 2 with Leopold Kurtz, Loyal Assistant. Kurtz has a couple of traits that support the deck nicely. First, he is a decently sized 2-drop at 3/3. In addition, he has an effect that not only supports the single visible character theme, but also allows for an incidental benefit. By KO’ing Kurtz, we can boost the stats of one of our other characters. Also at 2, we’re going to play four copies of Sidney Leach, Human Metal Detector. Equipment cards will not be a focus of our build, but there is one equipment card that we will certainly want to include; this B.P.R.D. 2-drop can give us easy access to that equipment card.

For 3-drops, we have several different characters to look at. Our first and primary play is Herman von Klempt, Head in a Jar. You may be wondering why we would even consider playing a 3/3 3-drop (considerably below average for his drop, stat-wise). The first reason is that Mr. Head in a Jar has concealed. Since we’re working with a deck theme that thrives on concealed characters, we want to keep all drops other than our primary plays hidden from sight. Of course, Herman von Klempt’s activated power is what really makes him stand out. Consider the potency of cards like Army of One and Knightmare Scenario. Herman von Klempt is effectively a reusable +2/+2 pump. Such an amazing power is certainly worth the 3 resource point investment.

Our second 3-drop is Ilsa Haupstein, Great Heart. While not nearly as powerful as Herman von Klempt, Ilsa Haupstein is impressive in her own right. She boasts decent stats, but her real charm lies in her activated power. With a quick discard, Ilsa Haupstein can fetch from our deck a copy of her mentor, Grigori Rasputin, or she can search out an ongoing plot twist! Yes! Our win condition is an ongoing plot twist, so we could certainly use a character that can fetch ongoing plot twists.

Our other 3-drop is a sole copy of Professor Bruttenholm, Father. The good professor is not nearly as dazzling as our other 3-drops, but he does have concealed. More importantly, he can search up our 4-drop of choice: Hellboy, Anung Un Rama. Now tell me, what’s not to love about Hellboy? Not only is he huge, but he gets bigger. With his payment power, we can virtually ensure that our opponent must attack into Hellboy. And, unless our opponents have some rather impressive tricks up their sleeves, they will usually take an ugly stun back whenever they attack into big red.

Since we have Ilsa Haupstein at 3, we’ll play a security copy of Grigori Rasputin, True Father at 4. He may not be the dominating board presence that Hellboy is, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Our opponents will have to make sure that they stun Rasputin when they attack him, or else they’ll lose their characters to Rasputin’s all-too-potent KO effect.

If we haven’t hit a Thule Society character by turn 4, we’ve got a copy of Hecate, Major Mythological Figure to aid us on turn 5. Hecate has average stats and concealed, so she’s not a bad choice for our single visible character theme. She also has a power that can aid us in countering opposing concealed characters that might create problems for us. Against decks that play an excessive number of concealed characters, Hecate will bring opposing characters into the light, so to speak. Despite this, the goddess is not our primary 5-drop. That honor lies with our resident merman, Abe Sapien, icthyo sapien. He has concealed, he’s above average stat-wise, and he has an effect that supports our theme perfectly! Abe Sapien turns ordinary power-ups for our central character, Hellboy, into +2/+2 pumps. Considering how big Hellboy can become on his own, adding that extra power makes him almost unstoppable. With Abe lending Hellboy a hand, our opponent is going to have to put a lot of effort into breaking through our defenses.

Turn 6 brings us another helper in the form of Johann Krauss, Free Spirit. Just like the majority of our characters, Johann Kraus has concealed, which lets him fit nicely into our deck theme. In addition, he has a recovery effect that we will find occasionally useful. This is, of course, assuming that we manage to keep our board intact. Should we need to add some size to our side of the board, then we’ll want to play Conqueror Worm, Ultimate Destroyer. This behemoth boasts an effect similar to our 4-drop Hellboy. In a pinch, the Worm can reestablish any momentum we might lose if our 4-drop bites the dust.

At the end of the curve, we have Hellboy, The Right Hand of Doom. Even if we fail to put a single counter on Project Ragna Rok, Hellboy could potentially fulfill our win condition by himself. When he comes into play, we can use his effect to stun one of our opponent’s largest characters. After that, any characters that The Right Hand of Doom takes down will give us additional counters.

Moving on to our equipment cards, we are going to play four copies of B.P.R.D. Signal Device. While the B.P.R.D has a very nice equipment support theme, we aren’t really focusing on that aspect of the team. The lone exception is this equipment card—easily one of the best in the game. With a single visible character, we want to try to prevent opposing effects from targeting our central character. One way to do this is to keep him equipped with B.P.R.D. Signal Device. In addition to a respectable defensive boost, B.P.R.D. Signal Device has a payment power that will keep our key character safe and secure from opposing effects that would target him.

Our locations are also relatively straightforward. First and foremost, we want to play four copies of Cavendish Hall. We are playing a B.P.R.D. / Thule Society team-up deck, so it makes perfect sense for us to play the B.P.R.D. / Thule Society Team-Up. One benefit of this card is that we don’t actually have to have a B.P.R.D. character in play to enable the Team-Up. Considering how many Thule Society characters we have in our early turns, this should bode well for our odds of hitting an early Team-Up. Finally, this location has a very nice activated power that gives one of our characters +1 DEF. In a deck like ours, extra DEF is never bad.

Our other location is a fairly apparent choice: B.P.R.D. HQ. Working in a way similar to past favorites like Mountain Stronghold and Brother I Satellite, B.P.R.D. HQ is a character search card in location form. With at least one B.P.R.D. character at each point in the curve, we should be able to use B.P.R.D. HQ to hit our curve. In addition, B.P.R.D. HQ has a secondary effect that can be invaluable for guarding our hidden characters from opposing sneak attacks.

Lastly, let’s look at our all-important plot twists. Consider this: we are playing Thule Society characters, and we are going to be recruiting Hellboy at least a couple times each game. If you put two and two together, then you’ll realize that something is coming. And that something is . . . Something Is Coming. The number of cards in Vs. System that can search for any card in your deck can be counted on two hands. To be completely frank, Something Is Coming may be the best in the game. It fits perfectly with our theme and allows us to find any pieces of our “puzzle” that we might be missing.

One issue that we might have with our single visible character strategy is the consequence of letting our only visible character become stunned. Without an adequate barrier between our opponent’s attackers and our endurance, we could lose the game before we ever have the chance to get a counter on Project Ragna Rok. We’ll need to have some extra insurance to protect our main man. Fortunately, Hellboy will get up even from being stunned to enjoy a big plate of Pancakes. Recovery effects are usually at a premium in any deck, and this one is no exception. Probably the best feature of this card is the fact that the cost associated with playing Pancakes is minimal. Instead of having to exhaust characters or pay endurance, we merely have to discard a card to bring Hellboy back to the breakfast table.

Finally, we have a plot twist that may very well be the best card in the Hellboy Essential Collection. As I have said on countless occasions, readying effects are among some of the best in the game. Break off the Horns is no exception to this standard. The only restriction to playing Break off the Horns is that Hellboy is our only visible character. Considering that this is the entire goal of our deck, we should have little trouble meeting the conditions to ready our big red demon. Even though Hellboy cannot cause breakthrough in subsequent attacks, we can continue to ready him for each copy of Break off the Horns that we have.

That does it. It’s time for us to unleash hell upon Earth.

“It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . .”


4 Leopold Kurtz, Loyal Assistant

4 Sidney Leach, HMDetector

4 Herman von Klempt, HiaJ

2 Ilsa Haupstein, Great Heart

1 Professor Bruttenholm, Father

1 Grigori Rasputin, True Father

4 Hellboy, Anung Un Rama

3 Abe Sapien, icthyo sapien

1 Hecate, MMFigure

3 Johann Krauss, Free Spirit

1 Conqueror Worm, UDestroyer

4 Hellboy, Right Hand of Doom

4 Break Off the Horns

4 Pancakes

4 Project Ragna Rok

4 Something Is Coming

4 B.P.R.D. HQ

4 Cavendish Hall, Team-Up

4 B.P.R.D. Signal Device

Odd initiatives are probably the preferred choice with this deck, as it gives you the opportunity to attack first on turn 7. With a couple copies of Break off the Horns, Hellboy, The Right Hand of Doom could put four counters on Project Ragna Rok all by himself.

Cavendish Hall is an amazing Team-Up for the B.P.R.D. / Thule Society team-up deck, but it has to have a Thule Society character in play to work. So, the mulligan condition for the deck will usually be for a 2- or 3-drop Thule Society character. Even without the early Team-Up, it is still possible to get a late game Team-Up with Hecate or Conqueror Worm. Keep in mind that the later in the game you wait to team-up, the more difficult it becomes to get counters on Project Ragna Rok.

Well, we’ve successfully developed a framework for summoning Ogdru Jahad, so my work here is done. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you back here next week for a new Breaking Ground.

Bounty Hunt  (03/12/07)

By the time you read this, PC: Sydney will have come and gone. You lucky readers have the luxury of knowing the outcomes of all the grand events that occurred Down Under. My current environs happen to be my living room in Dallas, TX, three days before the Pro Circuit. Due to my work situation, I won’t able to attend what I believe will be one of the coolest PC’s to date. I guess that by the time I get to read this online, I’ll know whether or not my prediction was correct.

In the meantime, I must console myself with the tools I have available to me. Let’s see: my laptop (so I can finish my article which was due yesterday); macaroni and cheese (yes, I do eat Kraft dinner); and my living room television with basic cable.

Let’s see what’s on A&E. Dog: The Bounty Hunter. Hey!  I love this show! For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the show is about real-life bounty hunter Dwayne “Dog” Chapman. Much like Cops, the film crew follows Dog around as he tracks down individuals who have skipped bail. But the real appeal of the show is getting to see the other aspects of Dog’s life. For a guy that looks like a throwback from The Road Warrior, Dog is actually a pretty kind and benevolent individual. Sure, it’s reality TV, but given how cool the subject is, I’ll forgive this one little indiscretion.

We’ll Hunt You Down ‘Cause We’re the Wild Pack

Discussing a show about a world-famous bounty hunter puts me in the mood to look at an “on-topic” card from Marvel Team-Up: Bounty Hunt. Ever since my pal Wiggy previewed the card on Metagame.com, I’ve been aching to play around a bit with it. I almost had the chance at the St. Louis Mega PCQ this weekend. In a side draft that I participated in, I was able to draft a pretty amazing Wild Pack/Spider-Friends deck (including two copies of Capture Net and a copy of Silver Sable, World’s Deadliest Mercenary). With a couple of copies of Bounty Hunt, my deck was sure to be unbelievable!

Unfortunately for me, the gentleman sitting across from me decided to take those copies of Bounty Hunt that I so sorely wanted in order to supplement his personal collection. That’s right—he didn’t even play Bounty Hunt in his deck! Khan! Khan!*

Well, since I was denied the pleasure of playing Bounty Hunt at the PCQ draft, I might as well build a Constructed deck with the crazy, card-drawing plot twist.

Something Evil this Way Comes

So let’s check back in on Dog. Hmm . . . looks like he caught his man. Of course, another cool trait of Dog is that, even after he captures his criminal, he does everything that he can to help out the perpetrator. Yes, Dog actually works with his targets to rehabilitate them. He doesn’t just bring the bad guys in—he teaches them to make good use of their lives.

I suppose there is another irony in this. You see, in normal circumstances, the Wild Pack would work to track down characters in the Masters of Evil. But when I started thinking about teams to aid the Wild Pack for my Bounty Hunt deck, I thought that the Masters of Evil would be a perfect fit. Both teams have a strong off-curve presence, and the Masters of Evil provide search and KO effects that greatly aid the deck theme.

Just like Dog works with the bad guys, the Wild Pack is going to work with those evil guys to reap enormous bounties. The Masters of Evil will be a great aid in ensuring that our Bounty Hunt is a success.

The Build

Obviously, we’re going to want to max out on copies of Bounty Hunt. Whenever a character an opponent controls leaves play, every copy of Bounty Hunt that we have in play will trigger. More copies equals more cards. In addition, we will also play four copies of Capture Net, Bounty Hunt’s partner equipment card. In our deck, this card will almost be too good to be true, effectively giving us reusable board control. And since Capture Net puts a counter on Bounty Hunt every time it is successfully used, it effectively reads “Activate >>> Return a stunned character to it’s controller’s hand and draw two cards”.

Now let’s look at the other plot twists that we’re going to use to supplement Bounty Hunt. First up is our team-up choice. Traditionally, Masters of Evil have been associated with Faces of Evil, but since we aren’t going to be playing Thunderbolts characters in this deck, we can’t use this Team-Up to aid our cause. We do have Stealthcraft, however, another Team-Up that provides a beneficial effect to our characters (it grants our entire team flight). Considering that we will need to make the most effective attacks possible to meet our goal of superior board control, having an entire team that can attack anywhere on the board is quite beneficial. In a tough situation, we will be able to call upon any selection of characters to attack an opposing character.

We won’t have the ATK boost provided by Faces of Evil, so we will certainly need to add a few pumps to aid our cause. Fortunately, the Masters of Evil have one of the best ATK pumps in the game for off-curve decks in The Wrecking Crew. As we will certainly have a number of characters in play with the same cost, we can reap enormous benefits from The Wrecking Crew. A couple of well-timed copies will give up to four of our characters +4 ATK while attacking. That kind of power can’t be easily matched by most other ATK pumps in the game. Also, we’re going to include two copies of Mob Mentality. This may seem like an odd inclusion in our build since this pump is designed for Mutant—Physical decks, but the fact that Mob Mentality provides a turn-based effect is certainly nice. Besides, we’ll see later that it fills a very important niche that few other ATK pumps can.

We’re planning on playing off-curve for the most part. Sometimes we might need a larger drop to aid us, though, whether as tech against an opposing strategy or simply to provide some size to our army of weenies. To this end, we’ll need a couple of copies of Mystic Summons. This search card is fairly limited, but it is nonetheless a search card. It can be especially relevant when we find the need for a specific 3-drop or higher.

I suppose that, since we’re playing Masters of Evil, it’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll be playing four copies of Hard Sound Construct. Free characters are always good, even if they’ll only stick around for a single turn. Considering how potent some of the effects of the small characters on both the Wild Pack and the Masters of Evil are, we should have no trouble putting Hard Sound Construct to good use.

Our final plot twist is emblematic of the KO effects that the Masters of Evil brings to the deck. Hero’s Demise is a rare breed of KO effect. Most useful KO plot twists require that you exhaust a character or pay endurance to use them, but Hero’s Demise simply requires you to have two Masters of Evil characters of the same cost in play to use. With the off-curve strategy that we’re angling for, this will almost never be a problem. Now we have another KO effect to add to our arsenal that can give Bounty Hunt additional counters.

Time to look at our characters. Much like any off-curve deck, we’re going to have a good amount of characters at 1 and 2. Let’s first take a look at our 1-drops:

Yellowjacket: Our first 1-drop is one of the more renowned of the Masters of Evil. Yellowjacket is certainly not exceptional from a combat perspective, but she has an absolutely amazing boost ability. Not only does it give us hand advantage, but it can also search out any Masters of Evil 1- or 2-drop. Once we’ve hit our team-up, this will be three quarters of the characters in our deck.

Powell: As great as Yellowjacket is for finding characters, Powell is equally impressive at finding ongoing plot twists. Considering that our deck’s theme card is an ongoing plot twist, this is certainly a good deal for us. Powell can also fetch our team-up and (as alluded to earlier) ATK pumps. Since Mob Mentality is an ongoing plot twist, Powell can be an easy way for us to grab an extra +3 ATK whenever we may need it.

Crippler: Board control doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to character removal effects. Crippler already has formidable stats for a 1-drop at 2/2. With a little help from a team attack, or with an ATK pump, Crippler can use his payment power to keep an opponent’s character from readying. While the opposing character may remain in play, it won’t be a threat to attack on our opponent’s initiative.

Gargantua: This character has decent 1-drop stats at 2/1. But Gargantua is more valuable as an outlet for any unspent resource points that we might have in later turns. Gargantua can very quickly grow in size to the proportions of a 2- or 3-drop with just a few uses of his power.

Klaw, Sonic Construct:  Sometimes you just want to have a big character in play. Klaw boasts the ATK of a 3-drop for the cost of a 1-drop. Of course, we’ll have to KO a character to ready Klaw. Still, having that ATK working for us is worth the cost.

Paul Ebersol ◊ Fixer: Flame Trap isn’t a part of the upcoming Silver Age, but there are still threats like Spectral Slaughter and H’ronmeer’s Curse that can create problems for our weenies. This is where Fixer can come in handy. We can rest a bit easier knowing that plot twist effects won’t be able to stun our characters as long as we have Fixer around.

Next up are our 2-drops. As critical as our 1-drops may be, our 2-drops form the backbone of our deck:

Beetle, Armorsmith: Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year-and-a-half, you should already know about the awesome power of Beetle. Just for starters, Beetle is 3/2 with flight and range. That, by itself, is a very decent start. But the real reason that this 2-drop is so amazing is that he can search out any affiliated 2-drop. Read that again: Beetle isn’t limited to searching for Masters of Evil characters; he can find any affiliated 2-drop. This search gives us a level of comfort that can’t be matched, as a single copy of Beetle in our opening hand will guarantee that we can have a Wild Pack character in play by turn three.

Chen: Chen is not nearly as dazzling at Beetle in the powers department, but she is still impressive in her own right. With a quick discard, Chen gives us the ability to power-up a single character every turn. This can be somewhat helpful should our opponent try to bounce one of our critical attacks. In addition, Chen’s power combos nicely with Hard Sound Construct. If we have a character in hand that we want to get into play next turn via Hard Sound Construct, we can simply pitch it to Chen’s effect for a benefit.

Dominic Fortune: Normally, a 2/2 2-drop won’t make the cut in an off-curve deck, but Dominic Fortune is special because he can become bigger than average. Since the majority of our deck will be characters, Fortune will usually be 4/2 when his power triggers, which allows him to swing easily up the curve into most 3-drops. Of course, revealing a non-character card for his effect isn’t bad, either, as this allows him to go into most 1- and 2-drops without a fear of stunning back. Either way, Fortune will surely smile upon us.

Melissa Gold ◊ Screaming Mimi: Board control is great, and it should allow us to do a significant amount of damage in the early turns. However, we may find that we need some help finishing our opponents off in the late turns, and this is where Screaming Mimi comes in. If we can produce a board chock-full of 1- and 2-drops, Screaming Mimi can turn an unspent resource point into a significant amount of direct endurance loss for our opponent. We won’t usually want Screaming Mimi in the early game—and we won’t often need her in the late game—but she is powerful enough to merit the inclusion of a single copy in our deck just in case.

Melter: Built in KO effect? Yes, please! Hero’s Demise and Capture Net should give us all of the board control help that we need in the early turns, but when we turn the corner on the mid-game, we may find ourselves lacking in additional effects. This is where Melter comes in handy. Melter is already pretty good at 4/1, and considering that we’re playing an off-curve deck, we want a character that can swing up the curve rather easily. Melter certainly fits that role, but really shines as a foil to our opponent’s larger characters. With a strong early game, we should have no problem keeping our opponent’s early drops off of the board. Melter bats cleanup on turn 5 and beyond, giving us a reusable option for KO’ing larger drops.

Paladin: Live Kree . . . or die? Paladin says, “Live Kree and die!” This unassuming Wild Pack 2-drop is absolute murder against rush and off-curve decks. In a typical Kree press build, a player will often try to have a big turn 5 by recruiting two 2-drops, a 3-drop, and a 4-drop. That’s 11 resource points worth of characters on turn 5, folks. Paladin puts a stop to that by making it so that our opponent cannot recruit characters of the same cost within a turn. All of a sudden, our opponent’s recruit turns into a 2-drop, a 3-drop, and . . . a 1-drop. He or she can’t recruit any more 2- or 3-drops, and hasn’t pressed enough characters to get out a 4-drop. In essence, Paladin levels the playing field against decks that try to run you over with characters.

Shocker, Vibro-Shock Villain: Finally, we have the infamous Shocker. Out-of-combat stuns are always amazing, and Shocker has an incredible one. Once he’s in play, he can take out opposing characters with a simple activation and resource point payment. If we have a KO effect handy, then we can effectively negate any momentum that our opponent may try to gain with low drops. Considering our goal of total board domination, Shocker is a very powerful ally for our cause (even though he’s technically a bad guy).

We’ve pretty much discussed the core of our deck, but there are some 3- and 4-drops that we’re going to add to give our deck a bit of help against certain strategies.

Battlestar: Often, the most crippling play an opponent can make is playing multiple copies of a plot twist during an attack. If you’ve ever been brickwalled by double copies of Army of One or Knightmare Scenario, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Battlestar makes sure that, if your opponent wants to get aggressive during an attack, he or she will have to do so with different plot twists.

Man-Eater: Is there anything more annoying than concealed characters? Sure, they do allow you easier access to your opponent’s endurance, but they can be problematic when we want to play more for board control. How do we control our opponent’s board when we can’t attack his or her characters? The answer is have Man-Eater sniff out those problematic characters. Once per turn, this handy 3-drop can give us unfettered access to concealed and protected characters. No longer will formation and the hidden area be a bar to our strategy!

Marcus Daniels ◊ Blackout: Our final 3-drop can be invaluable for saving critical endurance. As we are playing a somewhat slow deck, there is a good possibility that we’ll reach later turns. With late turns comes the possibility of great amounts of damage. While we may be able to reinforce one or two attacks, a clever opponent will usually be able to find a way to still sneak a big attack or two through. Blackout can put a crimp in those plans. For one resource point, we can give all of our 3-drop (or lower) characters reinforcement for the turn. Barring an effect that removes reinforcement, Blackout will usually ensure that we won’t take anything more than stun damage.

Silver Sable: At the top of our curve is our coup de grâce. Remember characters like Scarecrow, Professor Jonathan Crane and Cloak, Tyrone Johnson? They boasted powerful bounce effects, but at the cost of diminished stats. Now we have Silver Sable, who has average stats for a 4-drop. In addition, her bounce effect works either on attack or defense. With Bounty Hunt in play, Silver Sable is a combo board control and card drawing card. Sweet!

Our Bounty Hunt is now ready to get underway. Let’s take a look at how the tandem of the Wild Pack and the Masters of Evil gels:

Soldiers of Ill Fortune

2 Crippler, Carl Striklan

1 Gargantua, Edward Cobert

1 Klaw, Sonic Construct

1 Paul Ebersol ◊ Fixer, PSolver

4 Powell, Southern Charm

4 Yellowjacket, Rita DeMara

4 Beetle, Armorsmith

1 Chen, Amy Chen

2 Dominic Fortune, SoF

1 Melissa Gold, Screaming Mimi

2 Melter, Bruno Horgan

2 Paladin, Intruders

2 Shocker, Vibro-Shock Villain

1 Battlestar, Lemar Hoskins

1 Man-Eater, Intruders

1 Marcus Daniels ◊ Blackout

2 Silver Sable, WDMMercenary

4 Bounty Hunt

4 Hard Sound Construct

4 Hero’s Demise

2 Mob Mentality

2 Mystic Summons

4 Stealthcraft, Team-Up

4 The Wrecking Crew

4 Capture Net

This deck is not designed to deal an excessive amount of damage. Rather, board control is the main focus of the build. If you are facing off against an aggressive early game deck, then you may want to take odd initiatives to cut off any early offense. Otherwise, even initiatives may be preferable to allow Silver Sable to work her magic.

Beetle will usually be the key to setting up optimal mid-game turns with a board full of characters. Thus, a hard mulligan for Beetle or Yellowjacket (who can search out Beetle) is probably your best bet. While you should draw plenty of characters to help you flesh out your board, Beetle can be invaluable for finding key characters (like Powell for searching out Bounty Hunt or Stealthcraft, or Paladin to shut down opposing swarm decks).

And with that, my article comes to an end . . . as has my evening. But do not fear—I’ll be back in a week for yet another look at untapped Vs. System goodness.

Good night!

*I suppose there was some karmic retribution in the fact that my good friend Tillman Bragg took down the Bounty Hunt snatcher in the first round.

Johnny Blaze ◊ Ghost Rider  (03/21/07)

It’s combo time!

A little bit of Monica in my life.

A little bit of Erica by my side.

A little bit of Rita is all I need.

A little bit of Tina is what I see . . .

Wait a minute . . . that’s Mambo time. My mistake.

For Vs. System deckbuilders, probably the most fun one can have is finding new and interesting card interactions. Some combos, like backup characters used in unison with The Rock of Eternity, are fairly apparent. Other combos are a bit more subtle, and it is the search for those harder-to-find combos that makes the game so rewarding. Not only do these deck ideas make the game itself more fun and interesting, but in the proper venue, they can also lead to a good deal of success.

“Face the fires of vengeance, mortals! And know the wrath of the BigSpooky!”

Recently, I was engaged in a pleasant chat online with my TAWC teammates and friends, John Hall and Shane “Wiggy” Wiggans. I was regaling them with the tales of a couple of Marvel Team-Up drafts that I had participated in over the weekend at Insanity Cards and Games in Mesquite, TX. In one draft, I had managed to be the only player at the table to draft Sinister Syndicate rush, and I piloted it to a 2-1 record. Of course, I probably could have won the tournament outright had I actually learned to play the deck properly before I drafted it. I discovered quickly that you have to avoid having too many resources in play, or else you burn yourself out of the game with cards like Alien Symbiote and Razorfist. But once I learned to take advantage of the reservist mechanic and all of the resource KO effects, I was able to keep my resource count down and win on turn 5 by a substantial margin.

In my other draft, I went with a Spider-Friends deck with a splash of Marvel Defenders (just a splash because everyone else at the table was drafting Defenders, as well). I didn’t think that this deck was as good as my Syndicate build, but on the backs of cards like Indebted and Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man, I went undefeated in the tournament. Raw power is all well and good, but it’s hard to argue that the defensive and control effects of the Marvel Defenders and Spider-Friends teams aren’t awesome.

One card that I developed a particular affinity for was Johnny Blaze ◊ Ghost Rider. The newest version of the Spirit of Vengeance is a defensive wonder that can single-handedly change the balance of a game. In the Marvel Team-Up Sneak Preview, I took my only loss in a round where my opponent was able to burn me for nearly 20 endurance through Ghost Rider’s effect alone. In other drafts, Ghost Rider has been an unbelievable source of damage over the course of the game. When a player knows that an opponent will dish out a ton of damage if his or her character becomes stunned, it’s hard to justify attacking.

You Know . . . We Have VENGEANCE Over Here in the Marvel Universe, Too!

Anyway, back to the conversation between me and my fellow TAWCers. Shortly after telling them all about my weekend drafts, we started discussing the potential for the new set in Constructed. I expressed how I thought that Ghost Rider was underappreciated compared to the other Marvel Defenders. My initial comment was that a couple copies of The Order would make Ghost Rider quite devastating. If he were to activate on a 5-drop, an opponent would lose a whopping 15 endurance once the 5-drop became stunned.

While 15 endurance loss is impressive, it really isn’t something that we can hang our hat on. So we started talking about additional ways to abuse Ghost Rider. At some point in the conversation, Join Us or Die was mentioned. Where The Order would give us the chance to increase the amount of damage that Ghost Rider’s effect inflicts, Join Us or Die would give us a way to control when our character becomes stunned. More importantly, because Join Us or Die automatically recovers the stunned character if it has the Villains United affiliation, we can trigger Ghost Rider’s effect multiple times in a turn. With three copies of Join Us or Die, that impressive 15 endurance damage from earlier leaps to a colossal 45 endurance damage! Now that’s something that we can hang our hat on.

I suppose it’s only fitting that we join the forces of Ghost Rider and his DC brethren in vengeance. With the help of The Order, Join Us or Die, and the Villains United, we’re going to let Johnny Blaze free the fires of vengeance all over our opponent’s endurance.

The Build

Four copies of Johnny Blaze ◊ Ghost Rider represent the standard start for our deck. In addition, we’ll need four copies each of The Order and Join Us or Die. If we can get a few copies of each in hand, then we can ensure that we’ll be able to deal lethal damage when the time comes.

Some of you out there may be thinking that the four copies each of our combo plot twists probably aren’t enough to ensure that we have a sufficient number of copies in hand when the critical turn arrives. And you would be right. We don’t really have any effective plot twist searchers or recursion among the Marvel Defenders and Villains United. As such, our combo would probably only be sporadic at best if we limited ourselves to those two teams. So, we’re going to add a third support team to the mix: Secret Society. With effective search and recursion cards, the Secret Society may be just what we need to ensure the consistency of our combo.

Let’s start off with our character choices. At 1, we have a slew of select characters. First and foremost are four copies of Calculator, Noah Kuttler. This Villains United 1-drop plays double duty as a Villains United character and a Team-Up searcher. With three teams in our build, we want to have a way to get our Team-Ups active ASAP.

Another essential Villains United 1-drop is the vengeance searcher Alexander Luthor, Duplicitous Doppelganger. With a heavy presence of characters with vengeance in our deck, we could certainly benefit from having a way to search out our key drops. Alexander Luthor is one of the more effective searchers available to us, so we definitely want to play our maximum four copies.

Since we are playing both Villains United and Secret Society, we should probably play Cheetah, Feral Feline at 1 as well. This feral feline is dual-affiliated with these two teams, so she can be of great aid whenever we have a team-stamped effect. In addition, her vengeance gives us a bit of an extra ATK boost so that we can dole out some extra damage in the early turns.

As is the case with many combo decks, we will find that hand size is a critical issue for us. That being said, we might want to have a way of improving our hand size. Such a task is tailor-made for the Secret Society 1-drop Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster. With Mr. Mxy’s auto-recursion effect, we can discard without worrying about having enough cards in our late turns to fuel our combo.

Our final 1-drop gives us a bit of end-game damage potential. If we use Ghost Rider’s power multiple times in a turn, our opponents may just decide not to attack to spare themselves the damage. In this situation, we can bring out Chomin, Qwardian Spy to ensure a stun in the late turns. This Anti-Matter 1-drop can force a stun on one of our characters, and thereby force through the damage on our opponent. However, we need to be careful when we recruit Chomin, as we can only play The Order if all characters we control have the Marvel Defenders affiliation. Unless we have a Team-Up, we will generally want to use The Order and Ghost Rider’s effect first, then recruit our Anti-Matter 1-drop afterward.

We have one copy of our sole 2-drop. In general, we will not want to recruit this character, but if we find the need to recur a character and we don’t have a plot twist or location that can meet the need, then we can recruit Peter Merkel ◊ Ragdoll for a bit of on-demand recursion. The Secret Society 2-drop has a built-in recursion effect that we will undoubtedly need to use from time to time. And because Ragdoll has vengeance, we can search him out with Alexander Luthor quite easily. Ragdoll is a simple and effective answer to a difficult problem.

At 3, we’re going to play four copies of Floronic Man, Jason Woodrue. Voluntarily KO’ing a 3-drop is never easy, but this 3-drop’s ability is one of the more powerful recursion effects in Vs. System. As we mentioned earlier, we will need multiple copies of our combo plot twists. Floronic Man is effectively an additional copy of a plot twist, since we can recur a plot twist right after we use it with Floronic Man’s effect.

Turn 4 already brings us Johnny Blaze <> Ghost Rider. We could feasibly activate Ghost Rider’s effect on himself and deal quite a bit of damage, but we would probably be better off playing a character that already provides us a bit of additional burn. Villains United has a character who fits this role perfectly in the form of Deathstroke the Terminator, Lethal Weapon. Even before we consider Ghost Rider’s effect, Deathstroke already has a very powerful burn effect. When we start stacking Ghost Rider activations, the amount of damage that Deathstroke deals can be absurd. With just a single copy of The Order, Deathstroke will deal 12 endurance loss every time he becomes stunned. With a one-two punch of Ghost Rider and Deathstroke, we have ideal drops for turns 4 and 5. In addition, this leaves an extra resource point open for us on turn 5; we can play Chomin, or if necessary, we can play Alexander Luthor to search out Deathstroke. There’s definitely a variety of options.

In addition to the combo plot twists that we’ve already mentioned, we have a few other blue cards that are worth playing. First, we have the partner Team-Up to The Calculator: Coercion. A majority of our characters are on the Villains United team. Coercion allows us to team-up other teams with the Villains United even if we don’t actually have those teams in play. The fact that it’s searchable makes it a perfect addition to our deck.

Since we’re discussing search, let’s talk about our character searchers. To aid Alexander Luthor in hitting our preferred curve, we have Baddest of the Bad and Straight to the Grave. Baddest of the Bad has a unique cost associated with it in that we have to return a Villains United character to our hand to play it. With such a slew of Villains United 2-drops, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for us. But the real charm of Baddest of the Bad is that it can search out any character in our deck. Yes, since all our characters are affiliated, Baddest of the Bad can put any one of them in our hand.

Straight to the Grave is similar to Baddest of the Bad in that it can search out any character card. However, Straight to the Grave instead puts that character card in the KO’d pile rather than our hand. With a few recursion options (like the aforementioned Ragdoll), this shouldn’t be a problem for us. Of course, the real allure of Straight to the Grave is that it can also put a vital non-character card into our KO’d pile. With our deck’s recursion effects, this can be a very beneficial method of finding our combo plot twists for our kill turn.

Our final plot twist is a pseudo–plot twist recursion effect that can effectively give us additional copies of our critical plot twists. Sorcerer’s Treasure is another good reason for the inclusion of the Secret Society in our deck. Since the amount of damage that we can inflict is directly related to the number of key plot twists that we can play, it makes sense for us to play a card that allows us to reuse these critical plot twists. Sorcerer’s Treasure does force us to remove the plot twist that we reuse from the game, but considering that we will usually only play Sorcerer’s Treasure on our kill turn, this isn’t much of a drawback.

Before we move on to our locations, we should probably talk about the effective use of our plot twist recursion effects; in essence, should we reuse The Order or Join Us or Die? The short answer is that, with just a few copies of both, you will usually achieve the same amount of “net damage.” Consider the following scenario:

You have Ghost Rider and Deathstroke in play and one copy each of The Order, Join Us or Die, and Sorcerer’s Treasure. Here is a breakdown of the damage that you could deal:

A:  (2) copies of The Order (using Sorcerer’s Treasure once) = 12 damage,

times (1) copy of Join Us or Die = 12 damage

B:  (1) copy of The Order = 8 damage,

times (2) copies of Join Us or Die (using Sorcerer’s Treasure once) = 16 damage

As you can see, copying Join Us or Die results in more damage to your opponent. But if we take into account our own stun damage (4 endurance in the first case versus 8 endurance in the second case), our net damage comes out to 8 endurance. Basically, it’s the same no matter what we choose.

Of course, as we increase the number of copies of our plot twists, we find that we achieve diminishing returns for every additional copy of The Order that we play. Before any Ghost Rider activations, Deathstroke will deal 4 endurance damage every time he stuns. With one activation, that number doubles to 8 endurance. Thus, our first copy of The Order increases our total damage output by 50% (from 8 endurance to 12 endurance). The second copy will increase damage by 33% (from 12 to 16). These returns continue to decline as we increase the number of copies of The Order that we play.

Let’s go back to our original scenario. But this time, let’s double the number of each plot twist. Here are two possible outcomes:

A:  (4) copies of The Order (using Sorcerer’s Treasure twice) = 24 damage,

times (2) copies of Join Us or Die = 48 damage,

minus 8 stun damage = 40 net damage

B:  (2) copies of The Order = 16 damage,

times (4) copies of Join Us or Die (using Sorcerer’s Treasure twice) = 64 damage,

minus 16 stun damage = 48 net damage

This illustrates that it is generally better to maximize your copying of Join Us or Die.

One final note about this issue. If Chomin is in play, he will tend to skew the results toward playing more copies of The Order. Consider our original “one copy of each plot twist” with Chomin in play:

A:  (2) copies of The Order (using Sorcerer’s Treasure once) = 12 damage,

times (1) copy of Join Us or Die = 12 damage,

plus 16 damage from Chomin = 28 damage,

minus 8 stun damage = 20 net damage

B:  (1) copy of The Order = 8 damage,

times (2) copies of Join Us or Die (using Sorcerer’s Treasure once) = 16 damage,

plus 12 damage from Chomin = 28 damage,

minus 12 stun damage = 16 net damage

The bottom line: if you have Chomin in play, it is generally better to maximize your uses of The Order. Otherwise, maximize your uses of Join Us or Die. ’Nuff said.

Our locations should be fairly apparent. Since we’ve been talking so much about recursion, we should expect that four copies of Slaughter Swamp will make their way into the deck. And indeed they shall. With Slaughter Swamp in play, our character search provided by Straight to the Grave becomes 100% effective (barring any resource row disruption). In addition, we can freely discard late drops to the KO’d pile, secure in the knowledge that we can retrieve them when the time comes to play them.

Our final card is a bit of an insurance Team-Up. With all our search, we should have no problem finding multiple copies of Coercion in most games. But since Team-Ups are critical for deck success (because we can’t play The Order unless we’re all teamed-up), we’re going to add a couple copies of 31st Century Metropolis. This Team-Up can satisfy the initial “two teams together” function. In addition, the activated effect can bring one of our characters into the fold for a turn. If we have wayward copies of Floronic Man, Jason Woodrue or Chomin in play, this can be an invaluable asset for letting us play The Order without too much difficulty.

It may not be Trogdor, but our deck will burn as effectively as any dragon, man. Let’s take a look at the final product:

Spirits of Vengeance


4 Alexander Luthor, DD

4 Cheetah, Feral Feline

1 Chomin, Qwardian Spy

4 Mr. Mxyzptlk, TTrickster

4 The Calculator, Noah Kuttler

1 Peter Merkel ◊ Ragdoll

4 Floronic Man, Jason Woodrue

4 Johnny Blaze ◊ Ghost Rider

4 Deathstroke, Lethal Weapon

4 Baddest of the Bad

4 Coercion, Team-Up

4 Join Us or Die

4 Sorcerer’s Treasure

4 Straight to the Grave

4 The Order

2 31st Century Metropolis

4 Slaughter Swamp

Unlike standard decks, there aren’t usually any hard and fast rules for mulligan conditions with combo decks. Alexander Luthor is probably a good start, as he can fetch a number of essential characters for our deck. Of course, we can’t use that as a strict guideline, since we will need to have at least a couple copies each of The Order and Join Us or Die for our combo to go off. With all the character search in our deck, we generally shouldn’t have a problem hitting our character curve.

Initiative choice isn’t much of a concern, as the combo can go off on turn 5 whether or not we control the initiative. If we do have even initiatives, though, we will generally want to play Deathstroke on turn 4 and then Ghost Rider on turn 5. This allows us to maximize damage on our attacks, as we can deal burn damage without having to exhaust a character with Deathstroke in play. In addition, this also allows us to get a late Team-Up on turn 5 if we miss it in our early turns.

And that’s a wrap. I hope that you all take an opportunity to try out this crazy combo idea. In addition, if you have any combo ideas that you’d like to share with me and the Vs. System public at large, please feel free to send them my way.  Take care, and I’ll see you again next week for another episode of Breaking Ground.

Strange Love  (03/27/07)

The end of the month of March can only mean one thing: it’s almost time for me to finish my harrowing experience as an auditor. I’m sure that most of you already know this, but I will recap for those of you who haven’t been privy to my life experiences. Away from the mad, mad world of Vs. System, I am a forensic accountant. This job often sounds more glamorous than it actually is, as it involves a lot of late nights crunching numbers and creating data tables to analyze figures that may or may not be relevant to questionable accounting activity. Yeah . . . not nearly as cool as what the folks on CSI do. Still, it’s interesting work to me and something that I am quite good at.

Concealed—Not Optional

Sadly, there is a dark shroud covering my otherwise enjoyable occupation: audit. For the past two years, I have been part of a rotation in the audit practice at my employer. While still related to accounting, audit is nothing like the job that I so dearly enjoy. Rather, audit is a merciless profession with an attrition rate higher than many service industries. The long hours, intense stress, and dreary work will weaken all but the hardiest souls. True, those who can survive the experience can pretty much write their own paychecks, as accountants with audit experience fetch a premium in the private sector, but most people (including myself) don’t consider this particular juice to be worth the squeeze. To be totally honest, I would have departed long ago if not for the knowledge that I would be leaving the accursed audit practice come April 22nd.

With the passing of March into April comes the long-awaited exodus back into the forensics practice, where I will never again have to let the black shadow of audit darken my weakened soul. I will leave the world of accounting torment behind for a job with far less stress, much better pay, and only a few weeks a year where the workweek hours go into the 50s and 60s.

And that, my friends, is the only thing about the month of March that you need to know!

Aren’t you forgetting about something, baby?

Secret Selections and Underdogs

Well, well, well . . . what a surprise! Ladies and gentlemen, it’s famous college basketball commentator and personality Dick Vitale! How’s it going, Dick?

Things are awesome, baby! It’s college hoops! It’s the field of sixty-five! It’s March Madness, baby!

Yes it is. I’d been meaning to congratulate you on your picks this year. It looks like you have this field pretty well pegged. I’m pretty sure that you would be winning my office pool right now if you entered it.

When it comes to the NCAA tourney, I’m a perfectly predicting prognosticator!

Um . . . yeah. I did want to ask you about a little bit of a bias that I think you might have. I noticed that your picks for the Final Four were all coastal teams—three on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. You do realize that there are colleges in the tournament from the central United States, right?

What can I say? I go with what I know, and I know ACC and Big East hoops.

Well, have you considered looking at the Big 12? I mean, that conference has had more teams in the Final Four over the past decade than any other, and you didn’t predict any Big 12 to go past the Elite Eight. And what’s with the Tarheels winning the whole thing? Have you ever made a bracket prediction that didn’t involve a team from North Carolina winning the whole thing?

Hey baby, I didn’t come here to fight . . . I came here to talk Vs. System!

Oh yeah, that’s a good idea. Well, since you’re an expert on analysis over groupings involving four teams, why don’t you tell me which team out of Marvel Team-Up you think is the MVP?

If you like early game dominance, you can’t go wrong with the Sinister Syndicate. They may hurt you, but they’re sure to hurt your opponent even more—that is, of course, unless your opponent is playing the Spider-Friends. They’re literal proof of the saying that the best defense is a good defense . . . deny, deny, deny! Of course, the Marvel Defenders know more about defense than anyone—it’s part of their name! The opportunities available for the Marvel Defenders are so truly exhausting that they have to turn most of their characters sideways. Still, I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. Who’s a bigger underdog than the Underworld? They may be underrated, but they can be downright underhanded. It can’t be understated, because everyone needs to understand . . . they’re awesome, baby!

Well, you heard it here first, folks. Dickie V. has a strange love for the Underworld team, so that’s who and what we’re featuring this week: the Underworld with Strange Love. Hopefully we can find the perfect deck to merit the #1 seed that Vitale has given them!

The Build

In my opinion (and Dick Vitale’s), Strange Love is one of the most potent cards in Marvel Team-Up. Remember Children of the Atom? Talk about a card that’s just plain amazing! Strange Love gives the Underworld the same effect, and we can discard any card to play it. Now that truly is awesome, baby!

Strange Love does have a slight restriction in that it can only be played if we control a Team-Up. Thus, in order to wield the power of Strange Love, we will have to play a Team-Up card in our deck. We could play a mono-Underworld deck with Team-Ups splashed for Strange Love, but this seems a bit redundant. Instead, it might be a better idea for us to actually play a team that has some synergy with the Underworld. Let’s see . . . the Underworld’s primary theme is KO’d pile manipulation. Who else do we know that shares this theme?

If you answered Secret Society, you are indeed correct.  Between Underworld and Secret Society, we should be able to achieve unparalleled KO’d pile manipulation. How will that aid us? Let’s get to building and find out!

At 1, we have the master of deck depletion: Manhunter Clone, Clone of Paul Kirk. This little guy was an MVP in the deck-destruction deck from a few weeks back. This week, he can aid us by filling our KO’d pile. Since he has evasion, Manhunter Clone is sure to stun quite a bit and still stick around. Also at 1, we’re going to play a single copy of The Dwarf, Soul Broker. Because a Team-Up is so critical for our deck, we must ensure that we have one in play. In the tradition of great 1-drops like Dagger, Child of Light and The Calculator, Noah Kuttler, The Dwarf doubles as a character and search card.

Turn 2 gives us a choice of characters that can enable our recursion options. For the Underworld, we have four copies of Black Rose, Roxanne Simpson. The wife of Johnny Blaze isn’t a big 2-drop, but what she lacks in stats, she makes up for with an amazing activated power. Even if we never find another recursion card, Black Rose can make sure that we can fetch our drops from the KO’d pile to hit our curve. Of course, the Secret Society also has a 2-drop that can aid us with recursion. Peter Merkel ◊ Ragdoll, Malleable Miscreant costs us a bit more, with the stun requirement for his effect to trigger and the discard cost if we use it; however, Ragdoll is a bit less restrictive than Black Rose, as he can fetch any character card from the KO’d pile. In addition, since Ragdoll doesn’t need to exhaust for his effect, we can use him to attack as well. A bit of offense with our recursion? Yes, please!

We’re also going to play a single copy of Deadshot, Floyd Lawton. With problematic 2- and 3-drops like Quicksilver, Inhuman by Marriage and Ahmed Samsarra running rampant in Silver Age, it behooves us to have a method for dealing with these threats outside of combat. Since we will be trying to stock our KO’d pile with all sorts of goodness, we will usually have the requisite ten cards in our KO’d pile to make Deadshot active. Sacrificing a 2-drop to take out a critical opposing 2- or 3-drop is always good business.

At 3, we have a copy of Floronic Man, Jason Woodrue. Here’s a card that players either love or hate. The staunchest board control advocates will argue that paying 3 resource points just to return a card from the KO’d pile is a bad investment. Other players will argue that when it comes to ensuring that you have a critical card in hand, no price is too great. I am of the mindset that there can indeed be a time and place where having the right card in hand is an enormous benefit. Thus, a single copy of Poison Ivy’s mentor will be in the deck for just such a “just-in-case” situation.

Still, we really want to start dishing out the beats on turn 3. This is why our primary 3-drop is going to be the awesome Meatmarket, Lilin. At 5/4, Meatmarket is already a respectable 3-drop; however, when you start dropping copies of him into the KO’d pile, he becomes ridiculously huge. If we max out the number of Meatmarkets in our KO’d pile, then he can become a whopping 8/7. That’s a 3-drop who’s bigger than most 4-drops, folks. And with Black Rose around to fetch power-ups of our 3-drop from the KO’d pile, he could quite easily swing up into 5-drops without any help from plot twists or locations.

Keeping with the theme of beefy characters, we have Lex Luthor, Criminal Genius filling our curve at 4. Consider the potential for Lex if we hit all of our early drops. If we opt to keep our curve hidden, then Lex will still be an 8/8 thanks to Manhunter Clone. Of course, we can also go for the visible character route. In this case, Lex could easily become a 10/10 when all of our other characters exhaust to his effect. In this scenario, all but the hardiest of 4-drops will need some help to secure a stun on our 4-drop. He may be evil, but he’s worth it!

We’re also going to go with a backup 4-drop in the form of Blackheart, Black King. Remember the discussion we had about Deadshot? That reasoning is also applicable for the inclusion of Blackheart. In this case, though, we don’t actually need to get rid of our 2-drop. Rather, we simply need 1) three character cards in our KO’d pile (which we should have plenty of); 2) an Underworld character in hand or in play for Blackheart’s loyalty—reveal (which we should also have plenty of); and 3) to exhaust Blackheart. Problematic low drops are a thing of the past, as Blackheart can wipe them clear off the board.

Since we are playing a deck that focuses heavily on putting lots of cards into the KO’d pile, you can probably guess who our 5-drop is going to be. Satana, Satana Hellstrom is just plain amazing for pretty much all the same reasons that Meatmarket is amazing. The difference here is that Satana only gets a boost to her ATK. Still, this 5-drop also boasts 10 DEF, meaning that she can already attack into most 5-drops without stunning back. And with multiple copies of Satana in the KO’d pile, our 5-drop can easily swing up the curve into most 6-drops and even a few 7-drops. KO’d pile FTW!

Both Secret Society and Underworld boast some pretty amazing 6-drops. Gorilla Grodd, Simian Mastermind is a great equalizer against decks that have powerful 4-drops. Since our own mid-game is pretty solid, though, we probably don’t want to KO any of our characters. For the Underworld, Madelyne Pryor, Goblyn Queen has an absolutely crippling KO effect, but she really doesn’t do much to enhance our KO’d pile theme. In my opinion, Dweller-in-Darkness, Fear Lord is the strongest possible play you can have in a deck with a substantial KO’d pile. Unless your opponent commits an enormous amount of resources into an attack (like multiple plot twists or several team attackers), Dweller-in-Darkness will most certainly cause it to fail. Against any aggressive deck, this is amazing! Not since Varnae have we had a card that can virtually guarantee an opponent will have to attack more than once to secure a stun.

If we haven’t finished our opponent by turn 7, then Mark Desmond ◊ Blockbuster, Mindless Brute should be the icing on the cake. In the correct deck, this 7-drop will be better than any 7-drop your opponent can play. What type of deck is “correct”? Why, one that feeds the KO’d pile . . . just like the one we’ve been building! With a paltry ten cards in our KO’d pile, Blockbuster becomes a gigantic 18/16. Moreover, once we hit our ten-card condition, Blockbuster cannot be stunned while attacking. If we have the initiative on turn 7, then that should spell the end for our opponent.

Of course, we won’t always get our preferred odd initiatives. If this is the case, we might want an insurance policy for turn 8. Since we should have most of our deck in our KO’d pile by this time, we should be able to make good use of Psycho-Pirate, Roger Hayden. This 8-drop is certainly a bit behind the curve stat-wise, but he bolsters those paltry stats by recruiting opposing characters to join our cause. Simply by removing cards from the KO’d pile, we can steal an opposing character with cost 6 or less. Against most decks, this is backbreaking. Against a short- or off-curve deck, this is game, set, and match.

Now let’s take a look at our plot twists. As mentioned earlier, we will need to have Team-Ups in play to make Strange Love effective. Thus, we will play a single copy of Ritual Sacrifice. Since we have a single copy of The Dwarf in our deck, we can find this Team-Up anytime we need to get our two teams working together. Our primary Team-Up, however, has to be Funky’s Big Rat Code. This Secret Society Team-Up is perfect for our deck concept. Not only does it give us the Team-Up card that we need to make Strange Love work, but it also helps us fill our KO’d pile with a nifty deck-depleting effect. With more cards in the KO’d pile, we increase the overall effectiveness of our characters in play.

Appropriately, our search cards for the deck also supplement our KO’d-pile-focused theme. Straight to the Grave needs little introduction, as it has been one of the more popular generic search cards in Vs. System over the past year-and-a-half. While Straight to the Grave can work in any deck with a recursion engine, it truly shines when used by the Secret Society. In addition to placing a character card in the KO’d pile, Straight to the Grave can thin out our deck a bit by placing a non-character card into the KO’d pile. Of course, if we have Floronic Man in play, then Straight to the Grave can effectively search for anything in our deck.

While the Underworld doesn’t have a search card for non-character cards, it’s hard to argue that their character search card isn’t every bit as good as Straight to the Grave. Death’s Embrace gives us immediate access to a character without us having to worry about recursion. While this can be helpful, the true beauty of this search card is that it still fills our KO’d pile. Consider the possibilities with a card like Meatmarket. Not only will we hit our vaunted 3-drop, but he will also be 6/5 when he comes out. Such powerful search and siphoning of character cards can help us make Meatmarket and Satana much bigger than any of their 3- and 5-drop counterparts.

Our final plot twist gives us a bit more aid on the recursion front. Because the KO’d pile is such a powerful tool in our deck, we will undoubtedly benefit from ways to utilize synergies with it. For the most part, we want to keep it filled to the brim with as many characters as possible; however, when we can trade our KO’d pile size for hand advantage, it might not be a bad trade. This is what Dimensional Rift enables us to do. Whether it helps us recur a character to hit our curve, provides a critical power-up, or even just gives us fuel for random discard effects, Dimensional Rift provides a very strong 2-for-1 trade. With correct play of our critical cards, we can use Dimensional Rift for maximum advantage while still keeping a good number of character cards in our KO’d pile.

Our locations will finish off the deck. With the recursion-heavy theme and Secret Society as one of the primary teams, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that we’ll be playing Slaughter Swamp. This recursion location is a powerful tool in many different decks, but nowhere is it more potent than in a deck designed to utilize the KO’d pile to its fullest potential. In addition, the secondary effect of Slaughter Swamp to ready whenever we recruit a Secret Society character with a cost of 3 or more ensures that it can impact a game more than just once per turn.

Finally, we’re going to throw in a bit of offense for our deck. Gorilla City rates as one of the stronger location ATK pumps in the game, providing a potential +3 ATK. It also tends to aid its own cause, as every activation of Gorilla City will put an additional card into our KO’d pile.

Because Dickie V. has so much faith in the Underworld, so should we. Let’s see where the Marvel Team-Up MVP has gone in our latest creation:

Lords of the Underworld!

4 Manhunter Clone, CoPaul Kirk

1 The Dwarf, Soul Broker

4 Black Rose, Roxanne Simpson

1 Deadshot, Floyd Lawton

4 Peter Merkel ◊ Ragdoll

1 Floronic Man, Jason Woodrue

4 Meatmarket, Lilin

4 Lex Luthor, Criminal Genius

1 Blackheart, Black King

4 Satana, Satana Hellstrom

2 Dweller-in-Darkness, Fear Lord

2 Mark Desmond ◊ Blockbuster

1 Psycho-Pirate, Roger Hayden

4 Death’s Embrace

4 Dimensional Rift

4 Funky’s Big Rat Code

1 Ritual Sacrifice, Team-Up

4 Straight to the Grave

4 Strange Love

3 Gorilla City

3 Slaughter Swamp

With Lex Luthor holding down the 4-drop slot, our best bet for initiative choice is probably odds. Since Luthor and Meatmarket comprise our early game muscle, our opponents will have to employ numerous resources to secure stuns on our characters. After that, we can rely on Satana to attack for a good deal of endurance loss on turn 5. Turn 6 brings us Dweller-in-Darkness, who almost single-handedly guarantees that at least one of our opponent’s attacks will fail. Finally, Blockbuster will often be the nail in the coffin, as not too many decks can survive against an 18 ATK 7-drop that can’t be stunned while attacking.

Eight search cards make for a strong level of consistency in hitting drops. In addition, depleting our deck will give us additional access to cards, albeit in the KO’d pile. Thus, the most sensible mulligan condition would be for a copy of either Black Rose or Ragdoll. From there, it should be relatively simple for us to hit our curve.

That does it for this week. Thanks to Mr. Dick Vitale for taking time out of his busy schedule to join me in a completely fictitious conversation. I’ll be back next week for another series of janky decks and made-up interviews.

Intergalactic Summit – Part 1  (04/10/07)

City Championships are upon us, and my fellow Metagame.com columnists have all done their fair share of promotion and discussion of these newest Vs. System events. They may not have all the glamour and gusto of a $10K or Pro Circuit, but there is little doubt that the City Championships will bring out some of the best and brightest Vs. System players looking to see who can take down the title in their area.

One big appeal of the City Championships is that they put a premium on creative deck design. You see, the winning decklist of each City Championship will be placed into a pool for the members of UDE R&D to select from. The UDE staffers will then practice and play their selections in their own tournament. The player who submitted the winning decklist will have his or her visage emblazoned on a Vs. System card in an upcoming set. The chance to be immortalized in card form is almost too much for any player to pass up! Sure, there will still be people playing run-of-the-mill decks like QuickFate and Checkmate / Villains United, but unlike with past premier events, there is a strong incentive for players to try to come up with new and inspiring deck designs.

What Runs Through a Spooky Mind?

Even in the constant stupor I have been in lately due to never-ending audits, I have become quite giddy in anticipation over potential deck ideas for the City Championships. I belong to a team that is renowned for its love of the goofy and unplayable, so it only makes sense that I would want to face this challenge head-on. Fortunately, I play in one of the most diverse gaming environments in the world—the Vs. System deckbuilders and players in northeast and central Texas are peer to none when it comes to playing decks that are both outlandish and spectacular. This relieves me somewhat; I know that my chances of running into a stock netdeck are minimized, as no one around here plays anything standard!

But don’t let this fool you—the players in my area are all quite capable, and I am going to need a deck that can compete at all stages of the game if I want a shot at having my mug adorn a Vs. System card. The challenge is twofold: 1) Build a deck that can realistically compete with other decks in my metagame; and 2) build a deck that is unique, innovative, and fun to play. Often, these standards are mutually exclusive. I am always up for a challenge, however, so let’s see where inspiration can take me!

My initial notion was to test out some ideas with pet cards that I have been looking at a lot recently. One of my personal favorites is Shiloh Norman ◊ Mister Miracle. I had a couple of design ideas utilizing him with Villains United to abuse Join Us or Die. Mister Miracle will already be solid simply negating a single attack each turn, but with a way to stun him repeatedly, he becomes quite effective. In mock designs of this deck, I also tried to use Deadpool, Merc with a Mouth to intensify the control. Against curve decks, the concept worked well, as most opponents couldn’t successfully pull off more than one or two attacks in a turn. On the other hand, the deck suffered against off-curve decks and anything that played the Cloak of Nabu (as both Mister Miracle and Deadpool target).

I then decided to try to adapt an existing deck to incorporate a goofy strategy. This, too, started off with a good deal of promise, as some of my recent favorites were quite malleable. Big Blackbriar Shadowpact, probably my current favorite, seemed to be aching for a redesign. My build—a retooling of Anthony Justice’s Top 8 deck from Pro Circuit Indy 2006—integrated Mobilize to improve drop consistency and B.P.R.D. Signal Device to protect my nigh-unstoppable 2-drop from targeted effects. When the deck hit its optimal curve, it became hard for any deck to stand against it. A “Fated-up” Quicksilver, Inhuman by Marriage was no match for Blackbriar Thorn backed by a couple of copies of The Conclave. And Checkmate decks trying to abuse The Rock of Eternity can’t hang with multiple copies of Transmutation. My main problem with the deck is that it can’t effectively regulate its endurance. Manitou Dawn helps out some, and Level 12 Intelligence serves double duty as an endurance gain card and equipment hate. Still, I lose far too much to my own endurance-burning effects to be totally satisfied with the deck.

With that in mind, I explored the possibility of integrating Heralds of Galactus cards into the deck. In addition to providing superior search power, the Heralds have some of the best endurance gain cards in the game. Human Torch, The Invisible Man was splashed in a number of decks at PCLA simply because he could stabilize a game by gaining back endurance lost during the early turns. With Torch and a copy or two of The Herald Ordeal in play, I can effectively use my Magic plot twists as recklessly as I like and still be assured that my endurance will stay at a manageable level. Unfortunately, I found that the addition of the Heralds cards diluted the deck to the extent that Blackbriar Thorn was not nearly as potent as he had originally been. Even though I had cards to regulate my endurance, I wasn’t drawing enough Magic plot twists to make Blackbriar as big as he needed to be. So much for the best-laid plans of mice and men . . .

Finally, I resorted to using Patrick Sullivan’s “cheat sheet.” In his article from March 23rd, Patrick detailed the types of decks that staffers at UDE would be most likely to pick to play for the City Championships. At the end of the article, he gave a list of 10 “pet cards” that would greatly improve a player’s chances of being selected if they were featured in a deck. I took a look at the list to see if anything struck my fancy:

1) The Infinity Gauntlet

Ah, yes—one of my old preview cards. The most costly and most powerful equipment card in the game has been the “holy grail” for casual gamers as of late; many people are trying to find a way to make this source of unbridled power live up to its potential. I had a couple of ideas for this card; however, I read on VsRealms.com that deckbuilding guru Jason Hager already had a tournament-winning deck featuring The Infinity Gauntlet. Back to the drawing board.

4) Mjolnir with the intent of equipping Thor

Who hasn’t dreamed of the elusive Thor, Odinson / Nega-Bomb combo deck? My mock design had Franklin Richards, Creator of Counter-Earth moving Silver Surfer, Skyrider of the Spaceways to the hidden area. Nathan Garrett ◊ Black Knight removed reinforcement from a character so Thor could dish out the pain. Then, safe and secure in the hidden area, Silver Surfer activated to put Nega-Bomb on top of the deck for Thor to send to the KO’d pile. Fun? Certainly! Viable? Not in the least. Keep looking!

5) Secret Six Victorious

As with The Infinity Gauntlet, my teammates and I have drooled at the possibility to abuse this card . . . and, as with The Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Six Victorious was already used by another enterprising player to win a City Championship. Grrrr . . .

7) Bouncing Boy

I wanted to find a way to break this card for no other reason than because it is my nickname for one of the players at my local store. Boing! Boing! Boing!

9) Supreme Intelligence

. . . Ooooooooooh!

Let’s Leave This to the Big-Brained People . . .

Seeing this card on the list immediately made me flash back to my ninth round match against Alex Lasky at $10K New York last year. Alex showed me a copy of Supreme Intelligence from his Sealed Pack pool and told me about his idea to use it with Detective Chimp, Bobo T. Chimpanzee. By naming Kree, he could bring out any character card with Supreme Intelligence. Imagine the look on an opponent’s face when you bring out both Galactus, Devourer of Worlds and Captain Marvel, Champion of Magic! Suffice to say, I was intrigued.

Then, these clever plans were foiled by the banning of Detective Chimp. While I wholeheartedly agree with the ban—the little furball was too powerful—the timing meant that I couldn’t see the Supreme Intelligence deck to fruition. Much like Detective Chimp, Supreme Intelligence would be forever relegated to the annals of casual play. Or would it?

After my $10K revelation, I immediately wondered if Supreme Intelligence could fit into one of my existing decks. You see, I have been terrorizing the tournament scene in Dallas as of late with a teched-out X-Mental deck. With such amazing search, recycling, and draw effects, I consider X-Mental to be one of the most powerful decks in Silver Age. Countless times have I thwarted a wayward QuickFate deck with a well-timed Level 12 Intelligence on Amulet of Nabu for the stunback. If you follow that up with Mutant Massacre on Quicksilver, then there will be no further readying shenanigans for the remainder of the game.

My primary reason for thinking about the X-Mental deck, however, was its 6-drop of choice: Jean Grey, Red. Normally, nuking your own resource row is a bad idea, but the X-Mental deck has some pretty potent resource row synergies with Emma Frost, Friend or Foe and Exodus. These cards actually make the risk of replacing resources well worth the reward. Looking at the text for Supreme Intelligence, you’ll notice that his effect only triggers if you have no face-up resources. What to do? Replace all of your face-up resources with Jean Grey! As the chaps in the Guinness commercials say, “Brilliant!”

The final catch point, though, is that replacing our entire resource row makes teaming-up problematic. Since we must have all face-down resources to trigger Supreme Intelligence, we can’t flip a team-up to enable him to bring out characters from other teams. We could rely solely on Kree characters, but the Kree team really doesn’t have a good number of large characters to exploit with this effect. More importantly, we miss out on the tremendous benefits of bringing out powerhouses like Rachel Summers ◊ Phoenix, Phoenix of the Future and Galactus, Devourer of Worlds.

Sometimes, though, these slight setbacks are just what we need to take a quantum leap forward. While pondering this dilemma, I ran across a card from the Heralds of Galactus set: Intergalactic Summit. Instead of creating a continuous modifier that remains in effect while it is in play, this “team-up that isn’t a Team-Up” generates a turn-based effect that allows you to crossover two teams that you control for a turn. In essence, you can team-up Kree and another team for a turn without actually needing a Team-Up in play. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Those X-Mental characters are already pretty darn smart . . . but Intergalactic Summit is about to give them Supreme Intelligence. And just for grins, we’ll grant them the Power Cosmic as well by bringing some Heralds of Galactus characters into the fold.

The Build

Four copies of Intergalactic Summit are the fuel which keeps this Mental fire burning. We will need at least one copy to ensure that we can pull off our turn 8 shenanigans. Fortunately, we’ll have plenty of draw and cycling power to aid us in this pursuit. As a bonus, extra copies of Intergalactic Summit can act as timely Team-Ups and card drawing for our deck.

Our curve starts at 2, where Silver Surfer, Skyrider of the Spaceways plays the lead. The 2-drop Surfer is a control deck’s dream. While he will usually only be effective once in a game, he can ensure that we don’t have to worry about missing a critical mid-game drop. Add in the fact that he has 3/2 plus flight and range, and there is very little we’re left wanting from this Herald. Of course, against aggressive decks, we would much rather have board control in the early turns. This is where Morg, Slayer comes in handy. This brutal Herald can frighten opposing 1-drops away with a single discard. Considering how dependent rush decks are on board presence, this can be a great equalizer.

Turn 3 finds us bringing more stall with Air-Walker, Gabriel Lan. The Herald incarnation of Puppet Master gives us a powerful stall option and 6 DEF on turn 3 to boot. Without some sort of attack pump, most 3-drops will be unable to stun Air-Walker one-on-one. If, however, Air-Walker does become stunned, then we can substitute him out for our other 3-drop, Hawkeye, Loud Mouth. This Marvel Defender / Avenger is an off-curve deck’s worst nightmare, as he can pick off characters before they are able to threaten our board presence.

You might wonder how we will use Hawkeye in an X-Men / Heralds / Kree deck. After all, his effect requires that we discard a character that shares an affiliation with him, and none of these teams do. Well, my friends, the solution to this quandary is not a Team-Up. Rather, it’s a 4-drop: Professor X, Headmaster. I didn’t quite realize how potent Professor X’s leader effect was until I began playing X-Mental myself. The absolute need for a Team-Up to enable certain effects disappears, and we discover that we can now use many effects—including Hawkeye’s—as freely as we could if were playing a mono-team deck. Add in the Professor’s above-average stats and useful card draw effect, and he’s quite the heavy hitter in our deck.

Turn 5 brings us a couple of useful options. Generally, we will want to take the standard X-Mental route and bring Emma Frost, Friend or Foe out to play. Emma may only boast average stats, but she brings an effect to the table that is almost without equal. Our resource row will be one of our strongest enablers in this deck. We will quite often rely on a timely plot twist from the row to turn the tide of an attack; Emma Frost doubles the effectiveness of our resource row by enabling us to reuse critical cards. Considering the power level of certain plot twists in our deck, this is amazing. Of course, Emma may not be the answer in every situation for dealing with an incomparable foe. In this case, we might need a little more finesse—the kind that only a Herald of Galactus can provide. Got a problem with a beefy character toting the Fate Artifacts? Just Red Shift ‘em! Too many counters on that copy of Hulk, Grumpy Green Goliath? Just Red Shift ‘em! Is there a seemingly unstoppable force or immovable object on your opponent’s board? Just Red Shift ‘em! Yes, folks—in many, many cases, Red Shift, Rift Walker has the cure for what ails you.

We’ve already stated that our 6-drop is none other than Jean Grey, Red. The X-Men’s resident redhead is part of the fuel for our unforgettable fire. Still, it’s important to note that Red isn’t just a setup card. If we already have our late-game curve in hand, then Jean Grey can be an amazing source of card cycling. By replacing “dead” plot twists in our resource row, we can look at new cards that might be useful to us in later turns. If we replace into a plot twist or location, we should have no trouble finding a way to make use of it. If we replace into a character, then it will often be a character that we will simply bring into play on turn 8 with the effect of Supreme Intelligence. Gone are the days of wailing when Galactus, Devourer of Worlds finds his way into our resource row. Nowadays, that’s exactly what we want!

At 7, we have a couple of potent intergalactic powerhouses. Our Heralds representative is the upgraded version of Mr. Norrin Radd: Silver Surfer, Harbinger of Oblivion. His effect usually won’t be relevant, but the fact that the Surfer is a 16/16 7-drop with flight and range is enough to merit inclusion. Against certain mid- to late-game decks, we could realistically find ourselves in a position where his effect becomes relevant. At the very least, he can create a turn 8 “lock” if we bring a couple of other cosmic characters into play with Supreme Intelligence. Our primary drop at 7, though, will be Ronan the Accuser, Supreme Public Accuser. The fact that this 7-drop is Kree is part of the reason for his inclusion, as he can give us the ability to crossover Kree with our other teams before we bring Supreme Intelligence into play on turn 8. The real reason to play Ronan, though, is that he boasts a disruption effect that is second to none. One of the main traits of currently popular Silver Age decks is that they are heavily reliant on cards in the resource row. Ronan utterly decimates anything that our opponent has set up as of turn 7. In addition, he has an associated cosmic ability that works well in unison with the resource row replacement. While we won’t usually be able to stun a high drop with his effect, we can often manage to secure the stun on a low drop that has been lingering around on our opponent’s board. Occasionally, we can get lucky and take down a 4- or 5-drop.

Turn 8 is all about “the smarts.” If we’ve set up properly, we can bring out a few absolutely devastating characters on 8 to ensure our victory. “Which characters?” you may ask. Well, we’ve already murmured about Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. Bringing Galactus out on turn 9 is usually crippling. Bringing him out on turn 8 is completely overwhelming. For the X-Men, we can still hit an 8-drop in the form of Rachel Summers ◊ Phoenix. Not only will we have stolen all of our opponent’s endurance, but he or she will also be unable to play plot twists. Who can possibly win out against that?

A couple of locations are going to find their way into our deck. First, we’ll be playing a single copy of X-Corp: Amsterdam. This location has dual utility in that it not only gives us a marginal defensive boost once per turn, but it also can search out a Team-Up for us. Considering how dependent our deck is on teaming-up in a timely fashion, I think it’s extremely important for us to have an extra source of search.

One card that can be quite useful in a deck that discards characters frequently is Slaughter Swamp. We will be playing a rather low complement of character cards, and a number of those cards will be high drops. Thus, effects like Emma Frost’s and Jean Grey’s might need some aid for refueling. To solve this problem, we have a winning recursion location that can cycle out our dead cards (extra plot twists and locations) for character cards that will aid our numerous discards.

Intergalactic Summit takes over the crossover duties in the late turns. Still, we will probably need to have a more long-term method of teaming-up for the mid-game when the Heralds and X-Men unite, so we’re going to go with four copies of Brave New World. In addition to teaming-up our characters, Brave New World also gives our non-Mutant characters a Mutant trait. In this case, our Heralds all gain the Mental trait. Considering that we will have several effects that specifically require the discard of a Mental character, this can reduce our need for specific cards in hand.

If we had some way of completely avoiding combat for the first seven turns, then we could probably win most of our matches. Unfortunately, no such method currently exists, so we will need a few combat aids for our deck. First up is Level 12 Intelligence. Ironically, this card is a bit of an outlier as the only DC card in the deck, but it’s hard to argue that Level 12 Intelligence doesn’t belong in a Supreme Intelligence deck . . . heh heh! All kidding aside, both functions of Level 12 Intelligence can be quite useful. Against decks that rely heavily on equipment cards (like the Fate Artifacts . . . which I hear are popular nowadays), Level 12 Intelligence can create a great deal of pandemonium. A single copy on an Amulet of Nabu effectively works as a +3/+3 pump. A single copy on Cloak of Nabu means that Hawkeye now has Quicksilver dead to rights. A single copy on Helm of Nabu means that Fate has no longer spoken. In addition to being a source of effective equipment hate, Level 12 Intelligence also gives us an option for a moderate amount of endurance gain. With Emma recycling key cards, the endurance gain from Level 12 Intelligence can often mean the difference between losing on turn 7 and winning on turn 8.

Against All Odds is our next combat trick. Personally, I love this card in X-Mental, as so many players are unprepared for it. I have heard on more than one occasion that the newest variant of Acrobatic Dodge does nothing in this deck because I don’t have my characters teamed-up. I then quietly and calmly hand over the copy of Professor X, Headmaster that I have in play. After my opponent reads the card, there is usually a great deal of silence and sullenness. Against All Odds is just as effective in this deck whether or not we have our Team-Up online. With four copies in our deck and Emma trying to save the environment through recycling, we are sure to have plenty of defenses for our opponents to try to break through.

Occasionally, though, our opponents will break through our defenses. In this case, it might be wise for us to have a backup plan to preserve our board, so we certainly want to play a few copies of Phoenix Rising. This recovery card is one of the best in the game, and its synergy with any X-Mental deck is undeniable. With all the Mental cards we discard to various effects, we will often have copies of a character we have in play sitting in our KO’d pile. This bodes quite well for us when we need to recover a key character with Phoenix Rising. It is situational, but simply getting one or two timely recoveries against an aggressive opponent can be enough to get us to our all-important late turns.

Last, but certainly not least, we have to look at our character search cards. Our first one is probably no surprise, as it is Enemy of My Enemy. When I initially made my rules about which deck I would play in the City Championships, I specifically prohibited three cards (sets of cards?): Quicksilver, Inhuman by Marriage; the Fate Artifacts; and Ahmed Samsarra. The goal of the City Championships is to find unique and innovative decks, and I didn’t feel like I could have a unique or innovative deck with any of these cards present. I almost included Enemy of My Enemy on this list, but I believe that Enemy was designed for decks like the one I’m building. Still, my original build had Creation of a Herald instead of Enemy of My Enemy. In most Heralds decks, I believe that Creation of a Herald is a much better search card. As I found in my preliminary testing, though, there were just too few Heralds high drops to justify playing Creation of a Herald. If you hit an early Galactus or Silver Surfer, Harbinger of Oblivion, then you’re fine. Otherwise, Creation of a Herald is a dead search card in the deck. In this rare instance, I opted for Enemy of My Enemy, as it was more often useful in the situations I encountered. If I were to increase the number of high-drop Heralds characters at some point in the future, then this could easily change.

Our other search card is one that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. I truly believe that Kindred Spirits is one of the best search cards in the game. The problem, though, is that it is usually only effective in the early turns of the game, when you are trying to set up your optimal curve. After turn 5 or 6, I found that I was rarely using Kindred Spirits, as I usually had my optimal character curve set, or I had better search options (like Creation of a Herald). In this deck, though, I unknowingly stumbled onto an amazing combo. Consider your situation on turn 8: You’ve managed to crossover all your teams with a couple of copies of Intergalactic Summit, but you haven’t yet prepared for the recruit of Supreme Intelligence by replacing all your face-up resources. Moreover, your key late-game drops—Rachel Summers and Galactus—are still somewhere in your deck. Since you need to have those character cards in your resource row for Supreme Intelligence to bring them out, you would usually be out of luck. Fortunately, Kindred Spirits can set up Jean Grey’s effect perfectly for the impending recruit of Supreme Intelligence. Before you replace all your face-up resources, use Kindred Spirits to put your key drops on top of your deck. Then, when Red works her resource row magic . . . voila! Phoenix and Galactus magically find their way into your resource row, ensuring that they will make their way into play once you recruit Supreme Intelligence. It’s ma-a-a-a-gic!

Well, folks, that’s our build. Let’s see if our intellectual curiosity made a winner out of this intellectual curiosity:

A Meeting of the Minds – Version 1


4 Silver Surfer, SotSpaceways

2 Morg, Slayer

4 Air-Walker, Gabriel Lan

1 Hawkeye, Loud Mouth

4 Professor X, Headmaster

3 Emma Frost, Friend or Foe

1 Red Shift, Rift Walker

3 Jean Grey, Red

1 Ronan the Accuser, SPA

1 Silver Surfer, HoOblivion

1 Rachel Summers ◊ Phoenix

2 Supreme Intelligence

1 Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

4 Against All Odds

4 Brave New World

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Intergalactic Summit

4 Kindred Spirits

4 Level 12 Intelligence

3 Phoenix Rising

4 Slaughter Swamp

1 X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp

In general, you want to minimize your opponent’s impact as much as possible. With odd initiatives, you can limit a curve deck to two effective turns of attacking (turns 4 and 6). By making safe attacks down the curve or team attacking, you can minimize your opponent’s retaliation on turns where you don’t control the initiative. With Against All Odds and Phoenix Rising at your disposal, you generally won’t have too much difficulty maintaining board advantage.

Mulligans depend upon which type of deck you are facing. Generally, you want to keep any hand that contains Silver Surfer, Skyrider of the Spaceways or Kindred Spirits (as it can search out Silver Surfer for you). Having Silver Surfer in play pretty much guarantees a turn 4 Professor X, Headmaster. If you are facing an off-curve deck, then a mulligan for Morg, Slayer or Kindred Spirits may be in order to assist you with minimizing early game damage. Also, Hawkeye, Loud Mouth can be brutally effective on 4 when you position him adjacent to Professor X (thus giving him the X-Men affiliation).

The deck is somewhat intricate and complex, so it will take some practice to run effectively. Above all else, remember to hang on to a copy of Intergalactic Summit. If you can guarantee a turn 7 Ronan the Accuser with a Team-Up, then you can play Intergalactic Summit in your row. On the other hand, if you have to wait until turn 8 to team-up, you want to make sure that you have Intergalactic Summit in your hand, as the effect of Supreme Intelligence won’t trigger if you have any face-up resources when he comes into play. Since his effect is a conditional trigger, you can’t replace all resources with Jean Grey in response to his effect—all of your resources must be face down when you recruit him!

This concludes my discussion of my City Championships deck idea. In the upcoming week, I will be testing my deck, making changes as I see necessary, and (of course) playing my deck in the City Championship tournament at The Game Closet in Waco, TX. Next week, I’ll be discussing the results of my testing, and detailing any changes my testing buddies—the good men of Team Alternate Win Condition—and I saw fit to make. Also, I’ll give you an in-depth tournament report on how the deck fared at the City Championships.  Until then, take care!

Intergalactic Summit – Part 2 (04/17/07)

Welcome back, true believers. This week’s Breaking Ground is a continuation of last week’s. You’ve seen the deck . . . now you get to hear about the playtesting experiences I encountered and see how it fared at a recent City Championship event.

For those of you who didn’t read last week’s article (or just flat-out don’t remember since it’s been a full week), here’s the original decklist:

A Meeting of the Minds – Version 1

4 Silver Surfer, SotS

2 Morg, Slayer

4 Air-Walker, Gabriel Lan

1 Hawkeye, Loud Mouth

4 Professor X, Headmaster

3 Emma Frost, Friend or Foe

1 Red Shift, Rift Walker

3 Jean Grey, Red

1 Ronan the Accuser, SPA

1 Silver Surfer, HoOblivion

1 Rachel Summers ◊ Phoenix

2 Supreme Intelligence, KC

1 Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

4 Against All Odds

4 Brave New World, Team-Up

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Intergalactic Summit

4 Kindred Spirits

4 Level 12 Intelligence

3 Phoenix Rising

4 Slaughter Swamp

1 X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp

This was the starting point for what I hoped would be a successful foray into the City Champs in Waco, TX.

There’s No “I” in “Team” . . . but, Ironically, There Is a “Me”

My playtesting for the Waco City Championship began in the same way as all of my other jank-tastic ideas that have a legitimate shot at doing well: with a post to the Team Alternate Win Condition forums. One of the great things about being a part of a team is that I have sounding boards for my various ideas, and the feedback I get helps me to improve weaker areas of my deck.

In this case, I was aided by TAWC’s own monarch of jank, Tim Batow. As a player who is renowned for his outrageous and amazing deck ideas, Tim is a great resource for any Vs. System deckbuilder. Tim briefly discussed his thoughts on the deck and made the following suggestions:

1)  Replace one copy of Brave New World with X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp. At a basic level, the two cards are functionally the same, but X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp provides an additional effect that can be quite useful in certain situations.

2)  Change my 7-drop to Mar-Vell ◊ Captain Marvel, Enemy of the Empire. While Ronan the Accuser, Supreme Public Accuser can be useful from a disruption perspective, Mar-Vell is a reservist, which makes him a great deal more flexible. In addition, the deck will often have five cards in hand when Mar-Vell is recruited, so he will usually get a decent stat boost for the turn.

3)  Drop Rachel Summers ◊ Phoenix, Phoenix of the Future for another copy of Emma Frost, Friend or Foe. With Phoenix Rising playing such a prominent role in the deck, I would often need that fourth copy of Emma Frost to make sure I could recover her when necessary. In addition, this provided a little more insurance for hitting my preferred 5-drop.

With these changes in place, I went forward to testing the deck that I had placed my hopes and dreams upon. Almost immediately, I noticed a couple of play issues myself. First, I was almost never recruiting Morg, Slayer. Because Professor X, Headmaster is so important to the deck, I almost always needed to have Silver Surfer, Skyrider of the Spaceways out on turn 2 to ensure that I could search for Professor X. Besides, once Professor X came out, I would have a much better off-curve control play in Hawkeye, Loud Mouth.

Second, Phoenix Rising is just plain amazing. I knew this from the times that I played X-Mental, but I really didn’t see this particular deck needing four copies. During playtesting, there was rarely a time that I didn’t want to have one handy. Thus, my initial assumption was probably flawed; I needed to have four copies of Phoenix Rising in my deck.

Finally, despite the fact that I could usually win with Supreme Intelligence and Galactus, Devourer of Worlds on turn 8, I was still missing Rachel Summers. I initially put her in the deck because I wanted an option for turn 8 just in case Supreme Intelligence didn’t pan out. While this didn’t happen all that often in playtesting, I was nonetheless nervous about not having a backup plan. In essence, I really wanted to have Rachel Summers in the deck, if for no other reason than she was a “security blanket” of sorts.

My playtesting changes became a combination of Tim’s and my own. Ronan the Accuser and one copy of Morg were out. In their place came Mar-Vell and another copy of Emma Frost. I swapped out a Brave New World for another X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp. Lastly, one Slaughter Swamp was taken out for the fourth Phoenix Rising.

Here is the revised version of the original decklist:

A Meeting of the Minds – Version 2


4 Silver Surfer, SotS

1 Morg, Slayer

4 Air-Walker, Gabriel Lan

1 Hawkeye, Loud Mouth

4 Professor X, Headmaster

4 Emma Frost, Friend or Foe

1 Red Shift, Rift Walker

3 Jean Grey, Red

1 Mar-Vell ◊ Capt Marvel, EotE

1 Silver Surfer, HoOblivion

1 Rachel Summers ◊ Phoenix

2 Supreme Intelligence, KC

1 Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

4 Against All Odds

3 Brave New World, Team-Up

4 Enemy of My Enemy

4 Intergalactic Summit

4 Kindred Spirits

4 Level 12 Intelligence

4 Phoenix Rising

3 Slaughter Swamp

2 X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp

My playtesting with this deck revealed it to be extremely consistent—I only missed a drop during turns 2 through 7 about one out of ten times. Still, I was a bit troubled by the deck’s lack of versatility. One trait of my X-Mental deck that I loved so much was that it could act either as a defender or aggressor as the situation required. Against aggressive decks, X-Mental could play the stall game until the later turns, when the larger late drops would beat the aggressive player over the head. Against curve and stall decks, X-Mental had enough power to win the game in the mid-game before the late-game deck could ever get its strategy going.

The Supreme Intelligence deck lacked the aggressive ability of the pure X-Mental deck. Its defensive power was just as potent, but it tended to falter against decks with strong mid- to late games. Since I had taken out a good number of the powerful disruption cards that usually allowed me to win late-game matchups with X-Mental (War of Attrition, Mutant Massacre, No Man Escapes the Manhunters, etc.), I was at a severe disadvantage against strong curve decks like Checkmate / Villains United and Heralds / Inhumans. Given that my deck was supposed to thrive on the late game, this was dire news indeed.

Nevertheless, I said that I was going to play the deck at the City Championship, and I am a man of my word. I hoped that my play skill and knowledge of the deck would be enough to get me through unfavorable matchups.

Tournament Report: City Championship, Waco, TX

Compared to Dallas, Waco is a relatively small town, but that didn’t affect the turnout. Players from Waco, the Dallas area, and even Austin made the trip to play in this City Championship tournament.

True to form, the Waco players were sporting some cool and innovative decks (except for Paul Hagan, who was touting a standard Checkmate / Villains United deck . . . Boo! Hiss!). The real surprise, though, was that no one was playing QuickFate. Everyone was considerably happy about this, as none of us wanted to see the Waco City Championship won by the current “Curve Sentinels” of Silver Age.

Round 1

My first round opponent was Michael. Michael is a player from the Dallas area who often makes trips to premier Vs. System events. Though I hold the edge in our match records, Michael is always challenging to play against. When he revealed that he was playing Checkmate / Villains United (Boo! Hiss!), I knew that I was in for an uphill battle.

Initially, things went well for me, as I was able to get my optimal setup of Silver Surfer; Air-Walker, Gabriel Lan; and Professor X. In addition, I had X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp and Phoenix Rising in my resource row, and my curve through turn 7 was in my hand. I looked to be in pretty good shape.

With the initiative on turn 4, Michael sent his Bizarro, ME AM BIZARRO #1 into my Professor X. He had Sarge Steel protecting Bizarro, so I was pretty sure that Sarge would be taking the stun for the brutal 4-drop. To save some endurance loss for myself, I flipped X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp and gave Professor X a point of DEF. Sure enough, both Professor X and Sarge Steel stunned. Since I had a ready Air-Walker, Michael wouldn’t be attacking with Ahmed Samsarra. Michael had other plans, however; he returned Sarge Steel to his hand to play No Mercy on my Professor X.

No Mercy?

I was completely caught off guard by this unorthodox card in his deck. While I had a Phoenix Rising ready to use, I didn’t have a copy of Professor X in my KO’d pile, nor any way to find a copy. Worse yet, I had exhausted my X-Corp: Amsterdam, X-Corp to save a paltry point of DEF, so I couldn’t team-up my characters. Considering that Emma Frost was the only 5-drop in my hand, this was quite problematic. After taking that brutal hit, I dug for my copy of Red Shift to salvage the game. Unfortunately, the hidden Herald remained hidden within my deck, and I was forced to scoop on turn 5.  0-1

Round 2

I was a bit discouraged from the first round, but I consoled myself knowing that it was already a bad matchup without the No Mercy from left field. I settled down and got ready for the next round.

My second round opponent was Josh, another player from the Dallas area. Josh frequently plays cards over at my local shop—Insanity Cards and Games in Mesquite, TX—and is well known for his love of late-game stall decks involving Darkseid’s Elite characters. Sure enough, Josh was toting a Darkseid’s Elite disruption deck.

I was careful not to get too greedy with my resource row, as I knew giving Josh too many cards via the effect of Darkseid, Apokoliptian Oppressor could be disastrous. I was graced by good fortune when Josh missed his 6-drop; this allowed me to take control of the board. Even though I wasn’t able to get a complete lock on Josh with Silver Surfer, Harbinger of Oblivion, bringing out Galactus and Rachel Summers via the effect of Supreme Intelligence was more than enough to force a concession.  1-1

Round 3

The wind was back in my sails as I headed into the next round. My opponent this time was Jason (a.k.a. “babyarm” for all of you who frequent VsRealms). Jason is a classy guy, and I never tire of talking Vs. with him. I knew from my discussions before the tournament that Jason would be playing his Hellfire Club / Kang creation. My feelings were that as long as I drew enough copies of Against All Odds, I would be able to win the matchup.

Once again, I started off in splendid fashion with Silver Surfer, Air-Walker, and Professor X. Jason, on the other hand, underdropped on turn 2 and completely missed on turn 3. When he only had another copy of Kang, Master of Time on turn 5, I knew that I was in good shape.

On turn 7, though, my brain completely shut down and I lost all sense of rational thought. With 35 endurance and the initiative, I was feeling pretty good about my chances to make it to turn 8. Jason, however, had managed to get both Donald Pierce and Sebastian Shaw into play. I knew that my chances were better if I attacked Donald Pierce instead of letting him attack me. Unfortunately, I over-committed with three attackers. While I was concerned that he had some defensive tricks up his sleeve, Jason probably wouldn’t have had enough to stop the 26 points of ATK from just Mar-Vell and Emma Frost. I assumed that I could safely reinforce one attack by Sebastian Shaw with Jean Grey, Red, so I rushed in headlong and got my Mar-Vell stunned for my efforts. After I bounced an attack on my Professor X by Kang, Master of Time with a timely Against All Odds, Jason caught me off guard with a Flying Kick on Sebastian Shaw. With the ability to take to the skies, Jason’s 20 ATK Shaw proceeded to pound my Jean Grey into the ground. Shaw then readied with his effect and laid the smackdown on my Professor X, bringing me to -2 endurance. Good game . . .  1-2

Round 4

I was extremely irked by my misplay in the last round. Unfortunately, this round didn’t help my mood any. I was paired up against Eric, the brother of a local player in Waco. While Eric was extremely new to the game, he had a very innovative Heralds / Inhumans deck. None of his losses to that point had come from any deck weaknesses; rather, they were from the standard play mistakes that a new player tends to make. Fortunately for him, that was all about to change.

My opening draw gave me the goods character-wise, with my optimal character curve coming into play. The defensive plot twists that are so key to success with this deck remained deeply buried, however. On turn 4, Eric had a board of Franklin Richards, Creator of Counter-Earth; Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Soul Searcher; and Moondragon with no team-up. He decided to send Frankie Raye into Professor X with two copies of Relentless Onslaught. A single Against All Odds would have ended the attack right there, but my defensive cards were mad at me in this match. I tried to get out of the attack with Enemy of My Enemy fetching another Professor X to power-up. Eric responded with a power-up of his own, so I flipped Slaughter Swamp and pitched a Level 12 Intelligence to try for the desperate brickwall. My dreams were shattered, though, when Eric produced a third copy of Relentless Onslaught. Bad beats.

Things got much worse on turn 5 when Karnak hit the board for Eric. Of course, Eric finally found his team-up in the form of Extended Family, which enabled Karnak to bring Emma Frost’s DEF down to 0. Eric followed this up with a bit of a misplay by sending Karnak into Professor X for a two-sided stun (even though he had a Blue Area of the Moon face down). Even this mistake didn’t matter, though, as Eric continued his perfect draw by hitting another copy of Extended Family to give Karnak back his counter. With Jean Grey in play, I desperately searched for a copy of Against All Odds to help me salvage the game. My deck, however, had other ideas, and the ensuing attacks dropped me below 0.  1-3

Round 5

One unexpected plot twist. One play mistake. One horrendous draw. Alone, any of these is easy enough to recover from. Together, however, these individual events put me at three losses. To make matters worse, I was matched up against the only other 1-3 still in the tournament—Skyler (a.k.a. “Skittles”).

I knew that, under the correct circumstances, my deck had absolutely no chance against Skittles’s deck. After all, he was playing my Blackbriar Thorn Shadowpact deck. Usually, Skittles is very good with the deck; however, I had made a few changes to it, and one in particular—Nightmaster, Jim Rook—was causing a great deal of trouble for Skittles. By nature, Skittles is a very aggressive player. Thus, when he has a chance to play a 1-drop who can easily get to over 20 ATK in a given turn, he will go all-out to make that 1-drop as huge as possible. Unfortunately, Skittles didn’t quite understand that this extra ATK came at the price of his own endurance. I tried to explain to Skyler that Nightmaster was only supposed to be played on the last turn, and even then after you had already played most of your Magic plot twists to keep from burning yourself out of the game. Still, Skittles is indeed a fan of the proverbial “bigger and better mousetrap,” and he just couldn’t resist playing the problematic 1-drop whenever he had the opportunity. As a result, two of his three losses had come from the endurance loss due to Nightmaster.

I wish I could say this round was going to be different.

I kept an opening hand with Silver Surfer in it, but I was forced to play Enemy of My Enemy to search for Air-Walker on turn 3. This was met by a swift and certain copy of The Conclave by Skittles. Fortunately, I had drawn into three copies of Enemy of My Enemy, so I was able to successfully resolve the second one.

Play progressed slowly, and Skittles methodically built up his counters on Blackbriar Thorn. Fortunately, I had a trick up my sleeve for Skittles—Red Shift. On turn 5, I recruited the Herald to take care of the troublesome 2-drop. In response, Skittles went slightly on tilt, recruiting (you guessed it) Nightmaster, Jim Rook along with June Moon ◊ Enchantress, Good Witch and Madame Xanadu. Red Shift took down Blackbriar Thorn (along with about ten +1/+1 counters). I then tried to get a stun on Zatanna, Magical Manipulator by attacking with Professor X. While Skittles probably should have let this attack go through without any action and moved on to turn 7 (where he would have undoubtedly crushed me), he went into aggressive mode. An Abjuration and two copies of The Phantom Stranger, Fallen Angel gave Skittles the brickwall with the stunback. With me sitting at 35 endurance, he tried to go for the win with a huge attack by Nightmaster. To be fair, the resulting 20 ATK Nightmaster was impressive—but it was still only enough to bring me down to 10 endurance. More importantly, Skittles put himself at 6 endurance with all of his attacks.

Turn 6 was fairly elementary, as Skittles missed his drop (due to pitching Detective Chimp, Shoeless Gumshoe for The Phantom Stranger). In turn, I recruited a copy of Hawkeye, Loud Mouth (to stun his Blackbriar Thorn) and Air-Walker (to exhaust his Manitou Dawn). Even after tossing all of his pumps to the ill-advised attack by Nightmaster a turn prior, Skittles was still able to take me down to 0 endurance. Unfortunately for Skittles, the return attack by Red Shift on Zatanna put him at -2.  2-3

Round 6

While I was a bit sad that I had just beaten my little buddy Skittles (especially in a matchup that he should have easily won), I was glad to get back to winning ways. One more win would put me at even for the day—not a great showing, but respectable nonetheless.

Robert was my final round opponent. I wasn’t sure that I had ever met him before, so I had no clue what he would be playing. It turned out to be a rather clever Checkmate / Marvel Defenders creation. I wasn’t too sure what the synergy was between the two teams, but I quickly found out . . .

On turn 2, Robert dropped out Beast, New Defender. This was followed up by Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker on turn 3 with a team-up. On turn 4, Robert brought out the amazingly annoying Richard Rider ◊ Nova, Xandarian Nova Corps. He activated Nova once on my Professor X, then activated Peacemaker to target Beast, then activated Beast to target Nova. He then readied all of his characters and repeated the process (with Nova targeting Air-Walker this go-round). With all of his characters exhausted though, he was in no position to attack.

For a moment, this caused me a great deal of confusion. Why would Robert target Beast twice with Peacemaker if he didn’t plan on attacking with Beast? Then, right before I declared an attack on Beast, it dawned on me. Peacemaker’s effect triggers whenever the targeted character stuns a defender. Since Beast has evasion, he could evade while defending to stun himself, thus triggering Peacemaker’s effect. Brilliant! Since I became wise to the plan, I managed to avoid the Beast-Peacemaker trap.

Still, I started falling into a big hole as the Nova activations took their toll. Robert built up an impressive board of Peacemaker; Nova; Annihilation Protocol ◊ OMAC Robot; and Terrax, Harbinger of Ruin. On the other side, I had the much less impressive Emma Frost and Jean Grey. With the initiative, Robert made the interesting play of substituting out Nova for Samantha Parrington ◊ Valkyrie. A couple of Valkyrie activations (thanks to The Order) gave the OMAC and Terrax the ability to attack twice that turn. His first attack was shot down, as a copy of Against All Odds bounced Terrax’s attempt on Emma Frost. With both of my characters still ready, Robert decided that discretion was the better part of valor and sent a team attack of his OMAC and Terrax into Jean Grey. Of course, he was caught completely off-guard when I chose to stun the OMAC instead of Terrax (even though my 12 ATK Jean Grey couldn’t have stunned the 13 DEF Terrax anyway). This left Peacemaker unable to use the OMAC’s effect to KO Jean Grey. Success!  . . . or so I thought.

Robert flipped up a Death Trap to send Jean Grey careening back to my hand. Since I still hadn’t drawn a Phoenix Rising, my 6-drop—the key character to my deck’s success—went flying off the board.

I had Mar-Vell in hand for turn 7, but as I had several face-up resources still, I was forced to replay Jean Grey. I was given some small comfort by the fact that Robert missed his 7-drop. Unfortunately, his answer for this was another copy of Nova. I was seriously starting to get tired of that guy.

My attacks were academic, as Jean Grey shot down the OMAC (to prevent KO mischief) and Emma Frost took out Nova. A recycled Against All Odds bounced another attack by Terrax on Emma Frost. With no cards in his hand and only one face-down card in Robert’s row, I felt pretty good that my Jean would stick around for turn 8. Nova’s effect triggered, and my Red stunned. Then Robert revealed his face-down card . . . Another Death Trap.

Murphy seemed to be making me his whipping boy that day, as everything that could have gone wrong in this match did go wrong. I was left with a 5-drop in play to face down Robert’s entire board. He missed again with his drop on 8 but managed to delight me by replaying Nova yet again. Even without a 7- or 8-drop, things were looking pretty good for him.

Still, I am nobody’s fool. Before Jean Grey met her second untimely demise, I used her effect to replace all but one face-up resource in my row. On turn 8, I used Emma Frost’s ability to flip down my lone face-up resource: a Team-Up. I then placed Rachel Summers in my resource row (alongside the previously shunned Mar-Vell). Supreme Intelligence then came into play, and as I had no face-up resources, his effect triggered. With his effect on the chain, I played a copy of Intergalactic Summit from my hand to crossover X-Men and Kree. The effect of Supreme Intelligence then resolved, and my board went from just Emma Frost to Supreme Intelligence, Rachel Summers, Mar-Vell, Professor X, and Emma Frost.

Having gone from an almost “can’t lose” situation to a “can’t win” scenario, Robert scooped up his cards.

Final record: 3-3

My Supreme Intelligence finished in 10th place—just out of the running for Top 8. While I was certainly disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to put my deck into contention for the UDE R&D tournament, I was gratified that it stood up to the competition at the City Championship. At the very least, I was able to spawn a new and unique deck that should provide me and (hopefully) others a good deal of fun in the weeks to come.

I hope that you all enjoyed my tournament report. If you did, then you should be thrilled when I bring you a second tournament report next week from the City Championship in Mesquite, TX. True to form, I will be playing another one of my bizarre concoctions in hopes of taking down the prize and a spot in the Top 8 of UDE R&D’s tournament. I’m not going to outright tell you what to expect next week, but I will give you one small hint:  DDD!

Ocean Master, Son of Atlan:  Part Deux!  (05/01/2007)

Once this article hits publication, I will be free of the audit chains that have shackled me for the past six months. Yes! True freedom is finally mine, as my required two-year stint in my firm’s audit practice is at an end.

But, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” the time has come to talk of other things. City Championships recently wrapped up, and the question on everyone’s mind is, “What decks will be vying for the grand prize?”

Rebuilding the Old

Last week, I told you all about my first City Championship deck. While the Supreme Intelligence deck was certainly unique, it lacked the “oomph” that was needed to take home the trophy. A change of strategy was in order. Thus, I decided to take a revised look at an old favorite of mine . . .

The Deck Destruction Deck (DDD!)

Anyone who is a frequent reader of my column knows that I have a particular affinity for the depletion deck. It is an extremely uncommon archetype. The deck is extremely unwieldy and difficult to play, as well. But the rewards of decking an opponent are considerable, as The Fall of Oa will let a player draw his or her entire deck. With the correct engine to utilize this asset (such as Ocean Master), a player would have a hard time losing.

Unfortunately, a primary part of my original build (the Marvel Knights Underworld cards) recently rotated out of Silver Age. This presented some difficulties, as my “loop” involving Strength of the Grave and Infernal Gateway was lost. Still, there are some very powerful synergies available to the deck. Being able to reuse Reality Gem to KO an opponent’s resources can be absolutely game breaking by itself. When you can reinforce that with Ocean Master and a mitt full of cards, it almost doesn’t matter if you have the loop.

Still, my limited testing revealed that the two remaining teams, Secret Society and Manhunter, didn’t have enough tricks between them to make up for the loss of the Underworld cards. So I started to look at alternatives for the deck. My initial research led me to Tommy, Runaway. This card could very easily have fit into some of my original builds. As I am constantly evading Manhunter Clone to deplete cards, I usually have a stunned character in play. This makes Tommy a free and effective card to use with many effects in the deck.

Naturally, looking at Tommy for inclusion in the deck led me to examine other Morlocks cards. Without a defensive card like Last Stand, cards like Shrapnel Blast and Backs Against the Wall seemed like good replacements. Also, Bloodhound jumped out as a very effective search card with which to find Manhunter Clone and James Jesse ◊ Trickster. Considering how these two characters are a huge part of the deck’s engine, this also seemed like a good inclusion.

The card that really impressed me, though, was Healer, Life Giver. One of the major problems that I had with the earlier build was that the endurance loss I suffered from evading multiple characters really put me into a big hole early on. So, it seemed that a character that could return some of that endurance to me would be a great asset. In addition, he’s a 6 DEF 3-drop with evasion and a relevant ability. Considering that I was usually underdropping on turn 4, Healer effectively gave me a free recovery. That’s enough for me!

After some playtesting and tweaking, I developed the following revised build of my beloved deck:

DDD, Version 2.0

4 Manhunter Clone, CoPK

4 Tommy, Runaway

4 Deadshot, Dead Aim

4 James Jesse ◊ Trickster, GG

3 Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose

4 Healer, Life Giver

3 Manhunter Giant, Army

1 Ocean Master, Son of Atlan

3 Scandal, Savage Spawn

1 Solomon Grundy, BoaSunday

4 Backs Against the Wall

1 Bloodhound

4 Funky’s Big Rat Code

4 Enemy of My Enemy

2 Shrapnel Blast

4 Straight to the Grave

3 The Fall of Oa

2 Slaughter Swamp

2 Soul World

2 UN Building, Team-Up

1 Reality Gem, Infinity Gem

Most of the same deck mechanics were present, but the addition of the Morlocks cards gave me some extra defensive and disruption options.

With Healer giving me some incidental endurance gain, I thought that I could afford to play a couple copies of Soul World. I figured that the card advantage afforded by Soul World would be worth the endurance lost to its effect. This would turn out to be a huge mistake.

With my rebuilt deck, I headed off to my second City Championship tournament in search of an elusive victory and a chance at Vs. System immortality.

Round 1: Torrance (Divinity Crisis)

Torrance is a local player who was wielding one of the new decks born from the recent City Championships. With the wording on Divinity, a player could flip Crisis on Infinite Earths and avoid having to KO anything to Divinity’s effect. Still, I was pretty sure that I had a good matchup against the deck, as I could halt any attacks by Divinity with Backs Against the Wall or simply by evading.

The match started out well, with me hitting my optimal turn 1 Manhunter Clone and turn 2 Trickster. Of course, I gained a huge advantage after Torrance put Crisis on Infinite Earths on top of his deck, and I was able to put it into his KO’d pile. With a limited board, Torrance decided to recruit Hawkeye, Clinton Barton instead of the optimal Divinity. That made my job much easier because I didn’t have to worry about evading from attacks that might KO my characters.

Torrance dropped me down to 12 endurance by the end of turn 5. But turn 6 allowed me to deck him out and follow with Ocean Master. I then recruited Tommy for free, and then used Reality Gem to KO one of Torrance’s resources. By evading Tommy to return Reality Gem to my hand, I was able to repeat this twice more to get rid of three of Torrance’s resources before he could even build. Faced with an Ocean Master and a bunch of cards to pitch, Torrance scooped.


Round 2: Noah (Heralds / Inhumans stall)

This is another matchup that I would usually rate in my favor; the Heralds / Inhumans deck generally cannot deal enough damage to win by turn 5. Also, Attilan is not a great card against depletion effects. Still, I was bound and determined to make as many mistakes as possible to aid Noah in winning this match . . . and they all began with Soul World.

I got a somewhat slower start in this match, missing my drop on turn 1 and playing Poison Ivy on turn 2. Luckily, Noah had no offense on those turns, so everything was going fairly well. On turn 3, I decided to bring Deadshot into play with Healer and then KO him to Ivy’s effect. I had a choice between Slaughter Swamp and Soul World and decided upon Soul World because my opponent hadn’t done any damage to me yet. What followed was 8 unnecessary points of endurance loss when I activated Soul World on turns 3 and 4. With Morg, Corrupt Destroyer hitting the board on 4, Noah suddenly found a very potent way to deal damage to me. More importantly, a timely copy of Extended Family gave Morg his counter, forcing me to evade my characters to retain my board. Noah followed this up with Silver Surfer, Righteous Protector, which again forced me to evade my characters to avoid them bouncing back to my hand. Manhunter Giant should have helped me retain my board some, but after Morg took out Healer, Exploiting the Flaw sent the 4-drop after my 5-drop. A direct attack by Silver Surfer left me at a precarious 1 endurance.

Still, even with almost no endurance and my 3- and 5-drops in my hand, I could have easily decked Noah, but my earlier misplay with Soul World rattled me enough to make me misplay again. In order to get a hold of my entire deck, I have to have a ready character for The Fall of Oa. Unfortunately, I exhausted all of my characters before playing Funky’s Big Rat Code. This mistake came to light when I decked Noah but wasn’t able to do anything with my own deck. Without a ready character, I was forced to scoop.


Round 3: Zach (Divinity Crisis)

I was a bit unhappy that I gave away a match that was in my favor, but I realized that many of my mistakes came from being unable to put the necessary time and energy into testing my deck (stupid audit rotation!), so I gathered my wits and went to play my next round.

This round was against Zach, one of the Waco faithful. I have a great deal of respect for the Waco players, though I lost some of it when I found out that Zach was playing Divinity Crisis.

This round came down to one card: Soul World. I used it three times in the game, and I daresay it did more damage to me than Zach did. While Zach was able to get Divinity and Crisis on Infinite Earths out, I kept the monster 4-drop at bay with a copy of Backs Against the Wall. Still, with Floronic Man, Alien Hybrid in play alongside Divinity, Zach had enough ATK power in play to win on turn 5. While I was able to stop another attack with Backs Against the Wall, a few ATK pumps on Divinity were enough to put me at -2 endurance after Healer’s effect resolved.  Stupid Soul World.


Round 4: Robert (Kree / Villains United)

I went from two matches that I should have won to a match that I had no chance of winning. Robert was playing a standard Kree / VU deck that could easily win on turn 5 against any deck. Considering that my deck wasn’t nearly as powerful defensively as other decks, I didn’t think that I had much of a shot at getting to turn 6.

My early turns went as well as they could, but turns 4 and 5 were disasters. Robert dropped out a full press chain on turn 4, culminating with Zazzala ◊ Queen Bee, Mistress of the Hive. Robert had me at 24 endurance at the end of turn 4. Another full press chain on turn 5 was more than enough to get me to pick up my cards.


Round 5: Chuck (Darkseid resource row hate)

Even though I was officially out of contention for a Top 8 spot, I decided to make the most of my tournament by trying to even up my record. In round 5, I faced off against the co-owner of Insanity Cards and Games. Chuck is a pure casual player, which makes him a lot of fun to play against. Of course, the match against Chuck would probably be somewhat difficult because Chuck knew how to play against my deck. Usually, Darkseid’s Elite is a good matchup for my deck; Darkseid, Apokoliptian Oppressor generally helps me more than it helps my opponent because his effect can get cards out of my opponent’s deck more effectively than I ever could.

Of course, Chuck threw me a curveball by recruiting Knockout on turn 4. Considering how much my deck relies on evading characters, I was understandably concerned. But a team attack on turn 4 took down the massive 4-drop. On turn 5, he used Knockout to get rid of Trickster. By that time, though, I had depleted enough cards from Chuck’s deck to enable me to pick up my deck on turn 6. Chuck put up a bit of defense that turn, but couldn’t stand against both Ocean Master and Solomon Grundy on turn 7.


Round 6: Osas (JSA / Marvel Defenders)

The final match of the Swiss rounds was the grudge match to end all grudge matches. Osas (a.k.a. “The Sauce”) and I have an eternal rivalry. On the one hand, Sauce sees me as his ultimate challenge. On the other hand, I know that Sauce is a better deckbuilder and player than me; I’m just able to keep him in check because he doesn’t understand Vs. System rules as well as he should. That, and I am very, very sneaky!

True to form, Sauce was playing his ingenious JSA / Marvel Defenders Rock of Eternity deck. While the deck really doesn’t start to gain momentum until turn 6 or 7, the amazing array of defensive cards usually keeps Sauce in the game until he can send several huge characters in for the win. But given that he’d probably have to kill me before turn 6 to win the match, I figured I was the odds-on favorite.

I stumbled a bit early on with a truly horrendous draw. While I managed to get Trickster and Manhunter Clone into play, I completely missed Healer and Poison Ivy. Turn 4 was exceedingly painful; my only play was a second Manhunter Clone. On the other side, Sauce was building up an impressive board with Hawkeye, Loud Mouth; S.T.R.I.P.E.; and Power Girl, Child of Crisis. A team-up between Morlocks and Secret Society (thanks to Tommy) allowed me to negate two attacks with two copies of Backs Against the Wall. Still, two attacks by Power Girl (using her effect) allowed Sauce to bring me down to a precarious 1 endurance.

After a quick card count of Osas’s deck (nineteen cards), I tried to figure out the best way to get the deck-out. I had Manhunter Giant, Tommy, Trickster, and two Manhunter Clones in play. Still, because I was at 1 endurance, I couldn’t evade any of my characters, lest I drop to 0 endurance. Impossible, you say? I don’t know the meaning of the word!

I brought Deadshot, Dead Aim into play via his effect by exhausting Manhunter Giant. This made Scandal a live card, so I searched out a copy of Funky’s Big Rat Code. I placed the Team-Up in my row, then flipped it to team-up Secret Society and Manhunters and deplete three cards (sixteen cards remaining). At this point, Sauce tried to stun Trickster with Hawkeye. But since my Team-Up was now online, I exhausted Trickster to The Fall of Oa to deplete a card (fifteen cards), then KO’d Trickster to Manhunter Giant (thirteen cards). I followed this up by exhausting Tommy, Deadshot, and a Clone to The Fall of Oa (ten cards). Finally, I exhausted my ready Clone to The Fall of Oa, then chained by KO’ing all my characters to Manhunter Giant’s effect (including the Giant himself). This depleted ten cards via the Giant’s effect. The final effect on the chain (Manhunter Clone exhausting to The Fall of Oa) let me put my deck into my hand. When Ocean Master came into play, I suddenly gained the upper hand.

Still, my earlier poor draw was hurting me. In addition, Power Girl was protecting S.T.R.I.P.E. With the 4-drop in the back row, Sauce was safe from me doing any breakthrough (oh, why didn’t I include a copy of Morlock Justice?), so I added a few counters to Ocean Master and then sent him into Power Girl.

As great as some of my plays were on turn 6, I also made a couple of huge mistakes. Namely, I unwittingly pitched all my copies of Tommy into the KO’d pile for Ocean Master’s effect. Because Power Girl was preventing me from attacking S.T.R.I.P.E., I decided to bring out Manhunter Giant to give me a character that could fly over Power Girl. I also recruited two more copies of Manhunter Clone. When I looked for a copy of Tommy to give me a critical third character with evasion, I realized my mistake. Without another 1-drop in play, neither of my copies of Shrapnel Blast were useful. Still, I thought that the twenty-nine cards in my hand might be enough to win me the game. Sauce’s first attack of Power Girl and Hawkeye into Manhunter Giant was promptly ended with a copy of Backs Against the Wall. I figured this opened the way for me, as Osas wouldn’t be able to get into either of my non-stunned characters without team attacking (which would allow me to stun S.T.R.I.P.E.). Sauce is cleverer than I sometimes give him credit for, though, and Power Girl went into Manhunter Giant on her own. He then powered-up his attacker and used Brothers in Arms (exhausting S.T.R.I.P.E.) to take Power Girl to 22 ATK.

If you’ve already done the math, then you know that the twenty-eight remaining cards in my hand could bring my Manhunter Giant to exactly 22 DEF.

I searched vainly for a way to get that extra point of DEF. With one of my copies of Manhunter Giant in the KO’d pile, I couldn’t manage more than one power-up. In essence, by the grace of one card (or one of the copies of Tommy in my KO’d pile), Sauce was able to take away the win against impossible odds.


So there you have it. I was hoping for a better showing for the DDD, but a look back at the matches reveals that my performance was not so much an indication of the deck’s weaknesses as it was my own play mistakes. In this deck, Soul World is a liability. In addition, Shrapnel Blast seems to be a stronger play than Backs Against the Wall, as you can better dictate where your opponent’s attacks go. Finally, single copies of Storm, Leader of the Morlocks and Morlock Justice could be very useful. Storm could be a great play on turn 4 when you get a decent draw and don’t need to underdrop to bring out Trickster or Poison Ivy. And after my fiasco with S.T.R.I.P.E., I think that one copy of Morlock Justice could bring a swifter end to difficult situations.  Here’s the most recently revised build:

DDD, Version 2.1

4 Manhunter Clone, CoPK

4 Tommy, Runaway

4 Deadshot, Dead Aim

4 James Jesse ◊ Trickster, GG

3 Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose

4 Healer, Life Giver

1 Storm, Leader of the Morlocks

3 Manhunter Giant, Army

1 Ocean Master, Son of Atlan

3 Scandal, Savage Spawn

1 Solomon Grundy, BoaSunday

1 Bloodhound

4 Funky’s Big Rat Code

4 Enemy of My Enemy

1 Morlock Justice

4 Shrapnel Blast

4 Straight to the Grave

3 The Fall of Oa

4 Slaughter Swamp

2 UN Building, Team-Up

1 Reality Gem, Infinity Gem

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my discussions of the City Championship tournaments that I attended. Hopefully, we’ll see some incredibly clever concoctions in the UDE R&D tournament. I am eagerly anticipating seeing what the Vs. System designers themselves think are the best of the City Championship decks.

I’m going to be taking a hiatus for a week to catch up on my forensics workload. But don’t you worry—I’ll be back in a couple weeks with your regularly scheduled program. Until then, take care, and I’ll see you on the other side of May.

Mind Gem [Random Punks] (05/09/07)

With the launch of the new VsSystem.com, our beloved game has taken another step toward becoming a favorite of trading card gamers around the world. The new site is awesome, and it provides a number of resources for casual and competitive gamers alike. In a game with this many options and this much excitement, there is literally no end to the combinations of play styles that a gamer can come up with. Such diversity is what makes Vs. System one of the best trading card games on the market today.

The gaming focus for many Vs. System players lately has been on the most recent Hobby League theme: Random Punks. The Vs. System Hobby League has begun to incorporate theme tournaments to enhance the play experience of participants. Random Punks is the first in what is sure to be a long lineup of fun and interesting Hobby League themes to come.

I Guess that They Aren’t Too Lazy to Pay Vs. System a Visit . . .

Just in case you’ve been living under a proverbial rock lately, let me tell you a bit about the Random Punks format. It’s a Golden Age format with all of the standard deck restrictions. The banned list remains in effect, so if you were hoping to play ten copies of Dr. Light, Master of Holograms, it’s back to the drawing board for you.

What makes Random Punks so unique is that it’s a “no rare” format. Much the way the Lazy Peon format in the World of Warcraft TCG prevents players from using rare or epic cards in their decks, the Random Punks format prohibits all of those Vs. System cards with gold lettering at the bottom. That’s right­—no Enemy of My Enemy, Savage Beatdown is gone, and Bastion, Boris, and Boliver Trask have all left the building.

This is quite literally a format that anyone can play because a player won’t have to open tons of packs to get all the copies of a particular pricey rare that he or she needs. The decks will all be composed of those common and uncommon cards that are hiding in their dozens in a box in the closet.

Get ready to dust off that box—we’re about to explore the wild, wacky world of Random Punk deckbuilding!

Please Don’t See Me!

The very first thing that occurred to me when I heard about the Random Punks Hobby League theme was that there would be a definite shift in the power levels of standard Vs. System decks. What is my logic for this? Quite simply, the search potential for many popular decks has been turned on its ear! QuickFate becomes a whole lot slower without The Great Refuge or Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose to aid its search endeavors. Good Guys are really only Mediocre Guys now that they can’t rely on Kooey Kooey Kooey and Hero’s Welcome to find answers. And will Doom be nearly so fearsome now that he’s been robbed of Reign of Terror and Enemy of My Enemy? Nope!

This is not to say that there isn’t any search in the Random Punks format. Several teams have quite potent common and uncommon searchers. Gotham Knights was the original non-rare search team with a powerhouse in Bat-Signal. Squadron Supreme makes empty-handed play a breeze with Answer the Call. Of course, the reigning king of Silver Age, Checkmate, still has Brother I Satellite at its beck and call.

My very first chore in trying to find viable builds for the Random Punks format was to categorize which teams had search cards that could still be played. After a bit of review, I focused on the teams in The X-Men. This set had some of the most original search cards in the game, with three of the four primary teams boasting uncommon plot twist search cards. More importantly, these search cards were team-stamped as part of the cost but could search out characters that had a specific mechanic keyword (evasion, reservist, and concealed) that the respective team featured.

Given my recent experience with the Morlocks in my deck destruction deck (DDD!), this was obviously the team in which I took an immediate interest. The Morlocks have a unique and interesting control theme based on the evasion mechanic. This gives the team access to a variety of powerful effects such as Shrapnel Blast and The Alley. With a unique mix of power, burn, and control, a well-built Morlocks deck can usually hang with any combat-oriented deck in the game.

The biggest boost that the Morlocks get in Random Punks is that the format is Golden Age. You know what that means, don’t you? Last Stand is available! This card may be the single most powerful DEF pump in Vs. System. Considering that the +10 DEF Last Stand gives is twice the +5 ATK boost that Savage Beatdown provides to attackers, it’s already an amazing defensive play. But if you take into account that the boost lasts for the entire turn, then the card is just plain nuts. The condition for playing Last Stand is that you must control at least three stunned characters, but this won’t usually be a problem in a deck stocked with characters who have evasion.

Win or Lose . . . But Not Enough Draw

As great a combo as the Morlocks and Last Stand make, they do have a few consistency issues. When The X-Men was first released, I had a Morlocks deck that I played quite a bit. As fun as the deck was, I noticed that it had one small weakness: draw power. Last Stand was an amazing card in the deck, but it really couldn’t help you if you never drew it. Playing The Hill helped somewhat, but given The Hill’s threshold cost of 4, it almost came into play too late to be effective.

Basically, the problem with the Morlocks evasion deck was that it didn’t have any way of seeing extra cards in the deck. Birthing Chamber and The Hill can help to a degree, but for maximum consistency, the deck really needs a way to see more than two cards a turn.

This led me to recall a combo deck that TAWC’s resident deck genius, Tim Batow, built a few months ago. Prior to the banning of Go Down Fighting, Tim developed a very innovative burn deck that centered on recruiting Tommy multiple times from the resource row while Senyaka is in play. In order to keep hand advantage, the deck used today’s tech card, Mind Gem, to see extra cards in the deck. With Tommy in play, it was possible to recruit Mind Gem and then evade Tommy to return the Mind Gem back to one’s hand. After Tommy was re-recruited, Mind Gem could be recruited once again to cycle through another card. Repeat until opponent is toast.

It occurred to me that Mind Gem could be very effective in the Morlocks evasion deck. Since we’ll be evading most of our small characters each turn anyway, we might as well add a little bit of cycling power. With just one or two recruits of Mind Gem each turn, we could see upward of ten extra cards over the course of the game. This is great insurance for us to hit our curve and our critical plot twists and locations.

The Build

Four copies of Mind Gem represent the only equipment in the deck. There’s a very powerful synergy between this equipment card, which helps us see more cards in our deck, and the evasion characters that we will be playing.

Our character complement will be relatively heavy at the early drops to ensure that we have enough characters in play for our critical mid-game. On turn 1, we have all three of the Morlocks evasion 1-drops: Artie, Electric Eve, and Tommy. Artie and Electric Eve effectively trade the stun endurance they take: Artie reduces an opposing character’s ATK by a point, while Electric Eve deals a point of damage to your opponent when she recovers. Either way, both characters effectively make up for the stun damage you take when they evade. Tommy, on the other hand, doesn’t have any special trade-off. Still, it’s hard to argue that having a character that we can recruit for free is a bad thing.

At 2, we’re going to bring in all three of our evasion 2-drops, as well. Tar Baby is quite a house at 3/3. In addition, he has a very relevant effect considering all the decks that rely on recursion through effects like Slaughter Swamp and Soul World. Leech is another Morlock with great utility. If we are aware that we’ll be facing a deck with characters boasting great payment powers (such as Ahmed Samsarra . . . I hear he’s popular nowadays), then we can use Leech to negate selected ones. Finally, we have Postman. In general, he’s going to be less effective than our other 2-drops, but he boasts respectable stats and his ability to remove problematic plot twists will occasionally be relevant.

On turn 3, we will generally want to underdrop to achieve better board position. That being said, we will only play one copy of our deck’s 3-drop, Healer. While we won’t recruit Healer in most games, he will have a definite impact on games in which we do recruit him. His 6 DEF gives us a decent barrier against opposing attacks. Also, the endurance gain that he provides when we recover characters gives us a bit of a late-game boost. Finally, he has a recovery effect that can occasionally be useful if we are forced to underdrop in later turns.

Our 4-drop is Storm, Leader of the Morlocks. One drawback of most evasion-based decks is the notable endurance loss that a player takes from stunning his or her own characters. Storm takes the sting out of this endurance loss by giving characters adjacent to her invulnerability. Granted, we have to be in the combat phase (though not actually in combat) to benefit from this effect. Still, with our evasion deck, this is a huge boon to us.

If our 4-drop is subtle, then our 5-drop is pure smash-mouth. An initial inspection of Marrow reveals that she is a 9/8 5-drop—about average. Once you take a look at her text, though, you begin to realize that Marrow is much more than your average 5-drop. With a few stunned characters in play, Marrow jumps to the size of a 6-drop. If we get five or six stunned characters (something quite possible with our deck), then Marrow can rival most 7-drops in size. Sometimes you just need a big beatstick, and Marrow is perfectly suited to do some serious beating in our deck.

We round out our curve on turn 6. We’re going to include a copy of Callisto as a backup 6-drop. The Morlock Queen is quite large and can be a respectable finisher for our deck. In addition, she boasts an effect that can make our characters even bigger (at the expense of our board presence). Callisto, however, is not the biggest Morlock on the block—hat honor goes to Scaleface. She is the only Morlock in our deck that doesn’t have evasion, so we can’t search her out with Bloodhound, but the Dragon Lady does have an effect that works amazingly well in unison with our strategy. With just two stunned characters in play, we can ensure that Scaleface gets off an unreinforceable attack on one of our opponent’s characters. At 16 ATK, Scaleface is almost guaranteed to dish out some serious beats. With a little extra pump, this 6-drop will quite literally end games.

Our plot twists are going to be relatively straightforward. We’ve already cited Bloodhound as the generic search card that moves the deck. With an uncommon search card, we’re well on our way to a powerful deck without rares.

Another card already mentioned is the amazing Last Stand. This defensive card doesn’t work in many decks, but it fits perfectly in ours. Of course, if we’re going to play Last Stand, then it only makes sense for us to play the Morlocks equivalent, Shrapnel Blast. This Morlocks-stamped pump isn’t turn-based like Last Stand. On the other hand, it is an amazing +4/+4 pump that works either on attack or defense. This gives us a bit of versatility, as Shrapnel Blast can bounce opposing attacks or help us break through opposing defensive efforts.

Our final plot twist is a bit of a diamond in the rough. If we ever run into a situation where our opponent is somehow able to break through our monstrous defense with attackers to spare, we might want to have something standing between those attackers and our endurance. Thus, a bit of recovery is certainly in order. This is why we have a couple copies of Team Spirit in the deck. Much like our defensive tricks, Team Spirit has an amazing effect that is only useful in a limited number of decks. Fortunately, our deck happens to be one of them. Imagine the chagrin we can cause an opponent when he or she expends all of his or her pumps to stun Marrow bolstered by Last Stand, only to find that we’ve recovered Marrow with Team Spirit. Stunning Marrow once in a turn is quite difficult; stunning her twice in a turn is nigh impossible.

Finally, we have reached our locations. I don’t think that we could really have a Morlocks evasion deck without playing four copies of The Alley. Not only does The Alley protect our evaded characters from opposing KO effects, but it also burns our opponent every time we recover a character. While the endurance burn may seem incidental, it can certainly add up over the course of several turns.

Another strong card in our deck is The Hill. Obviously, the +1/+1 is helpful in a pinch to make our characters a bit larger than our opponent’s. In addition, we can utilize the draw effect of The Hill to good effect. Since The Hill can’t be activated until the recovery phase, we can wait for our characters to recover from evading and then activate The Hill to draw a card. Neither effect is game-breaking, but both effects are certainly helpful.

Finally, we’ll include three copies of Birthing Chamber for some extra card draw and cycling. If we achieve our optimal goal of a drop on turns 1 and 2, and two drops on turn 3, then we’ll have four characters in play from turn 3 onward and will be able to activate Birthing Chamber. In addition, we have some extra insurance in the form of Tommy, who can give us an extra character in play when we need it.

We have a completed deck without a single rare card. Let’s take a look-see:

Infinite Evasion

3 Artie, Arthur Maddicks

4 Electric Eve, Live Wire

4 Tommy, Runaway

4 Leech, Inhibitor

1 Postman, Memory Thief

4 Tar Baby, Adhesive Ally

1 Healer, Life Giver

4 Storm, Leader of the Morlocks

4 Marrow, Gene Nation

1 Callisto, Morlock Queen

2 Scaleface, Dragon Lady

4 Bloodhound

4 Last Stand

4 Shrapnel Blast

2 Team Spirit

3 Birthing Chamber

4 The Alley

3 The Hill

4 Mind Gem, Infinity Gem

Given the deck’s propensity to kill on turn 6, we obviously want the even initiatives. This also gives us the opportunity to use Marrow as a defensive wall on turn 5 to nullify any attacks that might put us out of the game early.

In general, the mulligan is for Mind Gem. It is important to note, though, that you have to be very careful when using Mind Gem in the early turns so that you don’t have to discard a card that you might need in later turns. In general, I won’t recruit Mind Gem on turn 1 unless I have a redundant card in hand (such as a duplicate character or location). Once you reach the later turns, the draw from Birthing Chamber and The Hill can ease the strain on your hand. Optimally, Mind Gem will allow us to cycle dead late-game cards out of our hand for additional copies of Last Stand and Shrapnel Blast.

This week’s project is done, but I’ll be back again next week with another Random Punks deck from the vaults of Big Spooky for all of you Vs. System fans to enjoy.

Cosmic Medical School [Random Punks] (05/15/07)

It’s time for another Random Punks format deck. Last week, I showed you all a Morlocks deck that I carefully deliberated upon for several weeks before finally settling upon the final build. The end result was a powerful deck that capitalized on the many great strengths of the Morlocks evasion cards. In effect, I was able to show how careful consideration and development can lead to a strong and powerful build.

By contrast, this week’s deck is more of a fluke.

Four Destroyers of Worlds . . . Who Knew?

Anyone who has read Breaking Ground on a regular basis knows that I am a big fan of multiplayer formats—so much so, in fact, that I develop decks just for play in multiplayer games. The true beauty of multiplayer Vs. System is that strategies that were not effective in one-on-one play can become completely amazing in multiplayer games.

One of my recent favorite decks for multiplayer is called “Galacti” . . . which I assume is the plural form of “Galactus.” The premise of the deck is surprisingly simple: use the powerful Heralds of Galactus team’s stall cards to reach turn 9. Then, teaming Heralds of Galactus with Fearsome Five, boost out Dr. Light, Arthur Light to bring a ton of characters into play, including multiple copies of Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. If you thought one copy of Galactus was devastating, just imagine the insanity when four copies of the Devourer of Worlds hit play. You can quite literally steal the endurance of everyone at the table. In addition, you have four 25/25 9-drops in play. That ain’t bad!

While I played this deck primarily for fun, I did learn some interesting tricks with the deck. With cards like The Herald Ordeal, The Fallen One, and Teamwork, I could fill the KO’d pile rather easily with a bunch of characters (upward of twenty). This made Dr. Light’s boost particularly debilitating, as it caused the deck’s board presence to become completely overwhelming.

Of course, there is one small problem with this strategy: throwing all of your cards away will quickly leave you without a hand to play with. Though getting to turn 9 is a certain game winner, it is almost impossible to get to turn 9 if you don’t have any cards to work with. I tried to fix this problem by playing extra draw cards like Elemental Converters and Birthing Chamber, but I still wasn’t able to play an effective discard strategy with the resources I was using.

At about this time, I recalled a Draft tactic that my Donkey Clubbing pal, Tillman Bragg, used to great effect at $10K New York last year. One of Tillman’s key character picks was Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, Harbinger of Death. Of all of the Heralds of Galactus versions of Frankie Raye, this one is probably the least acclaimed. Yet, in my humble opinion, she may actually be the best of all three. While her stats are somewhat underwhelming, she has an effect that is utterly abusable. With proper planning, Frankie can net a player four extra cards a turn. Moreover, she has great synergy with The Fallen One, who can replenish Frankie’s cosmic counter.

I added Frankie to my Heralds / Fearsome Five deck and discovered that she turned the deck around completely. I found that I not only could afford to discard my hand, but also that I actually wanted to pitch all of my cards. With four extra cards coming to my hand every turn, discard in this deck became even more amazing than a Squadron no-hand build.

So amazing was Frankie that she became an integral component of the Heralds curve deck that I took to the Mega PCQ in St. Louis in January. While my 5-4 record was a bit underwhelming (mostly because I didn’t tech in a copy of Unmasked . . . stupid Inmates/Brotherhood!), Frankie was amazing! Have a Blast! and Entangle completely dominated opponents’ boards, and I didn’t have to worry at all about diminishing hand size. In addition, Frankie turned a tough matchup against Future Foes discard into an auto-win. I love me some card draw above all else, and my gal Frankie has draw power in spades!

Abusing Dr. Light. No . . . not that Dr. Light

I recently rebuilt the Heralds / Fearsome Five deck with some modifications to improve the consistency. In multiplayer, I quickly became a target for removal because none of my opponents wanted to stare down multiple “Galacti.” But with all of the endurance gain and defensive mechanisms in the deck, there wasn’t much that anyone could do to stop Dr. Light from bringing my Heralds a-swarming.

The deck’s late game uses Silver Surfer, Harbinger of Oblivion to skip the combat phase on turn 8, thus setting up multiple copies of Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. In addition, with four copies of Galactus in the deck, Creation of a Herald can usually search out any card in the deck. Why is this important? Because these three cards represent the entire compliment of rares in the build.

Turning to the Random Punks format, it occurred to me that the rares could be removed from the deck without sacrificing too much of its integrity. Obviously, the win condition would no longer be multiple 9-drops. Still, the Heralds have a great deal to offer in the Random Punks format, including a great non-rare character search card (Kindred Spirits) and the only uncommon 8-drop in Vs. System (Tyrant). In addition, a boosted Dr. Light on turn 9 is great in any format, so it should be positively amazing in a format where there really aren’t any other turn 9 plays.

Whoever said that stall decks wouldn’t find a home in the Random Punks format didn’t consider what would happen when Galactus and Dr. Light join forces. We have a deck that not only survives until turn 9, but actually thrives.

The Build

Our curve kicks off on turn 2 with Silver Surfer, Skyrider of the Spaceways. There is little doubt that this pint-sized Herald has a massive cosmic power. One activation of the Surfer can fill a critical hole in our late curve that we might otherwise be unable to fill. Also in the 2-slot, we have a few copies of Morg, Slayer. Where the Surfer might help us hit our late game plans, Morg is more for ensuring that we actually get there in the first place. With Squadron Supreme no-hand, The New Brotherhood rush, and Faces of Evil sure to be present in vast numbers in the Random Punks format, Morg can help us clear an opponent’s board enough to ensure that we don’t lose before we can get our key cards into play.

We have a couple copies of Plasma, Replacement Herald for backup on turn 3. With her cosmic counter, her 5/5 gives us an above average drop for our board. In addition, her effect can be relevant when we have a character that is already going to be losing its cosmic counter in an attack. The 2 endurance may not seem like much, but it can add up—especially on turn 9 when we remove the cosmic counters from all of our characters after Dr. Light boosts them into play!

Our primary 3-drop, though, is one that many of you will not immediately recognize: Charger, Power Conduit. I’ll wait patiently while you click on the hyperlink in his name to see what he does.  Are you back? Okay. This oft-overlooked Fearsome Five 3-drop is actually a nice drop in our deck. With a cosmic counter, he has decent stats of 5/4. Of course, his real allure is the one-turn boost that we can give him by removing his cosmic counter. At 7/6, Charger will be more than a match for most 4-drops. In addition, we will be packing a card that can actually replenish Charger’s counter in the later turns. So, we have a 3-drop that can impersonate a 4-drop in times of need.

Unsurprisingly, we have four copies of the Fantastic Four mainstay Human Torch, The Invisible Man. Quite simply, there isn’t a better 4-drop for our deck. Even without his cosmic counter, Human Torch has a very nice effect that provides our characters with reinforcement to cut down on endurance loss. If, however, we are able to keep a counter on Torch, then we can effectively gain back precious endurance that we might have lost in the earlier turns. Considering that we aren’t too concerned about our opponent’s endurance (as we will most likely automatically win if we reach turn 9), it is far better to have a character that can keep us in the game rather than one that tries to take our opponent out of it.

Four Frankie Raye <> Nova, Harbinger of Death for 5. (Alliteration FTW!)

We have four copies of the 6-drop Dr. Light, Arthur Light. Unless we find ourselves with an advantageous board position, though, we probably won’t be recruiting this master of holograms on turn 6. Rather, that honor is reserved for The Fallen One, Forgotten. As I said earlier, The Fallen One has an impressive synergy with Frankie Raye. Most of our opponents will be so concerned about our excessive card drawing from Frankie’s effect that they will do everything in their power to get her stunned (thus getting rid of that meddlesome cosmic counter). The Fallen One turns our opponent’s best efforts into folly, as he can simply return that cosmic counter to Frankie with a quick discard. In addition, The Fallen One can be a strong source of board control against decks that don’t maintain hand advantage. If our opponent can’t keep up with the four cards that we will normally have in hand, then The Fallen One can send one of his or her in-play characters packing.

Galactus, The Maker comes into play on turn 7. While we will not usually utilize his effect until we go for the kill on turn 9, Galactus is nevertheless a strong play on turn 7. With a 16/16 frame, Galactus is, stat-wise, among the upper echelon of non-rare 7-drops. Besides, it really wouldn’t be much of a Heralds of Galactus deck if we didn’t have “Big G” himself making the rounds.

There really is no better feeling than to know that, absent any external stat boosts, we will always have the biggest character in play on turn 8. As I said earlier, Tyrant, Original Herald is the only non-rare 8-drop in Vs. System. His effect is certainly useful, as we can cut down on any potential damage that an opponent could do to us by removing one of the opposing characters from the equation. The main selling point of Tyrant, though, is that he’s an 8-drop. Unless our opponent is also playing a deck featuring Heralds of Galactus, he or she usually won’t be able to match our play on turn 8. In essence, it is just a matter of time before we can declare victory once Tyrant hits the board.

We only have one location in the deck, but it’s an excellent one! With large characters and endurance gain playing vital roles in our deck’s strategy, there can be no argument that Worldeater Apparatus will win us games. Again, the marginal endurance gain may not seem like much to shout about, but consider how potent Worldeater Apparatus is even if we only use it once per turn on turns 4 through 8. Over those five turns, Worldeater Apparatus will net us an additional 15 endurance. Using this rationale, we can assert that we effectively start the game with 65 endurance. Even the most aggressive decks will have a hard time doling out that much damage against a stall deck.

Looking at plot twists, we find a Team-Up that operates much the same as Worldeater Apparatus. In the case of The Herald Ordeal, the cost of endurance gain is the discard of a Heralds of Galactus character card. Under normal circumstances, this might seem a bit excessive. In our deck, though, this is exactly the kind of card we need to set our strategy into motion. With Frankie Raye refueling our hand each turn, we will usually have plenty of cards to pitch so we can gain endurance with The Herald Ordeal. More importantly, this discard sets us up for a huge turn 9, when Dr. Light can bring upward of twenty characters into play. With that kind of board presence, it really doesn’t matter how far behind we are . . . just as long as we make it to turn 9 for Dr. Light to work his magic.

Considering how critical The Herald Ordeal is in this deck, it certainly makes sense for us to employ a card to search for the Team-Up. Fortunately, we know a little something about Teamwork. Not only can Teamwork search out The Herald Ordeal for us at an opportune time, but it also supports our discard strategy.

Let’s discuss our character search options for the deck. Obviously, we will want to play all four of the Kindred Spirits that are available to us. I’ve gone into great detail many times about how highly I think of this card. While it may delay the acquisition of important non-character cards, Kindred Spirits can virtually guarantee that you will be able to fill two holes in your curve. When you consider that the number one reason that games in Vs. System are lost is missed drops, then you can see how potent Kindred Spirits is. Of course, we may find that we would rather have a character card in hand than on top of our deck. For this situation, we’ll play a couple copies of The Underworld Star. Initially, The Underworld Star can aid us in getting a copy of Charger into play to get our Team-Up online. After we’re all teamed-up, we can use The Underworld Star to search out any character in our deck. It won’t always be useful, but it will be useful enough that we wouldn’t mind playing a couple copies in our deck.

Finally, let’s look at our defensive and control cards. Considering that every character in our deck has range, it would be a crime not to play Cover Fire. Even with only two characters in play, the +2 DEF from Cover Fire can often be enough to bounce a critical attack. Of course, if we can employ some strong stall strategies, then we should be able to keep a few more characters around to boost the potential of Cover Fire in the later turns.

Since we’ve brought up the topic of stall elements, let’s look at Entangle, our primary stall card. It may not be quite as versatile as Mystical Paralysis, but Entangle can nevertheless be a powerful play that keeps potential attackers from pursuing their nefarious schemes. Obviously, the discard cost of Entangle plays right into our deck theme. Between The Herald Ordeal, Teamwork, and Entangle, we should have no problem stalling the game until the late turns and controlling the size of our hand.

Finally, we have four copies of Meltdown for some versatility. Whether you like it or not, there will undoubtedly be a few players out there trying to make a powerful equipment-centric deck work in the Random Punks format. Without a little disruption, some of these decks could take us out of the game before we could even blink twice. This is where Meltdown comes in so handy. Against equipment-based decks, we have a disruptive tool that is unparalleled in effectiveness. Against other decks, though, Meltdown is far from a dead card, as we can use it for additional endurance gain in a pinch.

We may be limited to common and uncommon cards, but there’s no denying that we have a rare deck here. Jason Hager and his West Virginia buddies put Dr. Light to good use back in 2005. Let’s see if Galactus and crew can do the same in 2007.

Cosmic Medical School


4 Silver Surfer, SotSpaceways

3 Morg, Slayer

4 Charger, Power Conduit

2 Plasma, Replacement Herald

4 Human Torch, Invisible Man

4 Frankie Raye ◊ Nova, HoDeath

4 Dr. Light, Arthur Light

2 The Fallen One, Forgotten

3 Galactus, The Maker

2 Tyrant, The Original Herald

4 Cover Fire

4 Entangle

4 Kindred Spirits

4 Meltdown

3 Teamwork

4 The Herald Ordeal, Team-Up

2 The Underworld Star

3 Worldeater Apparatus

Initiative preference for this deck is probably evens so that you can control play on turn 8. If you can get to turn 9, you will win, so it doesn’t really matter who has control of the initiative on that turn.

For such a complex deck, the mulligan is relatively simple: get a copy of Silver Surfer, Skyrider of the Spaceways or Kindred Spirits (which can search for Silver Surfer). These cards can help you set up your critical later turns, when hitting your optimal curve becomes vital.

That wraps up another look at a Random Punks build. Hopefully, I’ve inspired a few of you to take a look at stall as a viable strategy for a format that boasts few late-game cards. At the very least, it’s a fun and unique deck to play in this format. Give it a try and then drop me a line to tell me what you think. In the meantime, I’m off to concoct another interesting deck for the Random Punks format. Take care!

Hellboy’s Punks [Random Punks] (05/22/07)

Hopefully, you have all had a chance to participate in your local Random Punks Hobby League tournament by now. I can attest that the “no rare card” theme is some of the most fun that I have had playing Vs. System in a long time. Because a lot of the traditional “power cards” are not legal in the format, players have had to reevaluate their approaches to deckbuilding.

I am fortunate to play Vs. System in an area where players love to create and tweak their own decks. Rarely do we have to worry about a glut of identical builds appearing in a tournament. Rather, we usually have different decks being wielded by every player, and most of these decks are unique creations by aspiring deckbuilders. When a player does defer to a more established deck, he or she will more often than not put a personal spin on the build by adding cards that make it more fun and entertaining to play.

One good example of this type of ingenuity is from my good friend Polo “Blindsided” Salazar. Polo loves the Anti-Green Lantern rush deck. Predictably, Polo has a slew of AGLs, along with Chomin to keep the massive Army guys around and dish out a bit of pain in the process. Instead of trying to formulate a swarm kill with Felix Faust, though, Polo defers to the Anti-Matter double attackers like Slipstream for the kill. Also, every single non-character card in Polo’s deck is an ATK pump of some type. While this does sacrifice some consistency, it is truly a sight to behold when it works—I have seen Polo put opposing players into the teens in endurance on turn 2.

Wow! That was Completely and Totally Expected!

Talk on the various Vs. System message boards as of late has centered on what teams and decks will see play in the Random Punks format. As per usual, many players are looking at powerful decks in the Golden and Silver Age metagames and discussing how these decks can be adapted to the new rare-free format. Decks like QuickFate and High Voltage can make the transition by replacing a few of the standard rare cards with approximate common or uncommon replacements, while decks like Squadron no-hand and Brotherhood reservist didn’t have too many rare cards to begin with and thus can be easily adapted.

While this is all well and good, it tends to ignore variables that arise with the exclusion of rare cards. The power level of certain decks dramatically declines relative to others. This became apparent in my testing of the Morlocks deck that was posted here a few weeks back. In the Golden Age metagame, there is a substantial amount of disruption available to top tier decks that makes maintaining board presence rather difficult. In essence, it can be difficult to keep three stunned characters in play for Last Stand when cards like Reign of Terror and Fatality, Flawless Victory keep those characters off of the board. This balancing act is what kept certain cards in check in the past, but some strategies go by the wayside with an absence of rares.

Consider the notion of resource row disruption. One theme that has stayed remarkably consistent in the past is that the most effective resource row disruption cards have been rare: Have a Blast!; War of Attrition; Reality Gem; and Breaking Ground (this article’s namesake). This is not to say that there is no resource row disruption available. The cards that are available, though, are a lot more limited in scope and use. For example, it would certainly be possible to concoct a Darkseid’s Elite deck that could mess with an opponent’s resources rather effectively, but the point is that the cards that would go into such a deck are not cards that could easily be splashed in a variety of decks.

There are several themes of this variety that are noticeable in the Random Punks format. There is certainly a lack of consistent non-rare search cards. Boris; Alfred Pennyworth; and Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose are all prohibited in the Random Punks format. Also, low-cost character control has been scaled back quite a bit. Flame Trap is gone; Deadshot, Floyd Lawton has gone vamoose; Rose Wilson ◊ The Ravager, Daughter of Deathstroke is kaput!

So we have at least three observable trends in the Random Punks format: 1) Resource row disruption is minimal. 2) Search cards are at a premium. 3) Low-cost character control is nearly non-existent. To me, this screams out one thing . . . Ahmed Samsarra is going to be even more amazing in the Random Punks format!

“White King, Meet the Right Hand of Doom.”

Ever since Pro Circuit San Francisco, when my team had such success with one of the preliminary versions of Checkmate/Villains United and before the banning of Dr. Light, Master of Holograms, there was quite a bit of argument regarding whether Ahmed Samsarra or Dr. Light was the most powerful 3-drop in Vs. System. With the banning of the evil doctor, though, there are few who would argue that Ahmed Samsarra is the top 3-drop in the game.

Of course, there is good reason for this sentiment. Ahmed Samsarra is already pretty potent at 6/6. He also boasts one of the best location search effects in the game. Sure, his King text makes using him a bit of a risky proposition, but if you are willing to brave the rough tides of a 3-drop whose departure will lose you the game, then you could stand to gain a great deal from playing Ahmed Samsarra.

Since the White King’s dramatic arrival in Vs. System, he has served as a driving force behind many successful decks. Checkmate/Villains United and Checkmate/JSA decks have both found their way into Pro Circuit Top 8s, enabling such powerful locations as The Science Spire and The Rock of Eternity. In addition, many enterprising players have found a way to utilize Ahmed in less traditional decks. One of the newest members of TAWC, Ed Colleran, made waves at PC: Indianapolis with his unconventional Checkmate/Shadowpact deck. Wherever there is a team that boasts powerful locations, Ahmed Samsarra can be an amazingly able ally.

These Checkmate considerations lend themselves to one of my more recent deck ideas. Ever since the release of the Hellboy Essential Collection, I have been looking at different decks that can integrate the cards from it. On of my personal favorite cards is Hellboy, Anung Un Rama. This 4-drop is the centerpiece of the BPRD’s “single visible character” strategy. In order to do any serious damage, your opponents will be forced to contend with a big, bad bruiser in the visible area. Not only is Hellboy quite large at 8/7, but he also gets bigger over time. With all of the defensive and recovery tricks available to the BPRD, it will be a chore for any opponent to take down this big red meanie.

Many people have been looking at teams that could effectively team-up with the BPRD to make a monster of a deck. The prevailing opinion is that Hellboy would fit beautifully into the Hellfire Club’s theme. Obviously, the Hellfire Club boasts a potent “single visible character” theme of its own, so it would seem that Hellboy and the Hellfire Club would go together like peas and carrots. Yet my testing revealed that the Hellfire Club thrived more on moving characters back and forth from the hidden and visible areas, while Hellboy would rather just stay put in the visible area. In essence, there wasn’t any real synergy among the characters of the two teams.

I started looking at the possibilities of a Checkmate/BPRD team-up. Checkmate has its own fair share of powerful hidden characters, and there is a subtle synergy between Ahmed Samsarra and Hellboy. Whenever Ahmed is in danger of going to the KO’d pile, Hellboy can send Ahmed back to his controller’s hand. In essence, Hellboy acts as Ahmed’s guardian. There are a lot more synergies to be had, and we’ll uncover those soon enough.

Ahmed Samsarra and Hellboy, Anung Un Rama is a match made in . . . well . . . somewhere. They are the centerpiece characters of a deck that should be able to abuse powerful hidden characters thoroughly while a lone individual guards our endurance.

The Build

Four copies of Hellboy, Anung Un Rama find their way into our deck. Obviously, we want his imposing presence at 4 to strike fear into our opponents’ hearts. In addition, we have a miniature version of our 4-drop in Hellboy, Little Boy. While he will usually only be used to power-up our 4-drop, he can occasionally be a useful off-curve tool if our 4-drop is not in play. Gaining a point of ATK for every character that we have in play is certainly nothing to frown upon.  We have a few other 1-drops to look at. Our primary play at 1 is Connie Webb. Considering how vital Ahmed Samsarra is to our deck engine, we want to have as many reliable ways of searching him out as possible. While many people frown on Connie Webb, the simple truth is that she is the only card in the game that can deliver our vaunted 3-drop and give us a character card to meet Ahmed’s loyalty—reveal. Our other 1-drops are more for off-curve play in later turns. Surveillance Pawn is a concealed 1-drop with an effect that can boost the stats of a board full of characters. When we are trying to deliver the coup de grace, giving a global boost to our board is certainly beneficial (even if it is only 1 ATK). Jacob Lee doesn’t provide nearly as much fanfare, but he does give us a potentially free character for later turns. With a little boost, Jacob Lee can take down an opposing 2- or 3-drop on his own. Considering that we don’t even have to spend a single resource point to get Jacob Lee into play, this is a bargain indeed!

We certainly have a slew of options for turn 2. Our primary drop at 2 will be the BPRD’s resident equipment fetcher, Sidney Leach. As we will shortly witness, there are several potent equipment cards that our deck can utilize to enhance its potential. With a quick recruit and discard, we can grab any gear that we need for later turns. There will also be a “sub-engine” in our deck that will key off the equipment cards in play. With Sidney Leach finding those equipment cards for us, we can activate our equipment theme rather handily.

Checkmate characters round out our 2-drops. We have a single copy each of three different characters. First, we have a couple of concealed 2-drops to assist our off-curve potential. Director Bones is a decent drop with an effect that can be useful on turns when we don’t control the initiative. Black Thorn, on the other hand, is a bit more aggressively tilted, but we will have plenty of locations that we can ready with her effect. Finally, Sarge Steel is one of the best 2-drops in the game, and with good reason. When used in conjunction with Hellboy, Anung Un Rama, we can effectively buy ourselves one attack. By placing Sarge Steel in front of Hellboy, our opponent will be forced to take care of Sarge before he or she can deal with Hellboy. Then, after Sarge Steel becomes stunned, we can zip him back to our hand with Hellboy’s effect—no muss, no fuss.

We’ve already said that Ahmed Samsarra, White King is our primary play on turn 3. Any discussion on the subject from this point would be redundant. But we do have a couple other 3-drops to talk about. The second Checkmate representative at 3 is none other than Christopher Smith ◊ Peacemaker. While we can usually outpace any curve deck, we might have a bit more trouble with an aggressive off-curve deck. In situations where we want to secure stuns with minimal stunbacks, Peacemaker can deliver two-for-one trades. On the BPRD front, Liz Sherman, Pyrokinesis shows that Peacemaker isn’t the only character who can deliver free stuns. While Liz Sherman’s effect carries some strict conditions, she provides a way to get at problematic low drops that might do us harm. Consider a character like Bullseye, Assassin for Hire: this little monster could take our Hellboy out of play and none of our recovery tricks could save him. Liz Sherman can put the hurt on Bullseye before he can ever take a shot at our key 4-drop.

Speaking of 4-drops, we actually have another one besides Hellboy. Of course, Amanda Waller will usually be more of a 2-cost character for us. With this Queen’s boost, we can expand the amount of resource points available to us on a given turn. For example, if we boost out Amanda Waller on turn 6, then our remaining 2 resource points become 4 resource points. Granted, these resource points can only be used to recruit Checkmate characters, but that’s still powerful considering that we can bring 8 resource points’ worth of characters into play on turn 6. In essence, Amanda Waller is a strong enabler for potential off-curve, late-game plays.

We will be scaling back our 5- and 6-drops dramatically. Still, these characters can be useful in certain circumstances. Our lone 5-drop is one copy of Abe Sapien, icthyo sapien. While we will generally want to pursue an off-curve strategy on turn 5, we might sometimes find the need to act more defensively. With Abe Sapien and several copies of Hellboy in our hand, we can make it so that our opponent will need a ton of ATK to take down Hellboy. Even against an aggressive deck, the +2/+2 provided by Abe Sapien’s effect is a very potent defensive barrier.

Our final character is the 6-drop Huntress, Reluctant Queen. Considering how many plot twists there are in the Random Punks format that could adversely affect our characters (such as Finishing Move, Mystical Paralysis, and No Man Escapes the Manhunters), having a guardian angel against these cards is a godsend. Huntress can also be effective in a pinch if we need a big character on our side of the board. At 13/12, Huntress will be a match for all but the biggest characters in the Random Punks format.

Interestingly enough, this deck has fewer plot twists than any other type of card. Considering that the deck has no way to search for plot twists, this makes some sense. Still, the plot twists that we are playing are important to the smooth operation of the deck. First, we have a very nifty attack trick in Break off the Horns. Hellboy will usually be the only character in the visible area for us, and under these circumstances we can use Break off the Horns to ready our bruiser for an extra bout of attacks. While we won’t deal any breakthrough, we can certainly benefit from the board advantage that we might gain from this.

Another great card that is predicated on a single visible Hellboy is Pancakes. Our rowdy red hero certainly loves flapjacks, so much so that he’s willing to recover for us just to polish some off. Since we only have one character to protect our endurance, it is important for us to try to keep Hellboy unstunned. We won’t always be able to rely on Hellboy being big enough to bounce opposing attacks, so some recovery tricks could do us some real good.

We have pretty much all of the usual suspects as far as our locations are concerned. It will probably surprise no one to hear that we are playing four copies of Brother I Satellite. There is nothing fancy about this location, but it gets the job done nevertheless. The real beauty of this location is that we can discard any character card to fetch a Checkmate character of our choice. This can help out tremendously when we have those odd BPRD-heavy draws. Of course, we may find the need to get a hold of a BPRD character at a key time, and in this case, we can use BPRD HQ. BPRD HQ also provides an additional benefit of reinforcement to one of our hidden characters. If an opponent happens to be hiding a trick that allows him or her to attack the characters in our hidden area, we can cut down on the amount of damage that we would otherwise take.

Another card present in multiples in our deck is Checkmate Safe House. This Team-Up can be an aggressive deck’s worst nightmare, as it gives all Checkmate characters (including those teamed-up) an extra point of DEF while defending in the support row. Since most of the characters that we will play in the visible area have range, we can usually obtain that extra point of DEF.

Our final four-of location is New Baxter Building. Unlike Brother I Satellite and Checkmate Safe House, New Baxter Building is unique, but it’s still worth playing four copies so that we can reap the benefits of the extra cards it can provide. With the amount of equipment that we have in our deck, we should be able to activate New Baxter Building once every turn. If we have Black Thorn in play, we could even finagle two activations per turn—that’s pretty impressive.

Occasionally, we might find the need to retrieve key character cards from our KO’d pile. While this necessity won’t always arise, we still might want to have a copy of Slaughter Swamp available to us. We will generally have enough cards in our hand that the discard requirement for Slaughter Swamp won’t be an issue.

Now we move onto the issue of extra firepower. While our characters will generally be rather large, we might occasionally find the need to increase their ATK. Fortunately, Checkmate has a couple of great locations for boosting characters’ ATK. First, we have Brother Eye. Looking at our complement of locations, it’s not hard to see why Brother Eye is such a potent weapon. Usually, we can activate Brother Eye for an ATK boost equal to the number of resources we control (since all of our resources will usually be locations). More importantly, Brother Eye will usually get better over time. A reusable ATK pump is always good, and Brother Eye is one of the best.

Our other location for stat enhancement is Checkmate Armory. First and foremost, Checkmate Armory gives an additional +1 ATK to all of our equipped characters. It doesn’t matter if these characters are Checkmate or not—they will get a boost if they are boasting the gray cards. Of course, Checkmate Armory has the additional effect of being able to search for equipment cards in our deck. Considering that our deck can adopt an off-curve strategy, the 1 resource point that we will usually have to pay to search with Checkmate Armory is not at all an onerous price.

Our final step is to look at our equipment cards. It really doesn’t need to be said that Laser Watch is a key component in our strategy. In any Checkmate deck, this card is flat-out amazing. It is effectively the same as Dual Sidearms, but with the additional exhaustion of a location, we can replenish our hand by drawing another card. With New Baxter Building in play, this becomes a two-for-one trade, while Checkmate Safe House makes the total bonus from Laser Watch +3 ATK. Hmmm . . . an equipment card that gives us +3 ATK, range, and two extra cards? Yes, please!

We have another great Checkmate equipment card in Knight Armor. We generally will only want to play this card on our visible Hellboy, but in that capacity it can be amazing. On the defensive front, it provides +2 DEF to the equipped character. This may seem like a minimal benefit, but the additional +2 DEF will usually force a little extra action from opposing attackers. While opponents may be able to muster enough to stun our 4-drop once or twice, it will often cost more than they can afford in the long run . . . especially as our 4-drop continues to get bigger over time.

One nifty little trick available to our deck is a way to help keep New Baxter Building active every turn. With a copy of Ego Gem in our deck, we will have a card to equip in the early turns that enables substantial card drawing. Not only can we get an extra card through New Baxter Building, but we can also get another one with Ego Gem’s effect. Ego Gem will bounce back to our hand whenever the equipped character becomes stunned, and since we’re now able to equip Ego Gem every turn, there’s almost no reason why we shouldn’t be drawing multiple cards every turn.

Our next equipment card is a little bit of tech for our potential opponents. While our characters will generally be larger than our opponents’, there are certain decks that can more than match our size over the course of a game. Teams like Brotherhood have power locations such as Lost City that can make opposing characters quite big. In order to deal with these threats, we’re going to pack a couple copies of Concussion Grenade. This equipment card can make dealing with problematic locations a breeze. While it will not always be effective, it does provide a bit of disruption potential against cards that we might not otherwise be able to deal with.

Finally, we’re going to pack a bit of protection for our King. If Ahmed Samsarra is sent to our KO’d pile, then we lose the game. To help make sure that this doesn’t happen, we have a protector in BPRD Signal Device. The extra point of DEF provided by BPRD Signal Device is nice, but not nearly as important as its power to make the equipped character untargetable. Once we pay that point of endurance, we don’t have to worry about any detrimental targeted effects. It doesn’t matter if that character becomes stunned or loses BPRD Signal Device—he or she is safe for the entire turn. Having a worry-free environment for our King is just what we need to take our deck over the top.

That’s all for this deck melody. Let’s see what kind of song our composition has produced.

Selling the Drama

4 Connie Webb, Knight

1 Hellboy, Little Boy

1 Jacob Lee, Knight

1 Surveillance Pawn, Army

1 Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

1 Director Bones, D.E.O.

1 Sarge Steel, Knight

4 Sidney Leach, HMDetector

4 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Christopher Smith, OOutlaw

1 Liz Sherman, Pyrokinesis

1 Amanda Waller, Queen

4 Hellboy, Anung Un Rama

1 Abe Sapien, icthyo sapien

1 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

3 Break off the Horns

4 Pancakes

1 B.P.R.D. HQ

1 Brother Eye

4 Brother I Satellite

1 Checkmate Armory

4 Checkmate Safe House

4 New Baxter Building

1 Slaughter Swamp

1 B.P.R.D. Signal Device

2 Concussion Grenade

1 Ego Gem

2 Knight Armor

4 Laser Watch

While initiative choice for this deck is not exceedingly crucial, the even initiatives are generally preferred. Having the opportunity to attack first on turn 4 can be important against aggressive decks. Not only can you build up Hellboy’s stats a bit, but you can also force your opponent to lose most of his or her board if he or she tries to attack back. With Pancakes, it is fairly easy to go into turn 5 without losing a character. The deck’s preferred win turn is 6. Whether you go off curve with Amanda Waller or stay on curve with Abe Sapien and Huntress, you should have enough ammunition to deal lethal damage on turn 6.

The mulligan is also somewhat open-ended. Having Ahmed Samsarra or some way to search him out is always a good start. Sidney Leach can fetch Ego Gem for some accelerated draw power. If you’ve drawn into New Baxter Building by that time, then you can accelerate your card drawing even further.

Three Random Punks decks down, two more to go. I’ll have one more creation to reveal for you next week. In the meantime, head on out to your local Hobby League and try to get your hands on that Extended Art Mobilize. Hopefully, by this time, you’ve been inspired enough to step out of the norm and try something a little less than conventional. Who knows? Maybe your Random Punks creation will inspire a new and innovative deck that can make a splash in other formats as well.