The Gunsmith, Death Times Five

Rarity always seemed to matter to me in Vs.  Most rare attack modifiers like Savage Beatdown, Big Leagues, Steely Resolve, Armageddon, Blinding Rage, etc. outshine their more common counterparts like Combat Reflexes and Acrobatic Dodge.  There is, however, an occasional common or uncommon that is so good you wonder how in the heck it got past the rare-detector.  Teen Titans Go! is the first card that comes to mind.  Though, when you really think about it, only one out of all twelve banned cards is actually a rare, so maybe I need to rethink my hypothesis about the value of rarity.

Back when the Justice League set came out I thought I had found another common card on par with the power of Teen Titans Go!  The first time I read this card I was taken aback.  I thought, “Like ‘Bill’ in the Pokemon TCG that nets you free cards with no drawback, you’d be an idiot not to run as many of these as allowed in your deck!”

That card was Death Times Five.  Coincidentally Death times five is a subtitle to a book in “The Gunsmith” series.  It’s about five young misfits causing mayhem in a rural western town.  Very similar to the five supervillains portrayed in the art on the similarly titled card.  Though I doubt anyone would make the mistake of calling these supervillains “kids”.  If the development team actually was pulling the title of this card from that ’99 Western, I know exactly what my friend Robin would say…

All digressions aside, here’s the text of this easily misinterpreted card:

(1) Death Times Five

If target attacker would cause breakthrough while attacking a character this turn, instead, that character’s controller loses 5 endurance.

It’s easy to see how this card can be read two different ways.  In fact, many early rulings actually got this one wrong.  It stems from the fact that the object of the sentence starts out as the attacker, which leads you to assume that the “character” referred to later is still the attacker.  The object of the sentence is never explicitly changed to the defender, though that was the intent of the card.  Truly, the biggest crimes in literature are open-ended modifiers and unclear subject indicators.  As such, my first interpretation of this card was that not only did this card stop an attacker from causing breakthrough, but it also burned the attacker’s controller for five endurance.  Why wouldn’t you run 4x of a card that did that?  It’s like Surprise Attack and Burn Rubber rolled into one, wait… it’s better than those two cards rolled into one!

My thoughts immediately went towards ways to abuse this card.  I was going to run an Anti-Matter deck that used Johnny Quick and Slipstream for double attacks, while my opponent’s attacks to my open board would be met with Death Times Five!  I actually built this deck, but during its christening against my roommate’s Squadron Supreme variation, he told me he didn’t believe the card worked like I thought.  In my anger I turned to the forums for guidance, but alas… it appeared my roomie was correct.  I was not the only one who had been confused, but others more in the know than me were saying that it was the defender that lost five endurance, not the attacker.  This mess would have all been avoided had they worded Death Times Five similar to one of its precursors: Mystique, Raven Darkholme.  Mystique reads, “If Mystique would cause breakthrough to an opponent, instead, that opponent loses 5 endurance.”  You can’t get confused as to who is losing the endurance with Mystique’s wording, and she was printed in the very first set!

Well anyway, my Anti-Matter deck was still cool, because it was Anti-Matter, but it was crippled a little.  Then, just a few days ago I saw someone ask a question on the wording of Death Times Five and it triggered all these old memories anew.  I decided that I would still try to see if there was a use for this seemingly worthless card.  After all, why would they bother printing it if the defender would be the one losing endurance?

Well, it turns out that situationally this card is usable.  First of all, If your one drop is on the receiving end of an eight drop’s attack, you could turn twenty breakthrough to a mere five.  From the opposite side of things, your four drop attacking their five drop with a Flying Kick could have his one point of breakthrough turned into five.  This card is a life saver (an endurance saver at least).

Sure, you save a few points of endurance, or drop a couple points of endurance from your opponent’s total, but is there really a good use for this card?  After all, Teen Titans Go! would have been a pretty lame (or at least balanced) card if it weren’t for Roy Harper’s shenanigans.  The trick to seeing if this card is usable has nothing to do with giving more or receiving less endurance damage.  No, the trick lies in looking for situations in which you’d want a replacement modifier for breakthrough.  After all, Death Times Five makes whatever damage given or taken something other than breakthrough.  It’s an “instead of breakthrough” situation similar to how Lost City replaces power-ups with +3/+3 pumps.  When do we not want to give or receive breakthrough?

First lets talk about not wanting to take breakthrough.  In some instances it’s better to take the five burn from Death Times Five than five breakthrough.  The Joker, Killing Smile equipped with Laughing Gas is one of those instances.  There’s also Nocturne, Dark Kryptonian, Brass Grill, the new Wonder Man, and most Juggernaut-related cards.  These are just a few devastating cards that are stopped by a timely Death Times Five.

Now lets talk about not giving any breakthrough damage to your opponent.  It flies in the face of the very foundation of the game, but there is a team that fits the “Bill” (get it?!).  In fact, it turns out that the answer was smacking me in the face all along.  I was playing against my roommate’s Squadron Supreme No-Hand deck when I found that Death Times Five didn’t work like I’d hoped; and Squadron Supreme is also the team that has a theme that’s synergistic with how Death Times Five actually works!  It’s a small world ain’t it?  Though Squadron was famous for it’s “Look Ma, no hands” style beats, it also had a second theme that required you to not do breakthrough, lest you be stuck with the consequences.  It’s this theme that we’ll look at today.

Squadron Supreme has some cool support cards for their “no breakthrough” theme.  Eldritch Power and Squadron City are both +3 attack pumps for the turn that punish you for causing breakthrough.  With Death Times Five, those drawbacks are erased.

Similarly, Project Utopia allows for us to inflict a lot of burn damage on our opponent, but only if we refrain from causing breakthrough.  If we do cause breakthrough, our attacker will be KO’d  It’s also worth noting that Project Utopia only targets a single character on our board.  To get the most out of it, it would be nice to find a way to get that character to double attack.  This would also go well with Eldritch Power, Squadron City, and Airskimmer, all of which are Squadron Supreme exclusive for-the-turn pumps!

My mind immediately went to Samantha Parrington, but that ground has been tread too often already.  So instead I went to my second most worn path… Villains United!  That’s right folks, Hunter Zolomon readies a character with his vengeance ability.  He also stops them from doing any breakthrough on their second attack.  He practically screams for this team up!

At the one drop position we’d sure like to run Ape X to snatch up Airskimmers, but our character list is going to be pretty crammed, so we’re going to stick with The Calculator to snatch up Team-Ups.  At two however, we’ve got some more choices.  For the Villains United (VU) side of things I went with Dr. Psycho because his ability rocks.  There are a ton of other good choices from the team though, I’m just playing favorites!  For Squadron Supreme we’ll want Haywire.  He’s going to help us lock down our opponent’s board so that we can kind of stall to a late game (I know, unheard of nowadays!).

On turn three we’ll probably want to hit Lamprey because his effect makes him bigger and bigger each turn.  Dr. Polaris is also a good choice at this drop because he will also help us stall to a late game (just wait ’till you see who our big finisher is!).

Turn four is where things get interesting.  Amphibian is the choice from the Squadron side of things because he can “Garth” things like Eldridtch Power and Death Times Five back to our hands when we need them.  But on the VU side of things we’re going to run Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor.  His discard ability, which was formerly awful, will help us rid our hand of cards on the off-chance that we want to recruit Alfred Gaines on turn five.  He will allow us to suddenly change gears into a no-hand style of play.  After all, we want a big five drop to double attack with after it’s targeted with Zolomon’s ability.  If we can’t pull off the no-hand scenario, then Mr. Freeze hits the table as our resident Gunsmith.  He’s also stall orientated and will help us lock down our opponent until later turns.

At six we’ll Have Zolomon and Doctor Spectrum (does this deck have a ridiculous amount of doctors in it or what?)  Spectrum is pretty much just a target for Enemy of my Enemy.  I’d imagine we’ll mostly want to abuse Hunter Zolomon every time.  Similarly, we’ll splash a copy of Deathstroke in at seven, even though we’ll want to hit Arcanna most of the time so that Deathstroke’s drawback isn’t preventing us from playing our plot twists.  Both of these seven drops are pretty outstanding at clearing the board, but if they’re somehow not enough, you’ll just have to recruit…

Doomsday, Armageddon Creature!!!  That’s right, the sweet eight drop from the Superman set is finally in a deck!  His drawback of not being allowed to cause breakthrough is negated in this deck, because we dont’ want to cause any!  Also, The Calculator/Coercion combo is perfect for getting around Doomsday’s bothersome loyalty.  Doomsday will clear the entire board, then the rest of your characters can finish whatever’s left of your opponent’s endurance total!

Here’s my rough list of…

The Gunsmith, Death Times Five!

4x The Calculator, Noah Kuttler
4x Haywire
3x Dr. Psycho
4x Lamprey
2x Dr. Polaris
4x Alexander Luthor, Insidious Impostor
2x Amphibian
2x Albert Gaines <> Nuke
1x Mr. Freeze
1x Hunter Zolomon
1x Doctor Spectrum
1x Arcana
1x Deathstroke
1x Doomsday!

4x Airskimmer

3x Squadron City

4x Eldritch Power
4x Project Utopia
4x Coercion
4x Death Times Five
4x Enemy of my Enemy
2x Hibernaculum

Alright, a quick recap.  This deck wants to load up a five drop with for-the-turn pumps and target them with Project Utopia.  Then, we’ll target that same five drop with Hunter Zolomon’s ability so that our pumped-up five drop can get in eight points of burn damage in addition to the damage from both of his attacks.  The rest of the deck is somewhat stall orientated so that we can achieve every fanboy’s dream of recruiting Doomsday!

Hope you guys enjoyed my trip down memory lane.  If you can think of any other uses for Death Times Five, drop me a line.  Heck, drop me a line even if you’ve got nothing creative to add!

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5 Responses

  1. Question for scoot that people want answered:
    Did you know about the J.R. Roberts book prior to this article or was it just the first thing from google?

    I think using death times five with 5 drop bats from dor. Just saying imo.

  2. First thing from google obv., and… what?

  3. imo there is nothing sweeter, than billing into a bill, into a bill, into a bill. orz roflcopter imo.

  4. I agree imo, but prof oak with no cards in your hand and drawing four bills is the play imo

  5. I knew I should not have put in a Pokemon reference!

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