By: John Tatta
After a long weekend, Thorigins 2.5k is in the books. This article is going to be a little long but I think that you’ll find at the end of it that it was a worthwhile read and the hope is that those who didn’t attend Origins will get a good picture of what it looked like and what the game will look like moving forward. A lot of my topics might be controversial, and I don’t claim to be the voice of reason or the final word on these issues, but I do keep a pretty level head on matters of these topics.
As everyone on the Collective has seen, Thor dominated the 35 person $2.5k event. Before we get into the actual event though, I want to discuss our team’s testing leading up to the event with the disclaimer that I can’t really disclose specifics or lists due to respect to the team’s efforts in testing as well as Gencon potentially being the same format. (Editor’s note: If you play in the Build Phase League, we’ll most likely be playing decks other than Thor, so be sure to check it out! Contact Ben and William on their page for info!) For starters, our group started testing for Origins the day that the first cards were spoiled. Early results can be great in learning how new cards interact with old cards and really gives you a good grasp on the meta before it even forms. Fast forward to when the entire set dropped and we kicked things into high gear. The team for this event was myself, The Buckendorfs, Kirk and Eric, Nick Rausch, and Sal D’Agostino (who wasn’t attending the event but opted to help us test anyway.)
From that group, Sal was the “dad” and “get off my lawn” role and told us when our decks were bad and we should feel bad for playing them. These were mostly my deck ideas, mind you, as Kirk and Eric mostly just tested the Thor decks we had and tuned Mystique (Hey, I had a deck for just about every hero in our Deck Doc… and quite a few stinky ones too -Kirk). I built like 5 different Spider-Man decks and was having decent results vs Thor but games take like 10+ turns and 30 minutes wasn’t going to cut it. Sal also hated the deck because sometimes you got to like turn million, had drawn your deck, and still couldn’t win the game (my decks tend to do that often) so I had to scrap it in the 11th hour. Dr. Strange was another deck we had that tested pretty well against Mystique, and could steal a game or two from Thor but had some issues with Jessica Jones and was forced to play Cosmo, which only Nick liked. Nick will say that we all came around on Cosmo in the end but really that’s a lie. We had a few other sweet decks for the event too but again time was a big restriction for us and the Thor matchup was still just hovering around 50% for some of our builds. (Cosmo was almost part of an in-bred meta, where we were putting cards like Scarlet Witch in our decks to counter Groot and Mystique. This made Cosmo good in allowing you to level up when you just couldn’t get to Scarlet Witch.)
Then the UK event happened. We knew about Ashley’s version of Thor well in advance from a group Facebook chat we constantly have open and knew that it was a solid deck. We also had a Groot deck that we liked and knew that it had the potential to do well too. We didn’t expect it to do so well in the UK but Ross’s build was really innovative and unique so congrats to him. With Thor being so dominant in the UK our group just started to make the best Thor deck for the mirror. As we figured out quickly (and the rest of the world too) Guardians of the Galaxy were a natural fit. Even the Odds is incredible in the match up and the characters, such as Yondu, Charlie-27, Rocket, Starhawk, etc, were all also just really great cards. Our original version could take advantage of Starhawk a little more than our final version (original version being closer to what Tim, Robert, et all played) but our final version paid more respect to the Groot and Mystique match ups that just didn’t exist at Origins. We felt really good about the mirror match but still recognized that winning the die roll decided the game pretty often despite what build you had. At Origins I played vs 6 Thor decks and won the 3 I was on the play (not close) and lost the 3 that I was on the draw (also not close). With the Thor matchup being a coin-flip I personally wanted to focus my efforts elsewhere but at the same time I didn’t want to fight to opponents each round – the clock, and my actual opponent. Also math. Mystique is not an easy deck to play, dude.
Anyway, on to the event. I want to say something about the Thor meta. The reason why Thor was such a large percentage of the event is two-fold. One, it’s obviously very powerful and teams picked up on this. Two, the 3 “teams” in attendance (there were probably more “teams” but the recognizable ones were obvious) all played Thor. Our group played it because of time constraints mostly. The others played it because they felt like it was the best deck (rightfully so). If, say, our 5 players decided to play Mystique then suddenly Thor is “only” 12 out of 35 players. You can see with such a small event how any individual team can swing the meta. If we had all brought Mystique, and placed some in the top 8, then this wouldn’t be so bad, right? Different factors are at play here and Thor being so prevalent I think is taken out of context. 35 players is not a lot and I think Gencon will be *completely* different – especially if Chad extends the rounds, which I know our group will be lobbying for (doesn’t hurt to try!).
Anyway, in the end we played Thor like everyone else. I think that that wasn’t the best decision on our end but it is what it is. As I stated, in 8 matches I played against Thor 6 times. My other 2 rounds were against Spider-Man (round 3)and Baron Mordo (round 4). Also in 8 rounds I played exactly 1 close game, the one against Spider-Man. I would have easily lost that game if the round had been 5 more minutes as he was just getting to his Thanos turn before time was called and I won by 1 wound. Eric and Kirk made top 8 and for the second consecutive year I lost my win-and-in match to drop to 9th on tiebreakers. Salty is the flavor of the month for me but I had a great time and was happy to walk away with $150 while hanging out with great friends and seeing others that I only get to once or twice each year.
That’s it for the event part of the article. Now I want to talk about a few other topics floating around on the Collective group.
This is mind boggling to me, to be completely frank. Thor is not the least bit oppressive. He doesn’t hamper the way that you play the game like Thanos did and he’s actually quite fair. He’s just a really good main character that does things a little better than most other decks. He does make 3 defense MCs pretty poor with those characters doing something out of the ordinary but that’s fine, right? Not every MC is created equal and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So which MCs are good vs Thor? For starters, those with 5 DEF at level 1 can be built to be good against Thor. Spider-Man, for example, is good against Thor because he’s huge and has tools to deal with the counters in the form of utility characters that you want to be playing anyway. Dr. Strange is also decent against Thor because you naturally want to play a bunch of defensive plot twists so you can keep the wounds off in the early turns. The much maligned Warrant Officer Ripley can also crush Thor, but people may hate you for it. Star-Lord, Spider-Man, Mystique, Storm, etc. All of these MCs can be built to survive. Are they always going to beat Thor? No. But you can get better than 50% pretty easily and with some additional tuning, can be better than that even while making other matches worse. The reason 5 defense is so critical is because you want to be able to not get wounded on turn 1 by the Falcon draw.
Plot twists such as Savage Surprise, Even the Odds, Shock to the System, and Super Senses are good against Thor as well. Likewise for utility characters such as Iceman, Calypso, Singularity, Dagger (sometimes), Moonstone, and others. I’m not trying to say that people are lazy in their deck building but it really seems like the casual crowd sees the results from a very small Origins event and just immediately assumes that the deck is this unbeatable giant that warps the game. It’s not a negative play experience like Thanos was. Anyway, just give it time. Thor isn’t going to just “go away” but players are going to always have to keep him in mind when building decks.
Something that I thought of after the fact and had to come back to, Thor is one of the cards/decks that keeps the Valkyrie combo at bay. If you ban Thor, and slow the game down as a result, in time I believe Valkyrie will be next on people’s chopping block. While I don’t think that the combo is very good/consistent, if you give them enough turns eventually they’re going to get you. My point is that it’s a cycle. There’s always going to be a “best” deck. Personally, I’d prefer that the best deck be a deck that attacks you fairly for 5-7 wounds. That kind of deck is easy to find counters to.
Tournament Round Length
I’ve been not-so-subtly dropping hints about this on the Collective but I really don’t feel like 30 minutes is enough time any more for round length. As the card pool gets larger, decks are becoming more complicated and 6 health MCs are becoming the norm (7 now with level 3 MCs). In casual games and side events, playing a game in 30 minutes is no big deal. You can play quickly, correct mistakes, etc. In a tournament setting you have to think through lines of play against unknown opponents and it’s draining mentally as well as time consuming. This isn’t even the part that’s the most egregious to me.
What I think is the most damning is how 30 minutes pushes out some decks that just can’t win in that time frame. Our team for Origins had a really great Mystique deck that we liked but choosing which MC to transform into, and doing XP math, was very time consuming. In the end, we felt that Thor was the best deck (that we worked on) to play in the 30 minute rounds and had to regrettably shelve Mystique for a future event. I was the same way with Spider-Man. Honestly, Thor was my 3rd choice for the event. I just think that it’s wrong that we got pigeon-holed into playing Thor because we were confined by the rules that are probably outdated.
Thanos is a card that any control deck wants to play and likely win with. Unfortunately it’s also an 8-drop and getting to that point, while also finishing the game, is just too difficult right now. I’m already getting a little long-winded about this so I’ll cut this debate off but I really just want Chad and crew to consider 35 minutes even if it’s just on an experimental basis. I think that a 2-day event like Gencon is a perfect place to try that.
(We’re not saying all games with Mystique will go to time, but 1 or 2 will and it was not worth the risk to lose 1 or 2 winnable games because of time being called. That said, an extra 5 minutes and I personally would’ve felt comfortable with the deck. For Gencon, we have a couple months to play with Mystique and Groot and get all of the play-lines down to rote, so time will not be an issue there. For this tournament, we had about 3 weeks with the full card pool, but we also had to cram ALL the decks we wanted to develop into testing, so couldn’t put the same time into a single deck like we did with Magneto last year. Mystique and Magneto are difficult lists to play, and I personally need to rep a lot of games to get comfortable with them. Last year I had that luxury, so I could play a deck that beat the “best” deck in Thanos. This year, there wasn’t enough time to get reps in, so I opted for the “best” deck for what I felt comfortable playing in the time allowed. 5 more minutes and that “best” deck for me changes to something else completely. I also got pretty frustrated when some were telling me what my thoughts and assumptions were about the meta because I chose to play Thor. There’s a lot more that goes into making the decision of what to play, than just playing the best deck. In a perfect world, I would always rather play the outlier metagame deck like Magneto. -Kirk)
The Thor debacle has gotten out of hand on the Collective recently with a few specific people leading the anti-Thor charge but the points that I outlined above sum up a lot of what people don’t look at. I see so many comments about Thor being oppressive but nobody is really saying why. Thor doesn’t “break” the game. Thor doesn’t do anything “unfair.” It’s not some super deck. If Thor misses turn 1 Falcon, it’s just some normal aggressive deck. If he hits Falcon he’s just a *very good* aggressive deck that demands answers. I fail to see how that is bad for the game.
Things are really getting blown out of proportion over a 17-person and then 35-person event. I don’t really think groups have tested everything against Thor in a relatively new format. Just give it time, don’t get all flustered over early results, and then we can revisit after Gencon where I assure you the field will not be 50%+ Thor, Monsters Unleashed or not.
Congratulations to Robert Smallwood for winning Origins again and congrats to the team for doing well. I’m excited to continue to develop this friendly rivalry between our teams and I look forward to seeing how the Gencon results end up! Thank you for reading and I hope that some of this has calmed the waters for now.
(Agreed, congrats to Robert, Tim and the rest of their gang. They made a great metagame choice in playing Thor with Savage Surprise for the mirror matches. While we also played Thor, ours was tuned to have a shot against more controlling late game decks like Mystique and Groot because we’d developed those decks to specifically counter Thor; we assumed others would catch on, and there’d be at least some number of them there. That’s another reason we’re not as concerned with Thor dominating. We have Groot, Mystique and Luke Cage deck lists that were all favored in Thor Matchups. Aaron and Wesley had their own takes on Luke that did great in a Thor rich field. I honestly think you’ll see some different results in the Build Phase league, so be sure to ask Ben and William how to join!)