By: Kirk Buckendorf
I specifically asked for Sabretooth when I found out the Brotherhood of Mutants was going to be the next team for VS. He and Wolverine are two of my all time favorite characters, and this cover from Wolverine’s ongoing series in the late ‘80s is part of my developmental understanding of good vs. evil.
Sabretooth seems to just exist to mess with Logan’s head, and before the adamantium treatment, he was just bigger, meaner and a better fighter than Logan. He stopped at nothing to destroy and challenge Logan’s values as a man mentally as well as physically.
I have both these characters tattoo’d on my shoulders, kind of an “Angel & Devil” theme. Anyway, I was ecstatic to learn Sabretooth would be getting the Main Character treatment:
What seems simple at first is actually a lot to unpack. My first fear is the glass cannon setup we seem to have. Starting with 5/3 and the 9/5 stats, Sabretooth hits hard, but but seems like he’s going down on your opponent’s turn. Wolverine’s Original Level 2 had the same issue in his first printing, being an 8/4 meant he was going to get stunned often. When he received a new Level 2 & 3 in Legacy, his stats were made a little sturdier becoming a 6/8 and a 9/8. With that high of a Defense, he was a little easier to keep around.
But Sabretooth has a couple things that make him interesting. Like the Marvel characters new to get the MC treatment in Legacy, Sabretooth has some keywords. Keywords – plural. His level 1 has Ferocious and his Level 2 has Regeneration. The first one is amazing on a card with 5 Attack, even better with 9 on his level 2. What hurts him, though is his weakness to Ranged attacks, and direct -1/-1 counter placement like Thor’s Lightning Strike.
This is a little rough for me, as the Wolverine style characters in comics are some of the best fighters because of their healing factor induced toughness. Bullets and Lightning Bolts only slow them down, but in VS. you’re going to need tricks to keep Sabretooth around. We have yet to see what kind of Plot Twist support the Brotherhood will get, but I think Sabretooth will need a healthy back up plan of Defensive Plot Twists like Find Cover and Shock to the System to dodge all of the bullets flying around.
He’ll also need them for his level up condition. He gains an XP at the end of each turn, which should be easy enough on your own turn, a huge 5 ATK Ferocious melee combat should be pretty easy to survive. You’re going to need more help on your opponent’s turn to keep him face up for that extra XP.
It’s also a good time to talk about Sabretooth’s Health. He only has 4 Like Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, but they at least get to tag team a bit for a virtual 8 Health.
I think this means that the developers felt in testing that Sabretooth needed the balancing to counter how good Ferocious is on a Main Character. Also, while Regeneration hasn’t been as good as I’ve wanted it to be on Wolverine, with only 2 Health it doesn’t have as much of an opportunity to come into play. On an MC with 4 health, it may be more effective. All those Defensive Plot twists you packed to keep Sabretooth alive while he was a Level 1 are now going to do duty while he’s Level 2.
Think about it.
You play a Defensive Plot Twist to avoid a stun which would give you a wound. Any time you do this that PT is saving you one wound, but with Regeneration, if it also keeps Sabretooth alive for the start of your next turn it will heal a wound. The combination of Defensive Plot Twists & Regeneration now mean that each combat survival could mean the avoidance of 2 Wounds.
With this in mind, there is one team I’d love to pair Sabretooth with for their amazing Plot Twists, one of which works great with both Regeneration AND Ferocious. Champions have 3 really strong Defensive Plot Twists; strong enough to rival those of the Avengers:
All of these work great to save Sabretooth’s bacon at Level 1 & 2 and there’s going to be room for them as well, because Sabretooth does NOT have any Super Powers that need Energy Symbols. You don’t need to include Asteroid M, or any other Colors for him! Tough Kids is super relevant with making sure Sabretooth is face up at the end of your opponent’s turn to gain that XP in the early game. Baby Avengers and Tough Kids also have the added versatility of being useful on both Attack and Defense when needed.
You can start with Dinah Soar, who helps put Sabretooth out of Lightning Strike range for at least a turn and maybe *Ms. Marvel*, but you may be better off using Any defensive Bortherhood Plot Twists that come with the set, or Shock to the System and Find Cover for the early turns.
The better Champions Supporting characters really start at turn 4 with Viv Vision, Nova, *Hulk* and Hercules. I had a pretty successful Groot deck that used that late curve and the best Plot Twists to good effect. Sabretooth may want a similar plan, so could borrow Mantis and Starhawk from the Guardians for the early game and some resource ramping as well. Starhawk loves a deck filled with Plot Twists.
I dig him, he’s going to be fun to build around and see what makes him tick. He’s a different take on main Characters without Super Powers like Madame Hydra who has been surprising me lately with her innovative take on deck building.