By: Kirk W Buckendorf
Last week I talked a bit how the Dis-Tempo Magneto deck came to be, so now I’ll cover some of the basics of playing individual Match ups. The first deck I want to talk about is the Big Daddy himself, Thanos. Before that, I want to stress how important it is to take notes while playing this deck. Bring paper and pen, and every time you see your opponent’s hand or get information about cards they draw from effects like Cerebro on Professor X, write it down. When you see those cards put into play, cross them off to keep track of what they still have left. This is legal in a tournament as long as all the notes you take are only recorded during play. You can’t bring any pre-written notes into a match. Also, do this quickly and do not stall; I use a nicknames and shorthand for most cards keeping them to one-word entries into my notes.
We’ll start with the “Combo” version of Thanos that uses Pixie to put Goblin Queen into play as soon as possible. Robert Bigio piloted this deck to 3rd place at Origins if you want to take a look at the most optimal build for reference. For both versions of Thanos, you’ll want to go second every game if given the chance. It’s important against the Pixie version of Thanos because they need to have Pixie with a Laboratory or Arcadia to activate her, and an Academy or Madrippoor to activate Goblin Queen. After that, they’ll also need one of each Basic location for the Infinity Gauntlet, so denying them 2 extra cards by forcing them to go first is huge. Less cards means less chances to get all the pieces in place. With the Discard Twins also denying them cards, this match up up is pretty close to a bye for the Magneto Deck in all of our testing.
Your optimal opening hand would include Helmut Zemo and and Academy or Fisk Tower. First turn Helmut Zemo against any deck gave us a huge advantage even if he missed forcing a discard. Getting to see their hand and plan all your turns using that information gives you a leg up in most games. In the Pixie-Thanos match up, you will grab Pixie if they have one and Goblin Queen next. Usually the only other option is Loki, which isn’t terrible, pulling away a card that could potentially draw them 3 cards later in the game. Worst case scenario is you don’t hit anything, but even then the information gained still gives you intel on what to call for Ronan on later turns.
Speaking of Ronan, sometimes you are not going to draw Helmut Zemo in your opening hand, but you may have a Ronan and you have to know what blind calls to make. A blind call is one where you have no information yet about what is in their hand. Ronan isn’t going to hit the table until your turn 2, which means they may or may not have played Pixie already. Either way, she is not the call because if they played her, obviously it’s too late. If they haven’t played her, they either don’t have her in hand or they are holding her back and you don’t know which. Instead, you will call for Academy if they haven’t played one as that poses the biggest threat with unknown information and here’s why: Goblin Queen putting tokens into play to level up Thanos quickly is your biggest early threat. You call Academy because it is also a piece they need to Infinity Gauntlet later. That said, all blind calls made are dependent on what cards they have put into play. So for a blind Ronan on turn two in this situation, it’s actually easier to make a priority list:
Once you’ve done this and see their hand you will adjust calls accordingly. The two above are in the situation that they haven’t played a Pixie on their turn 2. With more information, here is a priority list of things to blind call in other turn 2 situations (start with this list, and only move down if one is already in play):
*After turn two, add these to the list:
After your first blind call, you will have more information to go on and the game should be smooth sailing. That said, the only way that the Pixie/Thanos deck can usually win if you didn’t have a first turn Helmut Zemo activation is to get Pixie/Goblin Queen off on turn two with all of the locations in hand to go off on turn 2 or 3. If they play turn 1 Arcadia, turn 2 Madripoor and Pixie, activate and hit Goblin Queen and make 4 goblins and can keep a hold of or draw all the pieces they need on turn 3 or 4 with a 6th XP gained somewhere they are probably just fated to win. It’s rare, but that’s the volatility that combo decks are looking for.
For a more traditional Thanos List you still want to force them to go first and the optimal opening hand will have either Helmut Zemo or Ronan with a location to activate them. Zemo is again optimal, and getting a Goblin Queen on turns 1-3 will usually seal the game for you. When there isn’t a Goblin Queen, grabbing the biggest threats next on their curve is also good enough. A turn 2 blind Ronan will have a priority list that looks like this (Again, start at the top and only move down if it is already in play):
From there, you’ll have more information. Just keep them off activating Goblin Queen and off of getting the full suite of resources need to pull off an Infinity Gauntlet later. All the while you’ll be playing your curve of Villains keeping them on their heels. Eventually they’ll get desperate and need to start using Fortresses to give Thanos +1/+1 counters taking that resource away from Gauntlet as well. As with any strategy against Thanos, always try to stun him before KOing any of his character to keep them from gaining XP.
When you don’t know which version of Thanos you are playing and need to make a blind Ronan call, use the list list above starting with Vault. It’s just the safer bet to assume it’s a traditional Thanos until you have more information. All Thanos match ups are in your favor, but sometimes they are going to get the “God” draw and just get an fast Goblin Queen with all the pieces and there’s nothing you can do about it. But these are rare and hard to put together if you can get any kind of discarding going.
Dark Phoenix is another pretty favorable match up, again you’ll want to go second, denying them more cards for combo pieces and less chances to draw Intellect (yellow) locations. Like most decks, a first turn Cosmo is usually your best play but Helmut Zemo grabbing a Pixie or Singularity (in that order of Priority) is really good too. Outside of getting a first turn Zemo, for a blind turn two Ronan you’re going to want to call:
If it looks like they aren’t playing Combo, you’ll just want to keep them off of their ramp by taking their Intellect location sources:
Singularity (because even without the Pixie/Sing Combo, most decks are still going to abuse Singularity shenanigans)
Captain Marvel is a little tougher, but the strategy here is to keep them off of their +1/+1 counters with your Team Attacks. Save your Electros until later turns when he can stun 2 or more characters. For discarding, you’re going to always want to keep them off their curve where you can. Helmut Zemo will give you intel on what to call later with Ronan, and if it’s turn 3 or 4 you’ll always want to call their 4 or 5 drop. With blind calls, most lists are pretty much the same, so you can make a list like so calling out your biggest threats. This list covers a Blind turn 2 or 3 call, and also a priority list of what to call next on any curve. (For example, if it’s turn 4, you’re going to start with Punisher keeping them off playing him turn 5). You Won’t Like Her When She’s Angry is probably the best blind call turn 2-3.
Beyond the blind calls, use the intel from Zemo and Ronan’s first activation to adjust and make the best non-blind calls. Usually it’s multiple Plot Twists in their hand or the best guy for their next curve play.
And now… Luke Cage. This is your worst match up, but our inclusion of Fair and Balanced was meant to help out at least a little bit. That was until Adam Logan and his team included Hidden Weapons, which pretty much negates your +1/+1 counter advantage. That said, any version of the deck you play should have Trickster God instead of Fair and Balanced, but even then your Luke match up is still rough. If your metagame has lots of Lukes, play the Enchantress deck I’m going going to write about next week (stay tuned!). Unlike the previous match ups you’ll want to go first against Luke Cage, and if you can keep from getting stunned early and level up, you’ll have a puncher’s chance. But that’s tough. The idea with Fair and Balanced was to play it first turn, and the +1/+1 is great protection against the 4/3 Luke for the first couple turns. Also, if you can get Ronan and Hellstrom into play on turns 2 and 3 out front protecting Magneto, this goes a long way in helping you to level up. From there you want to make discards that keep Luke from playing his curve characters from turn 4 on up. If you can start destroying resources, that’s good as well. That said, it’s an uphill battle and most likely a loss for you.
Anthony Calabrese and his team’s Sister Grimm deck was the surprise of the tournament. Most other random decks you won’t have an issue with, as the discard and team attacking tempo can handle most anything. Anthony’s deck took me by surprise and I needed 4 games before I could figure out what to do. It’s still a bit blurry to me, and I haven’t tested the match up since, but basically I learned this. Don’t start stunning Sister Grimm until you have a really good board presence (I learned this harder than a little kid learning not to touch a hot stove). Also, you want to level up and turning on the resource destruction from Mutant Mastery is key to keeping them off their late curve. For the discarding, your biggest threat is Singularity. A Pixie by herself isn’t too bad, but Singularity by herself can be a nightmare. She’s bad because she can get made bigger by You Won’t Like Her When She’s Angry and Caffeine Injection making it even harder to get rid of her.
Zemo isn’t completely dead in this match up and I’m always happy to get the intel for Ronan even if I don’t snag a M.O.D.O.K., Magneto, Ghost Rider or Thanos with him. Without that intel, a Ronan Blind call priority list looks like this:
Outside of trying to keep them off curve, the Plot Twists are the biggest problem if Singularity is in play. If you’re about to make an attack on Singularity call for any of the defensive Plot Twists that you haven’t seen hit play yet. Then with the information of what’s in their hand you can adjust your team attacks accordingly to get around what you didn’t catch. As the game goes, use your discard twins and resource destruction to keep them off curve. Only when you have enough big Villains on board to deal with any threat they can play and back up with Sister Grimm’s Super Powers, will you want to start attacking her. Her powers are all very good, and if you stun her early she will use them to take the game from you, so you have to wait until you are in a safe position to allow them to use them. Again, I only learned this after touching the hot stove not once, but twice! Also, I think it’s better to go second in this match up as they’ll need to get the Pix/Combo active to have a shot against you. Giving them less cards to draw it and you more cards to make sure you can strip Singularity in the first 2 turns is really good.
That’s pretty much it for the Magneto deck. Had we known that Luke Cage was going to be so prevalent we would have played the Dis-Enchantress version for the deck instead. I’ll write about that deck next week, and what direction it might go with information learned from playing Magneto.