By: Kirk W Buckendorf
Having 7 to 8 weeks to find a deck for a tournament can be a blessing and a curse. A-Force was released on April 20th and the $2.5k Championships at Origins were scheduled for June 18th. It was nice to have so much time and I built 22 decks to test and use as a gauntlet. On the blessing side, there’s lots of time to get a ton of games in and get familiar with all the top decks but on the curse side you constantly worry that you’re missing some killer deck and spend a lot of time trying out crazy ideas, which in turn makes you worry that you’re following tangents instead of focusing on solving the metagame. It’s a viscous cycle.
I had a lot of decks like that. Crazy decks like the Rocket deck I wrote about for my friends at VSBDB and decks trying to make Ghost Rider work somehow. I was really liking the Captain Marvel deck that I wrote about last week, but I felt the top decks in the Metagame were going to be Thanos, Dark Phoenix and Captain Marvel with some Luke Cage sprinkled in as a light seasoning. With so much time to develop decks, I didn’t want to go in with a known archetype. Everyone else has 7 weeks to prepare and play too, and they’ll know the match up against your deck as well as you know how to play it. I really like going in with an unknown deck as the surprise factor can be an advantage that wins you games.
Also, I need all the help I can get.
It’s not a bad strategy and I’m in good company. Tim Batow is a mad genius of deck building and has been bringing ingenious brews to most games he plays like Original VS, WoW TCG and now he’s tearing up Dragon Ball Z tournaments (recently winning the World Championship). He’s also the designer of the Storm deck that Michael Barnes piloted to 2nd place at last year’s Gencon 10k. Anthony Calabrese had the same idea and brought the most innovative deck in Sister Grimm, bashing me in round two because I had no idea what to expect and went on to run the table in Swiss rounds going 8-0. That said, both of these guys are on a whole other level and their style of deck building and play are what I aspire to achieve.
For the first few weeks of developing, I really wanted to get Helmut Zemo, Ronan and Satana all to work in one deck, but every list I put together just felt hodge-podged together and inconsistent. I knew if you could get them to work, you could pick apart Thanos’ hand and keep him off the 6 cards he needs to get a 3rd-4th turn Gauntlet. And if you could stall him off of that while applying pressure, he’d have to spend locations on other effects keeping him off collecting the 4 resources he’d need for a later game gauntlet after he leveled up. None of the early decks could do both and it was very frustrating. Black Cat was the most promising on paper, but her sharing her first Super Power in Yellow with Zemo and Ronan was a little wonky, she couldn’t apply any pressure to Thanos with her being a little more mortal without Flight, Range and a decent Level 2 Super Power.
Eventually I just lined up all the heroes with a couple problems in mind. I wanted to stick to 2 Resources, Yellow and Blue for the discard twins and Satana to use since I’d need to play all 3 team-stamped Special Locations (I really don’t like going over 20 Locations in a non-Thanos deck). I also wanted the Main Character to help apply pressure while the twins were forcing discards in the early game. She couldn’t be fighting for Yellow early, so she needed to have Blue as her first level Super Power. Satana wouldn’t need any blue until later in the game anyway. With Yellow as her Level 2 Super Power, she wouldn’t be fighting for it on the early game with the twins. To keep the location base I wanted, the Main Character also had to be one of the 3 teams that the Twins and Satana were on. Only one character fit this bill:
She doesn’t have flight, but her Super Powers were the right colors, and her first power makes the discard twins into actual combat threats. Also, her big Defense at both levels makes her a decent battlefield commander who is hard to stun. Being able to make your opponent discard and have your guys be bigger than curve turned out to be really good. The deck even has the coolest name!
“Dis,” as in, “discard.”
That right there will win you some rounds in a tournament, just like racing stripes make you go faster!
I’ll write an article about the deck next week, but this article is about Magneto and how we ended up with the list we brought to Origins. Enchantress was the first draft of what would become the Magneto Deck. She had just as good a match up against Thanos and lived up to all my hopes and dreams. Dark Pheonix was also a very favorable match up (as it is for most decks that run Cosmo with a big MC to hide behind, and a 3/5 Cosmo is even harder for Dark Pheonix to deal with).
Dis-Enchantress also had a great match up against Luke Cage, which I’ll outline in her article, but has a terrible match up against Captain Marvel. We just knew Captain Marvel was going to be the more popular deck so we focused on trying to win that match up. Even running 4 Black Cats didn’t help keep Captain Marvel in check. Instead of single card answers to +1/+1 counters we needed to be able to stun giant Captain Marvels and Meggans every turn of the game organically. On paper, characters hitting the table with +2/+2 counters should keep your guys big enough, but we just weren’t able to keep counters on them against Marvel’s You Won’t Like Her When She’s Angry and Shock to the Systems backing her up.
We needed solid tempo every turn that didn’t rely on Enchantress drawing Energy resources, and team attacks big enough to keep Captain Marvel stunned every turn. That your best 1 drop and 2 drops were off team from Enchantress really hurt the early game and set the tone for the whole curve to be off team. Nebula and Moonstone shined in the deck, but they were also off team from the discard twins. Against most decks this wasn’t an issue, but we just knew Captain Marvel was going to be more popular for Origins.
We had to go back to the drawing board. I really loved the tight Location base that Enchantress pulled off for being 3 teams. Satana was OK, and could seal up some games by removing key-pieces but if we could find a Villains or Underworld MC that had a second ability to do something similar, that would be ideal. Also, since any other MC wouldn’t be putting +2/+2 counters on some of your key guys like Cosmo to help protect them, they’d probably need flight. My favorite and also most hated thing about Captain Marvel is that she has both Flight and Range, so an MC that could match that would have a little bit better of a shot. Magneto ended up being the best choice fitting all those requests and being able to team attack on turn 2 and 3 with Ronan was nothing to take lightly.
We moved the Discard Twins over to Magneto to test a few games with this first list:
4 Helmut Zemo
4 Green Goblin
4 Iron Man
4 Shock to the System
4 Fisk Tower
It ran really well against our big 3 gauntlet right out of the gate with these results:
VS. Captain Marvel 3-1 (play: 0-1, draw: 3-0 )
VS. Thanos 6-1 (play: 3-0, draw: 3-1)
VS. Dark Phoenix 3-1 (play: 2-0, draw: 1-1)
(These were just the first 15 games we played before changing the deck up, we played a ton more games throughout the progression of the deck)
It was just as good against Thanos and Dark Phoenix as Dis-Enchantress was, but now we had game against Captain Marvel! We figured we’d tune it up a bit and then run it against other decks. That’s when we ran into a big Steel-Skinned wall in Luke Cage, so we looked at how to tighten up the list. The first problem areas were the 3 drop spot and Iron Man. Now Iron Man is never bad, as getting a Location back is always great, but by himself, he’s just really small and can’t team attack. Iron Man remained the 6 drop for a few more versions of the deck, but after awhile it was obvious he wasn’t pulling his weight in the late game, especially in the Luke Cage match up where the Big Guys were really crushing us. In the Dis-Enchantress deck he’s a guaranteed 7/9 Flyer with Range as he always gave her a Blue to pump himself with, but here he was just meh.
Also, we noticed the deck’s greatest asset were the multi-health characters. It’s how Juggernaut made it into our first list on a whim, it was a “why not” situation that turned out to be pretty positive later on. We were playing Juggernaut as a quasi-7 drop because his attack is so huge, but figured we should just play the actual 7 drop in Dormamu. He’s big, on-team and has flight and 2 Health so he fit the bill. Also, his Super Power could be totally relevant within the deck’s discard theme if there were some resources left over for him to use.
We brought back Juggernaut at the 6 spot to replace Iron Man and it helped with a lot of big-guy math. The biggest obstacles if they hit the table are Thanos and Adam Warlock. You need to be able to attack for 13 consistently and Juggernaut does that with Level 2 Magneto, Sabretooth, Abomination and Dormamu. He combines with all of them to hit for 13 or more. Sometimes team attacking, synergy and tempo are more important that the “best” guy at each cost spot.
At the 3 drop spot, Green Goblin was OK, but again only sticking around for a turn hurt the team attacking tempo we were trying to build. Doctor Octopus was a little better with his 5 Defense, but he has such a lightning rod on his head that he hardly ever lasted more than one turn either. My brother, who is a much better miser at protecting value cards like Doc Oc from all his years of playing Magic, was much better with him than I was. He’d make his plays and formations about protecting him to draw tons of cards and it worked, but I’m a single minded player who just wants to turn guys sideways and not have to think about it every turn.
“Why you no bash, Doc Oc? Only way to play is to bash! Not bashing is for puny geniuses!”
He’s too hard for a simple guy like me to play. We tried some number of Deadpools along with Green Goblins and Doc Ocs, and he was amazing. There could always be room for 2-3 Deapools in any deck with a Ranged Main Character that’s using green, I think, and this was no exception. It just really bothered me that Deadpool was the better 3 drop than the on-team guys. Which was fine, we probably could’ve just went to 4 Deapools, but we had the crazy idea to try and stretch the multi-health theme instead so we weren’t taking Greens away from Magneto in the later game. I reached out to the Kingpin to see if he knew any guns for hire that might fit the bill.
Hellstrom is easy to overlook, he doesn’t do anything too fancy and yet he has it all. Flight, Range, 2 Health and a Keyword Power that is draw dependent but volatile when it happens. Darksoul doesn’t take any resources like a Super Power and sticking around makes for a great protector to get your Magneto Leveled up. He also recruits your Helmut Zemo or Electro into a ranged attacking force to be reckoned with, where normally they just sit back and use their Super Powers once or twice. Now they are helping out your tempo with some attacks just like Enchantress allowed them to do when she’d give them +2/+2 counters.
He just fit. Again, Team Attacking, Synergy and tempo just worked better than playing the “best” guy at this cost spot in the deck.
Thanks Underworld Leader, Kingpin!
So, while it’s not as cool a name as Dis-Enchantress, Dis-Tempo Magneto was born.
4 Helmut Zemo
3 Fair and Balanced
4 Shock to the System
4 Fisk Tower
While the changes throughout our development from 1.0 to 1.5 definitely made the deck better, it still had a bad match up against Luke Cage, but we figured that we’d be able to steal a game or two from Luke players that were unfamiliar with what our deck was doing. Also, as I’ve said we just knew that Captain Marvel was going to be the 2nd most played deck after Thanos and figured we wouldn’t see that many Luke Cage decks…
That’s it for part 1 of this article. In Part two I’ll talk about how to play the deck against most match ups in how to play the discard twins and how the Team Attacking tempo aspect worked. Also we’ll chat about predicting Meta-Games and how you can totally be taken off guard when what you think is going to happen doesn’t!