End of the Road – The Dark Phoenix Rises

The first part of this article is my documenting of the tournament experience, if you want to skip this scroll down until you see the decklist :] 

The story really starts the weeks earlier to the event, I tried a few things but eventually settled on tuning Lee Houldsworth’s Dark Phoenix deck – I say tuned but I changed a 4/4/3 plot twist to a 4/3/4 one I’m not a probability scientist but having the fourth shock the system definitely helped when I played against Deadpool twice. I’d tested the deck a bit and played it the week earlier at IQ games in Huddersfield which is actually a great venue and really helped accommodate us by changing the date of their event as it clashed with the MTG: Game Day which most of our players would be judging at, sadly Lee couldn’t make it but I split the finals with the King of the North – Nick Hall, level 2 MTG Judge a fitting end as he was playing regular Phoenix which was actually really good and perhaps one of the only decks that can get away with using Emma Frost to remove your opponents library and stopping them from drawing cards or planning strategies for the rest of the game.

Arriving in Telford I made my way to the convention center to have a look around, I wandered about a bit and investigated some of the other aspects of the strategy convention – role playing games, retro video games and some board games I didn’t get a chance to go back to testing out. I bumped into Matt Pritchard here and we got in a couple of rounds of last minute testing whilst we tried out both the mirror and we juggled some ideas on his Professor X deck which turned out pretty well.
It got late and he went out to town to get some supplies and food letting me know he’d found a cheeky Nandos – which is my favorite place to eat outside of Brazilian steak houses. I’d gone back to the hotel to charge my phone so I could face-time my family and let them know I had arrived safe. Whether it be good or bad, gaming is typically an appetite suppressant and back in the solitude of my hotel room I remembered it was probably time to eat something so I wandered over to the sister hotel where the Bushiroad judges and staff were staying. This place must have been real fancy as I ordered the pulled pork burger, expecting the usual pub grub cheeseburger with a pulled pork topping but it was actually only pulled pork with red onions and Monterrey jack sauce I actually really enjoyed it but it was a logistical nightmare trying to get it down. The hotel was hosting a wedding party in a banging event space and I was glad that my hotel was on the other side of the complex so I could go and get some sleep ready for the next day.

My day didn’t start out great nearly flooding the bathroom in my hotel because the shower drain was too small and panicking that I’d get in tonnes of trouble. Four dripping wet bath towels later and the crisis was averted it was time for breakfast. The breakfast was pretty peaceful I would usually listen to podcasts whenever I’m not actively with other people but I wanted some quiet and a bit to nosy on the other guests staying there. Some teenagers up for the YuGiOh tournament were talking about their A level results and how the grading scale had changed over the past year I enjoyed looking back on that as an old man who remembers worrying about scores and grades and how that would impact my future.

Bumping into the Golightly Brothers of Star Wars and X Wing fame was great, really had a good time with them and glad they made it up. We did only hit the sixteen players for the tournament sadly but a combination of the location, now knowing about Thanos, clashing with the MTG: RPTQ, a weekend with three PPTQs, Pride Weekend and the last bank holiday weekend before the kids go back to school meant that a lot of our players couldn’t make it. It’s worth noting that Rob Hooley and Gary Hewwit did a great job and I really hope to see this convention for many years to come, especially if Dave Salisbury can bring in so many people for the Bushiroad Franchise.

I think our game has got great potential, I feel like we need an event in the north, and I’m going to try and make that happen after the next Marvel Core set hits our shelves. I’m working on a series for a mainstream UK MTG website who are looking to expand and cover other games that people perhaps play as their “B Game” or want to try out. I’ll be explaining what our game is and hopefuly that should really help getting our game out there in peoples hands – our facebook community the VS Collective is great and I think  this tool will help us to grow as people search us out. Enough of this though, it’s time to talk business – I know why you’re here, you want the decklist ! (I know that’s what I want too because it’s easy, I’ve got it in my pocket ;] )

Main Character

Dark Phoenix L1
Dark Phoenix L2

Supporting Characters (29)
Singularity 4
Loki (A Force) 4
Iron Man 4
Ghost Rider 4
Phoenix (A Force) 4
Thanos 4
Plot Twists (11)
Shock to the system 4
Dramatic Entrance 4
You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry 3 
Locations (20)
Laboratory 4
Academy 4
Madripoor 4

The decklist started with me sending Lee a Facebook message that could be summed up with “This Thanos fellow is rather uncouth, shall we perhaps investigate a new villain?” to which he sent me his Dark Phoenix list by the medium of photo – I instantly knew that I had to change things, for a start the extended art Thanos supporting characters bothered me as I prefer set to foil the rest I would have to hash out in testing. Said testing lead me to change the plot twists, I’d decided that Shock the System was always good – it performed the same role as you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry – which was protecting your pixie or singularity for a turn but you could cast it on turn one on the draw against something aggressive like the Deadpool beatdown decks that couldn’t give two shiny … shocks … about your 7 wounds and could just kill you with their ultimate ability that doesn’t care about the opponents main character.

Of course Angry is great sometimes against a beatdown deck you’ll do that plus a power up on turn two and have a giant 6/6 Phoenix who just beats down and shreds their board on your turn and ignores their offensive plot twists. Dramatic Entrance was polarizing in my testing group Ross hated it, but I loved it on the face of it you’re two for one-ing yourself but in reality you can engineer situations where you get to have a huge advantage in the game for example you can Enter with a Ghost Rider and really mess up any potential future combats or superpower activation plans your opponent had built their entire turn around. Utilizing Dramatic Entrance to flash in an Iron Man allowed me to reuse Academies and Madripoors so I could use them to ramp up for some tasty turn four Thanos action or in a pinch to reuse a fortress so my active Thanos could close the game out in quick fashion with their double stun ability which was brilliant all day from cleaning up opposing Ghost Rider and Valkyrie to just winning before my opponents could regain control of the board.

Secretly the Phoenix supporting characters were astounding, serving to keep your Main Character alive at some times giving you extra power up hits for Loki or to fuel your future Ghost Riders which really lets you plan around how much damage they will be able to do. Another reason we were playing here was that it helped to streamline the deck in that every piece that you could hit from Pixie had to have a reason for being in the deck and as you can’t put the supporting character into play it was basically a plot twist that had synergy with other parts of the deck and allowed you to keep control of your Hallucinogenic Dust.

Now for the tournament !

Round One – Gammora beatdown,

This match was against a  young lady who had just picked up the game and usually plays Vanguard and Force of Will, I felt mean because this was their first tournament and they were playing a beatdown deck against my 7 wound combo deck. Unfortunately the mulligan system is really disadvantageous for aggressive decks as you can’t mulligan into finding a curve they missed on three and this allowed me to pull ahead with my monsters that were able to take out and control her board despite her really early level up.
The game was over relatively quickly and we had a chat about the game and in particular the positive representation in the artwork and characters of the game, they seemed very interested in playing again and I hope to catch them again !


Round Two Deadpool Loyal Soldiers Build

Another new player with a very scary loyal soldiers build – Hope summers is a card with great potential especially when paired with cards like Ice-Man and Beast. I was able to survive the early game trading resources and then pull ahead in the late game putting my big fat men in the front row to protect my Phoenix in the back row.


Round Three – Professor X

Classic Early Thanos VS a five wound main character game but there was definitely more to the match up as a leveled up Prof X is a significant threat as it can both safely stun Dark Phoenix and steal my giant threats to make me two for zero myself. Matt played well but the lack of early pressure outside of disruption allowed me to set everything up and craft a more powerful late game. I’ll tell you though, Wasp and Miss America are really annoying when you’re trying to score wounds with a very low amount of massively powerful threats. Matt did manage to get me in a wound lock at some point but I used Dormammu to reanimate one of his Singularities so that I could KO mine and get a shot at killing him.


Round Four – Enchantress Discard

Ian is an old Pro – he shredded my hand but drew the wrong five drop and I was able to outpace all of his threats and keep the counters off. What can I say, targeted discard can only do so much against a deck that only has the best cards in the game in it. He was gracious enough to concede when he saw that the game was basically over as I could just recruit any character in my deck. I feel that this match up could have gone completely differently however.


Round Five – Dark Phoenix

The mirror – wow these games are tough, you have to try and manage the level up being super conscious of whats going on trying to set up positions where you are able to stun your opponents Pheonix, level up yourself and use Ravager of Worlds to set them back from being able to level up.
he had an early Cosmo that he was able to protect but the dramatic entrances he has used up enough of his resources that I was able to pull ahead later in the game.


Round Six – Deadpool Good Guys

John Paul is a star in my book, he had a very scary start that involved dumping a bunch of Madame Masques onto the field but luckily I was able to clean up his board with some timely plot twists and he had some missing spots in his curve allowing me to take over – Deadpool having six wounds is actually quite a problem and allows them to keep cards in hand and make a come back in the late game.


Semi Finals – Deadpool

This match-up I had learned is massively favorable for me as long as I can protect myself from getting early stuns – we managed to trade resources in the early game as I drew just enough shock the systems to trade favorably whilst I was ramping on turns two, three and four which let me land an early Thanos and the game was pretty much over from there. His Namor characters were actually a very good threat and I had to let a few uncontested stuns through with it.
I congratulated him on his deep run, he wished me luck and we shook hands.


Finals – Professor X

What can I say, Matt did what he could with the available tools but I was able to pull of a Ravager of Worlds just before they could recruit the Ghost Rider that their game plan was hinging on. The game was tense and I would recommend watching it if you get the chance – the final turn came down to me getting into a position where my opponent would use all of their resources dealing with my Ghost Rider and Thanos only for me to recruit them both again on the final turn for a double stun. I’d figured out that this would very likely be my out as you’ll see me pause on the earlier turn where I felt like I should have used the first Ghost Rider to pop the Singularity not giving Matt any information to work out where to place his triggers before recruiting my second Ghost Rider to take more control of the board and ultimately win the hard way. Matt played well given I was trying to plan and use as much hidden information as possible.

It was over,

I won.

We shook hands,

We signed our Slips and congratulated each other – the day was over and the Phoenix Rose above all.
It was a great day, I met some new players that I’m looking forward to playing again and I can’t wait to see what deck lists they come up with.

The UK scene is nowhere near dead, it’s growing and the players we have all want to get better and to grow the player base this is definitely the best game I have ever been a part of. Big shout out to Gary the head judge as he ran one of the smoothest tournaments I’ve been to in a long time. (Seriously UDE – Give this man a raise!)

Thanks for reading, and remember – what doesn’t Ghost, dies and what dies grows the Rider.