Gencon VS 2PCG Primer – Thanos’ Curtain Call

Well we’ve seen all of the previews that we’re going to, I think, and we’re just approximately 24 hours away from being able to hold Aliens cards in our hands. Now it’s starting to sink in – there’s a 10k event with the new cards sneaking up and you have to figure out what to play and how to evaluate the new cards. If you’ve been following the VS 2PCG Collective Facebook group then you already have a really good idea of what might be good and what’s a little lacking and you also might have a few ideas that you’re ready to try as soon as you tear open the box. But what do you test against? How can you possibly figure out what to play in less than 24 hours with the new cards factoring in that you have to sleep (seriously, you do, trust me), eat, and check out the awesome convention? Well I’m going to try to help you make that decision by telling you what you already know but maybe forgot about.

Thanos is the best deck in the format and that’s not going to change in 24 hours. In fact, the last 24 hours have just reinforced that (looking at you, Kane).

Let that sink in for a moment. You can’t change that, no matter how hard you try, in just a days time. So, what should your gauntlet look like? While I won’t straight up regurgitate the Origins lists, you can find them elsewhere, I’ll still discuss what they’re good at and how you can attack them. Let’s start with the boogieman.

So we have a few different builds of Thanos but I think it’s pretty clear by now that the version that won Origins is the strongest build and I also think that it’s pretty clear that the Aliens previews have backed up this claim. The 1-drops in the Origins build are a nightmare for the vast majority of VS decks and now there’s a new 2-drop to abuse with Singularity and make one of the most consistent decks more consistent. What this deck does is leverage the incredible effectiveness of Iceman, Wasp, and Cosmo into overwhelming advantages to the point where you Gauntlet them and effectively end the game. Once the 1-drops are disposed of, they give Thanos XP and just give you the opportunity to play another one. The deck is like battling a fly. You swat and curse and spit and swat again and just can’t catch it.

What it’s good against – Other than saying “everything” which isn’t far from 100% accuracy, this deck really feasts on any deck that wants to utilize their main character. This includes Luke Cage, The Dragon, Wolverine, and countless other main characters. Many players consider Luke Cage to be the best non-Thanos deck so as long as you can assume Luke Cage will be played in droves, Thanos is going to keep wreaking havoc.

How to attack it – Character vomit is one of the best ways to combat Thanos. That comes with its own set of issues but if you minimize the effectiveness of the Infinity Gauntlet then you at least have a fighting chance. Alternatively going over the top of Thanos by resource ramping has proven to be effective. Star-Lord and Dark Phoenix can both do such a thing, albeit not every time, and can both give Thanos some trouble if they ramp out ahead quickly enough. I think that Dark Phoenix is better for this as post-Gauntlet you still have all of your resources but Star-Lord can compete. Cosmo is another great weapon against Thanos if you can protect it but with Yondu and soon to be Electro being played at every turn that is easier said than done. The new Aliens team-stamped plot twist, Build the Hive, can slow the deck down quite a bit as well and will almost assuredly see a lot of play at Gencon, although Kane counters that pretty well to a certain extent. Enchantress and Magneto are both pretty good against Thanos (by pretty good I mean as close to 50/50 as you can get), and playing Helmut Zemo and Ronan should be a top priority for you if your resource base can handle it.

Luke Cage
Luke is the anti-anti-Thanos deck.¬†What I mean by that is that you’re pretty much never going to defeat a Thanos player but you have extremely high percentages against pretty much everything else. This was true for Origins and I think that even though Luke Cage had good results there, his Gencon numbers are going to plummet. I think at best 1 Luke Cage deck makes the top 8. This is mostly due to there being more Thanos decks but also people are going to be packing a lot of anti-Luke Cage decks as well (Enchantress comes to mind, also Dark Phoenix). Bottom line – Luke Cage is the “good card” deck. It’s just the best supporting characters in the game coming together backed by a strong MC that is difficult to KO.

What it’s good against – His multi-wound A-Force curve is ridiculously hard to break through which makes him extremely good against aggressive strategies and mid-range decks. He preys on slower decks like Magneto because he doesn’t face any pressure early on and then the multi-wound characters take over the game. After She-Hulk, Miss America, and Rogue mop things up, Adam Warlock swoops in and takes all of the credit. The fact that you get Super Senses on team makes the wall even harder to break through.

How to attack it – Stun Luke early and often. Force the opponent to make the decision of whether to take a wound or not as early as you can. Lethal characters are incredible against the supporting characters in the Luke Cage deck. Enchantress is good against Luke Cage mainly because you can make the supporting characters pretty big so that they can stun Luke Cage with relative ease.

Equipped with a decent Thanos¬†matchup for the savvy player, Magneto has a horrendous Luke Cage matchup. If my prediction of fewer Luke Cage decks in attendance is accurate then Magneto might end up being a good choice. The strength of Magneto is being able to survive the early game with defensive tricks and discard effects. Discliamer: do not expect to pick up Magneto and be able to do well with it. Knowing how to use Helmut and Ronan attributes to 99% of the decks success. If you don’t know what to name in each situation then you’re going to have a real bad time in the 10k. That said, a good player can pilot Magneto to a pretty solid finish. If Luke Cage is the anti-anti-Thanos then Magneto is just the anti-Thanos.

Captain Marvel
Ms. Marvel is kind of an anomaly in my opinion. I think that she is a good main character with a solid cast of supporting characters to build around but she’s just not quite there yet. Maybe we will get some new sweet characters with range in Aliens but something seems to be missing in the deck. Perhaps it’s the exact build of the deck or maybe it’s just because the cards aren’t there. Either way, the deck is pretty much at least 50% against the field. It attacks better than any deck in the game and defends well thanks to how large Captain Marvel gets. You have to be wary of Even the Odds, Dr. Strange MC, and less played cards such as Black Cat SC and Dr. Strange SC but I have confidence in a Captain Marvel player doing exceptionally well at Gencon.

Decks that SHOULD be on your radar

This section is going to be fun to write. Given the results of Origins and what we know of Aliens so far, the following decks should be given serious consideration. It’s difficult to test a brand new deck is such a short amount of time but if you want to potentially shake up the metagame then these decks are sure to do just that. From my limited testing with Aliens thus far I’ve posted good enough results with them to talk about them with confidence that they can place highly.

Ah, Deadpool. Much maligned and never really given his fair shake post-Defenders. I think because he was so weak in Marvel Battles only format that most people just forgot he existed. This is also due to the fact that the X-Men supporting cast is pretty poor save for a small handful of choices. Fortunately for Mr. Pool, we aren’t limited to just playing X-Men main characters. Not much else is sweeter than playing A-Force multi-wound characters and having easy access to X-Factor. Deadpool also potentially has a lot to gain from the Alien Xenomorphs. Most importantly from Aliens (so far) is that he gains Bishop who is just going to be a superstar in the deck.

All of that said, with the previews of the 3-HP Company characters, the 2+ HP A-Force curve, and much, much more his blanket Lethal superpower is more powerful now than ever. I’ve won several games in testing by just Lethal’ing everything. If you have multi-wound characters, and your opponents can’t keep theirs in play, you’re going to win every time. Obviously, like most MCs, Thanos can be problematic (you can change the supporting character cast to address this) but you’re really solid against the field. Don’t forget about Deadpool. He’s better than you think.

Dr. Strange
This is another deck that a lot of people forget about. His level 1 superpower is very good against Thanos to recover your hand and his level 2 ability is crazy good against decks like Enchantress and Captain Marvel, both of which I expect to be somewhat popular. From what we’ve seen from Aliens so far counters again play a role which makes him a pretty solid choice in a vacuum. I’ve had really good results with him for the same reasons why I’ve had good results with Luke Cage – card advantage in the form of the A-Force beaters. You can also build him to really abuse Singularity which might be a better option now that Kane exists. Dr. Strange is a card advantage machine and adding more fuel to the machine can only result in a better experience.

This one is a little bit of a reach but the potential is there for her to finally be good. You can level her pretty quickly with the Xenomorph Swarm characters as well as grow them in the process. I think that this is a good deck for Singularity too as she can blink out the growing Xenomorphs as well as team attack with your main character. Her level 2 superpower stops Infinity Gauntlet in its tracks until they can manage to stun She-Hulk which helps quite a bit. Furthermore, the Alien swarm allows access to Build the Hive for more superpower control. I’m not 100% sure how to build the deck (this is the one I haven’t tested yet) but the amount of superpower control that she now possesses shouldn’t just be overlooked so easily.

The new guys

Aliens brings 8 new MCs to the party and we have fully seen 4 of them (3 Aliens, 1 Company). Of the 4 shown, 2 of them are pretty mediocre and 2 seem pretty great. Both The Queen and The Dragon will almost assuredly see play at Gencon and probably at a decent percentage. The Dragon is another “Luke Cage” deck basically and he might be better at being Luke Cage than Luke Cage is. Build the Hive is going to be a pretty good card and The Dragon can play it in-faction with ease. The Queen is another interesting addition. We don’t know what the 3-drop Xenomorph is yet but the board control that the Queen provides by being able to search for and hatch eggs is really sweet. She also “draws” cards with her level 1 ability which should her fight Thanos pretty well.

Overall I’m excited to see the Gencon results. While I feel Thanos will win and be the largest percentage of the field by a mile, I’m excited to see what other decks emerge as contenders. I also hope that this event shows that Thanos desperately needs an errata of some kind to balance the game a little bit and restore some semblance of balance to the metagame. For those attending Gencon, have fun storming the castle! For everyone else like myself, we will anxiously await the results.