By: John Tatta
Good day! I write today’s article with a lot of excitement so I hope you feel that in the writing while reading. Not only am I thrilled to have welcomed a second child into my family’s life during Gencon weekend, but my favorite card game is moving to a future without the oppressive Thanos main character. While it is still unknown exactly what will be done with the titanium mutant-eternal supervillain (as of writing this) but I’m confident in saying that we can expect some pretty drastic changes to our beloved VS 2PCG. Now, I consider myself a pretty innovative deckbuilder so what I want to do is take a look at some main characters and specific deck lists that have a lot to benefit from Thanos meeting an untimely end.
For the first time in the history of VS 2PCG, a midrange deck can be viable. What I mean by midrange is basically what Dark Phoenix, Star Lord, and Luke Cage are – decks with not much early pressure but pile it on midgame. Every single main character* becomes immediately playable and your hand immediately becomes safe from being discarded in its entirety. Alternate win conditions will have time to develop and your resources are safe from imminent doom, except by that Magneto fella. KO pile shenanigans can now exist free of Court Death and the Phoenix can rise from the Ashes and Valkyrie can sing until she’s blue in the face. Today, ladies and gentlemen, is basically Christmas.
So. Who is going to sit on the throne as the new king? The best way to answer that question is to envision playing “king of the hill” with your childhood friends. Nobody was ever on top of the hill for very long but you all kept playing anyway. While a certain “best deck” will exist, there is nothing remaining that is so oppressive that it warps the game around it. The “best deck” can be prepared for in an intuitive way and the meta will constantly shift. It’s a deck builder’s dream scenario. But where do you start? Well, let’s consider Aliens and build a few decks that have a lot to gain – and improve upon.
The Equipment Decks
I love the equipment from the Aliens set. I think that they’re all really good and really open up deck building for a lot of decks. I think that with the exception of Warrant Officer Ripley the Ripley MCs are all playable and have their uses. While Sister Ripley might have the most potential, Ripley #8 and Lt. Ripley both look solid. Ripley #8 combos extremely well with Dr. Strange SC and Lt. Ripley’s free Power Loader once per game can really swing things in your favor. Other MCs can benefit from equipment, like Dr. Strange for example, but makes it more difficult as you don’t have the on demand ease of access of playing a Company MC. If your Company characters get KO’d and an equipment falls off it might be difficult to get it back on. Regardless, we won’t let that deter us from trying. Since listing the Sister Ripley deck that I helped develop from the Gencon Top 8 is a cop-out, I’ll start with a Dr. Strange MC deck and then follow it up with a Lt. Ripley aggro deck that looks like it can do some serious damage in the early game.
Author Note – There won’t be a lot of deck analysis for the following decks. I’ll discuss deck analysis in future articles.
Editor’s Note – The Alien card pop-ups may not be active yet, we hope to have the Databas updated by next week. Until then, you can see all the Aliens cards here for reference.
Main Character – Dr. Strange
Pros – Great combos with Dr. Strange + MU-TH-ER, Spider-Man + Hudson. Tons of defensive plot twists. Good location utility with Kane and Iron Man. Great draw potential.
Cons – Not a lot of closing power, very defensive. Wins by card advantage and equipment which means it’s vulnerable to Cosmo.
Just an aside about this deck and the character selection. I firmly believe that a non-Ripley deck that wants to play equipment will start with a core of Vriess, Kane, and Call. Vriess is waaaaaaay better than Newt because he can actually do something. He survives a Yondu activation and puts a -1/-1 counter on a character in the process. He’s a decent candidate for a Pulse Rifle as he can then stun most 5-drops and he lets you play a turn 2 MU-TH-ER 6000 which really gets Strange going. Kane is pretty self-explanatory and Call can act as a character to stick around forever to allow equipment plays as well as act as a plot twist late game. After the “core” you just need to check which colors you intend to play in your deck and include either Parker or Hudson, which are the Company’s next two best characters. Bishop could work too but only if you intend to play Brother Dillon as the Earth requirement is a big stretch to take full advantage of him.
TL;DR – Don’t play Newt. Seriously.
The next deck was inspired by Scott Watson in the VS 2PCG Collective group on Facebook – if you aren’t a member of that group yet, you should be – and when I read what he suggested I was seriously in awe. After a rules confirmation by Chad Daniel, the deck kind of builds itself. It’s a pretty aggressive off-curve deck that simply has a Power Loader late game. You want to play Power Loader as often as possible starting on turn 5 (or earlier if you happen to be able to fit it in your curve). The idea revolves around Hope Summers. Because she copies the abilities of other X-Men, she also gains the benefit from their equipment. This specifically means that she gains range from the Pulse Rifle and later on will gain +5/+5 from Power Loader (she will lose range at this point but oh well). You could create a scenario where hope would gain +3/+0 from Rifle and +5/+5 from Power Loader which would make her a 10/9 with whatever other abilities she copies from whoever else is face-up. Now that you’re as in awe as me, let’s dig into the deck.
Main Character – Lt. Ripley
Pros – Ridiculous deck synergy, large cost to power ratio for characters, very aggressive deck capable of stunning the opposing main character every turn.
Cons – Extremely reliant on equipment and Hope synergies. Can get shut down by something as simple as an early Cosmo or Yondu. Power Loader late game easy to stop.
Notes – Easy to stun the opposing MC turn 1 with MC + Vriess or MC + Pulse Rifle. Starting turn 2 should be able to get continuous stuns while utilizing X-Factor to control the board. Midgame is dominated by Beast + Power Loader. Hope currently gains all bonuses for equipment on X-Men so an optimal turn 5 would be Power Loader on Beast + Hope Summers which makes a 10/7 Beast and a 7/9 Hope, both with Ferocious and Genius. Tough to beat that.
The Midrange Decks
These next few decks have the most to gain from Thanos not existing. While their matchup against Thanos isn’t terrible, you currently have to play some questionable cards that are only good in that particular matchup. Luke Cage is part of this group but I’m not going to provide a Luke Cage list at this time because I think that the Dragon is just better. This could change quite a bit in the near future. Here I’ll list a Dragon deck and a Dark Phoenix deck. The Dark Phoenix deck I like quite a bit due to what you can do with Kane. Dark Phoenix realistically only has 1 superpower that only requires a single color so it’s easy to “abuse” Kane in the sense that you can control what he finds every time. Because of this it is very easy to ramp by turn 2 or 3. Because you’re cutting so many basics, you have to alter the deck to essentially be a Singularity deck that uses appear effects rather than superrpower effects. I like the deck quite a bit and it’s probably my favorite deck at the moment. The switch to a Singularity deck makes your matchup against other midrange decks much better and having 7 HP goes a long way to staying alive vs non-Deadpool aggro decks. I’ll start off with The Dragon –
Main Character – The Dragon
You’ll notice that this is essentially the list from the top 8 of Gencon played by Anthony Calabrese with a few updates in a post-Thanos environment. You no longer need 4 Spook and Build the Hive isn’t as critical. Both of those plot twists are great vs Thanos and lose a little bit of value without him in the meta. Still, being able to Spook a character with a bunch of counters is really powerful but I think you can try it without Build the Hive as it’s a little too reactive for what we’re trying to accomplish. The weird 2/2 split between Academy and Laboratory is to be able to activate both the Spitter and the Perfect Organism. It might be wise to play either 4 Academy -or- 4 Laboratory but this is a start for testing purposes. I do know that you really only have room for 16 locations in this particular build so it might be that you have to end up cutting either TPO or the Spitter and play the location that you want.
Pros – Excellent synergy, 99% single faction, fast out of the gates and continue to run downhill.
Cons – Low HP characters, a bit reliant on the MC to level to get going
The other deck as I mentioned is Dark Phoenix. She is the one main character with infinite building room and that’s why I like her so much. There are 100 ways to build this deck and I’m still not sure what the best way is. At any rate, I’ve been really happy with this version in just a week of testing her. Kane adds so much to the deck and allows you to really consistently use her level 1 superpower early which powers the deck. Cosmo is and always will be a little bit of a nuisance to Dark Phoenix but this version gives you plenty to do early game without ramping. Valkyrie being playable again also fuels this deck to do some really awesome things. In short, Singularity is a boss.
Main Character – Dark Phoenix
4 Shock to the System
4 Let’s Rock!
4 Sanctum Santorum
Pros – Very explosive turns, makes most use out of Singularity, strong end game with Valkyrie, incredible ramping potential
Cons – Reliant on Singularity maybe too much, Cosmo sucks
Some quick notes about the character choices: because of the low location count in order to maximize your MC power you have to play a lot of characters that are good with Singularity. I’ve always wanted to try a Captain America game plan with her and it has worked really well so far. If you aren’t a fan of it, Captain America can turn into something else pretty easily as he’s a luxury rather than a necessity. Beast is in there for the card draw and the best possible turn 2 play if you happen to draw the nuts hand of double yellow on turn 1. He can also team attack with Iceman which isn’t irrelevant later in the game. It’s a little anti-synergistic with Singularity but I’ve enjoyed him so far. The late game is pretty obvious. You want to get out Singularity and start chaining Iceman and Wasp so that you can setup your Ghost Rider turns and finish the game off with a huge Thanos. You don’t have the option to use his superpower but oftentimes a 12/12 is good enough especially considering you can jam him out there on turn 6 most of the time, sometimes earlier,
The Aggro Decks
I think that Captain Marvel and Deadpool are going to become the aggro decks of choice very soon. Captain Marvel is already fairly popular but Deadpool has yet to find his groove. I think that Aliens changes this pretty drastically as the Xenomorphs are really good for the deck and Spook in particular a big game changer for Mr. Pool. With the HP of main characters steadily increasing and healing becoming more of a thing (looking at you Dragon and Luke Cage) Deadpool is really quite the contender.
Main Character – Deadpool
4 Leaping Xenomorph
2 Ferocious Xenomorph
4 Acid Blood Xenomorph
4 Xenomorph Spitter
3 The Dragon
3 The Perfect Organism
4 Open Fire
4 School For Gifted Youngsters
4 Training Grounds
I have LOVED this deck. It has evolved into this from a few previous versions but if I had attended Gencon I most likely would have played this deck. The Xenomorphs are spectacular in this deck and Spook is literally your best card for obvious reasons. It’s basically a free attack that they can’t stop. You don’t really care about KOing or even wounding their characters, all you really want to do is get them stunned. X-Factor is extremely good with TPO and the Spitter (due to being a range character) and is also quite good with a leveled Deadpool. I think the deck could be better and may change a little after more testing. I’m not thrilled with the Ferocious Xenomorph but I wanted another 2 drop to ensure an early Spook if I need it to gain an XP. In the case of annoyances like Miss America or the synthetics, Deadpool’s level 1 Lethal superpower is incredible. Don’t be afraid to use it combined with an X-Factor on turn 2 or 3 to clear an opponent’s board of tiny 1 and 2 drops with 2 HP such as Yondu, etc.
The next deck is another deck that gained some love from Aliens and is another fun deck to build with endless possibilities.
Main Character – Captain Marvel
2 Private Hudson
4 You Won’t Like Her When She’s Angry
4 M41A Pulse Rifle
1 Power Loader
4 Training Grounds
Again, I LOVE this deck. Not saying it’s the best version of this deck but it packs some serious power. The addition of some sweet Company cards with range, as well as Kane, makes it completely viable to play with the equipment which is extremely powerful. Some people may not love the lack of Cosmo but I don’t really think he’s as important anymore. I might be WAY wrong on that but time will tell. I’m sure you can fit him in somewhere if need be. The Knowhere is in the deck to use an early Yondu as well as combo with Star-Lord. Once Star-Lord is out, you can use Knowhere to power the M41A Pulse Rifle regardless of which character it’s on which is pretty awesome. It also let’s you use Meggan with a Knowhere which again is really sweet. It seems I’ve been building a lot of Company decks lately with the 4 Pulse Rifle/1 Power Loader split and I’ve been pretty satisfied with that count.
I have some other decks that I’ve been working on but I’ll save those for another article. I really hope that you have enjoyed this as much as I have and I hope that these decks work out for you! I’m very excited for a post-Thanos world and can’t wait to finally truly explore the world of VS 2PCG!