Op-Ed: Last Year’s Champ on Thanos

By: Sylvester D’ Agostino

Another year, another gencon, another thought of writing an article I’ll probably never write.

I’ve played a lot of competitive card games in my life and often been asked by folks if I’d like to write articles about my tournament experience, or strategy, or deck lists. I don’t personally like to read tournament reports, strategy is a complex topic usually best left to those more eloquent than I, and since I only test for competitive events writing about any deck I like would be ill advised. So that leaves me with little to say, except for this time.

I’m sure some of you will disagree with my opinions here, and I understand that. In every format of every game there is always a subset of players calling for a card to be banned, and they are pretty much wrong 99% of the time. VS is unfortunately currently experiencing the other 1%

ALN-011Going into gencon I tested for about a month starting with the origins top 8 lists. I spent a ton of time brewing new decks and even built several using spoiled aliens cards in the weeks leading up to the event. When we left Minnesota on Wednesday morning myself and my teammates (deckbuilder extraordinaire Trexler Kolde, and the last original VS 10k champion John Hammond) were of a single mind that everything was centered on our Thanos match up. We actually even had some decks that were ~60% positive against Thanos prior to Kane being spoiled, which is amazing, but they couldn’t beat any other decks in our test gauntlet. We were still considering them anyway, that’s how warped we felt the format was. We had plans for what to play if there was a ban or errata, but we also agreed a last minute change wasn’t a healthy answer either.

We were ultimately felt forced to play Thanos due to its consistency and power, a story that around half the players in the event can relate to.

So with a couple hundred games of experience, my team and I offer the following feedback:

Thanos is broken.

No question the Infinity Gauntlet ability is the strongest in the game, and is paired with one of the other top strongest abilities. But that by itself doesn’t make it broken. Power and  consistency aren’t always a problem, nor is popularity. The problem is the play experience created isn’t fun or challenging. Often during testing my four month old son would be sitting on my lap while John and I joked that, if given the play and an average hand, he’d likely beat both of us in most match ups. Two very successful card players and we are unable to combat a game ending, option denying, turn 4 combo. That should say a lot.

Can he be errata’d to fix his power level?

In my opinion, erratas  are meant to fix misprints and adjust templating of cards to make them work. Power level erratas are confusing to new players. If we need to change his ability I suggest reprinting him as a new version altogether.

>What about a once per game errata, that fixes him right?

Unequivocally no. Once per game on turn four is still a huge problem. I played two players on day one this year that were new to the game and were playing fun new decks they just created. I guantleted them both, on turn 4, and they had to sit there for 3-5 turns after that point drawing irrelevant cards while I advanced my board. I explained to both of them how fun the game normally is and that they should give it another chance once the Thanos problem is fixed. I wonder if they will be back next year, I unfortunately probably wouldn’t with that experience.

Aren’t there decks that beat Thanos?

ALN-006Kind of. I could write several articles on all the angles we tried attack Thanos (and again, I probably won’t, sorry), but sufficient to say that we played Thanos. There were three decks in the top 8 that were not Thanos. They were played by three of the best players in the game and they all made top 8 by having beaten many Thanos decks. I don’t believe that inherently made them good against Thanos once you remove the surprise. I tested my match against the Sister Ripley deck after day one and I felt very confident going into top 8. I know Colby told me he felt the same way against the dragon deck once he got to see the list and how it played. I think David Leader’s Ripley #8 deck is probably pretty good against Thanos but I only played one game against it by myself Friday night before going to bed.

What happens to everyone’s thanos cards if he is banned?

>Well, mine is torn into a thousand pieces on the table where we played the finals at gencon so I guess my opinion may be clear.

This is an interesting question, because people that buy the game will continue to receive copies of a card they cannot use and that is a negative experience as well. I’d personally suggest a promo copy of a new level two Thanos be printed with a different ability and sent to retailers as part of the next OP kits to replace everyone’s existing card. Maybe include it in the next expansion set also with an explanation. Players with only the first couple sets are less likely to be competing and players with all vs sets will have that note and replacement card.

>What should the new ability be?

I don’t know, but it should be strong and fun. Thanos is a big bad guy with a lot of power from collecting six infinity gems, so maybe his power should cost six resources? Or maybe it should stay the same cost and turn down a resource and discard two random cards along with the existing stun a hero and ko a supporting character. I trust Upper Deck can come up with a better design than I can.

So those are my thoughts, feel free to disagree with them. Tune in next time for when I complain about only being given 26 hours to test for this event. Of course, I probably won’t write that article either.