Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Marvel Universe Preview: Thunderbolts Mountain

“Gotta keep
One jump ahead of the breadline
One swing ahead of the sword”

Just so you know, I had a huge, sprawling paragraph planned. Typed up, even. I have a grueling, marathon-style race-to-the-preview-paragraph saved on my computer, right now. But, my benevolent, card-loving friends – screw that. Many of you guessed today’s cards, but…here it is!

“One jump ahead of the lawmen
That's all, and that's no joke”
-…Aladdin, again

Now, there are a number of uses. First things first – man, didn’t Bullseye, Closer to God get just a smidge better, allowing him to stun on curve? Penance can be used on three instead of four. Right away, two of the three Thunderbolts previews have gotten notably better.

Radioactive Man also got better, although slightly more subtly. Because of him, plot twists will be getting progressively more expensive for your opponent, while you’ll consistently be playing them a turn earlier. And considering the number of Legend plot twists that have that little four up in the corner, you could be shutting your opponent down something fierce. Thunderbolts Mountain is the insult you add to Radioactive Man's injury.

It’s more than that, though. Think about some of the BIG cards of Modern Age. The Thunderbolts get access to a few important cards a full turn earlier than anyone and everyone else.

Pathetic Attempt can come out on turn 3 now. Pathetic Attempt is a powerful card, capable of negating such effects as…Deadshot, I believe? There’s that. But as you know, Pathetic Attempt has a number of targets right now, and the Thunderbolts will be shutting ‘em down a full turn early.

Another important card – and don’t worry, this isn’t going to become a list of what cool shenanigans can be pulled off a turn early now – to think on is Savage Beatdown. There’s not really an in depth reason – I just wanted to point out that you can now humiliate your opponent by swinging your 1-drop to the face for 21 damage on turn 3.

Well, with the Super-Hero Registration Act, seen a couple weeks back, you always know exactly what you’re rowing. A character with reservist? Thunderbolts Mountain doesn’t specify which resource you KO, so you can get rid of a useless character or a used plot twist to keep your later curve. Similarly, you can get rid of a used plot twist to keep the shiny new one you just rowed. In many instances, Thunderbolts Mountain is essentially reusable card draw.

Add that to the fact that it has Terraform, and I think you’ve got yourself a winner. Thunderbolts Mountain appears to be fairly crucial to the Thunderbolts ‘getting better over time’ strategy, by making that time come RIGHT FREAKIN’ NOW. It also happens to be quite flavorful – the government gives the Thunderbolts all the resources they need to get the job done as quickly as possibly, and UDE took that quite literally. But, beyond just helping the Thunderbolts, this seems like a great card in a Reservist-heavy set. Thunderbolts Mountain appears to be a card that will go in every Thunderbolts deck, and quite a few Thunderbolts team-up decks. It’s simple, powerful, and versatile. I have to say, I like it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Best Books You Aren't Reading: The All-New Atom

First, I have to apologize for not posting that deck-list - I left the deck at my girlfriend's place. Apologies, all. Now, back to me telling you what you should be doing with your life and your money.

The All-New Atom is insane. I mean this literally. The book has some of the craziest imagery, settings, and characters imaginable. Born from the mind of comics legend Grant Morrison and written by one of the industry's best, Gail Simone, The All-New Atom deals with Ryan Choi, a young Chinese professor come to America to teach in place of his mentor and friend, the missing Ray Palmer.

The first thing the book establishes Ivy Town, the traditional home of Ray Palmer, as a magnificently warped town. There are Lovecraftian-style Old Ones in the sewers and a group of the most bizarre aliens around living on and controlling the town's dogs. Some of the parts of town dress and talk largely like it were still the 1700s (but with updated slang). And let's not even star talking about the Ivy University teaching staff...

The one thing this book has that most other books on the shelves right now don't is a sense of humor. A great sense of humor. The dialogue is fun, but it's more than that. The supporting cast is great - especially the Lighter Than Air Society, and Head, and Doctor Zuel, and... - and it has, in the Big 2 of Marvel and DC, some of the craziest visual storytelling around.

So, here are a few things that should entice you to read The All-New Atom.

The first arc deals largely with a war between Magic and Science for the soul of Ivy Town, with Ryan Choi stuck in the middle. On one side, the Waiting, alien conqueror wannabes. On the other side, representing magic, is M'Nagallah, an ancient Cancer God and former enemy of Swamp Thing. There's betrayal, a little bit of romance, an enormous romance, fighting, fighting, mad science, and the Old Ones. How much better could things be?

So, to recap:

1: Awesome Fights!
(I had to leave out the tragically awesome fight that preceded this scene between him and a giant, naked Giganta)

Aw, man, the above image is obviously not working. That's tragic - I'll try and find my copy to scan.

2: Gail Simone gives you Head.

Head is an evil alien overlord conqueror captured by Ryan Choi while he was trying to stop the aliens from killing his father and best friend. Ryan never really got around to returning him to the aliens, so now, Head lives with him.

3: ...interesting cameos?

Indeed. Reality has jumped the shark.

Give the book a shot. Remember what I said a week or two back? If you want to try an issue of one of my The Best Books You Aren't Reading, leave a comment here telling me which book you're willing to try, and I'll give you a good jumping off point. If you aren't satisfied with the book, PM me on VSRealms and let me know why you didn't enjoy it, and I'll send you a MVL or DCL foil or rare.

The list is now as follows
The All-New Atom (Gail Simone)
Criminal (Ed Brubaker)
Blue Beetle (John Rogers)
The Immortal Iron Fist (Ed Brubaker)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

TT/FF: The Return

Deck list coming over the weekend, but here are some thoughts.

Weaknesses: You NEED to hit Luke Cage, Roy Harper, and Human Torch. If any of those three characters are taken offline permanently, it's very difficult. If ALL of them are taken offline, you lose, flat-out. Teen Titans Go! is also absolutely crucial.

Because of this: Have a Blast! and Pathetic Attempt are fairly vital cards. Pathetic Attempt against the weenie-hate, Have a Blast against Omnipotence.

I played the deck three times tonight.

Game 1: Brave and the Bold single set.


Missing Luke Cage until turn 7 hurt me, but when I hit him, I hit him hard. Luke Cage + 3 TTG! drew me 8 cards that turn.

Have a Blast shutting down their team-up hurt them a lot, especially when they team attacked expecting the protection of Dynamic Duo.

Firewall is brutal in this deck. I found that my opponent had to dedicate a significant amount of resources towards shutting down Roy Harper and Human Torch, because those two hurt him too much. Adding Miss Martian to the mix shut him down fairly completely.

Game 2: Check/VU


Fatality hurts. A lot. However, if they don't put the cloak on Fatality, I can and will shut her down every single turn - and if they do, I will King Kill him. So while Fatality hurts, you have easy answers.

The Torch/Harper engine shuts down a number of their effects. It's hard for them to reliably swing down-curve, and they begin to lose the ability to keep their board presence.

All that aside, I ONLY won because I got lucky. I put up a good fight against Check/VU, but the reliability and power of that deck is fairly brutal.

Game 3: Pax Romana

...okay, I wiped the floor with him. Sorry, Saker - I just drew really, really well.

General Deck Thoughts.

The deck is undeniably powerful, but it doesn't reliably have a kill-condition, a problem I ran into repeatedly. The deck struggles to kill - it's struggling is powerful and the engine runs beautifully when you get it online, but it still struggles. My highest drop is 5-drop Miss Martian, but I'm unsure what exactly I want to use as my kill. 7-drop Starfire, maybe? I just don't know. Any suggestions for a good kill?

I need to have Roy and Torch on the field together by 5. I also need to have hit Luke Cage before then. I hit him on 2, I gain at least 4 cards before he leaves play, possibly more. Otherwise, I drop him and a 3, or another 2 and a 1 on turn 5. But Luke is important.

Deck list will be up this weekend. It's a really fun deck to play, even when it's falling apart, so I recommend you give it a shot. For all that I say it's so, Luke isn't absolutely necessary - Roy is the only rare you really NEED, I think. Anyway...

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DC in VS: Rallying Cry!

Rallying Cry! It's more than a VS card - it's more, even, than Rian Fike's excellent series of articles on

Recently, UDE announced that they were still in negotiations with DC Comics over licensing. UDE is doing the smart thing and going on making sets regardless of what DC is doing, but that means two Marvel sets this year, and no DC sets, and that's pretty undeniably a bad thing.

Why is that a bad thing, you ask? Because if there are no more DC sets, I'll never get my printed Seven Soldiers team affiliation - and that would be terrible.

Anyway, on, we've all been talking. General consensus is that, if we want DC to know that we WANT them back in the game, we have to let them know! Now, we could e-mail them, but e-mails are reliably unreliable. They're better than nothing, but they aren't the best option. It's old-fashioned, but letter-writing campaigns still work best. And who better to go to than the President of DC Comics himself?

Paul Levitz
c/o DC Comics
1700 Broadway, 7th Fl.
New York, NY 10019-5905

Now, a few things. Don't be mean. Don't be angry. Be informative. Be passionate. Be literate. And, just to show that this is a united movement, if you can, throw in a copy of RALLYING CRY, that old DJL common that I'm sure most of you have about 20 of somewhere in your boxes. If you want to throw in a copy of your favorite character, to let them know WHY you care, I fully encourage it - but throwing in a Rallying Cry or 4 makes it a movement.

Hopefully, we'll get a fair number of letters going out. But it's up to YOU to get the word out. If you want DC back, then you'd best get a letter in the mail.

That's all I've gotta say on the matter right now. I got some letter writing to do!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Deck Idea: FF/TT

So, I did a lot of trading this weekend. Got rid of Berserker Rage, 2 Gladiator, a foil Defensive Formation, and more. In return, among other things, I got 4x Roy Harper <> Arsenal, Additional Firepower. Now, recently, I also managed to pick up 4x Signal Flare and built a modern-age F4 deck. And, you know what, I like the synergy between Roy Harper <> Arsenal, Additional Firepower and Human Torch, Nova Blast. Luke Cage, Steel Hard Skin works pretty well, too, and though the Titans lost Tempest, the Four found Namorita.

Over the course of the next week, I'm going to be testing out some team-attack builds between the two teams, and then playing a few games with it over the next couple weeks to let you know what I think. It could be interesting - though I must say, I definitely don't want to be seeing an Omnipotence across the field.

So, the core of the deck.

Roy Harper <> Arsenal, Additional Firepower
Human Torch, Nova Blast
Teen Titans Go!

With definite additions
Luke Cage, Steel Hard Skin
Namorita, Atlantean Warrior Princess

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Best Books You Aren't Reading Best Deal You Aren't Taking Deal Offer Extravaganza

Now, I've opened my mouth and gone and told you exactly what books I think deserve your attention. But it's not just your attention I'm asking you to give - it's your money*. And your money could be going towards other things, not better, but at least as good. VS, just to name one.

And not all of you are comics fans, or you don't read too much beyond a core set of books you've always read. It's tough, generally, to convince people to branch out to these titles with characters they know nothing about.

So, I'm making you an offer, and I'll remind you of this offer every time a do a new The Best Books You Aren't Reading segment. If you buy an issue of one of these series on my recommendation and don't like it, PM me on Vsrealms at SeventhSoldier, let me know what series is was. I'll mail you a random Marvel Legends or DC Legends rare or foil, or a random EA (don't worry - I'll only pull from my pile of Silver Age hobby league stuff)

Now, you can't go and buy 10 issues of Blue Beetle, tell me you hate them all, and then expect 10 rares. I'll give you once chance per series.

I know you won't make back the money you spent on that issue, probably - I don't have a lot of the pricey rares. So, I apologize for that. But, hey, you get a random card if you give one of these series a shot and aren't satisfied with it. That's not a bad deal, all things considered.

And, you know, you'll have an issue of a comic that you don't want. I won't ask you to send it to me, 'cuz that would be too much of an expense to you. So, I'll ask you to give that comic away somehow to another reader who has never done it.

You could give it away as part of a hobby league, or as a contest of some sorts - deck-building, a small tournament, I don't know. Or, you could just ask your local comic shop to give the copy away to someone else who hasn't read it before.

So, there you have it - pick up an issue of John Roger's Blue Beetle, Ed Brubaker/Matt Fraction's Immortal Iron Fist, or Ed Brubaker's Criminal. If you don't like it, tell me about it, I'll reward you for giving it a shot. That's the deal. I'll remind you sometime soon.

Finally, if you want to give this a shot, you can always ask me what issue I think you should pick up. 1 isn't always the best place to start, after all...


*Unless, of course, you do what I did when I first tried a number of series' and avail yourself to your excellent local library system.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Best Books You Aren't Reading: Immortal Iron Fist

This one was iffy for me. Not because it's not good - the insane kung-fu exploitation style action meshes so well with the super-hero genre it continually amazes me that we don't see more of it - but because, unlike Criminal and Blue Beetle, and some of the books I'm going to talk about in upcoming segments, it's not on the verge of cancellation. Still, hovering on 30,000 readers and not coming out monthly, it's still not exactly a high-profile book, and the sheer awesome it contains compels me to compel you to read it. So, we're going to have a little talk.

The Immortal Iron Fist is very much a product of cheesy 70s martial arts films. Daniel Rand is a rich white kid, owner of an enormous corporation. One might be tempted, in fact, to call him a millionaire playboy. But, in truth, Danny isn't a playboy. He doesn't have the heart for Bruce's lie. Danny is, really, a pretty sweet, optimistic guy. He's also a guy who plunged his fist into the still-beating heart of Shou-Lao the Undying in one of the Seven Cities of Heaven, and emerged with the powers, and responsibilities, of The Immortal Iron Fist.

Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker work together here to do more than just turn Danny into one of the best pulp action heroes in the Marvel Universe. They're also greatly adding to the mythos. Almost every issue of the first arc, titled "The Last Iron Fist Story", opens with a 1-3 page intro to a past iron fist, some of which have even gotten entire awesome issues, and some of whom have become fan-favorite characters in their own rights. Like, meet this Iron Fist of the past...

The Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay was one of the more popular single-issue stories, both for its action, but also because it's a genuinely sweet love story, in a way. And the entire first arc of Immortal Iron Fist deals with Danny meeting the Iron Fist from WW II, Orson Randall. The two are confronted by the Hordes of Hydra, led by the Steel Serpent, an old nemesis of the Iron Fist legacy due to a bad past. The action comes heavy, but the story and dialogue are never sacrificed to make room for action scenes. Lots of fun.

Finally, I want you all to remember, I was talking about madcap exploitation action? Well, Iron Fist is joined by an excellent supporting cast. First off, there's Orson Randall, introduced above. Then, there's the Old Guard, Danny's friends that have always been there. As much as Bendis wants me to love Luke Cage in every book he writes, Brubaker is the one who got me to like him. Luke and Danny, along with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, the old Heroes for Hire. Here they are, together again despite the fact that they're on opposite sides of the Registration Act.

Immortal Iron Fist is probably the best action comic on the market. David Aja, the artist, seems to have immense fun drawing the martial arts action, and I've never seen an artist with a better sense of how to do it. The book is crazy and keeps up its sense of fun. The plot is great, the one-shots are gorgeous and bizarre, and the book is just pretty. Go pick it up.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Politics: Orphan Works Bill

On, if you go into Another Realm, you'll find that poster Bendrix started a thread to let people know about a bill being discussed right now dealing with Orphan Works and how it affects you. The link above is to an article discussing what the bill will mean to each of you, since I know a lot of comic book readers and Vs players are creative people, and since I know that neither Another Realm nor my own blog sees as much traffic as General Discussion on Vsrealms, I would post it here, double the chances of you all finding out about it.

Now, I haven't done any of the requisite research on this topic yet, but I plan on doing some reading over the next couple days.

Here are quick bits from the article, to give you some basic info.

"An Orphaned Work is any creative work of art where the artist or copyright owner has released their copyright, whether on purpose, by passage of time, or by lack of proper registration. In the same way that an orphaned child loses the protection of his or her parents, your creative work can become an orphan for others to use without your permission."

The jist of the bill is that it will make it extremely expensive to copyright things, as well as time-consuming, and could involve multiple private registries that you would have to sign up for. Rather than your works being inherently protected, barring you getting rid of that protection, the bill seeks to make your works inherently unprotected, with you having to pay to protect them.

So, there you have it. Again, I haven't done much research on this topic - at this point, I've just read one or two articles. But I encourage all of you to do your own research and see what you think of these shenanigans, and if it pisses you off as mch as it looks like it'll be pissing me off, make sure to contact the politicians and LET THEM KNOW. General apathy costs us a lot, and I hope it doesn't cost us this, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Preview Card Review Bard

Yes, I tacked on bard unnecessarily. But, I'll try to live up to it - on top of each brief review, I will also haiku. Damn my need to make the title of this article rhyme.

Today's Captain America's day, so I'm just going to go over the already 3, count 'em THREE, Captain America's we've seen so far. Beginning with the 2-drop: Captain America, The Patriot * Secret Avenger. And, despite his relatively low power, despite his low drop, despite (or perhaps because of) his lack of rarity, he might just be my favorite.

First off, there's Reservist. UDE's design team apparently decided that Cap should be an important character, regardless of the Avengers strategy you're playing, in my opinion a great idea that I hope works out well. This Cap fits into two themes, and is flavorful beside: he's a great team-attacker, and he's a reservist. More than that, even, He has the new keyverb, Rally.

- To rally for a [description] card, reveal the top card of your deck and put it into your hand if it matches that [description]. Otherwise, put it on the bottom of your deck. If it matches, the rally is “successful.” -

How's that for flavor? He calls up some back-up troops, giving the team more option, and inspires all his current teammates to greater heights as he does so. At 3/2 range concealed, with the possibility of being a 4/3 along with an equally large board, he's also a fair-to-oversized two drop. Even as a common, Captain America is versatile, and fits in well with multiple Avengers themes. However, as a concealed 2-drop, he's not in an ideal position to use one of the two spoiled legend cards thus far, and we'll have to wait to see how he interacts the rest of them, not to mention the team as a whole.

Grade: A-

Avengers' Captain
Many uses on a two
Team attack deck! Ha!

Next up!

Captain America, Champion License

Well, first off, he's a rare. Good luck getting ahold of him. At 8/7 with range, Captain America is a respectable 4 drop. He's Loyalty - Reveal, a slight downside thoroughly negated by being dual-affiliated to Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. - the first SHIELD character we've ever seen in Vs. Then, we get to his first ability.

Leader: Remove and adjacent defender from this attack -> Target non-stunned, non-defending character you control becomes a defender. Use only once per turn.

That's not a terrible ability. Certainly better than the two characters with the closest abilities I can think of: Superman, Clark Kent (the old 4-drop) and Wonder Woman, Deflection Diva. But Leader has always had a single, glaring flaw: why not just attack the leader first? Flight isn't exactly rare, assuming you can afford to put multiple characters in the support row, and attack redirection, while interesting, has never proven to be a viable defensive strategy. So, as nice as the leader ability is, is that really enough? Open the door to Ability 2...

Whenever Captain America becomes stunned, adjacent characters have invulnerability this turn.

That ability alone is ridiculous. They can't attack Cap first, if they want to cause any damage at all. And God forbid it's your attacks first. Combine that with some newer cards like the Supamechabat 0-drop for GK/Team Superman, and No-cost Superman, and you have the potential to completely negate a significant amount of damage each turn.

Ultimately, this Cap is a powerful generic card, probably not crucial to any single strategy, but useful in most of them. With what we've seen of the Captain America legend support, it looks like he'll be placed at a perfect drop to take advantage of most of them: early enough in the game to swing it in your favor, rather than merely trying to come from behind. This is a perfect drop for his support suite, and adding that defensive support to this already defensive powerhouse makes him an impressive card.

Rating: A

The Captain brings us
A new affiliation
And no real downside

Keep the hits comin'!

Captain America, Living Legend

We hit turn 6. Between 4-drop Cap, Cap's Shield, and Charging Star, that really shouldn't be hard to do. On turn 6, we smirk and throw down Captain America, Living Legend. 13/13. Range. Avengers and Invaders affiliated - the first Invaders character we've ever seen in this game. The stats are good - he's above curve

Now, Captain America, Living Legend isn't going to be winning you the game. He's not going to push through damage, or any of that. What he will do, however, is almost assuredly keep you alive until you hit turn 7. He's one of the better stall 6-drops of recent memory, allowing you to exhaust your six-drop to essentially negate an attack. How good he is depends largely on how good the Avengers/Invaders late game is. Do they have a killer 7 or 8? Only time will tell, but this Cap is a good way to make sure you reach the endgame you desire, rather than bowing to the potential board advantage/attack pumps of your opponent.

Even without a solid late-game, Captain America, Living Legend is a great defensive card in an environment that's become extremely offensive in nature. The ability to stop a stun can be quite potent against many popular decks, and I fully expect to see people using him to keep the game going.

Grade: A-

He's stopping the beats
Hidden IG, hard hitters
Watch yourself - Cap comes.


The Shield. One of the most anticipated equipment cards in Vs. UDE did not drop the ball here - it lives up to its reputation, enhancing in its own way each Cap card we've seen thus far and greatly helping in the theme we've seen of Captain America saving his team from damage.

Absolutely nothing is always a great price, and that's what this one costs: 0. Obviously, it's equip only to Captain America - it'd hardly be a legendary piece of equipment otherwise, and, really, not many other people can really use it quite the same way as Cap.

The effect reads: "Return Captain America's Shield to its owner's hand -> Exhaust equipped character. Target player exhausts a ready character he controls. Use only during the combat phase"

A few notable things. Like UDE's great article where they spoiled the card pointed out, Cap CAN be exhausted when he uses the ability, as exhausting him is not part of the cost. Yup. Captain America's Shield is one of the most potent exhaustion effects in the game, and it's reusable. Attack with Cap, then blow the Shield to stop some counter attacks. On the six-drop, you can use it after you've already negated one attack, effectively stopping the average attack stop dead in its tracks. Throw down something like Pier 4, and suddenly you're exhausting multiple characters per turn at the cost of exhausting your concealed 2-drop.

Yeah. This is a potent card, possibly one of the more money rares of the set.

Grade: A+

One! More! Time!

Charging Star, a name recognizable to fans of the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 video game, is a powerful defense pump. Obviously. +4 DEF is good, especially when it can be used on attack or defense. The other part of the plot twist, the negation part, makes it difficult to time. It's a great response to certain cards, like the new Roy Harper, What Are Friends For?, Chain Lightning, or Atomize. A single copy of this card can completely shift any combat situation.

It's also pretty damn powerful, making the most of it's name-stamped limitation. Some recent defense pumps: Defensive Formation and Steely Resolve. It comes a full 4 TURNS earlier than Resolve, and gives a one more point of defense - but only, of course, to Captain America. And Defensive Formation requires that you control 3 characters, at least two of which have range, in order to get 4 defense out of it...and this still has a negation effect!

Charging Star is a versatile combat-based card that adds greatly to Cap's stall theme. Decks running a Captain America, which look right now to be just about any Avengers deck existent, will rarely mind seeing this card.

Grade: A

So, to sum up: Captain America makes the Dean's List this semester! Congratulations! I have to thank UDE - these are some great cards they've shown us

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Deck Feature: Pax Romana

So, I have a hobby league. A ridiculous one. Everyone has their good decks, but I'm especially blessed to see an almost shocking amount of hilarious jank out there. Whe they discovered that I had a blog but still refused to read it or comment or vote for me - because they're mean - I still promised that I'd be REALLY nice and do a little write up on some of them.

So, Saker Alexander, a long-haired, disturbing man-boy sent me this

Decklist: Pax Romana

Silver Sable: Silver Sablinova x 4
Michael Holt: Mr. Terrific x 3
Wild Pack x 14
Zabu x1
Scarlet Spider: Ben Reilly x 3
Spider-Man: Cosmic Spider-Man x 1
Spider-Man: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man x 3
Queen of Fables: Wickedest Witch x 1
Terry Sloane: Mr. Terrific x 2
Kate Spencer <> Manhunter x1

Flying Kick x2
Pleasant Distraction x1
The Future Is Changing x1
Burn Rubber x1
Mega-Blast x3

Nice Try! x2
Forged In Crisis x1
Poker Night x1
Allied Against the Dark x4
Deflection x3
Swing Into Action x1
Surrounded x1

T-Spheres x4
Armored Spider Suit x2


Birthing Chamber x3

along with, and believe me when I say, brace yourself, this:

Now, the deck is an army deck that gets massive upcurve swing bonuses thanks to the JSA. It has cards that I've never even heard of - Armored Spider Suit? Really? - and it uses the Birthing Chamber to keep its hand up. Deflection can be pretty brutal in this deck, but in the end, the deck itself is just something he busts out when we all play our silliest decks.

Why am I doing this? I could be doing so much more. I could be doing reviews for some of the cards already previewed - and believe me, I love spouting my opinion at the drop of a hat. I could be giving you better decks ("psh!" I heard you say, "this deck is brilliant - there could be no better decks." Okay, I know. I meant, perhaps, other decks). I could be talking about comics, the history behind the little-known characters or teams. But, instead, I give you: THE PAX ROMANA. I hope you enjoy it. Even if you never use it.

Regular updates coming up again soon!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Windy City Throw-Down, Sunday

My final post from the site of Pastimes itself, I have to say, I've learned a few things.

1) Tourney-play isn't for me. Sealed is one thing, and I love it. Same for draft. But when it comes to constructed, I build great, fun Hobby League decks. They can't do very much against the Grodd/Deadshot deck, or a Random/Human Torch/Punisher deck. I don't build the hyper-consistent monstrosities that takes down those and other giants.

2) Don't check the drop box just 'cuz you're dropping the slip off.

3) DCL draft is a blast.

4) Vs has some of the greatest players. Even when I was getting hosed by Fantastic Four or IG Hidden, I was having fun just goofing around with my opponent. They put up with me being really bizarre, and most of them seemed to get something of a kick out of my deck, so with a few exceptions, I had fun every round.

5) Omnipotence is the best card in Modern Age, hands down. I beat Fantastic Four and IG Hidden because of it, and I got completely thrashed by another deck because they had it.

So, ultimately, I played 18 rounds of Vs. this weekend. I won 6 of them, which means...well, I had a God-atrocious record. 3 - 6 in Super Crossover, 3 - 6 in Constructed Modern. I got about 8 hours of sleep total all damn weekend, which is going to hurt tomorrow, as I have an early class followed by work all day. I bought a bunch of cards, opened a few packs, pulled nothing really interesting. Play errors cost me multiple games - enormous play errors for which there is no excuse. Still, I met cool people and played the game. I also had a couple pieces of a Chicago-style inside-out-upside-down-what-the-bloody-hell pizza - a pizza that cost, by the by, 35 dollars, when all's said and done.

I suppose I'll post my constructed deck for you all, so you can see the materials that lost me 6 games out of 9. It wasn't a bad deck, honestly - I had a decent game against Family of Four, a decent game against IG Hidden, and those were the two most populous decks by quite a bit. Ultimately, however, it fell short - consistency issues combined with power issues killed me as surely as anything else.

Mean Green Machine (60 cards)
1x John Walker <> U.S. Agent, Loose Cannon
2x Beast, New Defender
4x Tania Belinskya <> Red Guardian, Cold Warrior
4x The Chief, Niles Caulder

1x Kyle Richmond <> Nighthawk, Heart of the Team
2x Hellcat, Patsy Walker
2x Mento, Steve Dayton
3x Hawkeye, Loud Mouth

3x Negative Man, Larry Trainor
2x Samantha Parrington <> Valkyrie, Chooser of the Slain

2x Robotman, Cliff Steele

2x Beast Boy, Freak of Nature

2x Hulk, Strongest One There Is

3x Dayton Manor

Plot Twists
4x Secret Defenders, Team-Up
4x Misfits
4x Defenders Defend!
3x Call of the Wild
2x Savage Beatdown
2x Omnipotence
2x One Man Rampage
2x Mobilize
1x The "B" Team

Things I would change

Take out SKREEEEEE!. It's not a big help against Hidden IG. I pretty much only used it to try and take out Invisible Woman, and I got Force Field Projection-ed every damn time.

Replace Hellcat with 2 more Nighthawk. Not hitting team-ups was a problem, and Hellcat was never particularly helpful.

Take out the two Savage Beatdown and replace them with 1 more Call of the Wild and 1 more Omnipotence.

Replace The "B" Team with an additional One Man Rampage.

Those are the changes that spring to mind from this experience. The deck uses Beast Boy for multiple swings - if it's against IG Hidden, I get as many counters on him as I can and then double-swing using Parrington to ready. Generally, I would hit for 30-40 on turn 6 against them. The lowest I hit for was 20, with no pumps or counters, and Prometheus on the board. If it was against any other decks, I would proceed to feed their drops into Beast Boy using One Man Rampage to ready him. Beast Boy generally gets between 20/20 and 24/24 on a decent hand, and Secret Defenders makes it tough to get the stunback on him.

So, that's it for now. I hope you enjoyed yourselves this weekend; I did.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Super Crossover Sealed, round 6

Well...okay, I maybe screwed myself just a smidge. At the end of round 3, I was 1 -2, not doing well, but not doing terribly either. I went into my next round all full of pep, sure that I could pull off yet another win - I was, of course, wrong. That did not dissuade me much, but it was a pretty brutal loss nonetheless, as I fumbled a crucial play to drop myself for the turn: I forgot that he had Tamaran flipped up and I had nothing to pump past it. Yup. I have no excuse for myself, here. I deserved to lose that.

Okay, go to next round. I sit down just a smidge more disheartened. 1 - 3 is a bad record, and my deck was...well, nothing special might be overestimating things. Blessedly, a turn 5 blowout, where I wiped his board on HIS initiative, gave me the game pretty handily after losing a great deal of endurance to burn and dropping substantially smaller characters than he was. 2 - 3. Not a great record, but not my worst. When I went to drop my slip off, however, I noticed that it said on there something about dropping. Now, great innocent that I am, I saw that, and said to myself, "Ah, I'm supposed to check that to let them know that I was the one who dropped off the slip."

You can probably predict what happened from there, no? Yes, friends, I am an enormous idiot. The judge was nice enough to let me back in the tournament, but only if I took a game loss this round. So, I am completely out of the running for the top 16 - and prizes. While I never seriously thought I had a chance to win a prize, there was still that secret hope within that told me I could do it. The voice was, apparently, quite seriously wrong. It generally is. But I keep on listening to it. Isn't the definition of insanity repeating the same activity over and over and expecting a different outcome every time? Perhaps. Call me crazy, but I'm thinking, somewhere, maybe I have a chance* in the Modern Age tournament tomorrow night. A rundown on the Athens-tachi's decks for the Modern Age tournament will come sometime soon.

Silver Age tourney update!
Checkmate/VU vs. Checkmate/Heralds for the Silver Age finals, with each player having one victory.**

Further update: Checkmate wins the finals! (I don't actually think the game is over yet - but I already know that whoever loses, Checkmate wins).

Thanks for checking in, and I hope you all have a great weekend.

*I would like to clarify this statement by saying that I in no way have a chance at winning. Breaking even or winning a cool door prize would be enough for me.

**I would like to further clarify that I am an idiot, those were not the finals, and I am going to pray that I don't lose the rest of my rounds.

Super Crossover Sealed, round 3

Man, another close match. -9 to -10, my win. Big Blue Boyscout, Caped Crusader, and Brunhilde on the board, and Batman dealt 22 damage before Big Blue swung for the win.

In round three, my opponent and I were running neck in neck up 'til turn 6, when I underdropped three 2-drops with a Fastball Special in my row to take care of his six. Had it worked, I could've wiped the board that turn, but a rogue Trial by Jury blew me out, then Spider-Man exhausted my 4-drop Spider-Man, and I was left with only Brunhilde on attack - who got stunned back by Titans Tower when attacking into Raven.

So, 1-2 for me. I'm doing just about as poorly as I had thought I would, but I gotta admit, stalling to 8 - when it works - is completely awesome. Sadly, it almost never works in such an aggressive format. Ah, well. I'm still having fun. I'll fill you in again later.

-Silver Age tourny just ended.

1 Tim Rivera
2 Vince Blasko
3 Patrick Yapjoco
4 Todd Carlson
5 Robert Rietze
6 Michael Barnes
7 Chris Park
8 Niles Rowland

They be the top 8. More on this later.

Super Crossover Sealed, round 1

Well, I lost my first match, after opening packs that were...less than stellar. Taking out World's Finest and replacing it with Marvel Team-Up hurts, making the format even more beat-oriented. Tragically, I pulled only two attack pumps: Break You...and Break You. Lacking card draw (outside of a single, lonely Ego Gem), I couldn't run it. I made due, however, with Acrobatic Dodge, Cover Fire, and a few other defense pumps.

My opponent played a good game. Unnatural Selection rocked my face early game, KO-ing my 4-drop and milling my Remote Facility. I got him on a surprise Poker Night, but he got me way worse with a surprise Burn Rubber. The format was crazy, and ultimately, I lost -2 - -1 thanks to Pyro's burn effect and Mattie Franklin exhausting my 6-drop after I blew her out. Results should go up pretty soon.

It's a 9 round no cut sealed tournament spanning literally the entire history of Vs System. I'm having a good time, even as I opened my packs and pulled, get this: Namorita, Atlantean Warrior Princess; New Era; Superman, Big Blue Boy Scout; The Annihilation Wave; and Mr. Sinister, Dr. Nathaniel Essex.

Gotta run - round 2 begins!

Windy City Throwdown 2

So, we stayed up late drafting DC Legends and generally dicking around. The draft was fun, I went 2-1 with a rare-heavy JLA/Titans/LoA deck that had Riddler on 1, Batman on 3, Barry Allen on 4, and Starfire on 7, and was, in fact, fairly brutal.

Then we woke up today, the Athens-tachi, and went to Denny's for breakfast. After that, we got back and began constructing decks for the Galactus Raids that would be going on at random times throughout the weekend. None of us were in the Silver Age tournament, so we decided to wait for the Modern Age deckbuilding until tonight.

Out Galactus decks are going to be Modern Age, and we built up MK-Hidden, X-Men swarm, and DIG, which should be crazy. I'll post results on our Epic Struggle a little later.

For now, a little on the Silver Age tourny thus far.

First off, ending Round Five, there are still 75 people playing in this tourny alone, let alone who's getting in on the Supercrossover Sealed. Todd Carlson, Tim Rivera, and Charles Griffith are heading the field with 5 wins each, but a number of players are hovering at four wins. A few names I recognize sitting pretty at 4-1: Squire Kershner, Abacu Miranda, Niles Rowland, and Patrick Yapjoco. I'll try and get more info on some of the winning decks, and some of the interesting ones, when I can, but my own event, the Super Crossover Sealed, begins...right about now.

The place is fairly packed, but it looks like everyone is enjoying themselves a lot. In other words, things in the Windy City are rockin' right now. Wish you all could be here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Windy City Throw-Down, Friday

After a brutal 7+ hour drive, we arrive at the Windy City. Too late to join the Megaweekend Warm-up, but not too late to blow a ton of cash. Monji, one of the Athens-tachi, threw down for a box of DC Legends - or 18 packs. I picked up some sleeves, and then we grabbed some food at the Chinese Buffet across the street.

The Silver Age tournament was pretty standard fare, with a few awesome exceptions. Yapjoco was present, playing an Insanity deck that was doing...well, it wasn't doing terrible. Okay, it was doing pretty bad, but when it went off, it went spectacularly. Moloids was popular, to the surprise of absolutely no one, but so was Spider-Heralds Stall, to the surprise of some. Shane Wiggins was playing 12-Man Inhumans that was, apparently, exploding in his face. There was also a brutal MK-Equipment deck that culminated in Cyborg with at least three pieces of equipment. Seems like most of the people here were saving any bizarre, surprising decks for the big games tomorrow.

Sorry it's not more in-depth - got here late and tired, missed most of the action.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Good Night, Sweet Prince

In honor of the Crime Lords month trend that has popped up, I thought I'd do my own little homage to one of the best teams in the game. Now, I was not always the purely average, middle-of-the-road (but handsome and stylish) deck-builder that I am today. I was once a new player, stubbornly refusing the not-big-enough starter decks or far simpler mono-team decks in favor of my own genius creations.

Ah, to be young again.

To make a short story even shorter, I shall present you now with a fairly faithful recreation of that deck. I say fairly faithful because I remember certain drops much better than others - and the deck changed literally every time I opened a pack.

So here, my friends, is...


3 Roscoe Sweeney, Fixer
3 Dazzler, Alison Blaire
3 Vanessa Fisk, Mob Matron

4 Kobra, Klaus Vorhees
3 Bishop, Lucas Bishop

2 Mr. Hyde, Calvin Zabo
3 Kingpin, Wilson Fisk
2 Banshee, Sean Cassidy

2 Echo, Maya Lopez
2 Jester, Jonathan Powers
2 Masked Marauder, Frank Farnum
1 Kang, Earth Mesozoic-24

2 The Russian, Contract Killer
2 Cyclops, Scott Summers

2 Colossus, Peter Rasputin
2 Storm, Weather Party

1 Kang, Lord of Limbo
1 Wolverine, Berserker Rage

Characters, 40

3 Face the Master
4 Good Night, Sweet Prince
3 Marked for Death
3 No Rest for the Wicked
4 Rough House
1 Sold Out
3 The Family
1 Untouchable
3 Fastball Special
4 Marvel Team-Up
1 Made Men
2 Psyche Globe
3 Spheres of Solitude
3 Burn Rubber

Plot Twist, 38

Yes, this 78-card monstrosity was responsible for a great many victories in its day. I mean, also a great many losses - can't forget that. It was these three teams because these were the three teams I had the most cards for - right there, you can almost taste the prodigious care that went into my deckbuilding.

So, the plan? The way the deck played was, I hoped, desperately, to draw Roscoe Sweeney on turn 1. I don't think I ever did. Then I wanted Kobra on turn 2, 'cuz then I knew I'd have a 3. This was also comparatively rare. In reality, I dropped whatever I had to to stay alive until turn 7, when Kang, Lord of Limbo came in for the win. When Kang moved their smallest character off to the hidden area, they thought they were getting a massive benefit of some kind, that I had just, unwittingly perhaps, protected them from that damage. Oh, how deliciously wrong they were. My favorite card at the time, the card that I proudly had traded and bought to get a full playset of, was Good Night, Sweet Prince. I liked looking at it. I loved saying it. I would, at the start of my attack step on turn 7, smile condescendingly at my befuddled opponent and say, all saccharine sweet, "Goodnight, sweet prince." I might even be tempted to reach across the table, to pretend to stroke their cheek once, lovingly. And then Kang, with all his 15 ATK glory, would pound the ever-living hell out of the poor, unreinforceable bastard.

Thus did I win - sometimes. I could also hope for a Wolverine sighting on 7, which became more and more important as the sets came out. JLI Four or Fewer hated either ending. And, eventually, the deck was dismantled. I learned that 60 cards really are better than 80. I learned that search was my friend, and that I should probably use occasional attack pumps. I've learned a lot about the game since then, but I keep hoping to see the Crime Lords again sometime. The reinforcement theme was fun - the ability to give your opponent the initiative, laughable. And, there's always that tiny, hidden desire, to be able to buy yet another foil playset of one of my favorite cards in the game. It would be an absolutely brutal card today, with the prevalence of hidden beats. And I would love every second of it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Best Books You Aren't Reading: Blue Beetle

Another one of the best books that you probably aren’t reading is here for you: Blue Beetle. John Rogers has no history in the comics industry, aside from an obvious love of the industry. Together, he worked with comics-legend Keith Giffen to start a new Blue Beetle series honoring the legacy of recently-deceased Ted Kord. The series got off to a rocky start with a perfectly average first arc, but Jaime Reyes, the hispanic teenager they created to fill the Blue Beetle identity, has become a cult favorite, with a small but extremely loyal fanbase and a great deal of critical acclaim.

So…why all the praise? I mean, if a book isn’t selling well, how good can it be? Well, first off, ‘selling well’ is hard to figure out in comics these days. Blue Beetle is selling horribly in single issues…but, Marvel and DC are realizing, slowly, that 15,000-25,000 readers is becoming the average for the industry on books that don’t feature heroes like Batman or Spider-Man, or Events. The industry has changed, become more fearful of new characters, and they’ve started to realize it. They’ve also realized the importance of trades, and Blue Beetle trades sell extremely well on places like So, it’s selling alright.

Now, here’s a brief rundown of why Blue Beetle is one of the best books that you aren’t reading.

1) The characters. John Rogers has a strange habit – everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame in the series. The perfectly normal supporting cast all have moments of bad-assery that will make you grin and cheer. Besides that, though, they’re all quite realistic, and deal with real issues. Blue Beetle features, in fact, one of the most realistic and dynamic supporting casts in all of current comicdom.
2) The story. Blue Beetle took a little while to start going – the first arc is fairly slow and purely average, and the second arc, while good, doesn’t feel extraordinarily important. However, many seemingly unconnected events tie together nicely by the end of Rogers’ run. It takes awhile for things to come together, but it’s immensely satisfying when it does.
3) The humor. It’s one of the few genuinely funny books on the shelves that’s funny in a way that feels completely natural. Banter is age-appropriate to the characters, and gives a sense of their lives outside of Jaime’s superhero world.
4) Finally, Blue Beetle has some of the best allusions to the rest of the DC Universe out there. Batman finds him to be a responsible kid struggling with something bigger than himself, and you start to see tiny, interesting little things pop up to make superheroing a little easier for him, like insurance covering the destruction of his house…

Blue Beetle isn’t the best book out there by any means. But if you’re looking for a good, fun read, you should check it out. It’s one of the most realistic books I’ve ever read when it comes to simple human relationships, and it’s a joy to read because of it. It’s not grim, it’s not gritty, and there’s not much angst, so if you’re looking for a break from all that normal fare, go pick it up.