They Are Legend, Part 1

Posted in VS Ramblings on January 15, 2009 by omnicresence

One of the essential driving forces behind the thriving success of the comic book genre, if not perhaps the most significant one in mainstream comics, is the presence of larger-than-life iconic characters who entertain us with their heroic deeds and dastardly schemes on a regular schedule, providing a brief escape into a world where anything is truly possible.  Before the emergence of leagues of justice and secret societies, the good guys and the bad guys usually flew solo, and even when the team books shipped out in force, one or two particular members would always stand out, depending on the reader.  It was nice to have seen this translated into VS, piecemeal at first but eventually reaching the point where every featured major team now has at least one such character granted “legendary” status.  More often than not, the unique traits and marvelous abilities of the legendary character are successfully represented in game terms, leading to delightful experiences where it really feels like two mighty characters are duking it out, spending every last ounce of strength and cunning to walk away victorious.

This is just a rundown of the various Legends that have made their mark in the VS universe, with an assessment of how skillfully they and their powers were transformed into VS cards, and the impact they have had on the game.  This list does not include characters that just happen to be referenced by another character (e.g. Mr. Hyde, Iron Fist), but characters who have at least one plot twist or location that requires them in play or in hand.

THE LEGENDS OF MARVEL

DR. DOOM

The original Legend was reigning with terror long before the concept of the Legend had even begun to form in the minds of the game developers, due to the interesting thematic of the Doom team that revolved around the presence of the Lord of Latveria.  Being a dictator at heart hungry for power and control, most of the Dr. Doom cards revolved around exhausting an opponent’s character, returning opposing characters to hand, preventing an opponent from playing plot twists, and making it harder to even touch Doom, not being worthy of his scorn.  Doom’s scientific and magical genius were reflected in his being able to search out and re-use plot twists with ease.

Later on, Dr. Doom’s propensity for treating his minions like groceries would lead to new incarnations of him that required the sacrifices of others to generate power.  Ultimately, all lived to serve Doom, as far as the cards went, and this was brilliantly portrayed in the game.

Doom was a prominent force to reckon with throughout the history of VS, either on his own or as one half of the dreaded Common Enemy archetype, and eventually in Doomed Earth builds, and though his popularity has waxed and waned over the years, he will undoubtedly be remembered as the first, and one of the greatest, of the Legends.

LEGEND RATING:  10 (out of 10)

MR. FANTASTIC

Doom’s nemesis is content to this day to tinker about with various amazing devices all day in his laboratory, and his earlier versions represented this by emphasizing his interactions with Equipment cards, either to reduce their cost, search them out, or both.  This is perhaps appropriate even though it seemed to neglect his stretchable body completely, since Reed Richards’ greatest weapon is really his peerless mind.  Thus, later versions of him, while dropping the equipment fascination, generated card advantage, under the premise that card drawing represented the vast amount of options available to someone of superior intellect.  Eventually, Marvel Legends gifted him with the appropriately flexible Stretch Out, at last showcasing his malleable form that could deflect damage or focus it towards a single point.

Mr. Fantastic, always the team player, has functioned best in the company of others, whether with his own first family or the shadow government of the Illuminati.  As such, he isn’t the linchpin of many strategies, but an important element for which you will always be grateful.

LEGEND RATING:  7

INVISIBLE WOMAN

Reputed to be the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four, Sue Richards is gifted with a vast array of abilities, from being able to turn invisible to generating force fields that could crush steel.  These gifts are adequately represented in her different versions, that provide reinforcement for your characters, turn them “invisible” by shunting them into the hidden area, and reducing the effectiveness of attacks.

The Invisible Woman was not, regretfully, a truly important element of strategies involving the Fantastic Four for the longest time, until Marvel Legends came along and finally allowed Sue to demonstrate her considerable abilities by means of stopping attacks with a Force Field Projection, or using Invisibility to keep her family safe from harm.  For a Legend, her support is minimal, but it does reflect her powers well.

LEGEND RATING: 6

HUMAN TORCH

Johnny Storm likes to play with fire, and his many versions showcase his incendiary nature excellently, either by “burning” your opponent with direct endurance loss or boosting Johnny’s attack with some endurance payment for him to “Flame On”!  Later versions of him could stun opponents out of combat or reduce defense, which employed a different strategic tack but was still accurate in terms of representing his flame powers.

Johnny’s Legend support, in the form of further defense reduction from Firewall and direct stuns from Heat Wave, proved to be a formidable combination for a deck archetype that whittled away at the defense of the opposing field and stunned them all before combat had even begun.  Though not one of the heavyweight VS Legends, Johnny has lately become a character to fear.

LEGEND RATING:  7

THE THING

The rocky blue-eyed Ben Grimm is the muscle behind the Fantastic Four, as represented by the huge stats on most of his versions.  No need for the Thing to be flashy; his oversized stats speak volumes enough.

Sadly, that really is mostly what Thing has going for him.  Clobberin’ Pine allows him to take a hit for one of his friends, and he’s got the mass to hit back, but at the end of the day, Thing is little more than a blunt instrument, in the comics or in the game.

LEGEND RATING: 2

SPIDER-MAN

Everyone’s friendly neighborhood web-slinger blasted into the VS scene in style, becoming the first non-army character in VS who could potentially have multiple copies of himself running around at the same time.  While his agility and various costume powers were translated nicely, it was his most devastating weapon, the incapacitating webs, that made him the most difficult 7-drop in the game to oppose.  Nobody enjoyed having all of his characters exhausted before he could even get to attack on his initiative.

In time, Spidey would get enhanced support for his web-slingers to Gift Wrap his foes, and his later incarnations dropped the agility and strength portions in favor of his fearsome exhaustion abilities.  Up to today, no other character in VS has been able to exhaust characters with the skill and consistency of Peter Parker, which is a sound achievement.

LEGEND RATING:  9

MAGNETO

The master of magnetism and one of the greatest X-Men foes was legendary at first simply due to his interaction with Genosha, although for the longest time he had earned his status as the most splashable 7-drop in the game.  He would make appearances in several other sets after Origins, though it would not be with any level of prominence.  Marvel Legends finally granted him a true Legend suite of cards, but regretfully, all of them seemed to focus on his ideology of wiping out Homo Sapiens, and not on his magnetic powers.  An exhaustion or equipment destruction/manipulation card would have been a nice tribute.  Today, Magneto feels like more of a supporting character in the game than the mighty villain/antihero that he was in the comics, which is a shame.

LEGEND RATING:  4

KANG

The time-traveling despot was the first non-army VS character to be specifically non-unique in his versions, to represent the many incarnations of him scattered throughout time.  Though he had quite a few cards that referred to him, he is most famous for the shenanigans caused by his many versions, and the possibility that one could build a deck with no characters aside from Kangs.

LEGEND STATUS:  4

WOLVERINE

Logan has always been a popular character in the comics, and likewise in VS, sporting a vast number of versions that reference his many different identities, his healing factor, and most of all his penchant for savage violence.  Marvel Legends granted him full use of his Adamantium Claws, allowed him to devastate the opposition with his Berserker Rages, and improved his Healing Factor to really demonstrate his resilience.  Almost every incarnation of Wolverine has managed to inspire terror, especially when backed up by this ridiculously useful Legend suite.  Hey, he really is the best there is at what he does.

LEGEND RATING:  10

JEAN GREY

Marvel Girl isn’t quite as marvelous game-wise as she is in the comics, as for the longest time she was useful mostly to clear the board on turn 8 and thereafter.  Admittedly, it isn’t easy to translate telekinesis and limited telepathy into VS game mechanics, but really?  Resource replacement?  Card draw also doesn’t seem to be the province of telekinesis/telepathy – more of discard, hand/resource reveals and stat augmentation to simulate flying projectiles or suppression of attacks.

To give her a fair shake, she does have a fearsome 5-drop incarnation, depending on how much Jean you get to dump in the KO’d pile, and the 8-drop is no slouch for stall tactics.  A good support legend, but could have been done much better.

LEGEND RATING: 6

PUNISHER

The skull-wearing, gun-toting antihero of the Marvel universe is all about shooting the bad guys, and his Legend support demonstrates that well in the form of his M-60s and his Scattergun, which can make any incarnation of the Punisher on which they are equipped a decimator of the opposition.  Even if he isn’t burning through hundreds of rounds of bullets, he can sit around planning the perfect Sniper Shot to instantly take out an opposing character.  Certainly a deadly force to reckon with, and it shows in his card form.

LEGEND RATING:  8

GHOST RIDER

The spirit of vengeance emphasized punishment of the wicked (i.e. your opponent) for their sins (of stunning your characters), and I like how this carried over into many of Ghost Rider’s versions, which affect your opponent badly or become stronger depending on whether your opponent has more of something than you, or simply if he managed to stun one of your characters.  Chain of Vengeance was revenge-wreaking fun, Anguish of the Innocent helped level the playing field a bit, and Wheels of Vengeance meant Ghost Rider had his motorcycle to ride up buildings and scare the reinforcement out of many an enemy.  Perhaps not very tournament-effective, but definitely very flavorful.

LEGEND RATING:  5

Next up:  I’ll finish off the rest of the Marvel legend characters, and hopefully move into the realms of DC.



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And the Evolution Keeps Rolling…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2008 by omnicresence

… away?

I didn’t think it was a legitimate concern the first few times I read about it, but the comment from one of my VS playmates here in the Philippines was that he was getting worried about the power creep in MEV.  Considering that there doesn’t seem to be a DC set on the horizon as of yet and my friends are mostly DC enthusiasts, it’s possible that they’ll buy into MEV, but will the latest set make all the previous sets obsolete?

As of the present, MUN has still kept things fairly sober, partly due to the inherent limitation of supply that would engineer the creation of more frightening decks.  Now that we’ve learned from the MUN experience, we could be ordering MEV in abundance…

… or it may lead to our casting off VS to the level of purely casual gaming, to be replaced eventually by a more accessible hobby.

Hahaha.  There’s not much more to say at the moment with the MEV previews rushing in like tidal waves.  It’s nice to know, at least, that the R&D crew at UDE have yet to run out of fresh ideas.

A Shift in the Wind

Posted in VS Ramblings on October 17, 2008 by omnicresence

The VS community is abuzz with the ramifications of the wildest resource-limit-breaking keyword to hit the game, Shift.  And for good reason, since resource acceleration is perhaps the most tightly-controlled aspect of Versus System.  The ability to recruit more characters than you’ve got resource points creates a relatively permanent power swing in your favor that’s harder to remove than a plot twist effect or a set of equipment.  The last team that broke this mechanic pretty much ensured that we won’t see the Press keyword for quite some time, if not never again.

I’m still on the fence about its actual utility until we see the rest of the Exiles team and their goodies.  We have yet to see any plot twists, Exile-stamped or otherwise, that reference the Shift keyword or provide bonuses based on it.  We could fall back on the effects that we’ve seen in previous sets that depend on the number of characters one has brought into play, but it doesn’t seem as if Shift was made to swarm the opposition the way the Kree did, with off-curve characters; rather, the best use of it would be to be able to drop a character on curve while being able to bring in another character of up to that size for free.  From turns 4 onwards, an extra on-curve character becomes more and more of a liability for an opponent, and that’s fine.  But I’m not excited about the prospect of Shift being the only thing the Exiles have going for them, such that what you end up shifting in are a bunch of average-sized characters with blank text boxes not counting any Shift-related powers.

And as for Mimic… copying abilities isn’t quite as effective as having those abilities on your characters to begin with, regardless of the cool factor.

What bugs me is that 90% of the cards we’ve seen so far are rares, which will make MEV yet another rare-chasing headache of a set.  The uncommon distribution is supposed to be much more manageable, though, which is definitely a relief given that MUN uncommons were practically rare due to their number versus distribution.

But still, I’m terribly excited to buy boxes of MEV.  We’ve been waiting for new mechanics for quite a few sets now (I still don’t think Insanity counts as a mechanic per se as a deck construction limitation), and with Energize and Shift being just two parts of the intricate puzzle, I’m gearing up to max out my credit card when December rolls around.

MEV: The Previews Begin

Posted in VS Ramblings on October 8, 2008 by omnicresence

Haha, it’s preview season once again, and I’m hoping that we beleaguered, starving, huddled VS masses here in the Philippines will actually manage to score this set this time around.  The distribution of rares seems as abysmal as ever, which is annoying for those of us who don’t have the resources to splurge on a case, but it’s just one of those things we’ll have to deal with.

At last, underappreciated Cyclops finally achieves Legend status, and though we’ve only seen a couple of his versions, they’re both solid for off-initiative rounds, which is a welcome departure from the majority of the versions we’ve seen thus far that are blank boxes on defense.  Even if we were to resort to the Cyclopses of old, at least now they’ve got something to do off-initiative.  Forcing the exhaust of two of an opponent’s characters is a significant stall effect, that almost ensures you’re going in next round with your forces intact, and could mean stolen initiative if you’ve got a couple of bruisers ready to attack.

Multiple Man… I’m not so keen on, honestly, as it seems needlessly card intensive, but the new 1-drop Hydra army version seems pretty nasty, and the exhaustion card, while nothing we haven’t seen before, gives you something to do with those extra Multiple Men before they get reabsorbed.  It’s very flavorful, certainly, though how it will work competitively will be something to leave to Stubarnes to break.

Ah, Runaways.  I’m eagerly anticipating them and their “secret” mechanic.

And gosh, what does that Nightcrawler legend card do?

The Dynamics of My Multiplayer

Posted in Movies, Randomness, VS Ramblings on September 29, 2008 by omnicresence

Gargh.  Curses.  My colleague got to attend an exclusive Hasbro convention in Hong Kong, during which she got to see sneak peeks at the new toys they’ll be releasing for the Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe movies next year, as well as images from the movies themselves.  I, on the other hand, was shipped off to the southern point of the Philippines, where the highlight of my trip was the purchase of 11 kilos of pomelos.  And these were both work trips.  Life isn’t fair sometimes.

Ah well.  That’s not the point of this post.  What I really want to talk about is how my friends and I play a unique blend of multiplayer VS, in which decks that you would never consider playing even for fun have a chance to shine.  The rules are:

1)  Even number of players, at least 4, divide into two teams.  Each team starts with endurance equal to 50 times the number of players in a team, but no more than 150.

2)  Shared front and support rows, though no shared resources.  Recruitment and resource laying can be in any order that the team chooses.

3)  Characters that belong to different players cannot team attack.  However, characters can reinforce other characters regardless of team affiliation.  This rule was set to ensure that neither team would win by cheap shot breakthrough on weakling characters, and though I know it does make certain things easier, the fun factor is enhanced considerably.

4)  Effects that say “you control” can still only be played on characters you control.

5)  Burn effects that simultaneously affect all opposing players or all players, such as I.Q.’s draw burn effect, are counted only once for each team.

Clearly, this format takes a giant dump on all the Tier One decks that you’ve ever played, particularly those that try to force a stall or win the game by turn four.  The quantity of opposing characters that one has to deal with, even with potentially twice the allied characters, is daunting.  It gets worse if you miss a drop or two, though that’s just as likely to happen to the other side, as well.  Moreover, you quickly find, especially in the larger (3 on 3 and beyond) games, that you won’t quite have all the answers you need.  Sooner more than later, you will run out of combat pumps, negation and exhaustion effects, and extra cards to pitch.  Really, when you’re facing a full deck’s worth of effects from three different players, there is never a turn when you feel you’ve finally exhausted your opponents’ options.

Alternate win condition and crazy combo decks have it easy in this format, since they can concentrate on the alternate win while their teammates stave off the opposition.  The Secret Six Victorious win is quite easily achieved, I have discovered to my chagrin, when his teammate is drawing all the fire and keeping the SS characters protected at his expense.  Time can be bought for someone’s wacky combo to trigger.

Certain cards become monstrous in this format, such as Metropolis Marvel Superman and Bring It On.  Leader cards also become much more useful, able to dispense abilities to a wider variety of worthy recipients.  Teen Titans Go! in teams featuring two or more Teen Titans decks is practically cheating.

Naturally, team synergy will play an important element in victory, and a team comprised of Future Foe discard and Injustice Gang Hand Burn will have a much harder time winning than, say, an Avengers Leader deck and an Avengers Reservist deck.  Mileage varies with each pairing, but that’s the beauty of the format — no matter how fantastic your deck is, if you’ve got no teamwork with your partner or partners, you will lose out to weaker decks that happen to work well together.

It’s a whole mess of fun, and worth a diversion every now and then from the intensity of the one-on-one VS format.  If you enjoyed the Galactus experience, and wished you could band together to fight a common swarm of foes instead of single devouring conqueror, then give this format a try.

HULK Hulk Hulk Hulk Hulk… Goose!

Posted in VS Ramblings on September 24, 2008 by omnicresence

This is a most unusual location from which to be updating the VS Ruminations – at a yacht club overlooking the docks, a couple of hours from the urban cacophony that is Manila.  I’m here as a speaker for a franchisee’s conference to educate the franchisee guests on the nuances and practicalities of the franchise agreement, which I suspect 75% don’t actually read before signing.  This conference is a good first step towards enlightening them, but we’re looking into providing a crash course on the franchise agreement periodically for all new franchisees to attend before they actually sign the damned contract.

Anyway, over at the Lost Hemisphere, they’ve announced that the MEV previews will be starting soon, so the bloggers had better get cracking once again, which means I’d better update this site with more frequency.  Part of the hassle, aside from my recently punishing work schedule, is looking for appropriate pictures and plastering them on the site to give them more visual appeal.  The Deranged Bear has successfully ignored this concern of mine, kudos to him, but I find myself occasionally needing to throw a graphic file in the mix every so often.

Gah.  Next time, maybe.

Anyway, today’s post highlights a deck concept that I threw together last week, after playing the heck out of Hulk Warbound, noting that, much like Doom, the team affiliation is almost insignificant since the best cards for the deck key off the Hulk as a character anyway.  I thought, then, why not take all those Hulk-stamped effects and toss them into another team that can support Hulk as a major character element?  A team like… Marvel Defenders?

Admittedly, Hulk doesn’t come into play for the Defenders until turn 5, so this is not a quick-win deck. But once Hulk is recruited, his extensive Defender support base gives him the rage that he needs to decimate the opponent’s field.

HULK DEFEND!!!!

Characters

2 Elloe Kaifi 1-drop W

2 Wong 1-drop D

4 Rick Jones 2-drop W

3 Tanya Belinskya 2-drop D

2 Archangel 3-drop W

4 Hellcat 3-drop W

1 Sam Parrington 4-drop W

2 Nova 4-drop D

2 Brood 4-drop W

4 Hulk 5-drop D

2 Hulk 6-drop W

1 Quasar 6-drop D

2 Hulk 7-drop D

1 Hercules 7-drop W

Non-Characters

4 Secret Defenders

1 World War Hulk

3 Righteous Anger

3 One-Man Rampage

4 Hulk Smash!

4 Savage Beatdown

2 The B-Team

4 Warbound to the End

3 The Great Arena

Again, this is a rough draft based on cards that I have and the general concept. I’m sure you professional deckbuilders out there can really jack up the power level of this deck.

The fundamental idea is to get the ever-growing 5-drop Hulk to attack as many times as possible on turn 5, clearing your opponent’s board while at the same time hopefully inflicting a ton of damage via breakthrough. This isn’t too hard to do in theory, between Sam Parrington, One-Man Rampage and Righteous Anger, and if Hulk can attack even three times in a single turn, he’ll be a hefty 12/12 bruiser, and that’s not even taking into account the various bonuses that can be granted to the Hulk. Tanya hands out those +4 ATKs, Elloe is good for a +1/+1, Hellcat grants a +2/+2, and Quasar provides a whopping +4/+4 to an attacking character for the turn. Ideally, Hellcat and Tanya will still be around on turn 5 with an Elloe removed from the game for a starting 16/12 5-drop Hulk that becomes a 17/13 monster on his first attack, and grows angrier with each subsequent exhaustion. If you’ve got evens, Quasar steps in to boost Hulk into a 21/17 attacker. In a pinch, 6-drop Warbound Hulk is there to consume the 5-drop (and likely be bigger starting out).

The 7-drop Defenders Hulk is there as a finisher just in case the 5 and 6-drop Hulks don’t close out the game, and has the added bonus of being able to re-ready itself for an extra attack’s worth of punishment.

The assortment of cards is something of a jumble and may not be the best selection, but the concept is there for the most part, and it’s finally a Hulk deck that isn’t Warbound.

Of Ahmeds and Annihilus-es (Annihili?)

Posted in VS Ramblings on September 12, 2008 by omnicresence

Negative Zone’s still not getting any love as of late, which isn’t really that surprising considering their relatively poor augmentation in MUN.  There’s potential there, certainly, but nothing unfair or combo-tastic to whet the appetites of tournament level deckbuilders.

Which is not to say that people can’t have a bit of fun.

AA Meeting  (Negative Zone/Checkmate)

Characters

2 Connie Webb, Knight

2 Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster

4 Skreet, Chaos Mite

2 Black Thorn, Elizabeth Thorne

4 Ahmed Samsarra, White King

1 Thanos, The Mad Titan

2 Syphonn, Energy Leech

2 Centurians, Army

1 Elimination Protocol <> OMAC Robot, Army

1 Annihilation Protocol <> OMAC Robot, Army

3 Annihilus, Anti-Matter Master

2 Huntress, Reluctant Queen

1 Ravenous, Servant of Annihilus

1 Sasha Bordeaux, Autonomous Prototype

1 Blastaar, The Living Bomb Burst

1The Void, Robert Reynolds

Locations

1 Negative Zone, Gateway

2 Negative Zone, Shadow Dimension

2 Negative Zone, Prison Alpha

3 Negative Zone, Seat of Annihilation

3 Negative Zone, Harvester of Sorrows

4 Brother Eye Satellite

4 Checkmate Safe House

2 Brother Eye

1 Soul World

Plot Twists

4 Knightmare Scenario

3 Target Acquired

1 The Annihilation Wave

Keep in mind that this build is based on cards I actually have, which explains the lack of any Swarm of Annihilus, and could use some more focus, though it runs surprisingly well for something I cobbled together as an afterthought.

Connie Webb:  For Ahmed, really, who is always the centerpiece of any Checkmate engine.

Mr. Mxyzptlk: Because of all the discarding you’ll be doing with the Negative Zones, he’s very handy for keeping your hand size decent.

Skreet: Because she’s Zone,  she burns for 4, and you can stick her out there again later on for some extra burn.

Black Thorn: For re-use of the Safe Houses, the Dark Dimension Negative Zone, and occasionally Brother Eye.

Ahmed Samsarra: Needs no explanation.

Thanos: On the off-chance that you don’t manage to get Ahmed, he’s a poor second-stringer.

Syphonn: A bit oversized, and you can shunt him into the hidden area to allow you to gain some endurance for the rest of the game, barring any hidden hate.

Centurians: Into the hidden area they can go, where their ability not to get stunned while attacking will become doubly useful.

Annihilus: Hates on your opponent’s hidden area, and you’ve got the Prison Alphas to give him some juicy targets.

The OMACs: There really if you haven’t managed to team up by then and need drops, but Annihilation’s KO ability is quite useful.

Ravenous: There because he’s Zone, and to get rid of an annoying location or ongoing plot-twist.

Huntress: A fine-sized 6-drop that doubles as a pseudo Pathetic Attempt.

Sasha Bordeaux: Makes everyone chunkier.

Blastaar: Between him and Annihilus, that’s two stuns without fear of stunback.

The Void: With the Negative Zone around, he practically amounts to a free stun or three.

Playing this deck is fairly simple – set up the Checkmate engine, stuff everyone into the hidden area, blunt attacks with the Safe Houses and Knightmare Scenarios, and strike hard with Brother Eye, Target Acquired and your direct stun abilities.  Use the Wave and/or Gateway to wipe your opponent’s field clean on turn 5.

As always, suggestions for improvement are welcome.