The Science of Search, Part 6

Finding your Enemies

The next couple of expansions represented significant strides forward in VS search technology, the latter of which introduced what is undoubtedly the most influential search card in the game’s colorful history.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  🙂

At last, the expansion DC fans had been waiting for had finally arrived, as Justice League of America featured the greatest assembly of heroes in the DC universe and their villainous counterparts, along with a number of interesting themes and improvements on existing themes.  No less awe-inspiring were the search cards in this set, which came in droves, and interacted with excellent synergy.  The now-famous Good Guys archetype, which relied on strong power-up/Ally effects and extensive search options, functioned mainly due to the following cards:

As close to a combat engine deck as one could get at the time, the Good Guys deck sported consistency that VS players could only dream of until then, assembling its plan of action with staggering diligence.  The 1-drops both searched for the 2-drop of choice, although Ted Kord was of course preferred for his ability to fish out equipment and re-use his ability each turn.  Hawkwoman was relatively easy to draw or search for with Hero’s Welcome, and herself searched for the prime 4-drop or equipment whenever a character powered-up.  It was a smooth short curve all the way to turn 5 or 6, the deck’s kill turns.  Kooey x3 was the clincher card, granting the Good Guys player access to his entire deck, either to search out an extra combat trick or power-up, or to get a one-of silver bullet card to deal with whatever was in the metagame at the time.  Rather than simply improve its odds with search tech, the Good Guys archetype actually won mainly through its search, devoting a full third (at least) of the deck to search in one form or another.  It was the Faces of Evil formula, but refined to be tighter in execution.

Not to be outdone by the forces of good, the Injustice Gang featured its own combat search engine concept, this time an off-curve army build, that bred army characters like rabbits on Viagra.

As a location searcher, Poison Ivy was the most versatile of the lot, not strictly confined to searching for 1-drop Army characters, which allowed her to operate far beyond the boundaries of the IG army infestation archetype.  It is important to note that the search costs for all of the characters above did not involve the discard of cards, which helped prevent the hand depletion problems typical of any deck that runs off-curve.

And then, we have the generic search cards of DJL, one of which being not quite as powerful as it looked, and another turning out to be a most flexible search option:

Secret Origins was, sadly, not the generic character search card VS players had been eagerly anticipating, since its search parameters were dependent on the cost of the opponent’s characters, which was problematic whether the opponent was playing curve (if you had the initiative, you could only search for a smaller character) or off-curve (as you could only search for a weenie).  It had its uses, certainly, but was too difficult to use reliably in actual games.

Straight to the Grave, on the other hand, brought any character out of your deck, regardless of affiliation (or lack thereof), requiring only a card that returned cards from your KO pile (such as Slaughter Swamp) to fish it out and into your hand to play.  It wasn’t as straightforward as other character search, but the two-card combo was recognized for its unlimited utility, and remains a top-tier search option even today.  It wasn’t the Holy Grail of character search, though, a distinction that belongs to the premier card of the following expansion.

Matches Made in Hell

The X-Men expansion featured a nifty trio of character search cards that, while somewhat team-stamped since they required the discard of a character card of a specific team, were actually rather flexible in the characters they could acquire.

Bloodhound, Join the Club and Sovereign Superior all gave the player the option to search not for a character of the team featured by the search card, but for a character with a particular keyword (Evasion, Concealed and Reservist, respectively) that just happened to be the featured keyword for the team.  This of course allowed the featured teams to delve outside of their roster for guest stars who would happen to be more effective than the on-team options depending on the situation, and facilitated team-ups between the featured team and another team that utilized the keyword heavily.  Thus, the Morlocks could be blended with the Spider-Friends, the Hellfire Club could play nice with the Marvel Knights, and the Brotherhood and the Avengers could work towards a common goal.

The greatest team-up search card of them all, though, even today, would be this card:

Enemy of my Enemy created shockwaves throughout the VS community as players immediately realized that, while perhaps the original intention for EoME was to provide team-up decks with a more reliable character search card that could find components from either team, the potential of this mighty card was far, far more outrageous.  Since EoME functioned as an “anti-team-stamp” searcher, players could stuff their decks with characters from as many different teams as they wanted to achieve a specific objective, without being bogged down by consistency concerns (since only Straight to the Grave was the only other card at the time capable of even coming close to EoME in that regard, and it required a KO pile returner to work).  While it was a godsend for top-tier players whose focus was simply to cram the best tech into one archetype, EoME had the unfortunate side effect of making team balance virtually obsolete for a time.  Prior to EoME, players had to figure in the strengths and weaknesses of each VS team, which ideally made for excellent metagame tension.  With EoME, players could throw characters from 12 different teams together and still assemble a winning deck.  In fact, the more diverse the team roster, the more effectively EoME could search.  Toolboxing had reached its pinnacle, team loyalty was a thing of the past, and the game would never be the same.

EoME will be rotating out of Silver Age come Marvel Universe, which should shake things up as much as its arrival a couple of years ago, as players will now have to cope with the lack of such an amazing search card to expand their deckbuilding horizons.  Time will only tell, barring the return of EoME in MUN, how the VS gameplay environment will evolve after mourning its loss.

Next:  Locate Your Fate

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One Response to “The Science of Search, Part 6”

  1. I just wanted you to know that I am a HUGE fan of your blog. Every single post you have done so far has been a delight to read, and I certainly hope you continue to write as regularly as you have been so far.

    *stops gushing*

    Um, yeah. Consider yourself bookmarked.

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