• Reading the Rainbow Age of Ultron Episode 0 The Maria Hill Debate

    Welcome back folks! Last time we covered some Broad Strokes of drafting in general, specifically how many dice to draft of any given card. This week we're going to take a look at some draft theory for Age of Ultron. I was going to start in the same place I normally do, with Economy, but I felt that before that happens we needed to have a serious discussion about Maria Hill, and how she is going to impact the drafting scene for AoU. The reason we need to talk about this lovely lady is that she has the potential to be the next Professor X global, or the next common Constantine. I'll be walking through the different ways she might get ruled, and leave you with the real question, "What does your Tournament Organizer think?"

    Thanks @Alleyviper and all the guys at Dice Anon for posting these spoilers. I know the community appreciates them.

    While we are at it, I will be referencing this book as the rules. Seems appropriate as it is the AoU rulebook and this card comes from the AoU set.

    As we can see, there are three version of Maria Hill, but today we are planning on talking about the common. The Rare and Uncommon, while having great ramp and churn mechanics, are relatively straight forward and have abilities similar to those we have seen before. The common though, that is an entirely new mechanic. First, let's talk about the card in general before we break down the ability.

    In draft, commons with good abilities are King. They are generally reliable draft pick ups, and when they are as cheap as 2 cost, they bring you quite a number of options. Meanwhile, Hill's stat line is relatively defensive for a 2 cost character, but is most highly prized for her 1 total fielding cost. Lastly, we can see that she has the Shield affiliation. Looking through AoU, there isn't any great tribalism from that symbol, but there are a significant amount of wienie cards that share it, so perhaps combined with the Teamwork Basic action you could generate a super strong army of agents.

    Alright, let's move onto the main show, that ability. Breaking it down step by step is likely to be the easiest way to get a solid appreciation of the ability, after which we can make some general conclusions about the ability as a whole.

    "When this character and a character go to your Used Pile at the same time, put both into your Prep Area instead."

    When - First things first, this single word tells us that this ability is triggered during a single instance of time.
    this character - This tells us that the ability refers to a die, not a card, and that the die must be in a state which qualifies as a character.
    and a character - this phrase puts a limitation on the ability, but also reaffirms that the dice in question must both be characters.
    got to your Used Pile - This is the phrase just chock full of debate. We will get back to it, but for now, we know the exact parameters for what triggers this ability. This also restricts the ability from triggering by your opponent's dice going to the used pile.
    at the same time, - Another restriction on the ability, but we knew the effect was a moment in time thanks tot eh "when" at the beginning.
    put both - This reaffirms that it references only a single die at a time, Maria and the shield die, not all Maria's and all shield dice.
    into your Prep Area - The effect, pretty easy one, nothing much to analyze here.
    instead. - This is actually a very crucial word to our analysis. By saying instead, the effect generally prevents the dice from ever actually going to the used pile in the first place. This would mean that things that trigger when they go o the used don't actually trigger if this ability is triggered before that.

    Ok, so here is what we know, when Maria and another shield character, both do X at the same time, the instead go to the Prep Area.

    Now some of you may be thinking, "Why is he making such a big deal about 'going to the used', it seems pretty obvious to me." The thing is, on your turn things don't generally go directly to the used, thanks to the new "out of play" rules. Then on your opponent's turn, there are also very few ways for things to go directly to the used. This fact alone looks like it could be a limiting factor on Maria Hill, but let's look at a few options and explore what they could mean.

    1) Maria Hill and Constantine are in the field and Storm "Wind Rider" is fielded. You are forced to reroll Maria and Constantine, you roll energy faces on both, and they are sent directly to the Used Pile from the field. Maria's power triggers and both dice instead go to the Prep Area. I don't think there is any debate on this particular aspect of Maria's ability. If nothing else, you can be assured that Maria can help mitigate some of this "direct to used" removal that your opponent may be bringing.

    2) Maria Hill and Wonder Man are both attacking and go unblocked. Both of these shield characters assign their damage, resolve their damage and then get moved Out of Play, with the destination of the Used Pile at the end of Cleanup. Here is where things get pretty tricky. The rulebook above tells us that unblocked characters go to the Out of Play zone, then at clean up things in out of play, go to the used. We can look at this in one of two ways, if things are moving from out of play to the used pile that is going to the used pile, and since all things in the used go there together, any time we clean up we can take 1 shield character per Maria and prep them all. The other way we can look at it, is the Out of Play zone is actually not a zone at all, just a state where these ice can't be interacted with, and while dice are "out of play" their leaving the field with the destination of the used pile, is enough to trigger the Maria ability.

    In the long run, this aspect of the ability has a lot of counter play and seems pretty fair and balanced. There are mechanics that force KOed characters to the used, and this one does the opposite. The attacking characters are still removed from the field and must actually reroll and refield to attack again, thus this ability provides just a bit of ramp and churn.

    3) Maria Hill and Constantine are purchased simultaneously on the first turn of the game. Both characters are purchased simultaneously (a thing the rule book does say can be done), and we move to put them into our Used Pile together. Maria triggers and these two first turn purchase characters immediately go to our Prep Area instead. This interaction assumes that Maria's ability is still in effect while she is not active. In previous sets many abilities that similarly did not call out "while active" were assumed to have this caveat, however, there are also some pretty specific abilities in this set that appear to have abilities that aren't when active, such as the token based discount of the Super Rare Thanos. If this method is ruled to be viable, Maria becomes a great ramp and churn tool (like the other two versions of her are) and can perform to the level of Professor X Global status, but for only the first few turns before the strategy peters out as your bag gets full of Hills and the characters you ramped to.

    For now, I'm going to keep the idea that her ability applies while not active, as many others have come to that conclusion, and it allows me to segue into the fourth and in my opinion, least likely way Maria Hill could be used.

    4) Maria Hill and Constantine, both on double faces are used to buy uncommon Wonderman. They are both used and sent Out of Play, headed for the used pile. This energy, we just spent, does it go to the Prep Area? What if we instead batch payed for some Take Cover globals on our opponent's turn? all of the energy would be used simultaneously, and the dice would even be sent directly to our used pile skipping the Out of Play debate entirely.

    In my opinion there are two places this function can get caught up. First, dice showing energy faces, in the reserve pool, are energy dice, not character dice, as per page 22 of that AoU rulebook. This means that as they are moving toward the Used Pile, they aren't "characters" and thus Maria's ability wouldn't trigger. Secondly, there is the when active argument above. This functionality also provides a ridiculously overpowered method of ramping dice, by being able to save loads of shields to use globals on your opponent's turn then unload those globals and prep all of the dice saved. Doctor Doom Nemisis for example would love 5-8 shields to KO your opponent's Hulk, and then Prep those shields on top of that with no additional cost.

    In summary, there are several ways this card can be interpreted, and as a low cost common, she is for sure going to see some action in your drafts. My opinion is to default to the one method that is 100% accurate in the rules, option number 1 above. However, if that doesn't sit well with you, I encourage you to discuss the card with your TO before you draft. I also encourage you to submit a rules question to the WKRF, maybe a sunder deluge of Maria Hill questions will prompt an emergency answer before the July 15th drafts.

    Lastly, remember, it's a community game with the best community out there, "Be EXCELLENT to each other!" and be preemptive about asking your TO how he rules on cards. After all, "Knowing is half the battle!"
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Scorpion0x17's Avatar
      Scorpion0x17 -
      In your discussion about method 4 you correctly point out that character dice on an energy face are not considered character dice.

      When a die goes to used because of Wind-Rider it is on an energy face and is therefore not a character die.

      Therefore I think method 1 is as shaky as method 4.

      And don't get me started on method 3 (or Thanos for that matter).

      I believe method 2 is the only one that has any kind of firm, stable, foundation in the rules.
    1. bahamut7's Avatar
      bahamut7 -
      These are all very important points that yes, wizkids, need to clarify BEFORE draft. In fact, my first draft will be when this set releases and I have at least 1 player who will question and argue these interpretations if it is working against him (and I would rather avoid that).
    1. jigsawhc's Avatar
      jigsawhc -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scorpion0x17 View Post
      In your discussion about method 4 you correctly point out that character dice on an energy face are not considered character dice.

      When a die goes to used because of Wind-Rider it is on an energy face and is therefore not a character die.

      Therefore I think method 1 is as shaky as method 4.

      And don't get me started on method 3 (or Thanos for that matter).

      I believe method 2 is the only one that has any kind of firm, stable, foundation in the rules.

      I agree - I don't think that #1 would work since the die is now on an energy face.

      #3 though I case see the argument for. I guess we'll have to see if WizKid rules that "while active" is implied for this one. Until they do though I'd try to use #3 in a draft and argue for it of others did.
    1. pk2317's Avatar
      pk2317 -
      As you mentioned in your initial post, they have to be in states that consider them characters. So the only one that works really is #2. Dice on cards are just dice, not characters or actions or energy (yet). They have affiliations, but no other status.
    1. Shadowmeld's Avatar
      Shadowmeld -
      I guess I should have used an uncommon Wonderman example instead of the Storm one for point 1. I can definitely see the argument made that when you reroll it comes up energy. On the other hand, I would also argue that these dice were targetted as character dice at the beginning of the effect, and were refilled as a point of randomization, and if the randomizer comes up energy they would normally be sent to the Reserve to become energy dice, but instead are being sent there, the game effect sends them to the used. Thus, a character die is being sent to the used because of an ability.

      Definitely a debate to be had there. Point one though is more cleanly illustrated by characters being knocked out in combat by uncommon Wonder Man dice.
    1. Scorpion0x17's Avatar
      Scorpion0x17 -
      Ok, ignoring the fact that the Wonderman example will never happen, I can see an argument for it triggering off card abilities that send character dice straight to used.

      But as for the randomiser argument - they would normally go to reserve when they come up energy because they are then considered energy dice and energy dice cannot exist in the field.
    1. DigitalFirefly's Avatar
      DigitalFirefly -
      So, if you run Trinity War Superman with Maria Hill and manage to get him KO'd and her sent to the used pile at the same time, you can get Superman back to prep. I still don't like that card.
    1. bahamut7's Avatar
      bahamut7 -
      If Number 3 is correct, her common may just break the game. You could theoretically have a rare Tarrasque rolling turn 3. Combine this with the cost 3 Sangan and bring a non-shield win condition that early.
    1. RJRETRO's Avatar
      RJRETRO -
      Play PXG and roll Terrasque turn 3 anyway.
    1. archivist's Avatar
      archivist -
      I view this ability as “character” qualifying “die” to denote that this means a single die (language that is now being used to clean up past ambiguities whether a game effect can be applied to any die of that character or a single die). I would not subscribe a specific facial application to the die in question in order to trigger this effect.
      I would rule, barring any official ruling, that whenever a Maria Hill die and a shield energy character die move to the Used Pile simultaneously, this effect would trigger, moving these dice to the Prep Area. This includes movement:
      • from the Out of Play Area to the Used Pile after attacking while not blocked
      • from the Out of Play Area to the Used Pile during the Clean-Up step
      • from a character card to the Used Pile upon purchase during the Main Step (I would say all dice purchases in the Main Step are done simultaneously)
      • from the Field directly to the Used Pile because of a card ability (e.g. Storm – Wind Rider)

      The Out of Play zone is a designated Play Area in the (AoU) Rule Book, so it has the same game recognition as any other Play Area (e.g. the Field and Reserve). Dice that are moving between these areas have no “facial” status (meaning they are not considered an energy or character face). While a game effect may trigger their movement to another Play Area depending on the current state of the applicable die at the start of the movement (e.g. Storm – Wind Rider forcing a die in the field that rolled an energy face to be moved to the Used Pile), once the die is moved to the Used Pile it is irrelevant what face was rolled that moved it there. This was clarified in the following ruling, which was in reference on how Iron ManPhoenix Buster’s ability worked:

      Description: Iron Man – Phoenix Buster
      Each time Iron Man takes damage, you may move 1 Sidekick from your used pile to your prep area.

      Wizkids Ruling: “Move Sidekick vs. Move Sidekick die (7Nov2014)
      Q: When a character's ability refers to "move 1 Sidekick from your Used Pile to your Prep Area", is the ability granting the movement of a Sidekick die that was used as energy, or is it only granting the movement of a die that had been moved to the Used Pile as a Sidekick character?
      A: Dice in the Used Pile have no memory of how they got there. Despite different wordings, both of these effects function in the same way.”
    1. Randy's Avatar
      Randy -
      @archivist well said. My thoughts exactly. I only disagree with the purchasing aspect. I don't know if they would be considered to hit the Used at the same time. I can see having to resolve one purchase at a time, despite being able to move double energy faces at once to pay for both. Everything else, I agree. :slow clap:
    1. Scorpion0x17's Avatar
      Scorpion0x17 -

      That certainly is a quite convincing argument.
    1. CBattles6's Avatar
      CBattles6 -
      this character - This tells us that the ability refers to a die, not a card, and that the die must be in a state which qualifies as a character.
      and a character - this phrase puts a limitation on the ability, but also reaffirms that the dice in question must both be characters.
      Is this a misread? The card in the picture states "this character die and a [S] character die," which changes the analysis (particularly on 2 and 3). My best reading of the rulebook is that a "character die" refers to the die as a whole, unless is it is a rolled "energy die" in the field or Reserve Pool per p. 22 of the rulebook. So, under that assumption, I'd say:

      1) According to p. 22, the dice become "energy dice" after they're re-rolled and therefore don't trigger the ability. I agree with Scorpion and disagree with Archivist on this one, although it's really tricky and there's an argument that the result of the re-roll isn't energy, just not a character.
      2) The dice are both "character dice," either because they were in the field on a character face or because they are no longer "rolled dice" when they leave play (p. 22). The ability triggers when the dice "go to the Used Pile" from Out of Play.
      3) When a die is sitting on a card, it's a "character die" (p. 2–3). When it is purchased and enters the Used Pile, it's still a character die (p. 22). The ability triggers when the dice "go to the Used Pile."
      4) See 1 above. The dice are "energy dice" and therefore don't trigger the ability.
      Here's a much more interesting case:

      5) During my clear and draw step, I draw and roll the following: Maria Hill (L3-FC1), Hulk (L3-FC3), Jocasta (L1-FC1), and a Fist energy. I can't field Hulk, and I can't field both Maria and Jocasta. I spend the Fist to field Jocasta, leaving the other two characters in my Reserve Pool. At the end of my Main Step, both are unfielded and go to my Used Pile (p. 9). Maria Hill's ability activates, and they both go to my Prep Area instead.
    1. archivist's Avatar
      archivist -
      @CBattles6 I’m assuming the following is the Rule Book passage (p22) you are citing (included for edification only):

      “Rolled dice in the field or in your Reserve Pool are considered to be whatever their face is. If you have a Sidekick Die in the Reserve Pool showing energy, then it’s an energy die. If you have a Sidekick showing the character face in your field, then it’s a character die. Dice in your Used Pile, Prep Area, and bag are not considered rolled dice. Their dice type is either character or action, based on what faces they have.”

      Also refer to this this WizKids ruling:
      “Action Dice vs. Character/Monster Dice (14May2015)
      As they exist before they are in play (i.e., in your dice bag), there are three types of dice: action dice, character dice, and sidekick dice. The language from the rulebook that speaks of “two types” of dice says, “Cards and their associated dice come in two types: characters and actions.” This statement is accurate, because sidekicks do not have cards associated with them, and thus are a third type of dice not referenced in the language quoted from the rulebook. Sidekick dice may later also be considered character dice if rolled on a character face, but they are not considered character dice unless and until that occurs—i.e., as they exist in your bag, they are ‘sidekick dice’ only, not ‘character dice.’ “

      Germane to my point, is interpreting the meaning of “character die” in the Maria Hill ability. Given past rulings (e.g. on the Teamwork BAC) clarifying the meaning of the word “character” (one vs. many), I’m taking the context of Maria’s ability to be just that – clarifying a single Maria Hill die is the object of the ability, vice the facial state of the die.

      There are only three types of dice: character, action, and Sidekick (until they are rolled onto a character face, then the SK die becomes a character die). The citation above from the Rule Book is expounding on the how to apply the dice based on their Play Area location and face. The context by which the words “energy die” is in reference to a Sidekick die and the delineation of the facial aspect of that die for purposes of game application, not assigning that die a “type”. This is further clarified in the 14May ruling.

      So, refuting your assumption, a die does not become an energy die. It is a character (or Sidekick) die showing an energy face. The last sentence of the Rule Book citation above also supports my explanation.

      Per your point (5), while it sounds unorthodox, you’ve uncovered a neat trick in using Maria Hill’s ability to churn your dice faster (assuming my interpretation of her ability is ruled correct). Bravo!
    1. CBattles6's Avatar
      CBattles6 -

      I completely understand your reasoning; I just don't read the card and p. 22 that way. If I'm looking at the card fresh, unaware of the seedy underworld of WizKids rulings, I read the phrase "character die," and I find where that's defined in the rulebook. After reading pp. 2–3, I conclude that "character dice" are the six-sided things that go with each "character card." I also read p. 22, and learn that they're still considered "character dice" while in the Used Pile, Prep Area, and bag.

      However, "[r]olled dice in the field or in your Reserve Pool are considered to be whatever their face is." For example (and that's the only thing I need to read into the rules), "[i]f you have a Sidekick Die in the Reserve Pool showing energy, then it's an energy die." The first sentence refers to all rolled dice, not just Sidekicks. It logically follows that other dice capable of showing energy, like character dice, can also be considered energy dice when on those faces in the field or Reserve Pool. The May 14 ruling you quoted doesn't contradict any of this, because it doesn't 1) mention character dice rolled onto energy faces or 2) state (or imply) that Sidekick Dice are the only dice capable of this "type change."

      Reading the term "character die" to mean "one of Maria Hill's dice" ignores the fact that "character die" is a defined term in this game, with its own particular rules. It also ignores the possibility that, according to p. 22, a "character die" can be "considered to be" other things in certain situations, like an energy die if rolled on that face. P. 22 is where the clarification is needed—not Maria Hill. Specifically, I'd ask these two questions (in fact, I just did):

      1) Are "character dice" considered "energy dice" when rolled on their energy faces in the field or Reserve Pool?
      2) If yes, when does an "energy die" revert to being a "character," "sidekick," or "action" die?
    1. archivist's Avatar
      archivist -
      I fully understand that reading the rules literally would lead to your conclusions and that there is still some ambiguity in the language used. There has been much discussion around the word "character" and its game effect applications.

      However, there are only 3 types of dice, and energy is not one of them. These dice types have character/action and energy faces but not one card in DM uses the phrase "energy die". There are cards that use the phrase "energy face" to denote what to do with that die if it rolls energy. Examples:

      Black Canary – Canary Cry: When fielded, you may roll an opposing character. If it is a character face, return it to the field. If it is an energy face, add it to your opponent’s Prep Area.

      Carrion Crawler – Paragon Aberration: When assigned to attack, roll all opposing NPCs. Move those showing energy faces to the prep area.

      Catwoman – Femme Fatale: When fielded, you may choose to roll this die. If it is a character face, KO target opposing character and leave Catwoman in play on the rolled face. If you roll an energy face, add Catwoman to your Prep Area.

      Limited Wish – Lesser Spell: Choose any unpurchased die (yours or from the basic actions cards) and roll it. If you roll a non-energy face, place the die in your used pile.

      Umber Hulk – Paragon Beast: When fielded, reroll all opposing level 1 and 2 characters. Move each die that shows an energy face to your opponent's used pile.

      Since cards have text that specify what to do when an energy face (or character/action face) is rolled, and also have text specifying what to do when a character or action die is affected, the logical conclusion is when a card’s ability states a character die, it is distinguishing two things: (a) a character vice an action die, and (b) a single die component vice all dice representing that applicable character (or other category, like an affiliation or level).

      So, to answer your questions:
      1) Are "character dice" considered "energy dice" when rolled on their energy faces in the field or Reserve Pool?

      No, a character die that rolls an energy face is still a character die.

      2) If yes, when does an "energy die" revert to being a "character," "sidekick," or "action" die?

      See answer to (1).

      Appreciate the debate. Cheers.