• How to Oppress, Part 1: The Draft

    Age of Ultron is a funny set to draft in. There's lots of team synergies - tons of Avengers stuff, Teamwork and Teamwatch, more villains, Guardians synergy - but it costs so much to get boots on the ground that I find myself giving a lot of approaches the ol' sideeye when I draft. And so a lot of times I just go and reach for the obvious answer: Ultron and Ultron Drone. It's easy and effective - all you need is two cards to have it take off, and if you can get two or three Drones you're in very good shape.

    That said, there's a lot you can do to refine this two-card powerhouse. In this article, I'm going to talk about what you want to draft for your Ultron/Ultron Drone team - "The Oppression," to use the BA's term for what they do. Shadowmeld talked about this some in the fourth episode of RtR, where his draft had the calamitous capturing couple, but there's a lot of room to flesh that out with picks that pair well or otherwise give you utility. Obviously, you're never guaranteed to see any particular card - maybe one of the two core cards won't show up! - but this will give you guidelines as to what you should keep on the lookout for. Next week, I'll go into strategies for how to pilot The Oppression...and defuse it, should you be against it.

    Must-Haves

    No questions about these, really - if you're running the Oppression, you're going to want to have copies of them. If either or both are absent, you'll need to use a different plan (though, statistically speaking, that's pretty unlikely).

    Ultron Drone (Common or Uncommon)

    When you come down to it, Ultron Drone is really the heart of The Oppression. Its global forces your win condition; his ability enables it and, if you're running the uncommon, adds to it. In fact, if you're running the uncommon, you could in theory skip Ultron entirely - it'll just take longer for you to win as you lose out on that sweet three damage a turn. Frankly, even the common is good enough, but that really winds up being "he's there for the global" - any character is food to pull off blockers, Drone just doesn't risk getting knocked out when it does it.

    Anyway, very straightforward here: Get as much Ultron Drone as you can afford to get. One is enough (but pick up some other fists); two is safe; three is excellent; four is gravy. More than that denies its power to other people, but if you have the opportunity to pick up more than four without ditching other good picks either there were a ton in your pod or people really aren't looking to use it, so that shouldn't really matter. I personally favor the uncommon; it's a little more expensive, but in draft you can afford the speed hit in early game more, and the extra damage means you will win faster. The common is perfectly serviceable, though! Not so much the rare, however - it's a nice ability, but is harder to set up.

    Ultron

    The butter to Drone's bread. Like I said before, you can win with just the drone, but Ultron greases the wheels immensely with a consistent three damage every turn you manage to roll two fists. What's more, he's pretty beefy statwise, so you can go for an early finish by tying up blockers and letting him run through. An excellent package, and there's only one version of him so no question of what you'll have available. A little expensive to purchase and field, but we've got tools for that.

    One Ultron is sufficient. Two is probably not outside of the realm of reason, but more than that and you're looking at dice you will almost never end up buying; if it keeps him out of the hands of other people in the pod, it might be worth it if you have nothing better to take.

    Preferential Picks

    Now we come to the part of your draft selection which is more variant. Here you're going to find everything outside of your basic plan of 'capture dice, do direct damage' - your support, your assassins, your fixers, your ramp. Getting the Ultrons is important, but doing well here is just as important!

    I'll note that there's a number of super-rares that would work well here, but in general you shouldn't expect to get them, and if you draw a super-rare while drafting you should probably be taking it regardless.

    Gamora (Common)

    Gamora's common gives you a few things, which is why in my mind she's probably your #3 pick. First off - she's a cheap-to-purchase Fist, which is very important as you're going to want to be rolling lots of fists in your endgame. Secondly, thanks to her ability, she's a pretty good assassin - even moreso when paired with the Ultron Drone global. Her only real downside is that her fielding costs are kind of high given her stats, but everything else slots right in. Absolutely try to get at least one of her, and go for more if you're light on Drones.

    Pepper Potts (Common)

    Pepper Potts' common is a very nice compliment to this team, cheaply adding defensive bulk to help you wall while you get your capture shenanigans up and running. She's also free boots on the ground in a set that's overall pretty expensive for fielding, so there's that as well. I've not going to say grabbing one of her is mandatory - it isn't - but it's very useful, and she's cheap enough to get and get out that it very, very rarely hurts. Grab one or two if they come around.

    The uncommon can also be considered, as a more offensive approach to keeping your guys from taking damage, but I prefer the simpler, always-working defense buff of the common (who you're more likely to see anyway). Super-rare Groot is a more expensive, stronger option, but you're not likely to see him.


    Beast (any, but especially the rare)

    Beast is another cheap Fist die, should you be light on Drones and/or Gamoras. His common and uncommon are both otherwise forgettable - you can use the Drone global with the uncommon to force life gain, if needed, but you may well be better off feeding more things to a Drone - but the rare gives you an opportunity for some ramp/bag fixing when it attacks and is absolutely worth picking up should it come into your hands, likely even if you don't run Oppression.

    Kang (common/rare)

    The common Kang helps fight off what can be your greatest enemy in the later stages of playing The Oppression - failing to roll all those fists you need. I've literally lost games because of that, so I think it's important to have the safety net around if you need it; if you're rolling tons of fists, great, but if you aren't...send some of that energy to buying and fielding a Kang, and hopefully you can recover in time.

    I would generally not recommend the rare over the common - your first 6 buy should be Ultron, and once you have him you're probably throwing your energy at the Drone global - but he is delightfully disruptive to your opponent's play, and is worth at least some consideration/a spot if you have nothing better.

    Giant Man (any)

    Giant Man has a very, very strong die, which compliments the 'tie up defenders with the Drone global and punch through' plan. The common is cheaper to purchase, which is relevant given how energy-hungry this team is, but the uncommon and rare both make it much easier to get to that big-money level 3 face. Personally, I'd say rare > common > uncommon, especially if you're using Pepper's common.

    Good Filler

    We move on to stuff that works reasonably well on your team, but isn't so strong as to warrant going for sooner rather than later. You'll still want to pick these up if you can - they will help fill out important roles - but for various reasons, typically cost or other, stronger equivalents, they aren't must-haves.

    Loki (common)

    Common Loki is kind of like a Constantine who is expensive to buy, you have to pay a Bolt for every turn, and won't prevent on-fielded effects. This is still a pretty useful ability, and he's one of the better counter options available to us in AoU - you just might struggle to find room to pick up one of his dice in your neverending fistquest.

    The uncommon is an expensive-ish direct damage/removal option, which isn't terrible...but with his high defensive stats, you may have trouble getting it to happen more than once. Worth some consideration if you can't get your hands on the common.

    Daredevil (any)

    Daredevil hates Masks. As far as The Oppression is concerned, this is secondary to being a cheap Fist. Beast is a cheaper fist, and Gamora has a useful ability, so Daredevil winds up in third place. That said, if you see the rare you might want to snap it up as a one-stop solution to Giant Man and a couple other annoying characters, and if you just need more Fist characters after exhausting the Beast and Gamora pool, he's your guy.

    Rocket Raccoon (common)

    A perfectly acceptable alternative to Giant Man, for essentially the same purpose. I put him a little lower as he's a lot flimsier and thus easier for your opponent to ping off the table, but on average he's similar or better damage for cheaper than Hank Pym. Certainly worth considering if you're looking for something to help with your clincher and don't want to fight over the GM dice.

    Captain Marvel (any, but especially the common)

    Captain Marvel is on the expensive side, but her common is one of the few draw aids we have in the set, and she hits hard enough to help with the endgame swing. I'm not fond of the six cost of the rare, but the life gain is potentially useful, and while I like the common better the uncommon isn't bad (unless your opponent is also running The Oppression). A fairly solid later pick, though people running Avengers may have snapped her up already.

    Baron Zemo (common/rare)

    As we'll see when we get to strategy, there's a lot of room for Hulk Out to come in handy here, so making sure it comes up how you need it with the common has its uses. The rare Zemo is an excellent card overall (and, frankly, if you get it, you can just go for an action-oriented deck and do very well) and you should absolutely take it so you can roll Hulk Outs all day.

    Wasp (any, but especially the rare)

    Rare Wasp is essentially free damage; while she doesn't slot into the Oppression Schedule so prettily, she compliments it well enough, and is good enough, that you should take her in the event you see her. The others have a fairly useful global that can let you ping annoyances off the field, which is worth the slot if you have room for it; just watch out if you field Kang or Pepper with this around, as they can fall victim easily.

    Loki's Scepter (rare, common sorta)

    The rare Scepter is worth taking if you get it, as it's a Get-Out-Of-Thanos/Hulk/Giant Man/whatever-Free card and, outside of finding space to purchase it, doesn't disrupt your draw much, but in general you shouldn't count on seeing any particular rare when drafting. The common is almost useful, and can be considered a last-ditch removal option if you have nothing better. If it hung around like the rare, I'd absolutely recommend it, but so long as it only takes out a fielded character in the next round, it's kind of hard to use without a friendly Beholder global or something.

    The Rest

    Most of the rest of the set doesn't add a lot to what we're trying to do. The Helicarriers are passable buffs should you need them, Hulk and the uncommon Thanos are nice big bombs should the Ultron and Giant Man (or RR) combo not be enough, and Enchantress does various anti-Avengers things that can compliment you if you can manage her purchase costs, but most of the rest of the set is off playing with other affiliations, is hard to use effectively (hello, Red Skull), or is kind of redundant with mandatory picks (Vision is a great wall, but so are Drones, esp. with Pepper Potts up). That said - as long as you've grabbed your core and a couple of the preferred characters, you're probably in very solid shape and don't need to worry about your other slots too much.

    Basic Actions

    There's wiggle room here - if you got the rare Zemo, seriously consider focusing on him and doing ridiculous things with Power Bolt and Nasty Plot - but I feel that you're frequently going to be well-served by taking Hulk Out and Resurrection. Resurrection is ramp in a set that's pretty light on it; you could use Villainous Pact instead, but Resurrection is a lot more flexible unless you find your team to be Mask-heavy. Hulk Out compliments the idea that you'll tie up most of your opponent's blockers using the Drone global and swing through for the kill with the rest; if you can't quite pave the way completely, this will ensure more damage gets done, or just let you chip away in the meanwhile. It's also a two-cost action die, which is pretty efficient.

    At this point, we have some idea what we're going to Oppress our opponents with. Next time, we'll look at how to go about Oppressing them, and what people can do to stop the Oppression.