The Road to Becoming World Champ or How I Spent 72 Hours Neglecting My Yard and Body
by, 06-08-2015 at 11:07 PM (2155 Views)
So, we all saw that coming, right? I know I didn't.
First thing's first: I have to again thank everyone who came out and did, well...anything this weekend at Worlds. The players, the volunteers, Wizkids, it was only as much fun as it was because of everyone who participated and made it happen. I met some really awesome people this past weekend and I don't know if I could have made it through that top 16 without my fellow players from Columbus hanging around and cheering me on. This community is really fantastic and I hope it only continues to grow from here.
With that said, what say we talk about the team that took home the championship...and how I even got to that team in the first place.
Capture My Heart
I love this guy right here
What's better than removing some pesky character from the field? Removing it from your opponent's use entirely. No attacking, no blocking, no abilities, no energy, nothing. Better yet, your opponent has previously spent turns and resources getting that character and now you've got it stuck inside a Cube. They lose their character and all the time they spent getting it (oh, and he can block all the sidekicks. That's pretty killer as a toss-in ability).
I spent a lot of time figuring out how best to utilize the Cube. I finally landed on Deadpool.
Deadpool attacks and boom, if I've got one in reserve, I've got the scariest thing on your board in my grasp. I played a few games with these guys as the focus and they went extremely well...until I reread Deadpool's text. The KO happens at the end of the turn. Post-attack step. That dream was dead. I tried some other ideas to make it work (McRook, Goblin Attack Force's global, Jade Giant with Magic Missile) but I didn't like any of them remotely as much as I liked Jack, and I moved on.
We'll get back to this.
It took some time for me to come around to BEWD.
When I first looked at BEWD, and saw him played, I focused way too much on the "cost reduction" it provided and not the utility of knocking out your own characters. Eventually I paired him with another favorite from D&D
This version of Halfling Thief does a pretty decent job of disrupting your opponent's PXG ramp. If they're using PXG correctly and getting enough masks, there won't be a die in their bag after turn 2. So fielding your Thief just one time forces allllll those dice they've got sitting in used on your turn - before they get a chance to use PXG - back into their bag. It's a ton of fun to use. It's even more fun when you can knock it out on your own turn to help purchase something and refield it the very next turn, perpetually messing with your opponent. Playing Thief with BEWD got me hooked, and I started seeking out as many things as I could that love to be fielded over and over. Naturally it didn't take long to fall to everyone's worst enemy
Down in Goblin Town
Everyone loves Gobby, right? Right. The only thing resembling a flaw for Gobby is the need to refield him, and your opponent will do everything he can to make sure he sits there in your field once he's there. Blue-Eyes solves that problem, letting you field Gobby over, and over, and over. And over. Of course Gobby always had a friend in Human Torch dating back to the AvX days.
And here we have a wonderful perpetual damage engine. If you can maintain even a little bit of control over your opponent's board, these three cards in tandem can just wear them down with little recourse.
I had basically settled on using these three cards several weeks ago and from there worked on rounding out the rest of the team.
Filling in the Blanks
From this point there are so many good options to choose from, and so many questions to consider. What's the meta going to look like? What are my biggest threats? What's my alternate win condition going to be? What do I do when I go second? PXG or no PXG?
Let's deal with that last question first. I've been pretty firmly of the belief that the best teams are the ones that don't need PXG. If your opponent brings it, you get to take advantage of it and have an extra character slot that your opponent doesn't. If your opponent doesn't have it, then so long as your team is tight and streamlined enough then you won't care that it's not on the other side of the table. With a Blue-Eyes/Gobby/Torch focus, the purchase curve is simple enough that PXG is certainly not a need. The biggest downside to not bringing it is adding a little more variance to landing pawn faces on your sidekick dice but I felt that was a risk I was willing to take to add another useful piece to my team. So PXG's out, but I need to be mindful when considering what else I add and not skewing too expensive.
What happens if Gobby and Johnny get stymied? There is no shortage of cards that can cause them problems. Constantine's no fun, Loki and Joker can hurt, Human Paladin's global can be a pest for Gobby, and a number of others. I've got to have something else I can go to but ideally it also can work in concert with those cards as well. Hulk's an obvious choice, as a heavy hitter that I can ping with Torch to let him smash things on the other side of the board. Firestorm - Jason and Ronnie can basically be a second Human Torch in play, boosts Gobby's impact and actually has a fairly decent body on him. Storm - Wind Rider has similar synergy with BEWD and Torch as Gobby. Jinzo isn't a perfect fit without PXG to entice my opponent but he can shut down a lot of other teams and helps with the continual damage drain that Gobby and Torch create, along with hitting fairly hard. Tsarina can be a win condition just by herself so she's in play. Gobby means I'll be fielding lots of sidekicks so maybe Falcon - Recon could provide some value getting some extra points of damage through. Everything needs to be considered, no stone should be left unturned. I basically tried all of these things at various times or another with varying degrees of usefulness.
The New Hotness
I don't think I need to spend much time on Hellblazer, plenty enough has been written about him as is. I basically put him in to any team I put together while play testing and tried to find reasons to take him out. I might have been able to get away with replacing him but he's a great secondary first-turn choice if I don't get my optimal roll to start the Gobby/Torch engine, and can help stave off enough opposing threats to let me stabilize. Bonus points for entirely protecting Gobby from Joker and Loki. He's in.
SOLOMON GRUNDY WANT PANTS, TOO
My ace in the hole
Grundy is the kind of card that I think really accentuates the need to read and re-read every card. I love Grundy and hoped beyond hope that he'd have a useful card in Justice League, and was pretty underwhelmed with what actually came out. It wasn't until I saw the proliferation of Green Goliath and started searching for counters that rare Grundy came on my radar. Once I started toying with things to combine with BEWD, I fell in love with Grundy. Removal is extremely important and removal that you can activate on your opponent's turn is not exactly easy to come by. While Grundy is functionally similar to Jade Giant, being able to activate him on my opponent's turn without having to bring Slifer or Magic Missile because I already have Blue-Eyes is huge. Bonus points for being able to do it on my turn and discount a purchase along with knocking something out.
At this point my team is taking some shape and it's time to start playtesting to see what's working, what's not, and what I'm still missing.
I watched the videos from Nationals. A lot. Things were going to be different at Worlds, and I needed to be cognizant of that. People were going to adjust to the meta established at Nats and Justice League was going to be in play, but the teams played at Nationals could still inform a lot of what I should expect to see both in the styles of teams I could see and how other people would play.
After watching everything from Nats a few times and getting a handle both on how teams worked and how each player actually preferred to run them, I hopped on Vassal and rebuilt some of what I thought were the toughest teams. Walsh's team, Kelly's team, High Hopes, I pulled in JT's CanNats winning team, I rebuilt teams that local players gave me trouble with, and just played and played and played.
This actually proved to be a tad dangerous as I caught myself eventually playing each team how I would naturally play them and not necessarily how they would actually be piloted, especially ones that I didn't have the luxury of actually seeing like JT's. Still, I got a good idea of what the scariest parts of each of these teams was for a team like mine.
It's a bit late into an already long article to touch on one of the first things I had settled on with this team, but let's touch on the globals here.
The one thing I may have been most afraid of was an early turn burst damage team that keyed in on something like Patch Avengers or FWX. Even the very best teams have little recourse if they go second and have High Hopes hit perfect rolls on its first three turns. Transfer Power's global was one of the few things I felt could actually throw a wrench into those kinds of teams. I've found that a lot of players forget about it - even after taking notice of it at the beginning of the game - and simply saving one in reserve on the turn of a potential alpha strike can alter your opponent's calculus enough that they're not able to swing in. It doesn't hurt that I'm running Constantine so a bad roll can at least let me threaten the global. The actual Transfer Power action can be somewhat useful, though, and outside of a nightmare roll I don't have any aspirations on buying it. Mystic Box is.....well, it's neat, I guess? I'm certainly less worried about it being played against me, and maybe I can get lucky and a player or two will just overlook it entirely (which happened at least once this weekend).
In general I hate bringing globals that provide as much benefit to my opponent as they do to me. With no PXG on my side it would naturally make sense to bring something like Resurrection or Villainous Pact, but I don't want my opponent having those as well. My opponent can use Blue-Eyes, sure, but unless they have something like Gobby or Wind Rider on their side that they can abuse they're not going to get the mileage out of it that I will, so I have no issue there. I toyed with several other basic actions but ultimately settled on another much maligned AvX card in Distraction. I can easily win a game without having to attack even once, so I'm not super concerned with my opponent being able to Distract my characters, meanwhile it gives me an extra layer of defense against the heavy attack teams that I have some concern with, and it gives me a safeguard in case Mr. Fantastic or Phoenix show up and force my Torch or Constantines to attack (and boy did they ever show up).
So with no lack of play testing under my belt, it was time to actually give things a go...
Qualifiers, Day One
Here's what I ran with on Thursday:
:avx130: :avx78: :avx129:
:avx9: :avx92: :avx25:
I mean, basically it was just other established good cards thrown in to the core. Tsarina and Wind Rider are other ways of dealing consistent damage, plus Wind Rider works with BEWD. Jade Giant is fairly redundant with Grundy but he works well with Human Torch and can be activated multiple times to Grundy's one-and-done. I gave some thought to Green Goliath over Jade Giant but figured that Wind Rider could be sufficient in clearing pesky walls on the other side. I was, er...wrong.
I went 4-1 in qualifiers with this bunch. I lost my very first match to Norvic, and pretty badly. He went first and got a third turn Jinzo out after I had committed to ramp to his PXG and I was in hot water. He used all his energy to get Jinzo out, though, and had sacrificed his ramp. He brought Mr. Fantastic so I gambled that if I forced his Jinzo over and just ate the damage from that and ramping that I could outrun him the rest of the way. I was very, very wrong as he got Jinzo back out almost immediately and I lost 20-0 if I recall.
After that, things went much more smoothly. Torch and Gobby did their thing and I actually purchased every character I brought (other than Blue-Eyes) in one game or another. I won my top 16 matchup....and then ran into Trubie.
For those who may not know Trubie was running a really rad Kobold/Stirge swarm team that just got a ton of dudes on the board and swung in en masse. He had Anger Issues and Invulnerability so he had multiple ways to pump his guys depending on his rolls. As I was playing him in game 1, I have a turn with 6 or more energy available and look to my Hulk. He's got a wall starting to build and I figure Hulk can let me clear that....but he really couldn't. There were just too many dudes on the other side for JG to really make an impact. Trubie took me 2 games to 0 and I knew then and there I needed GG in case I needed to board wipe.
Qualifiers, Day Two
I'd tell you what I ran here but...I honestly don't remember completely. I had planned to run an Angel - Soaring and Ring of Magnetism - Monster Attraction team that was sort of a flying sidekicks concept (attaching Ring to Angel on the turn he attacks to make all my characters unblockable), but I made sure to ask the judges ahead of time if that combo even worked and was told that it would be ruled similar to Angel - Flying High and Namor - The Sub-Mariner, which meant only Angel would be unblockable. Opinions from players were divided on whether that combo should actually work, and there's enough there to merit an article on its own, so I'll spare getting into that here. Regardless, I was demoralized and salty, and didn't really have a backup plan. Some of my friends dared me to use Booster Gold, so I started with him, then basically rebuilt the core of my team with a piece or two different. I know I pulled out Wind Rider and put in Halfling Thief to try and get some experience with it, but I don't remember if there was another extra card I threw in. It really didn't matter.
Discouraged and tired, I went 2-3. My focus was never there, I made all the mistakes, I didn't read my opponents' cards, I forgot what my own cards did, it was a long day following a previous long day, I just didn't have it in me. I was never intending to do much when I had one slot dedicated entirely to a card I was dared to use, so I was happy to just have fun playing with some new people and maybe learn a little more about what kinds of teams I may face. Thankfully I did come away from the day knowing that I should just go home and recharge my batteries. I didn't think about any of my games, my team, Worlds the next day, or anything. Just got home, put my dice away and went to bed early. Which was the best decision I could have made.
I got up early on Saturday, pulled my team back out, and started going page by page through my binder just looking over cards that I thought could add something to my team that I hadn't considered, or help with a particular matchup. I basically had six spots settled: Gobby, Torch, Constantine, Blue-Eyes, Grundy and Green Goliath. The other two slots were up for grabs.
The cards I had previously used just didn't overly impress me. Tsarina's great and all, and I used her a fair bit in my games, but she ended up not really factoring in to more than a few points of damage here and there. Wind Rider had my opponent's worried a number of times but she basically always either failed to come up on a character face, or failed to remove opposing characters (I had one game where she rerolled a sidekick on a pawn side two turns in a row, yeesh). Odds are she would have more success if I continued to use her, but the fact that I had the success that I did without her making an impact said that she could be replaced. Halfling Thief certainly gave a few people headaches and managed to not just disrupt some ramp but managed to keep some scary cards in used a few times, but if you subscribe to quadrant theory it's easy to see that she is suboptimal in certain phases in the game. So all these things were in play, but none had a lock on a spot.
I spent about 45 minutes in all picking out a handful of cards that might be useful: Firestorm, Jinzo, Loki - Gem Keeper, Colossus - Pitor Rasputin, Superman - Not a Bird or a Plane, just trying to get the gears turning. I also pulled out Deadpool - Jack.
I may not have considered Jack if I hadn't used him as much as I did trying to make Gelatinous Cube work, it's a fairly easy card to overlook. He doesn't hit terribly hard when he's unblocked and he's sort of situational. Plus on a team that's not concerned with blocker manipulation on a big attack he's not exactly a natural fit. However, he solves all sorts of problems for me. Jinzo, Constantine, Joker, Loki, opposing Torches, anything that just wants to sit on the board and screw with me, he can just attack and tell them to go away. I don't need to roll a bolt to KO Grundy (which also runs the risk of failing to reroll his character face) or take two damage from Jinzo to KO him with Grundy. I don't need to hope a Jade Giant isn't on the other side of the board if I want to use my Green Goliath (and Jack is a decent if imperfect choice to remove GG himself). By doing nothing more than entering the attack step alive, Deadpool can remove any of those guys. And he actually works fairly well with Grundy, allowing me to remove something on my turn with Jack and then remove something on their turn with Grundy, which is a bonus when there are certain characters that it is better to remove on one player's turn or the other. If not for using him as much as I had I very easily may have overlooked him but instead he caught my eye almost immediately. I settled on putting him in and boy was that a good choice.
One spot left, and after much deliberation I landed on Storm - Weather Witch. I said earlier that I hate bringing globals that benefit my opponent as much as me, but I also hate spending an entire card slot on a character just for a global. Considering I'm not using actions at all, that first caveat is satisfied. As a two cost character with cheap fielding costs, Storm can at least serve as a purchase option on a bad roll and extra burn fodder with Torch, and some masks for potential PXG matchups or for Distraction. There was certainly use there even if I ideally would never buy her. Her global, however, gave me a safety net against Millennium Puzzle, Overcrush actions, or let me screw with opposing Polymorphs. Even if I can't win a back-and-forth global war, I can at least force my opponent to waste masks on keeping their action in place instead of ramping, which is a win for me since I'm less concerned with PXG ramp.
I put it out in front of me, spent maybe 3 minutes deliberating it and told myself I didn't want to overthink it. I liked it, I packed up bringing only what I needed for this team so that I wouldn't be tempted to switch something out, and left for the convention center. And thus, I landed on this
:avx130: :avx78: :avx70:
Naturally, the first game I played provided a challenge I hadn't really planned for: Imprisoned. Daniel beat me game 1 after timed rounds by a 19-14 life margin in a slog of a game. I had kind of forgotten about Imprisoned since I hardly see anyone playing it anymore. The moment I saw it across from me, I looked at the fielding costs of my characters and knew I was having a wrench thrown into my plans. Somehow that was the biggest speedbump I faced the rest of the day.
Something I hadn't considered when I built this team but that ended up factoring in to a number of my wins was a certain level of analysis paralysis on the part of my opponents. If I had even just one in my reserve pool, I posed the threat of being able to use Mystic Box's global, Distraction, Storm's global or removing something with Grundy, to say nothing about what globals my opponent may have brought to the table. There were several turns in several games where I was able to kill my opponent's PXG ramp when I would pass priority to them, because they couldn't just immediately ramp at the risk of allowing me to do something else. They'd pass priority back and I would happily end my turn and play the waiting game.
At the end of the day it was the Gobby and Torch show, which I expected from the beginning. However, I bought literally every character I brought at some point (yes, even Style Points Blue-Eyes in one game, even though I failed to roll him on a character face) and everything factored into a win somewhere or another. Deadpool only came out twice the entire day but one of those games he was crucial in keeping Constantine at bay, and even just helping me get one win was a net positive.
So how should this be played? Basically, get Torch on the board ASAP and then buy whatever you need to address your opponent's team. Don't rush to Gobby, he'll come in due time. Torch will deal a decent amount of damage just by virtue of being there and you getting anything you're buying onto the board. If you need to get Grundy or Constantine out to stave off your opponent before going to Gobby, that's fine. Stabilize first. Ideally, though, you'll go something like this:
You need a , you're aiming for Torch here. Perfect world you get two and a sidekick so you can Blue-Eyes him and have five to roll on turn two. A sidekick and only one you're happy to buy Gobby. If you roll a and a on the first roll, consider saving the so you can buy Constantine if you somehow roll two sidekicks on the reroll.
If PXG is on the other side, then Gobby + for PXG or Constantine + two for PXG are both solid options.
You want at least one sidekick. This will serve either to get Gobby going or as an energy bank of sorts so that you can make a Grundy or Hulk purchase on turn three. Gobby is the ideal buy here but Constantine is also good or even a second Torch. If you're lucky, you get a couple of bolts and a couple of sidekicks so you can Blue-Eyes one of them to get it into prep for next turn and also pick up Gobby.
With PXG in play, turn two is the perfect time to buy Torch since proper PXG usage is basically made for buying a four cost character on turn two. If you were able to PXG twice on turn one then consider Grundy or Deadpool here.
Hopefully you're getting Torch onto the board on this turn. If you haven't already bought Gobby, that should be your goal here. Also, from this turn forward is where you should be willing to hold energy in reserve even if you don't have to. Keep as many variables in play for your opponent to evaluate on their turn. You should know what the optimal play is for your team, make your opponent take the time to figure it out and potentially waste their energy.
From here on out the goal is to constantly field and KO Gobby and make use of the discount the KO provides you to load up on more Gobbys, or supplement with whichever is most appropriate from Deadpool, Grundy or Hulk. Embrace the . If you have three or four characters bought, do not be afraid to eschew buying something if it means you get to hold energy to use on your opponent's turn.
And here we are. I seriously needed some good rolls, some good bag pulls and some misplays by my opponent to win it all. I had a handful of hiccups that thankfully did not cost me. I'm not sure it was the best team in the field, there were some matchups that still gave me trouble, but at least for one day it was good enough.