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Deconstructing the Control Archetype

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Deconstructing the Control Archetype

So what is the ‘Control Archetype’? Control Archetype of teams use taxes / tolls to prevent an opponent from using Global abilities, fielding their characters, or generally stalling the game until the control player can play his own threats, which are usually very large characters, like Hulk Green Goliath. I personally love to play the Control Archetype. So often I hear people across the table state that the team is just unbeatable or way to strong. Poly, Hulk, and Jinzo form the corner pins of this archetype. so before we start disassembling the archetype, let’s review current play strategies. We will use my most recent control team build to disassemble; however, you will find that 80% of the Control Archetype will use the same 6 or so characters.
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Strategy For Control:
First, you need to block your opponent from attacking, then setup a toll to discourage global ability and action dice abuse, bring out your heavy hitter, then finally, close the window between damage capabilities and lethal. So there is a natural rhythm to your team. Block, Tax, Heavy, and finally Win-Con. Ideal roll conditions:
Turn 1: Constantine, PXG*2
Turn 2: Polymorph, PXG*3 and a Sidekick
Turn 3: Roll Constantine Face, Roll Polymorph Action, a Shield or Fist, and 5 other energy. Ideally this leaves 1 energy free and 1 additional sidekick if needed. Purchase Jinzo and Polymorph him onto the board. Field Constantine. At this point for the control player, he has a lock down for immediate attacks if he can name your purchased character. And is in a position to tax out your energy if you are global / action die dependent. At this point, the control player is now Block and Tax part of the rhythm.
Turn 4: Purchase a 2-3 cost win-con, PXG 2 times. The control player also is hoping he didn’t pull the polymorph, as it is too soon to use.
Turn 5: Roll Polymorph on action face, field sidekick, purchase Hulk. And then this puts the control player at the Heavy point in the rhythm.
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At this point, it seems like the control player has the game locked down. And indeed, if left unchecked, has won the energy struggle. Putting a huge disadvantage on other player.
Turn 6: Purchase Magic Missile, PXG*2
Turn 7: PXG 2-3 times, repeatedly smack you as often as possible with Magic Missile until you are close to “magical life” total.
Turn Win-Con: During your turn, the control player will look for an opening to ping your board off. Clearing the way for his own swing in.

Deconstructing The Control Team:
So you just lost against this control team. Chances are there were several points that you could have blocked or locked the control team out. What do you really need to know about the Control Archetype? For Most, the most duh part is, don’t use globals or action dice. A control team doesn’t want to swing with either Jinzo or Hulk until the “magical life” total. Do you know what that seemingly magical number is? 12 - 8. How did we get to that number? Well Hulk on Level 1 A is 6, Jinzo's A is 4, Constantine's A is 2, total 12. If shenanigans are possible, I want that number less than 8. Because if you use say distraction on Hulk and Jinzo, I need to cover 2 damage over Constantine’s 2 damage. The SINGLE hardest point for a control team is getting the damage in to close that magical number. DO NOT HELP THEM CLOSE THAT GAP. Sure, PxG is a solid fast way to ramp your energy, but why did you spend any amount of time worrying about purchase cost, energy curve, and purchase order?

Second, Having to dedicate 6 cards to the ‘Control Core’ only left 2 cards for some sort of “win-con” closers. So most likely, even these card slots are designed to enhance or punish opponents. How is the control player going to close in on that “magical number”? Watch what they are purchasing. The control player has two options here: Magic Missile and/or a character card they slotted, in this case Elf Thief. He does double duty on my team. I am going to use him to close the life total by attacking with him as much as possible while stealing your energy. Magic Missile is a solid purchase, because it does 2 damage directly to the player, at a minimum. Remember when I said there were several points that you could have… Well here is the big one. If you sweep in and purchase all of the Magic Missile dice on turn 2, my closure strategy now involves using just the Elf Thief or extra Constantine dice. As a result, this means that there WILL BE characters in my Used Pile. Characters in a Control Players Used Pile means targets for counter-polymorph. Hulk and Jinzo in the Used Pile are bad, not unrecoverable, but bad. A turn without Hulk can be the window you need to win. So make sure you BUY a Polymorph, regardless of your strategy AND make use of every opportunity present to roll these guys off the field. So a short word about using Action Dice while Jinzo is on the board, unless your going to be able to swing in for the kill, or polymorph Jinzo / Hulk off the board, you probably are better off delaying their use.

Third, Constantine’s weakness is that you can only name 1 character and that if that character isn’t fielded, it has no effect. So you can use these two things against the control player. So the strategy is to mix your purchases amongst multiple character dice, if possible. Forcing the control player to pick between two character dice means only one will be affected by Constantine. Also, you will need to plan ahead, but most characters will be prioritized by When Fielded effects, While Active, then Combat Tricks. Remember Constantine’s blank only works till the end of your turn. While Active effects will take effect upon the control player’s turn, important for things like Zombie Magneto, Venom, etc.

Fourth, Attacking opportunities, you must identify all attacking opportunities and push for damage. For pretty much the whole game, the control player will have fewer characters fielded than most of the opponents they face. Constantine, Jinzo, Hulk, that is only three characters. If numbers are in your favor, you can force some pretty bad match ups. Hulk complicates things, since when either the player or Hulk takes damage, he will ping the opposing board for 2-3 damage; however, his damage ping will happen after the combat resolution, when either your characters get through or at the same time he takes damage providing just 1 trigger after the damage resolution step. This allows damage which could not be blocked to still hit the player. So to use this to your advantage, you are looking for turns where the control player didn’t save any energy and/or chose not to ping off all of your attackers. A good example is Turn 3/4, when the control player is recovering from the Turn 3 Polymorph Jinzo. They will just be thinking about their attack strategy and will be low on spare energy. Another opportunity for this is the turn that Hulk is polymoprh-ed onto the board. The control player will once again be low on energy, possibly with just three characters on the board.

I would be remised if I did not mention Lantern Ring: Limited Only By Imagination. When I, as the control player, look across the field and see this card, I know there is a timer on the game. I also know that I will need to play perfectly through to win. The reason is clear: I can not let you attack and I can not let you build up extra energy, otherwise I lose. If the Lantern Ring is purchased on turn 1, the timer is very short. The control player will need to get Hulk out as quickly as possible. Then the control player will need to prevent the attack by pinging off the board. Unfortunately, this creates a huge amount of energy for the opponent, while requiring only 1 miss roll for a lethal swing in. If you look at the sample team, Ring: Lesser Gear made the list for this exact specific purpose. Another interesting fact is that a lot of control teams have no way of removing Action Dice once played. While Constantine can slow this type of team, he alone cannot prevent the eventual damage.

Lastly, there are two cards that completely ruin a control players day. Frankly, I only played against one of these cards recently. Let me introduce you to your new best friend: Prismatic Spray: Lesser Spell


Only one thing to say, the earlier you buy it, the more opportunities you will have to use it. It is worth the two life you will spend on using it if you can monopolize on the outcome. Hulk doesn’t have to be removed from the field. He can only block 1 character, probably the biggest one. And paying 2 life to pump a sidekick to lethal is well worth it. So many teams could have just setup for their win-con, then Prismatic Spray 1 turn and win. If only the control player brought PxG, you just erased their ability to keep the energy lead and most likely any other defensive globals they need. When paired with an attack strategy involving over 6 characters, can be overwhelmingly effective.

And your other new friend: Dwarf Wizard: Paragon Zhentarim

This is the Dwarf Wizard Rare found in the Faerun Under Siege set. I am expecting this card to be replacing that defensive slot on a lot of teams. Dwarf’s ability can lock out character abilities like Jinzo / Hulk. Also when paired with another die, the control player has to pick between keeping his board state and avoiding a possible attack. Articles will be written to how effective this guy can be.

*A note about Life Gain. Life gain is so overlooked in Dice Masters because your life total can never go above 20. However, when a character with life gain is paired on a Lantern Ring team playing against control, it becomes an titanic struggle. The control player has to clear the field to avoid the direct damage from the declaring attackers. Which moves the characters to the Prep Area for next turn, allowing for a cycling of characters that have life gain. Worse, is now the control player has to pick on whether to block the life gain characters ability or possibly one of your other attacker's abilities. Remember that the 'magical life' total is 12-8, even 1 point of life gain repeatedly could keep you out of this range.

Hopefully, you have found this to be informative. Maybe it will help you play against control or maybe you will use it to examine your Control Team. Either way, may the dice roll in your favor.
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Comments

  1. The0retico's Avatar
    I love this kind of strategy content, thanks for writing.
    Why did you choose not to run Zombie Magneto? It helps a lot to deal with Lantern Ring, Dwarf Wizard, Guy Gardner and it lowers the "Magical number".
    I always thought that these control teams were more consistent than Rush/Lantern Ring teams - if it is true, isn't then Ring Global more helping them than you?
  2. Wargfn's Avatar
    I dropped Zombie Magneto: Magnetic Monster in favor of the versatility of Dwarf Wizard. And really, I haven't seen a lot of teams still running Zombie Magneto. He is so expensive with already having 2 6 cost characters; where in the build ramp does he fit? And does he help you when you are trying to close in on the "magical life" total? I mean in theory ZMag's A is 4 at Level 1.

    As far as the Ring: Lesser Gear, it is actually there for two purposes, my mana fixing and the providing a enticing way for my opponent to take two damage. Truth is in a weekend of PDC play, that global was used once.

    This definately goes to show, how those 2 slots float around depending on what your play style is like.
  3. The0retico's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Wargfn
    I dropped Zombie Magneto: Magnetic Monster in favor of the versatility of Dwarf Wizard. And really, I haven't seen a lot of teams still running Zombie Magneto. He is so expensive with already having 2 6 cost characters; where in the build ramp does he fit? And does he help you when you are trying to close in on the "magical life" total? I mean in theory ZMag's A is 4 at Level 1.

    As far as the Ring: Lesser Gear, it is actually there for two purposes, my mana fixing and the providing a enticing way for my opponent to take two damage. Truth is in a weekend of PDC play, that global was used once.

    This definately goes to show, how those 2 slots float around depending on what your play style is like.
    I'm not suggesting to replace the Dwarf Wizard - they both serve different roles. I cannot explain why other players aren't running it and I don't get chance to see what changed in the meta to support such move. I just mentioned it, because it fills the holes in the team you point out in your blog post. I usually get it as first Poly target. My argument about ZMag helping with "magical number" is wrong, sorry.