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Virtual Tournaments, the Evolution of a Team and the Death of Ultraman

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I’d been playing Ultraman teams competitively for about 9 months. First with Squirrel Girl, Scarecrow and End of Days, then with Front Line and Imprisoned, and most recently with Uncommon Dwiz in Virtual Worlds I and II online tournaments. Perhaps not surprisingly, I’d had enough.

Squirrel Girl writeup
Front Line/Imprisoned writeup
Virtual Worlds I Team
Virtual Worlds II Team

It was a bit daft of me to play more or less the same team in VWII as VWI, but it did act as a kind of controlled experiment. The team's win condition was that each successful Kryptonite trigger would give up to two Dwarf Wizards +11 attack and defence and overcrush (assuming both of the opponent's BACs were usable), thanks to the Dwarf’s ability and the Enraged BAC. Meanwhile, the Kryptonite(s) would blank anything annoying (like Ronin) and the Nefarious Broadcast BAC would prevent any global interference (Blink-Transmutation, Mera). And all of this before having to pass priority 😃

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This worked pretty well in VWI, and I managed third, beaten only by Dustin’s swift-moving and well-piloted Batman team (and some manky Kryptonite rolls), once in swiss, and then in the top 4. To be fair, I think the team benefited from the fact that many of my opponents initially assumed that the Dwiz was the much more prevalent rare (even though they did have the team lists in advance). Still, I was pretty pleased with myself.

VWII arrived and I definitely wanted to be part of it, but September/October is a super busy time for me (l run a language school) and I just didn’t have time to figure out a different team. Also, as I live in Europe, I got my Guardians of the Galaxy cards just as the tournament was beginning. Although we were totally allowed to use proxies, I can’t really get my head round stuff till I have it in my hands and play with it a bit. So I just kept the same wincon and ramp and changed a few support cards - what could possibly go wrong?

It turns out the meta had shifted and left me stuck in the mud. GotG brought a bunch of exciting things, like The Collector, Cosmic Cube, Nobby, Infiltrate and King Black Bolt, and these increased the speed and flexibility of the Modern meta to the point where poor old Ultry (at least my version) was beginning to look a little lumbering. To make matters worse, Shriek had also hit the scene, and it was suddenly normal to have multiple blankers on your team. This made life difficult for teams with just one wincon, and I was now outgunned in the game of blankety-blank by those able to run both Shriek and rare Dwiz.

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I managed a few wins, though. And then the Wicked Witch arrived. During the tournament, we had a small bench/sideboard of cards which we could swap in during the first few rounds, as we learnt more about our team. Also, at one point, the organiser allowed us to swap in up to two cards from the new X-men First Class set. I knew this was coming, and even included Parallax on my bench as a counter to the common Scarlet Witch (SWitch), who effectively reduces the chance of naturally rolling action faces to 25%, likely the final nail in UM’s consistency coffin. But did I put it on my final team before all further changes were prohibited? I did not, and, in round 5, I got my comeuppance against the mighty Laurier (the very person who had suggested I might need Parallax):

So, I’d had enough of Ultraman. But WKO season was approaching, and, although ours would be a draft, I wanted to prepare something good for the Modern Constructed side event. But what? I have the honour of making DM videos with the awesome (and multiple WKO-winning) Zack Pope, and we had been trying to make a team with the Team Up BAC for a while, as you can see on our channel. But as much as I liked the idea of control pieces becoming the win condition (as in Bard Control and Mask Ring), it just didn’t feel right.

A significant part of the ‘luck’ we experience while playing DM stems from team design. If your team requires fairly specific rolls, and tends to go off the rails when you don’t get them, it will feel a lot less ‘lucky’ than a more forgiving and adaptable team. My Ultraman team, for instance, needs bolts (for buying) and shields (for prepping, via Chalkboard), and it needs a prepped character/action die to roll double energy as soon as possible, so that I can buy the 6-cost Ultraman. And if the big man doesn’t roll to a character face when he first comes out… Team Up was better than Ultraman in this respect, but it had awkward energies, a bumpy purchase curve and (by design) no globals, which meant there was nowhere to spend unused energy. I wanted something a bit more fluid and inclined to ‘luck’.

Four days before the event, I still hadn’t decided on anything. I looked through the VWII team lists and our videos for inspiration. Hmmmm. I don't have Nobby or SR Boom Boom, and I didn't fancy running Collector or Ring (except maybe Shield Ring). Or Captain America or Two-face. I'm not keen on Infiltrate or King Black Bolt, and I don't have Uncommon Hellfire Club for X-23. Maybe I could update Ultraman with Parallax and try One Against Many/SHRA (the one variant I’ve never played)? But no, that’s not the way forward. I’d seen Ben Said Scott playing a great team with Dum Dum Dugan, Foot Ninja and Mary Jane, and while I didn’t want to play that deck, I liked the cheap costs and, well, litheness of it. Hmmmm again.

In the end, it came to me in pieces. When GotG dropped in the US, I'd done a video with a Storm/Cosmic Cube/Two-Face’s Coin combo, in which Storm’s damage is triggered and immediately amplified by each Cosmic Cube. I’d also included that Storm on my Ultraman team as a way of doing some free damage - there is a ruling which states that using the effect of an action die is equivalent to actually using the die, so Storm (and also Common Boom Boom) trigger off Ultraman’s virtual use of all four BACs. Storm (but not Boom Boom) also triggers off the Kryptonite, of course.

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Later, Zack had used Mimic ramp in his X-23 team: field a sidekick, field common Mimic naming the sidekick, and then draw two dice every time you field another sidekick (while Mimic remains active and unblanked). I’d tried it out in an XFC draft, and found it most excellent, even without the new Professor X global. In the same draft, one of my opponents used Shocking Grasp as one of his BACs, and I found it combo’d really well with Mimic, as I would field sidekicks at every opportunity and would always have a nice 1D target for Shocking Grasp (which then preps itself). As long as SG rolled to an action face, by the end of the turn, I would have the SG die and a sidekick prepped, in addition to whatever Mimic had provided, and my usual 4. I bought several Juggernauts in that game

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Meanwhile, I'd had a conversation with Steve McEwan (alright Steve!) on the DM Discord channel, in which he suggested pumping up Breath Weapon using Cosmic Cube. I was immediately taken by the idea of Breath Weapon 13 (SR Red Dragon + 4 Cubes), and started trying to work out a Golden team. I mentioned this to Matthew Jourdain, who made a great team with it, including Dr Strange, Book of Vishanti (Breath Weapon 20+) and Mimic ramp with common S.T.A.R. Labs. This is more costly than the new PXG, but does net you an extra prepped die, and the action die itself can serve as removal. Plus, unlike rare Professor X, I actually had a copy of S.T.A.R. Labs. I added Parallax to the team, to counter Scarlet Witch, and as a way of turning fielded sidekicks into energy (to pay for fielding or breath weapon).

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So, I had an awesome ramp engine - Mimic+PXG/S.T.A.R. Labs(+Shocking Grasp)+Parallax - and a great damage engine - Cosmic Cube+Storm - but my sluggish brain needed one final push to connect these things together. I’d read True Mister Six's post on the team lists from the Southampton WKO on Sunday, I think, but it wasn’t till a couple of days later that the penny dropped. Andy ‘Spug’ Ricketts' winning team cunningly combined the Cosmic Cube/Storm wincon with the Shocking Grasp/Mimic ramp, and Parallax to smooth everything out. Even better, Cosmic Cube turns Shocking Grasp into powerful spot removal (3, 5, 7 or 9 damage to a target character, plus the same through Storm to the opponent, rinse and repeat next turn). It’s hard to omit Shriek these days, and Cold Gun is the only thing that will stop some things once they're set up (such as X-23/Hellfire Club, as detailed in Ben Said Scott's write-up of the same event).

* Shocking Grasp
* Blink – Transmutation
* Cosmic Cube – Energy of the Beyonders
* Mimic – Borrowed Talent
* Storm – Extra Lightning
* Parallax – Source of Terror
* Shriek – Sonic Beam
* Scarlet Witch – Hex Bolts
* Lantern Ring – Limited Only By Imagination
* Captain Cold’s Cold Gun – Frozen “Firearm”

I'm not a big fan of Lantern Ring, though, and it seemed that S.T.A.R. Labs (or new PXG) and Mimic provide enough churn that there would be no need for Scarlet Witch. I figured Boom Boom might be a good add, in case Storm gets Shrieked, though she would only be triggered by Shocking Grasp (as a Basic Action). I discussed the team with Jazz Cruz, who was preparing for Pax Unplugged, then went through the first six or seven turns on my own about 10-15 times, and finally tried it out with Zack the morning before my event. We didn’t have time for comprehensive testing, but it seemed pretty good. I hadn’t used Boom Boom much, and was thinking about swapping her out for Madame Masque, but later that morning I had another chat with Jazz, and, in his trials, he’d found Boom Boom pretty handy. In the end, I decided to leave her in, partly because I didn’t fancy trying to fit a four-cost into the buy order. So this was my final team:

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I faced four teams in the Modern side-event of our WKO (the main event was a draft). I generally went for Mimic, then Cube, then Storm and then more Cubes (Jazz, incidentally, went M, BB, SGs then CCs). If all went well, and nobody blanked (or ate) Mimic, I’d be rolling all my dice by T5/6. There was usually a little burst of damage from Storm and one Cube, and then, as I fielded more sidekicks, and ramped ridiculously, all my Cubes would come round at the same time. I could then parallax my accumulated sidekicks off the field, providing a sudden burst of energy to spend on further parallaxing, until all my Cubes/Shocking Grasps were on an action face, Scarlet Bloody Witch notwithstanding. Multiple cubes in one turn stack up very quickly: the first one does 3 damage, the second 5, the third 7, and the fourth 9, any or all of which can be used to target characters instead. Any Shocking Grasp or S.T.A.R. Labs dice get to do both direct damage through Storm (or Boom Boom for SG), and also target characters with their own (cube-enhanced) effects.

Balazs' light-weight Front Line team (also featuring Mimic and Star Labs) was fast, and might have beaten me if he'd had better early rolls.

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Zuzka's awesome Jimmy Olson team with overcrushing Angry Alien and the superman that reduces action dice prices. Overcrushing Superpeople made me sweat, but Blink-Transmutation gave me the space I needed.

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Jezko (of Virtual Worlds Two-face fame) brought a nasty little team which resurrected the Darkseid Global (*rim shot*), using Beholder to 'pay' its costs, both energy and die-moving), but I managed to outpace him.

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Daniel's Fabricate/Knowhere/Bahamut creation. I did a bunch of damage before he almost managed to shut me down by having the audacity to Shriek my Parallax, Dwiz my Shriek (I think), and Scarlet Witch my action die rolls. In the end, I think I ended up buying all the cubes and Shocking Grasps, and maybe Star Labs and a cold gun, too. Weight of action die numbers prevailed, some of the action dice survived the Witch, and I had won 4-0-0.

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I won a SR Groot from Age of Ultron and some shinies, which I was pretty happy with. Meanwhile, Jazz used the team (with PXG in place of S.T.A.R. Labs) to win the WKO at PAX East, and was rewarded with a factory set of Tomb of Annihilation! Jealous, moi? Absolutely

All in all, I really enjoyed playing this Cosmic Storm team - it has tons of removal options, extremely low purchase costs and great synergies amongst its elements. It was every bit as lithe, adaptable and forgiving as I had hoped, and consequently felt much ‘luckier’ than my Ultraman team. If I get hold of Rare Professor X, I’d like to try it with that, and I wonder if Shriek might be replaced by a Yuan-Ti Pureblood from the new Tomb of Annihilation set - try blanking all of those 😃 Parallax is also a stopgap, as it will leave us with the next rotation; maybe Rip Hunter: Through the Vanishing Point could stand in? Unless Wizkids would perhaps like to release a new card with the (errata’d) Parallax global? 😉

You may have noticed that I have named various people in this post that you may or may not be familiar with. I hope this was not too irritating - it was not meant to be name-dropping, but rather a shout-out to the various people who have helped form this particular team, knowingly or otherwise 😃 More broadly, though, I want to say how great the Dice Masters community is - so many helpful people, and so many great resources. And I would especially like to encourage people to get involved in online play and the Virtual Worlds tournaments. They have been such a positive experience for me - I have met so many great people and learnt so much about the game from them. So, a big final shout out to the organisers of VWI - Troy Miller - and VWII - Alan Aycock: thank you!!!!
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Updated 11-22-2017 at 05:28 AM by jacquesblondes

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  1. Ragenraptor21's Avatar
    Great write up James. Thanks for shoutout. But I have to say team brewing ideas with you, Zack Pope, Jeremy Slayton, Andy Merrill, and my buddy Jake Lipman have really helped improve my level of play. So shoutout to all you guys as well.
  2. jacquesblondes's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Ragenraptor21
    Great write up James. Thanks for shoutout. But I have to say team brewing ideas with you, Zack Pope, Jeremy Slayton, Andy Merrill, and my buddy Jake Lipman have really helped improve my level of play. So shoutout to all you guys as well.
    Always a pleasure, mate!
  3. Spug's Avatar
    You may have noticed that I have named various people in this post that you may or may not be familiar with. I hope this was not too irritating - it was not meant to be name-dropping, but rather a shout-out to the various people who have helped form this particular team, knowingly or otherwise ��
    Yes! Was surprised to find my name mentioned here. Thanks for the write-up, an interesting read.
  4. jacquesblondes's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Spug
    Yes! Was surprised to find my name mentioned here. Thanks for the write-up, an interesting read.
    Thank *you* for the inspiration, mate!