I can blame this part not coming out last night on receiving season 8 of Smallville on DVD in the mail. Instead of posting, I watched a few episodes and exercised for about three hours. Good night.
Marvel Legends Build a Legend Event: Jean Grey Abuse (Me) vs. Jean Grey Abuse
Ah, the dreaded mirror match. Build a Legend was a format that was created in the wake of the release of the Marvel Legends set. This set featured “legends,” characters that not only had multiple drops in the set, but also had plot twists and locations that keyed off controlling them (“Use only if you control Wolverine” or “Target Wolverine gets X” and so on). These were some powerful themes, and the format dictated that decks would only be legal only if they contained at least twelve cards that referenced a specific character. These could take the role of character cards, plot twists, locations, or equipment. I had been working on a Jean Grey based deck since the release of Marvel Legends, partially because I loved her theme (she gets stronger for each Jean Grey character card in your KO’d pile to represent the numerous times she has died), and partially because it involves playing an absurdly large five drop, which is always fun. I was not at all surprised that Tom also brought a Jean Grey deck to the party, considering his love of all things redheads. Here’s an approximation of the decklist.
4x Jean Grey, Teen Telepath
3x Jean Grey, Telekinetic Fighter
4x Wolverine, Logan
2x Jean Grey, Age of Apocalypse
3x Emma Frost, Ice Queen
1x Nightcrawler, Hit Factory
4x Jean Grey, Phoenix Rising
3x Colossus, Organic Steel
1x Jean Grey, Red
2x Juggernaut, The Unstoppable
1x Professor X, World’s Most Powerful Telepath
2x Jean Grey, Phoenix Force
4x Splintering Consciousness
4x Flying Kick
3x Telepathic Suppression
3x Savage Beatdown
3x New and Improved
3x Sneak Attack
Let’s talk individual cards.
Jean Grey, Phoenix Rising/New and Improved: The heart of the deck, this Jean Grey gets +1/+1 counters for each Jean Grey in the KO’d pile when she’s recruited. What’s shocking is despite this awesome power, she still starts out at the standard 9/9 size for any five drop. She can get very big, and it can happen very fast. With close to 20 Jeans in the deck, it’s not difficult to have a Jean Grey character card ready-to-hand (Oh God, I just used Heideggerian language) to discard for a power-up, or the recruit cost of Emma Frost, Ice Queen, or the discard cost for Cerebro and Mobilize. The added benefit of New and Improved allows you to KO your 2 cost Jean (who should still be on the table considering the high defense of both Wolverine and Emma Frost) to get two extra +1/+1 counters and add another Jean to your KO’d pile. It’s not difficult to get the five drop to 15/15 or higher on turn five, which is just a massive problem for your opponent to handle.
Telepathic Suppression: This card is a super star simply because of its effect on some game based effects that would not necessarily be clear otherwise. Telepathic Suppression stops a character from being targeted by anything during an attack. This usually acts perfectly fine as a plot twist fizzle, whether you’re stopping attack or defense pumps on a character. What many people did not immediately realize is that both powering up and reinforcing are game based effects that target a character (i.e. the actual effect of a power-up is Discard a character card -> Target attacker or defender that shares a name with the discarded character card gets +1/+1 this attack, and the actual effect of a reinforcement is Exhaust an adjacent support row character that shares a team affiliation to target character -> Target character is reinforced this attack). Telepathic Suppression thus is one of the few (if only) cards that can stop both power-ups and reinforcement, and considering the Build a Legend format, stopping power-ups is always a good thing.
Everything else is relatively self explanatory for why it’s in the deck and how it works.
Tom’s version of the deck was very different than mine. Tom was fully committed to Jean, and basically played her at every possible drop. Once he passed turn five, he would usually KO his five drop Jean to New and Improved in order to play out a new one that would get progressively larger as he filled his KO’d pile. This was a weakness to his deck, and I think it’s why the match turned out the way it did. I was much more focused on having a full curve of characters and only expecting to play Jean on three turns (2, 5, and 8). Characters like Wolverine, Emma Frost, Colossus and Juggernaut allowed for a more robust board, and despite some good work by Tom early (using his Jean Grey, Age of Apocalypse to fizzle a Splintering Consciousness and a Mobilize), I used my extra characters to get a hefty endurance lead heading into turn 8. Once we reached turn 8, it became a duel of 8 drop Jeans. Jean Grey, Phoenix Force has the ability to activate to bounce the whole board and go to the KO’d pile. Tom bounced everything on turn 8, I bounced everything on turn 9, him on turn 10, me on turn 11. Going into 12, I was concerned. Tom had a Slaughter Swamp face up, which meant he could constantly recur his 8 drops, of which he ran four. I only had two in the deck and no recursion, which meant my 8’s were no longer in the picture. He could bounce my stuff all day and I could do nothing to stop it. I don’t think it occurred to me at the time that I basically had Tom completely locked down, and he wouldn’t be able to push any damage through (though he probably didn’t realize that because he hadn’t seen my whole deck), and I could just win on time if necessary. I was leading somewhere in the vicinity of 23 to 9 at that point, and Tom’s turn twelve (on his initiative) consisted of playing Jean Grey, Teen Telepath and KO’ing her to New and Improved to bring out a simply massive Jean Grey, Phoenix Rising that was probably a 27/27 or something equally ridiculous. What’s important is that he had one attack kill power on the board, and I didn’t have an 8 drop Jean to bounce it.
It was at this point that I realized I had the game. I used a Mobilize in my resource row to search out Professor X, World’s Most Powerful Telepath, playing Jean Grey, Telekinetic Fighter (and putting another Jean in my hand due to her effect) to satisfy his Loyalty requirement. I dropped Professor X on the board and activated him on Tom’s Jean Grey, which would exhaust her to remove her attacking threat and have the added bonus of burning him for close to 30 endurance loss to end the game. He responded by KO’ing Jean to New and Improved. This was not something I considered, and I had to think about what I could do. Professor X was exhausted and all I had was my little 3/2 Jean Grey. Once again, I did have the game locked at this point, I just didn’t realize it, so I was determined to finish things right there. I attacked with Jean. A Flying Kick pushed her attack to 6, leaving me three away from the kill. At this point, I knew I had won, but I decided to be suspenseful. There was a bit of a crowd around the table considering that our game was by far the longest of the round, and seeing a mirror match involving twelve resources on a side is going to draw some eyes. I powered up my Jean with the two remaining Jean Greys I had in my hand, bumping her attack to 8. One more was all I needed. I paused for effect, took a deep breath and activated Cerebro. The first card off the top was a Savage Beatdown, which is ironic considering it would have given me plenty of attack to finish the job. It went to the bottom. The second, and final (and Tom’s best chance at survival) card from Cerebro was revealed to be the necessary Jean Grey. I pitched a Telepathic Suppression and powered up for the win. Tom doesn’t know I had another Mobilize in my row and I could have just searched for the Jean for the win.
This post was written to the tune of Tom Waits’ Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards