I would definitely say that our testing for GenCon started back during the spoiler season for Legacy, as we had intended on making Origins but ended up having to call the trip off (which is a shame, as we love Origins). As soon as we knew that we would only be heading to GenCon, our focus switched a bit and we decided to ‘wait out’ testing during spoiler season rather than diving right in.
We typically like to try playing with only the new cards first, to see how they interact and to see what we like and don’t like. Sometimes, things surprise you. We had a couple of lists courtesy of Colby, David, and Ian and my wife decided she wanted to see if Daredevil was still awful even after the boost from Legacy. She built a mono-Defenders list using mostly all the new cards from Legacy and we slammed it into a pre-Origins Thor list, a Spider-Man list, and a Mystique list. The big take away from these games was that Stick was really good, Misty Knight (while annoying) wasn’t worth it, and Scarlet Witch’s stock had risen. This viewpoint is important, as Stick became a must-include in a good lot of our decks going forward.
Post-Origins, all eyes were obviously on Thor. Due to a couple of surprises in Legacy, we held off testing again during the Monsters Unleashed spoilers; that is until Fin Fang Foom SC was announced. I immediately loved this card, mostly for its end game capabilities. In our previous control lists, the end game was almost always two copies of Adam Warlock and three copies of Thanos (if not playing Thanos MC). My first thought on Fin Fang Foom was that he was in essence, Thanos and Adam slammed together (big body plus flight), and didn’t require a green to attack the turn he hit the table. And could attack an entire row. Now that is an end game!
I have a lot of love and appreciation for what Dark Phoenix MC can do in the early turns of the game and I find building around her as an MC to be fascinating. There’s a lot of fun math choices and I like the challenge of trying to make her ramp style of play work. Fin Fang Foom seemed like the perfect inclusion into a ramp deck, and as soon as he was spoiled I began building variations on Dark Phoenix. The first thing we noted was that if I could get Fin Fang Foom in play (whether turn 4, 6, or 8) Thor lost. In our opinion, the Origins Thor list has no answer to Fin and if you can live long enough to get him in play, the gig was up for the God of Thunder. Since we assumed GenCon would be similar to last year (Thanos won Origins, everyone would play Thanos), we spent the majority of our time trying to figure out how to make the best Fin Fang Foom SC/Anti-Thor deck.
We spent a lot of time testing Dark Phoenix and we liked our build, but its win rate wasn’t as high as we liked (we won every game where Fin hit the table, but lost every game where he didn’t). Due to Thor’s aggressive nature, we knew we needed our MC to have a lot of health (6 if not 7), and we knew we needed Even the Odds to answer Thor’s early game getting out of control. We narrowed down our MC choices to be Groot, Dark Phoenix, or Mystique. Groot seemed obvious, in that he met both conditions we felt were necessary. But we couldn’t get past the fact that he gets beat up by every MC, not just Thor. We liked him a lot, but not enough that we could commit to building around him. Dark Phoenix was going well, but it felt like it wasn’t going well enough. We equally liked Mystique, but couldn’t get the math down for her end game (which admittedly, she has a lot of). Our game plan became: focus on Dark Phoenix and make her beat Thor consistently. And then Leviathon Mother was spoiled.
As soon as we saw Leviathon Mother’s LV2 ability, we instantly knew Mystique would be our choice. We really liked Dramatic Entrance for buying us time and we really liked a lot of the Enter Play triggers from most of the spoiled Leviathons. Mother was everything we were looking for to complete our puzzle: she had 7 health and could turn into a 16/16 that was big enough to keep wounds off for several turns. If you could get the resources right. We basically decided the weekend Mother was spoiled that she would be our deck.
I took a look back through some of my old lists from last year, control variations that had done well in local Texas events, and put together a list of SCs I liked. After that didn’t beat Thor, we changed things around a bit to focus on the late game. It was during these early games that I wrote off using Even the Odds. I’m sure that sounds like crazy talk, so let me explain: In order to put three or four copies of ETO in my deck, I had to commit to using twelve Guardians. That’s 15-16 deck slots just to handle Thor’s counters. That felt very, very wrong. By removing the Guardian focus, I was able to turn those 15-16 slots into just three cards: Calypso x3. Sure, if they had Tim down you had to defeat him first, but that wasn’t a huge barrier. And speaking of Tim, we knew we wanted him to do some work for us but we weren’t liking him as a four-of. We found him more useful after they committed multiple 1drops to the board to just be a mini-board wipe rather than a Falcon-force-out. In other words, I’d rather your Falcon be in the discard than in your hand.
From there, it was just a matter of picking the best drops for each spot. Kane was more of a plot twist than an actual unit, so we added three Hi-Vo’s and a one-of Leviathon in the two-spot. Elsa was great at killing Jessica Jones, who happened to be a big barrier for Mystique. Stick was obvious as we really liked him and liked that he was also a free XP pump for Mystique. Punisher is still our favorite 5drop, but we snuck him down to three copies to fit in another Leviathon. There’s too many great 6drops, but we knew Iron Man and Drax would do the heavy lifting we needed for Mystique in the late game (protection plus resource management). We knew we wanted more keyword abilities than powers, so we dropped Adam Warlock in favor of one Ghost Rider and one Dual Maw. I can honestly say the Dual Maw hit the board several times, but was never a hand clear. The deck was rounded out by our finisher in Fin Fang Foom.
We tend to play heavy protection plot twists in our control variations, so that meant Shock to the System x4 was an auto-include. We originally had Dramatic Entrance x4 as well, but we didn’t want a lot of our beaters in the discard pile, so we trimmed it to just two copies. The deck was rounded out by four Savage Surprise, a great card for wounding Thor or Falcon and equally great for pumping Mystique.
It might not look like Mystique could level quickly, but I can attest that in the nine games I played at GenCon, she was level 3 in all but two by turn 5. This version also doesn’t need you to level her to lv3 quickly, as it’s meant as a much more control style of play. Once she hits 10 DEF, she’s typically pretty safe.
My day at the 10k went pretty well in that I finished 6-3, losing to Aaron Johnson’s Thor deck, the Mystique/Deadpool deck, and the Ripley deck piloted by John Tatta. Two of my three loses came from two of the Top 8 players, so I can’t be too disappointed in my day. I played against three Mystique decks (beat two of them), two Thor lists (beat both of them), two Luke Cage lists (beat one of them), a Devil Dinosaur and Moon Girl list (won) and the Ripley list (lost). My gameplan for the entire day was to turn into the Leviathon Mother every game and that was a goal I only failed at against Aaron Johnson, where I stupidly put Scarlet Witch’s ability on Jessica Jones. It was a lot of fun to play as Mother and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. There’s just something fun and silly about a 16/16 MC.