Ever since the dawn of VS 2PCG there has been a large shadow cast over the lands of the Marvel universe. As players followed previews and then ultimately opened their product at Gencon 2015 and beyond, one particular Main Character stood out as just inherently more powerful than all of the others. While the Gencon tournament last year was eventually won by Sal D’Agostino and his Star-Lord deck, it was Thanos that had the largest impact on the field. As player frantically tested decks leading up to the Saturday event, groups combined to figure out the best Thanos build and alternatively the best way to attack Thanos to avoid playing mirror matches all day. Still to this day, and presumably with each released expansion, the purple menace grows stronger for we know we will find more ways to speed up what is the most powerful super power by a mile.
A peer through time will show us the different versions of Thanos. Upon release the deck was largely Guardians of the Galaxy characters that controlled the early game and allowed you to play the powerful Even the Odds as well as efficiently use Cosmo and Yondu to stem any early action the opponent may have. Agent Venom was seen in many decks as well to protect Thanos and the deck eventually leveled Thanos to level two by launching counter-intuitive attacks, suiciding characters left and right in order to activate the powerful Infinity Gauntlet and end the game with heavy hitters Drax, Magneto, and Thanos himself after gaining a handful of counters. Adam Warlock came down to mop things up but the game was typically over by then. With the release of The Defenders not a whole lot changed with the Thanos builds. Guardians were still largely favored but he did gain Shock to the System which was an upgrade to the Find Cover that was typically found in the deck. The deck was still top dog while Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, and Carnage decks started to become contenders. Still, nothing could bring Thanos down from his throne. The fun police, indeed.
Enter A-Force just a short while later and the ever important Femme Fatale and A-Force team affiliations. Making The Defenders look like mashed potatoes, A-Force adds a ton of power to the game in the form of characters, plot twists, -and- main characters. With the release of A-Force we finally have a few MCs that can fight with Thanos toe-to-toe … right? Dark Phoenix and Captain Marvel have been getting all the attention lately and for good reason. Still, one card stands out, at least for me, that makes Thanos better than we’ve ever seen him – Goblin Queen. With the ability to create four sacrificial Demon tokens for a small price of an Academy or Madripoor, Thanos can threaten Infinity Gauntlet as early as turns 2-4 (With Mantis or Pixie). The Femme Fatale affiliation adds a lot more to the Thanos deck as he know gains access to a plot twist that can stun small characters like Cosmo out of combat. That of course is Femme Fatality. Also, the rest of the Femme Fatale squad is pretty good on their own as Satana often finds her way into most Thanos builds as well as the occasional Moonstone.
This is just the tip of the iceberg however. The A-Force affiliation brings the powerful Pixie to the party allowing Thanos the ability to power out a huge characters much earlier than anticipated and then recycle the character with his level 1 ability while also slowly gaining XP (or quickly in the case of revealing a Goblin Queen). I find that this deck is more powerful than the “normal” version of the deck but is far less consistent. In a tournament such as Origins or Gencon it might backfire to opt for the more powerful, less consistent version but for your local hobby league event it might be a fun choice. For the rest of this article I’ll provide a few lists; one combo and one regular Thanos build, and discuss the pros and cons of each build. You can find many versions of both decks on the vs 2pcg collective group on Facebook if you’d like to do some of your own research.
Main Character – Thanos
Characters – 17
4 Goblin Queen
4 Loki (A-Force)
Plot Twists -15
4 Shock to the System
3 Femme Fatality
4 Build A Better World
4 Find Cover
Locations – 28
4 Training Grounds
4 The Vault
We’ll jump right into some specifics:
The Pixie engine is one of the most powerful things that you can do in VS 2PCG and this deck does it better than any deck without the assistance of Singularity. What Pixie does for Thanos, as stated before, is put into play either Goblin Queen or Loki and allows you to either draw 3 cards or create 4 Demon tokens and level up Thanos. Occasionally Thanos will put into play Dormammu to steal an opposing character that you were able to Gauntlet. Once Goblin Queen is recruited from hand, Pixie will almost always put Loki into play and will almost always draw 3 cards due to the number of power-ups in the deck. In short, this version is a Gauntlet machine. It wants to gauntlet early and often and has the means to do so. In addition to the number of locations, it plays Build A Better World to be able to reuse whatever you need to gauntlet again. If the opponent starts to stabilize, you Gauntlet again. The defensive plot twists by you time until you get your engine online.
Consistency. For as powerful as the deck is it tends to fold if you don’t play Pixie on turn two or three. Furthermore, the later in the game you play Pixie the more difficult it is to protect her. Once you’re leveled then it doesn’t become as important but as long as Thanos is level 1 you want to protect Pixie at all costs. You have to sacrifice Even the Odds and Cosmo in favor of Pixie and Build A Better World. I’ve seen versions without 4 Shock + 4 Find Cover and feel like those versions are just incorrect. I’ve seen Dramatic Entrance in some versions as well and don’t think that’s correct either as you really only have a few characters that you can either sneak into play. Femme Fatality might be better served as something else but being able to play it on your Goblin Queen turns is very good and easily worth the slots for that reason.
General play tips:
Never, ever recruit Loki from hand. Getting him stolen is very bad for you and if you recruit him you WILL get him stolen. His purpose is to be in play for 1 turn, draw you 3 cards to dig deeper for more Gauntlet Locations, and then die to be shuffled back into your deck. Recruiting Goblin Queen and Dormammu is fine but just don’t recruit Loki. Even if you have a million power-ups in hand it’s not worth the high risk. Mulligan for Pixie but that should go without saying. You will draw Locations because nearly half of your deck is Locations but you only have 4 Pixie. She is the glue to the deck. Without her this deck just doesn’t do anything. Against some decks you can recover from a poor start by just recruiting Goblin Queen on turn 4 but most decks can punish you pretty hard by then. That said, don’t give up if you miss Pixie. Thanos has unbelievable comeback potential due to the Infinity Gauntlet so don’t concede until the last wound is on him. Activating Gauntlet 3 times a game is not uncommon for this deck – in fact, it’s how you win the majority of your games.
The combo version of the deck seems to be the flavor of the month, and rightfully so, but the “normal” control versions of the deck are quite good as well. In my opinion, take that for what you will, the control flavors of Thanos have a better, more consistent early game and the ability to control the game from turn 1. You still have powerful plot twists and the Goblin Queen package but you lose the ability to Gauntlet several times in a game consistently. Now, let’s take a look at what a control Thanos deck might look like.
Main Character – Thanos
Characters – 30
4 Goblin Queen
2 Purple Man
3 Iron Man
3 Adam Warlock
Plot Twists – 4
4 Femme Fatality
Locations – 26
4 Training Grounds
4 The Vault
More consistent early game. Cosmo and Yondu do a terrific job of holding down the fort until things get moving. Moonstone is amazing at protecting Thanos and getting up the “Demon Wall” with Goblin Queen making it so that they can’t get through without first attacking all 4 Demon tokens before getting to your back row. Mantis obviously speeds up the Goblin Queen play by a turn. Satana lets you KO some annoying SCs that might be in your way such as Miss America, Purple Man lets you steal opposing characters that you can’t get through, Iron Man lets you reuse Gauntlet locations, and so on. The point is that every character is in the deck for a reason and they’re all very, very good.
Due to the nature of the heavy character build, and the need to play so many Locations, the deck doesn’t have room for many Plot Twists. The best one for this particular build is definitely Femme Fatality but a case can be made for Even the Odds with a few deck alterations (you would need to add a few Guardians characters in the middle of the curve). You also lose the ability to Gauntlet several times. Iron Man can get you on the right track but you’re looking to Gauntlet once and mop up your opponent with Adam Warlock and Purple Man. Stealing their best character and Gauntlet’ing another is devastating for an opponent.
You’ll be making some odd attacks at times. On turn 4 you will often suicide your Demon tokens, goblin Queen, Cosmo, Moonstone, and whoever else just to level up Thanos and Gauntlet them. It won’t seem worth it but it always is. In my experience the best post-Gauntlet play has been Purple Man to steal who they play post-Gauntlet. I haven’t seen Purple Man in other Thanos decks but feel like he’s a great fit and has earned his keep ten times over. After you stabilize the board you just go through the motions – Satana a character, Iron Man a Location, get Adam Warlock into play. The deck is like a well-oiled machine the majority of the time.
These are the two most widely accepted versions of Thanos. There may be other versions that exist, such as an aggro Thanos deck with Nebula and other aggressive Femme characters like Black Cat but those are likely better served in other MC shells. If you have a different version of Thanos that I didn’t discuss, I’d love to hear about it! There are of course variations to the lists I provided, these are only shells. I will say that the lists that I provided have been tested extensively and have proven to be formidable gauntlet decks. Enjoy and good luck in all of your events!