Welcome to the first installment of Unsung Heroes! In this column, we’ll be putting together Vs Two-Player Card Game decks focused on underappreciated characters and combinations (or taking popular ones in some fun new directions). My name is Nick Gajary, Chicago player, obscure rule enthusiast, and fanatical deck builder, and I’ll be guiding you through my process. Let’s get brewing!
Now that the Vs 2PCG A-Force expansion has been released, forums and message boards are abuzz with players awestruck by Phoenix and Dark Phoenix’s impressive seven wounds. Even established heavy hitters Hulk and Thanos only have six each; surely these new Main Characters will prove forces to be reckoned with. Ever the dreamer, though, I think we can do better. There’s another character out there who’s the Best At What He Does, and that includes the potential for way more than a measly seven health:
Wolverine’s Healing Factor is just begging to be abused, but first he needs to level up. In order to gain XP, he needs to hit fast and hard, so let’s add the following to our preliminary wishlist:
Along with his SNIKT! superpower, these Plot Twists give Wolverine the extra attack he’ll need to stun tougher enemies and reach Level Two. X-Factor is especially useful as it potentially lets him gain multiple XP in a single turn (or at least try again if the opponent plays a defensive PT). It’s worth noting that few of these use +1/+1 counters; because +1/+1 counters are removed whenever a character gets stunned and even L2 Wolverine has only 4 toughness, the value of buffs that last longer than a single combat is minimal.
The next cards for our list are the ones that really make the dream of 8+ wounds a possibility:
The ability to reuse locations that fuel Wolverine’s Healing Factor is key, and Iron Man and Build a Better World give us just that. Singularity and Valkyrie allow us to get extra uses out of Iron Man’s Inventive by having him appear again and again.
That said, we’ll need more than Singularity alone in order to consistently use Build a Better World. Keeping in mind that Wolverine won’t want to share his Fortresses and Training Grounds if he can help it, the following A-Force Supporting Characters have potential:
Great options! Wasp weakens enemy characters early to make them easier for L1 Wolverine to KO, can do it again later thanks to Singularity/Valkyrie, and is hard to kill herself, which keeps her around to support Build a Better World. Miss America and Rogue hit hard and can both benefit from the X-Factors we’re already planning to play: Tough allows the former to follow up on a kamikaze strike and Absorb Powers allows the latter to gain multiple abilities in a single turn! Finally, Phoenix has not only Flight, Ranged, and the best stats on her team, but she can also use Teke Shield to turn attempts on our L2 Wolverine’s life into a free stun for us. If she makes the cut, consider holding an Academy in your hand to discard so that this power is a surprise!
Next up, let’s consider what support is available for some of our better aggressive PTs. The Femme Fatale’s Cat Fight is the strongest, so we’ll start there:
Black Cat is an excellent counter to enemy characters that have grown too large for even Wolverine to take down. She can also be played on the first turn, appropriately bringing Cat Fight online right away. Cosmo can be a real problem for our MC, but Moonstone ensures he has nowhere to hide. If we do decide on the powerhouse flying A-Force characters like Miss America and Rogue for our top end, Moonstone gives them free reign of the battlefield too. If she’s somehow not strong enough already, Spiral benefits from our attack-boosting PTs and can tear through the enemy with an X-Factor. And lastly, to close out the game, Lady Deathstrike’s superpower is almost too good to pass up.
Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is the next-best PT we could play, and we do already have Iron Man to support it. What else might the Avengers offer?
Black Widow serves the same function as Wasp, Daredevil is another good target for power-buffs, and Dr Strange keeps +1/+1 counters on an opposing Venom, Hulk, Sabretooth, etc under control. Spider-Man’s Websling seems fittingly amazing, making sure the enemy MC is always within stabbing distance of Wolverine.
Finally, there’s the potent Fair and Balanced and Pain and Suffering enabled by:
Typhoid Mary’s ability to set L1 Wolverine up for easy KOs is nice, but we’re only allowed one and she’s very fragile. As explained earlier, we probably won’t have the +1/+1 counter support for Bullseye either. The Underworld’s PTs are out then, though MODOK’s draw-smoothing Mental Calculations and Flight-Ranged combination ripe for attack increases may yet make the cut.
Wolverine only gains XP for attacking solo, so there’s no need to load up on X-Men for team attacks. We’ll also want to use School for Gifted Youngsters for Healing Factor, so other X-Men superpowers are not the draw they might normally be. Still, the following characters could fill important roles in our deck:
Ferocious is excellent alongside the PTs we’ll be running and Genius helps to keep the Healing Factor fuel coming, so Beast has a lot going for him. Cable, like Black Cat, is useful in the event of an unnaturally powerful enemy, and that’s worth sacrificing one Training Ground or School for Gifted Youngsters. Colossus helps us through blockades by Tossing an ally over the enemy front row at their MC or infuriating Cosmo or Magneto (not to mention the million flavor points for the true Fastball Special!).
For the sake of completion, let’s make sure we’re not missing anything amazing in the factions we haven’t covered before we trim down our wishlist. The Defenders offer the following in addition to Valkyrie:
A couple Iron Fist and/or Punisher could be useful, but there are comparable options available within teams that support our PTs. Scarlet Witch’s talent for keeping enemy MCs small enough for Wolverine to wound easily would be welcome, though we won’t be playing the defensive tricks necessary to protect her. Ghost Rider, on the other hand, is a terrific threat if we opt to stick with good-aligned factions, and he gets even better alongside our Singularity and Valkyrie.
The Guardians of the Galaxy have been the go-to Vs 2PCG support team from the start, so there’s no reason we couldn’t take advantage of them as well:
Even the Odds keeps Wolverine’s foes honest (and subsequently dead) while Give ‘Em a Lift pumps him up a little and lets him pounce at characters cowering in the back row. Cosmo is a defensive staple and Rocket can contribute to our Healing Factor plan, albeit at a cost: using a Training Ground to return a discarded Fortress or School for Gifted Youngsters. Drax’s Berserker ability plays well with X-Factor, and Adam Warlock is simply the biggest character there is (although he’s still stunned when appearing via Singularity or Valkyrie).
Last but certainly not least, we have the Villains:
No new tricks here, just a lot of raw power. Green Goblin pairs well with Singularity/Valkyrie, Sabretooth pairs well with X-Factor, and Magneto and Thanos pair well with six and eight resource points, respectively.
Altogether, then, our initial wishlist looks something like this:
I’ve highlighted the cards we’ll definitely be including in the final deck and faded many that are lackluster. Our strategy doesn’t support early defensive play, so characters like Scarlet Witch won’t survive long enough to help us. At this point, it’s also evident that there are some characters outclassed by others in the same role: Spiral has the advantages of a useful team affiliation and built-in protection from Ranged over Sabretooth, Cable can use a wider variety of our resources to perform the same function as Iron Fist (though Black Cat could still beat them both out), etc.
The second round of cuts is much more difficult. Big decisions need to be made here, namely what our primary factions and endgame are going to be. A-Force is a given as we must support Build a Better World, but the other teams each come with their own pros and cons:
Based on our analysis, I’m inclined to go with the Avengers and Ghost Rider, though there may be room for individually powerful SCs from other teams. Our wishlist is getting smaller!
We’re close! After adding our Locations and making allowances for utility characters of which we won’t need complete sets, the final few selections should be made with a focus on our curve and our weaknesses. Sixteen PTs is plenty, so no need for more of those. We’re looking at roughly ten 1-drops and 2-drops, which is also perfectly adequate for a deck looking to win through endurance. Our 3-drops and 4-drops are likewise sparse, though Wasp and Black Widow’s Stings should still help Wolverine hold the ground there, especially if they can keep it up thanks to Singularity. The 5-drop slot is currently unclaimed, but luckily that’s exactly where one of our silver bullets, Cable, resides. An Ultimate Soldier will tide us over for a turn before we reach the heavy hitters in the 6-drop slots. Joining Iron Man and Valkyrie, we have a Rogue for fun and a Colossus for style.
Ideally, we’ll want to keep shrinking our opponent’s early characters so that Wolverine can take them down and level up quickly. From there, save the Wasps and Black Widows for turns when we can get extra value out of them by following up with PTs and/or Singularity, all the while using Healing Factor as needed. Once Iron Man starts recurring, we’re virtually invincible! If Wolverine can finish the job, unleash him! If not, rely on Spider-Man or Colossus for the assist or allow Cable or Ghost Rider to deliver the killing blow.
I hope you found this process helpful! If you have questions or suggestions about the deck – or another favorite Unsung Hero you’d like to see featured – please leave a comment below.
Until next time: go get ‘em, Bub!