The premier set of MetaX, Justice League, is just around the corner. One of the biggest quandaries coming into a new game, particularly one with unique elements like MetaX, is deckbuilding. Type ratios, combos, themes, what goes into a good deck? We (virtually) sat down with playtester Dan Green to get some insight into where to start and what to look for when building your MetaX deck. But before we get into that, here’s a quick primer on card types and deck construction limitations:
Deck size: 40cards, no more no less
Card Limit: 3 copies of any card (see specific rules on Battle cards below)
Character Cards – These will be your main vessel of attack. Cards have between 1 and 3 stat types (Strength, Intelligence and/or Special), and each stat will have a rank from 1-7. Stat types and ranks dictate what Battle Cards that character can use to attack. Character cards also generate Meta Points (MP), which is your currency for playing most Battle Cards and Event cards.
Event Cards – These are single use effects, usable generally on your own turn, to try and turn the tide of the game in your favor.
Battle Cards – While Characters are your main attacking force, they cannot do so without a Battle card. These are used to attack and defend and, like Characters, contain 1 or more stats of rank 1-7. There are 2 types of character cards, with their own deckbuilding rules:
Single Stat – These have only ONE stat type on them. You may include 3 copies of each stat/rank combination in your deck. (Ex., you could use 2 copies of STR2 card # C35 and 1 of STR2 card # C36, but you could not use 3 of C35 and then 2 more of C36)
Multi Stat – These have 2 or 3 stat types on them as well as a single rank (1-7). This means they may be used as any of the different types at any time. You may include a maximum of 3 copies of each RANK VALUE in multi stat BCs in your deck. (ex. You could have 2 copies of a STR/INT 3 cards and 1 STR/SPL 3 card, but if you run those three you may not run ANY other rank 3 multi stat BCs, regardless of their stat combination.
So now that you know the basics, let’s get down into some details with Dan.
Question: Striking a balance between card types in a deck is a VERY delicate process in many constructed deck games. In general, do you think there is an average breakdown of Character:Event:Battle Card when starting out?
Dan: There are certainly some numbers we tend to gravitate towards. When players first crack a starter deck, they will get a good idea of roughly where they should be aiming in their deck design - 12 characters is fine, your battle cards should probably be in the high teens for a standard deck, and just handful - 6-9 maybe - of events. That's kind of the surface level look at things. Deck building goes much deeper in MX than that, though - there are some concepts that would be ripe for their own articles, so I'm just going to touch on them quickly. First is the concept of "gaining full MP value" - each character stocks you up with some value of MP, and a well built MX deck doesn't have MP going unused without reason. Events are the common way to use it, but you can also gear your deck towards getting value from stronger BCs that cost you MP as well. On the other hand, you can play BCs that gain MP and make that value back by playing MORE events. So the basic numbers will fluctuate to some degree based on how you intend to make your MP valuable. Second looks at "psuedo-BCs" - this stems from the idea of each deck needing some number of Attacks in order to win (outside of potential combo or mill strategies). Your deck doesn't necessarily need to create those attacks by playing a high number of BCs, and by constructing it with using your MP correctly in mind, you can also play certain events or effects to make up for not having as many BCs. There's obvious things like Joke's On You, Superboy, and Strength/Intelligence/Special 1, which literally just put BCs back in your hand, but then there's slightly less obvious things like Harley Quinn - Harleen Quinzel or Nightwing. Their effects allow you to score VPs outside of using BCs to attack, which theoretically reduces the total number you need and frees up more slots for Events or other effects.
Re: Character Cards:
Q: Having limited space in a deck (40 card max, 3 card playsets) can often dictate how many of a card you use for specific combos, but a lot of times some cards can work well as a “one-of tech” to provide an out against other strategies or possibly change up your own. Do you see there being strategic value in running a “one-of” of some utility characters? Any examples of one that would be useful in this way?
D: Absolutely. A combination of factors - 40 card decks, the "dig-deeper" mulligan style, and the high emphasis on card draw and card quantity definitely creates viability for singletons. Decks can focus on them as a feature - such as a deck that runs 3x Alfred and then a smattering of one-of, silver-bullet characters to search out - but some decks will just run singleton Characters or Events with niche utility but critical vs a certain deck.
Characters like Atom, Mr Freeze, Hawkgirl, and Wonder Woman - Princess Diana have long lasting effects where you may only need one to take over the game vs the right deck. Characters like Firestorm and Deathstroke may also be teched in as a singleton just to have the effect at the right moment (like to shut down one of the former cards!).
On the Event side of things, the massive effects like Unexpected Turnaround and Evil Parade could easily make it in as a one-of, as could something like Absence of Fear if a common deck likes to keep a massive hand size.
Q: So all that in mind, on average, how many different characters do you think would run in an average deck?
D: This is going to completely vary from deck to deck, but an average would probably be...5? Some decks will use a Starter Deck layout of 4 three-ofs. You can completely change the tone and playstyle of that deck by swapping out 2 of the characters for 3 two-ofs. And some decks, like previously mentioned, may decide to run a host of singletons and ways to tutor them!
Q: Regarding combos, do you think it better to run a smaller number of character to play to a certain combo, and then fill in other spots as support, or could larger combos be just as viable?
D: I think the former will be a common way of building decks, but it's also sort of the path of least resistance. The three character limit on board tends to reign in the allowed complexity of the board state, making larger combination strategies harder to make sense of. But, with the amount of ways of clearing the board, I won't count such strategies out - I just think you have to plan a way to pull it off and make sure it's worth it.
Re: Battle Cards:
Q: Multi Stat cards could be seen as more versatile than single stat battle cards, given that they can make a TKO more likely and can often be used by multiple characters. Granted they usually have higher MP cost and their effects could seem inferior to some single stat BCs. How important do you think it will be for decks to balance what types and ranks they use in their BCs?
D: It's hugely important! Your deck’s kill potential is directly related to that, and actually you can go in multiple directions with it as well. In MetaX, it's not always correct to TRY to kill your opponent's characters, which is always a fun "learning moment" I leave into a first demo game with someone. Some decks will opt to attrition their opponent out of Characters (typically a control deck strategy), while others will try to run the opponent out of options for playing BCs - which can often be done by clogging their board so they can no longer gain MP or switch out characters. In order to achieve those ends, you need to think about which ranks and stats your BC lineup is (in addition to which effects you want to play). A deck that uses just a single stat will almost never TKO - is that what your deck wants? Repeat the same question for a low rank deck. On the other hand, a deck that diversifies into all 3 stats will TKO easily, but may have trouble playing with certain character lineups. Do you have a plan for that? Smart deck building will certainly account for these things.
Q: Simple strategies can be assumed going into the game, such as low rank BC decks which lean toward easy requirements and focus on TKO or high rank BC decks that risk more difficult requirements for the reward of better effects and single hit HPKOs. Do you prefer one or the other? Would you say it could depend on the playstyle of the players themselves?
D: It absolutely depends on the playstyle, and as I mentioned above, you may not even want to KO your opponent's characters! Personally, I think I've had the most fun playing Rank 7 focused decks that have resiliency in combat along with options for board declogging (Shazam and Brainiac are two of my favorites). But I've played and played against many low rank decks that are equally interesting and distinct ways to play.
Re: Event cards:
Q: Event cards seem like they could play a pivotal role in some decks. While character and battle cards are the bread and butter of gaining VPs and MP, Event cards almost exclusively COST MP to play.
Do you think an argument could be made for including events as part of a heavy combo deck?
D: Events are critical to certain combo decks. Cards like Rebirth and Sleight of Hand greatly grow in value in a combo deck, where the ability to return important cards or retrieve them from your opponent's VP pile (respectively) is one of the few ways you can continue using your combo. And obviously a combo deck needs ways to draw cards or tutor for the right ones to get their combo to work, and events provide some of the strongest ways of doing that.
Q: Conversely, do you think decks that forego Event cards for the most part could still be competitive?
D: Absolutely. Back at the start I mentioned that a deeper level of deck building involves figuring out how to best use your MP - Events are the easiest way of spending it so your characters are providing "full value", but they are not the only way. Funneling MP into great Battle Card effects can give you an equally strong gameplan. I think most decks will still contain a few events - some are just so good in a particular strategy that you might be shooting yourself in the foot to forsake them just to say you play no events - but low, or no, event decks are very possible, and open you up to the best use of extremely strong effects like Supergirl.
Q: With that, I think we’re done for now. Thank you for your time and insight into the deckbuilding process for MetaX. There is definitely a lot of information here to delve into so players have a bit of a leg up when they crack their packs in the coming weeks.
D: Thanks so much for the questions - hope they provide you with some good material and food for thought and happy deck building!
MetaX Justice League releases on 8/4/17. Keep an eye out at your local retailer and stay tuned to TCGTopTier next week for an unboxing of packs from the SDCC presale!