Filling in the Blanks

Dice Masters is a game which takes its theme from various franchises – Marvel and DC Comics, as well as fantasy settings like Dungeons and Dragons or Yu-Gi-Oh, and for the most part, when you build your team, it is the card that makes your decision, the special ability brought to the table by that character, which makes the dice you buy more than just a set of numbers.

Fan Today I want to think about a different issue though: what about the cards that don’t have an ability text in their box, the ones where buying the dice is JUST buying the dice.

So far we’ve seen 11 cards in the Marvel/DC sets with blank text boxes (/or the Ghost Rider whose box isn’t blank, but tells you it has no extra ability).

Of those, 5 are 2-cost, 3 are 3-cost, 2 are 4-cost, and one is a 5-cost. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to go through these in descending cost order.

The Unworthy Five

No, at that cost, I expected someone with a useful ability…
No, at that cost, I expected someone with a useful ability…

At 5-cost, Thor: Not Who You Expected? is one cheaper than most of the non-blank versions of the character out there (there a two 7-costs). Thor’s numbers are big: 4A/5D, 5A/6D and 6A/8D respectively on the three sides, but I feel like for five energy, there are just so many options out there in terms of abilities that this feels like a bad deal: you’ll never be able to buy a five-cost character turn 1, probably not on 2 or 3, so by the time you can field her, your opponent probably has a blocker ready. Hit and run isn’t an option here, so what’s the strategy for this character?

This dice does have the Avengers affiliation, which definitely counts in its favour, but there are so many better cards out there which bring the same benefit.

Flawed Fours

VixensBoth of the four-costs (Ice-Man and Vixen) have other versions of that same character which allow you to buy the dice at equal or lower cost with an added ability, so I really can’t see any reason why you would ever use either of them. Neither have a detrimental ability on their non-blank sides – for example the promo Superman costs one less, but goes to “used” instead of “prep” when KO-ed (also really not worth it)- so this isn’t just a weak card, but a positively baffling one. Not sure whether it was a typo, or a last-minute edit that got missed, but these are pure binder-fodder.

Middle Threes

The 3-cost blanks are Red Tornado from the Justice League Set, and Iron Man and Giant Man from Age of Ultron. Red Tornado has the “Justice Society of America” affiliation, and the others have “Avengers.” Between Iron Man and Giant Man, the differences aren’t huge: both have a 1-1-2 field cost, with a moderate 4A/4D stat-line on their middle level. Iron Man is more predictable, being 4A/3D on level 1 and 2A/6D on level 3, whereas Giant Man scales more wildly, being 1A/1D on his lowest level, but 7A/7D on the highest.

I have been trampled nastily by Giant Man in a draft event, just because he managed to get out (on the top level) before I had any blockers in play, and there’s certainly potential for this kind of rush strategy, but I think if that was what I was aiming for, I’d go for one of the 2-cost characters from Uncanny (probably Ant-Man), just because they are that much faster. Whilst the Avengers affiliation on this version of Iron Man is a bonus, it’s also there on every other version, and by playing this Iron Man, you stop yourself from fielding another. Ultimately interesting, but probably not worth the effort.

Plausible Twos

Given that you’re sacrificing an ability, I think the biggest appeal of a blank dice is either good stats cheaply, or the ability to flood the field with characters. Either way, this suggest to me that the best chance of finding a viable blank card is in the 2-cost range.

However, it’s still not simple: 2-cost is also where you find Black Widow: Tsarina, Beast: Genetic Expert, and Constantine: Hellblazer, to name some top-level staples, along with more niche, but still potentially powerful cards like Nick Fury: Mr Anger, Psylocke: Kwannon the Assassin, Phil Coulson: Inspirational Leader, and Pepper Potts: Personal Secretary of Tony Stark. Obviously, rarity makes a pretty compelling argument for why you might not have Tsarina or Hellblazer in your team, as both are super-rare, but Beast was a starter character, and Nick Fury a common, so it feels like the 2 costs will need to make a good name for themselves.

GhostRider Ghost Rider: Johnny Blaze declares himself to be “just a low-cost die with good numbers” but his 1-2-3 field cost doesn’t feel particularly good to me at all – I’ve used him in a draft event before, but never got anything but frustration: there are better ways to get energy, and too often his character faces weren’t worth what it cost to field them.

Katana Katana: Tatsu Yamashiro is the other one of the 2-cost blanks with no affiliation, and whilst her field cost never goes above 1, it never drops below it either: 3 defence isn’t enough to be a big blocker, and she’s never hitting harder than a 4 either.

pictured in full for no reason other than being Kitty (which coincidentally is the only reason you’d put her in the team)
pictured in full for no reason other than being Kitty (which coincidentally is the only reason you’d put her in the team)

Kitty Pryde: Ariel has a 0-0-1 field cost, which is nice, and if you have lots of abilities/globals that require masks, I can see why you might consider her, but ultimately, the X-Men affiliation is doing nothing for you, and the stats are mediocre at 2s or 3s.

Falcon Falcon: Samuel Wilson is fractionally more powerful – getting up to 4 attack at his biggest, but also has a higher average field cost. There are lots of high-cost fist-characters in Avengers builds, so a cheap fist character has some appeal for rolling the big numbers of energy early on, but on balance, I still think he’s not worth it.

AntMan Ant-Man: Biophysicist – last, but by no means least, I think this is the only blank card worth actually bringing along. Unless you’re planning all sorts of shenanigans with the global ability which appears on the uncommon and rare (switch the A and D of a character), there’s no real downside to having Ant-Man in a team, especially an Avengers one. His total field cost is one, like Kitty, but his attack can get up to five, allowing you to potentially swing for ten on turn 3 – which could well be before your opponent has any blockers out. Once you’ve passed the initial rush phase, he gives you energy for buying bigger characters, or triggers for Avengers Teamwatch abilities, and if you do get him out on top-level, that’s still a significant attack to deal with, even once you are set up.

My current Avengers build is fairly fluid (I’m still missing a lot of the Age of Ultron cards): I’ve included Ant-Man, even bought him a couple of times (particularly if I’ve run out of other 2-cost characters), but I’m not sure I’ve actually got that much use out of him – Black Widow is almost always a better option.

I can see there being more scope for the blank cards in limited format events, where you just don’t have the option to bring that power-card. I’ll be exploring this over the coming weeks, and will let you know how it goes.

Worse than Blank

As a final thought, I think the only thing set in stone, and the only time you should always take a blank card, is when the alternative is Hawkeye: Formerly Ronin

seriously, why???
seriously, why???
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