I want to talk a bit today about one of my favourite cards in Dice Masters.
Teamwork is a basic action, with a cost of 3. It was the first ever promo card for this game – the participation card in month 1, back when Organised Play first began, so it can be difficulty to get hold of, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s well worth it.
For anyone unfamiliar with the card, Teamwork reads
“Each of your fielded characters gains +1A and +1D for each other of your fielded characters that shares a team affiliation with it.”
First of all, let’s start with the obvious: this card is only going to work if you build a team which will be running lots of affiliated characters. Ideally, you also want your opponent not to be running lots of characters who share an affiliation with each other. Fortunately, in my experience, this tends to be how a lot of games play out – I like to build thematic teams, and there are enough options out there now, that this feels do-able. On the other hand, outside of restricted or draft events, I find it’s fairly uncommon to run into others who are playing thematic teams, so the risk of bringing teamwork to the party is lower than something like a Power Bolt.
Aside from giving a little more kick to thematic builds, Teamwork also works well with a team that fields lots of different characters: if you typically just buy 4 Tsarinas then let them go round and round, this is going to do you no good at all – on the other hand, if you typically have 4 or 5 affiliated characters in the field by mid-late game, then this can be a great way to finish things off.
I’m now going to look at some broad archetypes where I think Teamwork has a place.
The Avengers were the first thematic archetype I tried to turn into a build, and ironically, I was inspired by a card which doesn’t even have the Avengers affiliation, a card you may recall me talking about before on this blog: Nick Fury
Sure, there are other Nick Fury cards available, and many of them have useful and even powerful effects, but to my mind, nothing matches a zero fielding-cost for all your Avengers. Drawing Hulk and Thor in a 4-dice turn can so easily fall foul of field costs you simply can’t meet, but this card allows you to get your heavy hitters into play.
Within an Avengers build, as with any build, there are various decisions to be made: how you are going to handle what the opponent throws at you, and how you are going to throw things back at them: for your offensive dice, Black Widow: Tsarina must surely always be the first name on the team-sheet unless you are playing in a restricted format. More defensive options can vary widely, from the Age of Ultron Captain Americas who deal with direct damage, to the AvX Iron Men who gain you life when blocking, to more hybridised cards like the Rare Captain Marvel or Spider-Woman who gain you life whilst getting in the face of your opponent.
The biggest weakness of an Avengers team tends to be lack of control: you can throw damage back at people, but will probably struggle to stop them inflicting it on you. The Rare Wasp damages your opponent every time they use a global, which can really cripple some builds, and Vision is a nice counter to Tsarina, as he can spin up and down repeatedly.
Probably the most powerful card in the Avengers arsenal, if one of the more expensive, is Hulk: Green Goliath, who can wipe the opposing board when direct damage starts to rain in. Having been Human Torched to death recently, he will certainly be going back in my build very soon.
Cards to watch out for
Fortunately, there aren’t that many cards which directly target Avengers in a negative fashion – Enchantress, and the Organised Play Scarlet Witch from Avengers Disassembled. To be honest, once she’s in play, you are basically stuffed, so your main hope would be to rush your opponent early on (although Hulk is still a valid way to remove her). There are also the arch-villain cards, which can slightly be negated by taking the Iron Man with the global ability that allows you to make a character a villain temporarily.
All of the Justice League affiliations we’ve seen so far come from same set, the appropriately named “Justice League.” However, despite only having one set, with no additional support from War of Light, these still feel like a fairly viable build.
The key cornerstones for this team are Aquaman and Wonder Woman, who should probably be the turn 1 and 2 purchases as, once fielded, they will reduce both the purchase and field costs of all other Justice League members, bringing some interesting options into reach.
From there, Firestorm and Martian Manhunter are good options, providing direct damage and built-in overcrush respectively. Overcrush is always a useful tool with Teamwork, as it reduces the opponent’s ability to just chuck a sidekick in front of that 10-attack character.
There are a few different possibilities for rounding out the team – Batman (I tend to opt for World’s Greatest Detective as it does direct damage, and heals you) and Green Lantern are worth including. The Uncommon Green Lantern can help you overwhelm your opponent when you attack with a load of sidekicks (suddenly they are all 3 attack), whereas the rare version does direct damage for each other Justice League character attacking, and has retaliation. The last dice often doesn’t get bought, and I’ve tended to fluctuate between Batarang (obviously not JL affiliated, but it is both useful and thematic) or Shazam – expensive, but with some serious power, especially as it can spin your characters up / theirs down. Zatanna is cheap and adds draw, but I rarely bother.
Cards to watch out for
There is very little out there that will directly penalise you for a Justice League team: Darkseid gets an attack and defence bonus when engaged with a Justice League character, but that’s basically it. Again, there is always the possibility of running into a “if your opponent has no villains in the field, but those tend to be fairly rare in my experience.
In some respects, the Villains archetype is the one which offers the biggest range of options – all 5 superhero sets in the game’s life so far have contained villains, and there’s plenty that you can do with them.
The downside of this, is that it’s also one of the easiest teams to counter – I ran into a complete roadblock with a villains team, when an opponent was running the common blue beetle, which dealt me damage every time I fielded a character! There is also a Mister Sinister who can cause similar difficulties with high turn-over of villains, damaging you every time one is KO-ed.
Despite the broad range of benefits on offer from villains: direct damage, character control, and strength reduction, there is actually comparatively little synergy. Sinestro from the Justice League set reduces their fielding costs, but his ability has the same benefit for your opponent, making him a potentially double-edged sword. In order to get the benefit from the Teamwork Action dice, you need to be attacking, but you also need to be attacking with multiple unblocked characters and/or those with overcrush, to really get any use out of it. An all-villain team can find these things here and there, but they don’t form such a natural part of it as some other models.
Cards to watch out for:
Anything that targets villains – unfortunately there are lots of these, leaving the possibility that your opponent will be able to completely clear your field in a single turn with the right card(s). Actions seem to be particularly problematic, with Mjolnir, Batarang, or Lantern Power Ring being particularly nasty.
To my mind, Avengers, Justice League and Villains are the three main thematic builds viable in superhero-set teams right now. There are, of course, other options though: X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Justice Society of America, the various Lantern Corps, and Team Titans (I’m not prepared to even consider the Fantastic Four or SHIELD, with only 3 characters apiece). There are certainly a lot of good X-Men out there, although up until now, we’ve seen very little in the way of positive synergy.
The Guardians go the other way, with strong synergy, but a fairly limited number of characters and general options: I’d love to see them draw on some of the more recent material, such as the Trial of Jean Grey or Black Vortex storylines to give us some extra Guardians, but don’t foresee this coming any time soon. Teen Titans are a growing group, and it will be interesting to see whether they get any love in the next DC set.
As an overall note, it is worth mentioning the card who is the bane of all shared-affiliation teams, the Rare Joker – given the right opportunity, he can easily empty your field zone in a moment…
As I mentioned at the start, I like to build thematic teams, because they make sense – I want to imagine that these folk have teamed up to fight those opposite (let’s ignore the fact that the same characters are also fighting for the other team, those are clearly Skrulls / Mystique / from an alternate Universe). Teamwork is nice because it gives a tangible benefit to building thematically, and it does so very tangibly with attack and defence boosts. There are other basic actions coming in which can reward teamwork- “Assemble!” is the one which most leaps to mind, but the number is still limited.
Ultimately, putting together a thematic team, especially one built around actual card-affiliations, is an artificial restriction to impose on your team building, and in all probability, the most powerful teams will not be those where all, or perhaps even most, of the characters share an affiliation. Teamwork can help fill this gap, but ultimately, the question you need to ask is whether you are playing this game for fun or just to win.