This Sunday just gone saw the Wizkids Regional Championships come to our FLGS, Chimera Nottingham.
As I’ve mentioned a few times on here in the past, this year hasn’t been great for Dice Masters locally: several local players sold up around Easter, because they couldn’t keep pace with the release of the new sets (and one of the guys who sold up used to give lifts to another 2 players), and all-in-allI’ve been struggling to get regular games.
At the moment I’m managing to play about once a month. I’m also woefully out-of-date with the current meta: I’ve never owned any of the Fantasy Sets, I wasn’t interested in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and have only dipped into the last 2 superhero sets very superficially (I reviewed the Civil War starter, and have played 1 Rainbow draft each of Civil War and Green Arrow and the Flash).
In the end, I went for something fairly old-school for Regionals. I took Big Entrance and Smash as my basic actions, to help me get my characters out quickly, and to make some attempt at neutering the massive overcrush characters that might be coming my way.
The final line-up was as follows:
Beast: Genetic Expert
Black Widow: Tsarina
Cheetah: Cursed Archaeologist
Guy Gardner: Blinding Rage
Iron Fist: The Immortal
Lantern Ring: Limited Only by Imagination
Wasp: Founding Avenger
With a good start, this build can really hit the ground running: with some kind of acceleration (Villainous Pact, Resurrection), you can potentially field 4 Guy Gardners or Tsarinas on turn 3. Obviously Guy is more powerful swinging into an open field, but Tsarina really punishes sidekick walls. If the opponent manages to get a good defensive wall out more generally, then the direct damage from Cheetah can be a nice way to chip away at them, particularly as it forces them to choose between letting her through for an extra 2 or 3 damage, or having her chip away at them turn after turn. Lastly on the offensive side, Lantern Ring is good for dealing with both defensive walls and my inability to roll characters – if you only roll characters on 2 of the 4 Guys you’ve rolled this turn, leave the others in the reserve pool, and deal 8 direct damage when the fielded ones attack!
The other half of the team was for control: Constantine: Hellblazer is a great way of dealing with when-fielded effects, and can certainly buy you time against big nasty attackers. Iron Fist is great for incremental direct damage, and Beast has been my favourite blocker since the game came out: he actually wants to be on his lowest level, which is ideal if an opponent has Polymorph, and is cheap enough to buy and field that you don’t mind having him knocked out turn after turn. Lastly, Wasp is there to punish teams that rely heavily on global effects, and in an attempt to let me get more out of their Professor X / Magic Missile than they can.
I considered Cerebro – “that character now costs minimum 2 to field” and Hulk “deal me a damage and your board gets wiped” which combos really nicely with the Wasp global (pay 2 generic to damage a character or player) but ultimately rejected both as too slow/expensive. On reflection, this may well have been a bad call – Hulk would have helped me out of a few holes, but I’m not sure what I would have left out.
All of this was 100% theory-crafting. As I said, I’d not played a constructed game since August, and my wife isn’t interested in the game, so I threw in what I hoped would work and that was it.
It was a 32-person tournament which, after a few no-shows and drop-outs ended up as 27 of us by the end of the day. There were a few locals, but a very strong travelling contingent, with a large group coming up from Norwich (I think everyone I played against was from Norwich) and several coming down from Manchester. (No doubt there were others from elsewhere, I didn’t manage to speak to everyone).
Round 1: Bard
I’m sure that everyone has cards/dice in this game that they don’t like. I’m aware that Guy Gardner is hardly the most popular in the world but, for my money, there’s nothing that beats Half-Elf Bard.
As a 4-cost character, whilst Bard won’t be showing up on turn 1 (especially with the new rule-change), he’s not a mega expensive character who somebody will struggle to get out before the game end (always my problem with Hulk, and the reason I’ve never actually managed to get Natalia Romanova into the field). More to the point for a very-fieldable 4-coster, the impact once Bard does enter play is often silly.
When Bard attacks, all your other attacking dice get +1A, +1D for each different dice you have attacking. That means that if you can swing with 3 unique characters, all your sidekicks are suddenly 4-4s. Unless you can build a truly massive wall, it’s virtually impossible to do anything against a Bard team that has got going.
This particular build was actually a fairly control-heavy one: it had the Elven Thief who nicks your opponent’s energy, the Dwarf Wizard who blanks characters altogether, and finally Imprisoned. The first game was over in a matter of minutes, and whilst I managed to make a bit more of a fight of the second game, all those cheap-to-field characters stack up really badly against imprisoned, as he took my entire field captive, and attacked through the gap.
A very good player (I believe he finished in the top 4), and a team he clearly knew very well, but for me Bard sapped a lot of the fun out of the game.
Round 2: Return of the Bard and everything gone Wong.
I had hoped that an opening round defeat might put me in the part of the draw with people who were playing more at my level. Sadly, I ran into another Bard team in round 2. Probably the most interesting aspect of this team for me, ignoring the staples of power-builds, was a character I’d not previously encountered: Wong.
Wong comes from the Dr Strange set, a relatively new non-randomised way for Wizkids to release cards without the risk of drowning us in Sidekick and Basic Action dice. He was also, entirely by coincidence, a character I’d met a week earlier through the film (comic-wise, I’ve only really encountered Dr Strange when he shows up in Avengers or X-Men titles). This Wong is a 2-cost fist character who is an ally (so counts as a sidekick when in the field), boosts and impressive 4 attack on his highest level and most crucially has “Fast” allowing him to deal his damage before opposing characters.
Fast was a mechanic that first came in with the World’s Finest Set: the last set I bought into in a big way, and the first set that didn’t really see play. I really hadn’t grasped its potential before: a 4-attack fast character was capable of KO-ing any of my characters before they could do damage, meaning it didn’t matter how many I was hitting for, unless I could get my defence up to 5 or more (I couldn’t).
I did my best to keep my opponent at bay using Constantine, but eventually he had his board set up, and the combination of Bard, Wong, lots of normal sidekicks and the Falcon who makes all sidekicks unblockable, it was instant death in one stroke.
Round 3: More Sidekicks
The flying sidekick build was a popular one, and I ran into it again just after lunch. This time, I was up against a player like myself who was a bit rusty when it came to playing the game, and we had a far more even match.
I won the first game, largely thanks to managing to get off a Guy Gardner attack early on that did him 11 damage. From there, he managed to get his wall up, but I got the Lantern Ring out and was able to finish the job.
Game 2 I didn’t get the early strike, and we sank into a war of attrition. This time, his focus was far more on getting lots of sidekicks into the field, and whilst Constantine was able to neuter Gobby, he built his wall very effectively. The Foot Ninjas from the TMNT set gain +1A, +1D for each other sidekick in the field (either player), and he also had sterling service from Alfred the Butler, a character I had previously completely overlooked and who just wouldn’t go away.
Alfred is an ally, meaning that he counts as a Sidekick when in the field. Every time Alfred is KO-ed, you can roll a sidekick from your used pile and if it’s an energy, he just returns to the field at level 1. Without any way of giving my characters overcrush, I was unable to break through the Alfred-shaped wall in front of me, and he had a fair bit of luck, as I failed to roll my characters when I needed, and his Alfred never failed to regenerate (the odds of him coming back are pretty good to begin with). In that game, I cursed myself for not having brought a 3rd dice for Cheetah, as I whittled him down to 2 life, but he managed to swing for exactly 20 unblockable damage (Falcon again) the turn before I could have finished him off.
We started the third game, and I was ahead 20-8 when time was called. Given my death-by-a-thousand-cuts style and his big “swing for everything” team, I don’t know who would have won if we’d kept going, but it went down as a draw.
Round 4: Here be Dragons
In round 4, I faced a team of dragons: mostly characters I’d never seen before. The girl I was playing seemed fairly new to the game, and her team had been built by her partner. It was quite a tricksy team for a new player, with lots of globals, actions, and triggers. It was also the sort of team that my control elements were well-set to deal with: I got Wasp and Iron Fist out early on, neutralising the breath weapon effects of her dragons, and making sure that any use of globals hurt her at least as much as it hurt me. In the first game I also bought 2 of her Magic Missiles and finished her off with those, whereas the second game was done the old-fashioned way with Guy and Tsarina. A fairly comfortable 2-0 win.
Meanwhile at the other end
Overall, it was a good day for the local players – despite the large influx of visitors, one of our semi-regular locals was the overall winner, and another finished in the top 4, so no shame for Nottingham despite my fairly feeble attempts. I didn’t get a chance to look in any detail at the winning teams, but I understand that Bard was heavily involved again.
Overall I finished 21st out of 27. It was a slightly disappointing outcome, but I was never going to make the top 8, so it would have been largely immaterial if I had managed to climb a few places higher. The participation prizes were deeply underwhelming: zero-art versions of Vibranium Shield and Beast Boy, and it really felt like WizKids dropped the ball on this one – I remain convinced that the first no-art cards were a mis-print. I’ve heard all the arguments since about the alleged benefits, but as someone who is very unlikely to see a comic-book artist and get them to draw new pictures on the cards for me, I find these fairly pointless – especially as neither are cards I was planning on using any time soon. I understand that prizes for the top 8 were pretty good, which is great for them, but slightly frustrating to see WizKids continuing to push the game in such a competition-heavy direction.
Overall though, it was a good day: the tournament ran really smoothly thanks to some excellent work by Andy and Tim who were running things. For me, just getting to sit down and actually play the game for a few hours was a bonus, and I sold a couple of Super Rares, meaning that I came out of the day in profit / pulled Dice Masters back in to the black for 2016, even after picking up the Dr Strange box for my own set of Wongs.
There were several characters I encountered today that I hadn’t really registered before: Wong, Alfred, and the OP-Scarecrow who really makes a mess of Guy and Tsarina (opposing characters with 2 attack or less cannot attack whilst he is active).
Overall, this event probably reinforced what I knew already – I’m not really in this game for the competitive side of things. I like to try unusual combinations, or simply to build themed teams – there’s a reason that characters in this game are based on comic book characters rather than just being called “Big Attacker 3” or “Direct Damage character 2”. Sadly though, in an environment where people build power-teams and games can end in ten minutes, theme builds just aren’t viable.
I don’t have anything personal against the people who brought Bard on Sunday: they were clearly playing to win, and that was the best tool for doing so. It’s also worth saying that everyone I played against was a really good sport, and people were happy to remind me of triggers, or allow take-backs for mistakes.
Despite all that, I still think that it would be better for the game if Bard were banned (and if they finally delivered on the rumours about rotating out old sets). Personally though, I just want to see a more regular casual scene starting up again locally so that I can start actually using some of the dice I have, and maybe even justify buying into the newer sets properly. After all, the newest set is Deadpool, and who doesn’t love Deadpool…