I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone, but I like X-men teams. Heck, I like them so much that when I forgot my deck box at home for last year’s Canadian Nationals, I chose to run an X-men team that even surprised a couple of Yuan-tis.
With X-men Forever upon us, and with X-men First Class still Modern-legal, could X-men teams be legitimate competitive threats? Maybe. After all…
Hope Springs Eternal
The Team: Weird subtitle, but awesome card.
If that pun didn’t make it obvious, here’s who I’m building around: Hope Summers.
Quick note before going further: per page 30 of the rulebook, where a card copies abilities (like Hope Summers) “then your copying die’s card would add the copied die’s card text to its own. When this happens, any references the original card text makes to itself would substitute the copying die’s name.”
What this means is that Hope copies an X-men character card’s abilities, and gets to use these abilities, even if it says, for example, “While Jubilee is active”. Plus, Hope only copies the abilities without becoming a copy of the die, just like SR Mimic. This means that if Hope is active alongside the character whose abilities she copies, you can functionally have two copies of a “while active” effect. This team is entirely built to take advantage of Hope’s potential.
Another important note: this is not built as a competitive team. This is built as a giant toolbox where I will just try to us Hope with different cards and see what sticks. There isn’t really a clear and coherent strategy here, just tons of interesting options.
Let’s first look at the win conditions: Boom Boom and Jubilee. In both cases, the point is to buy one of these characters alongside Hope, copy the ability with Hope, and thus get two copies of the relevant “while active” effect. This means that in the end, I can deal 4 damage per action with Boom Boom, or 2 damage per sidekick with Jubilee. Either way, it can get out of control pretty quickly.
Ping is there to use alongside Boom Boom + Hope. I’m trying to use Ping rather than Thrown Brick because the Brick is fantastic for my opponent to use, and my opponent may buy it before I can. However, just in case my opponent decides to steal my Pings, I threw in Banshee. Which I can conveniently copy with Hope. With Hope and Banshee active, that’s potentially 4 damage to my opponent per BAC drawn. I could genuinely win this way; crazy when you think about it.
Hope isn’t just there to win though; I threw in some control options that she can copy: Sage, Bishop, and Sunfire. For Bishop and Sunfire, the advantage is that I can use Hope to use their abilities with a 3-cost. Sage…the point is to use Hope alongside Sage to have two copies of her effect, and force my opponent to pay 2 more energy to field non-sidekicks. Rolled a level 3 Thanos? Here, pay 5 energy to field him! (gross) That last combo is a giant pain to deal with, and one which, at first glance, looked like it could see competitive play.
Now, there is one X-men character here who is not intended for use with Hope: Mimic. He’s just there for removal. Seriously, if he rolls a character face, you’re 100% guaranteed to KO the opposing die, with a 75% chance that you’ll KO Mimic to use him again the next turn. And what happens the other 25% of the time? You get to copy what you KO’d! Hands down the best Mimic in this new set, this is a card I’m quite excited about.
And the last card? Well, it’s Resurrection. For the global. Ramp, churn, bag control, you know the drill.
With that said, on to the games!
I started off against another team relying on Boom Boom + Ping, which also used Parasite, Strike, and all that good stuff. Hard to tell if my team could win, because at every crucial juncture…nothing rolled. Seriously. I did get Hope + Sage fielded, and promptly realized that it was not stopping my opponent at all, merely slowing him down. Meanwhile, he was setting stuff up to win, while I was merely setting stuff up to experiment with different options. He outpaced me and won. Still, I learned a fair bit from this one (see Post-mortem), so while I didn’t get the win, I gained a lot from this.
Next up, against Hulk + Thanos. He ramped his way to Hulk early, but some bad luck led him to draw too many characters, and not get enough energy to field. He was also trying to get Green Devil Mask out, but it wasn’t rolling for him. Meanwhile, I was setting up Hope + Boom Boom and getting the burn going with Ping. That damage went pretty fast. By the time he had Hulk out, he’d been getting damage from Ping, Boom Boom and Hope and I ended up outpacing him that way. I won.
Next up, I faced off against Mystics. This was a really interesting match up, as it allowed me to experiment with Hope as a way to tech against opposing strategies. My opponent got Boom Boom + Zatanna + Wong out, alongside a ton of actions. I first used Hope to copy Banshee and get Boom Boom off the field before she could trigger. Eventually, however, I used Hope to copy Bishop, and got Sunfire out, which functionally locked down all of my opponent’s sources of damage. All the while, I was using Boom Boom to slowly burn my opponent down, and I was fielding Mimic to KO his stuff. My opponent would’ve been completely locked down, were it not for Shriek. On the turn before I was going to win, he Shrieked my Sunfire, then used a metric ton of actions to remove all of my Hope and Bishop dice, before using Ping to finish the game. He won. But it was close!
I finished the night against a casual Deadpool team. This was an interesting one, as it was quite relaxed. He used less common abilities (e.g. characters with Regenerate) that made some of my strategies (e.g. KO stuff with Mimic) less reliable. It forced me to think outside of the box a little bit. I got Boom Boom + Hope set up, and it was hitting quite hard. He just didn’t have much to stop it. Eventually, I copied Mimic with Hope, blocked with Hope so she’d be KO’d (while keeping one Hope active), and fielded her again the following turn to use Mimic’s ability for removal, then copying a different character so that the Hope that was still active could be used for burn with Boom Boom. Convoluted? Absolutely. But it worked well, and the resulting action-based damage got me the win.
-Let’s start with Sage. I changed my mind: I don’t think she’s going to be worth it in competitive play. There is simply too much ramp available, making her very easy to play around. Even if I double her ability with Hope, it just ends up being a speed bump, nothing more. Upping fielding costs is simply not as good as, well, all of the other things I can do with Hope.
-And on the other things, breaking it down: With Jubilee, Hope was underwhelming. It was ok, but not much more (especially hard to use when GDM is around). Using Hope with Boom Boom, now that was a good combo that dealt large chunks of damage. This one’s worth revisiting for sure. Using Hope to copy Bishop is awesome, and while I didn’t get around to making Hope copy Sunfire, I could only imagine how annoying that could be for my opponent. As for copying Banshee, it worked ok, but it was not the killer blow I’d hoped.
-Keep in mind that the stuff I put in here just represents some of the many options Hope can be used with. UC Jean Grey from XFC in particular is one card I intend to try using with Hope at a later date.
-Mimic is definitely a star player here; self-recycling removal is no joke, and it could fit on so many teams (Collector teams would love this guy!). The 4 cost hurts a bit, but he’s worth it. Do not sleep on this card.
-After trying it out, I don’t like Ping; it’s too unreliable, and not very flexible. I think I’ll stick to Thrown Bricks if I want cheap basic actions (and I’ll stick to SWitch to punish my opponent rather than rare Banshee).
So overall, I guess Hope isn’t the game-breaking wonder she looked like at first. She’s good in some contexts, but really, you should build a team with 2, maybe 3 ways to use her, and other pieces to make the team run smoothly (this team in particular severely lacked in bag control and churn). I’ll revisit Hope in other contexts for sure. Next time, though, my team will be a bit more focused.