Math Is For Blockers

Tonight, I decided to have a little fun with The Front Line.  This is an action that has come back into the spotlight with its recent reprint in The Dark Phoenix Saga Dice Masters set.  For those who do not know what this Basic Action does, The Front Line reads:

“Unblocked attacking character dice gain +3A until end of turn.”

It also has a Global Ability, which states:

“Global: Pay fist. Target opposing character die can’t block this turn unless opponent pays 1 life.”

This action is all about getting your stuff around or past your Opponent’s Field in order to score bit hits of damage.  There are lots of ways to accomplish this, and currently some very competitive options.  I decided to try my luck by focusing on a card I did not see get a lot of use when it was released, but always had that feeling like it could be good.  The Front Line feels like this opportunity.

Beast: Here, Sir!), from the X-men Forever Campaign Box, has a few things going for him on a Front Line build.  Firstly, Beast is a 2-cost character, which is fabulous when you are planning on rushing through as quickly as you can.  Second, his ability states: 

“Beast can only be blocked by two or more character dice.”

Thirdly, he has a max dice of 5 on his card.  These two things are going to be key to my strategy, as each Beast die will make blocking a little more challenging, and if I can have the whole crew out there it will hopefully force some difficult decisions for my Opponent.  Last, but not least, he is a mask character…  That will be important later.

What Did You Play?

So, the plan is to buy all of my Beast dice and swing with a large Field making blocking a difficult decision for my Opponent.  If I have enough other things in the Field, perhaps my Beast dice will essentially become unblockable as a result of their blocking requirements.  

The Team is essentially a cheap character and an expensive action.  Everything will be built to buy as much of both as fast as possible.  Remember when I said that Beast being a mask character would be important later?  Well, surprise, surprise!  Clayface is on the Team.  We all know what his Global Ability can do.  With it, I can easily purchase a Beast on Turn 1 and set up a Front Line purchase on Turn 2.

How do we do that?  Well, let’s look no further than good old Thor (I chose the Super Rare one) for the Global Ability.  Thor’s Global states:  “Global: Pay bolt. Once per turn, the next action die you purchase this turn costs 2 less (minimum 1.)”.  This should be fairly easy to pull off on Turn 2 to start putting the pressure on my Opponent.  Mixed in with the Clayface Global, I really only have to worry about bad rolls to get things set up.

Let’s pair Clayface with another new toy, from Dark Phoenix Saga, that will increase consistency and get my Field big fast.  The Rare Mister Sinister has what might be one of the best Global Abilities currently in Modern.  This Global states:  “Global: Pay 2. Field a Sidekick from your Used Pile, Prep a Sidekick from your Used Pile.”  Using Clayface to get double energy out means I can potentially use this Global almost every turn… and each turn I use it helps thin my bag and increase my Field size making The Front Line very dangerous, very quickly.

The core to my win condition now is one character, one action, and three Global Abilities.  Everything else is going to be increasing the chances of what I want to fire off actually happen.

First, I added Gladiator onto the Team (again for the Global… are you sensing a theme here?).  A combat damage driven Team absolutely dies with Static Field across the table.  The Gladiator Global will ensure that this does not come into play, even if it is there.  Next, the Rare Wolverine joins the Team… just for the Global… for real.  Bag control and Ramp are always nice on any Team, and this Team will need some help to recover if things go off of the tracks.  

The first non-Global addition to the build (beyond the core pieces) is good ol’ Gazer: Evil Familiar.  There has been some Drax floating around recently, and he could definitely put a damper on my Beast plans really easily.  Gazer is there for a “in case of emergency: break glass” type situation.  His Intimidate Keyword should help me temporarily remove almost any obstacle to allow me to continue my plan.

The next addition to the Team goes in the second Basic Action Card slot.  Wallop is an Organized Play card that makes it on the Team… just for the Global.  My Team will not do well against giant Overcrushers or the like, and the Global Ability on Wallop will help keep my stuff alive when I need them to stay in the Field Zone.

If my math is right, I should have one slot left on my Team.  If you look closely at what I have built, I have basically brought everything my Opponent needs in order to win with it.  While Beast looks good, Sinister is probably enough to build a big Field and swing in with their own Front Line.  If we both have giant Fields, The Front Line will not work.  

Enter Nihiloor: Patient Aberration.

While the Global will be useful to help recycle Gazers, and give an additional source of Ramp, it is the actual character ability that I want to look at here:  “When fielded, gain control of all opposing NPC character dice. Return those dice to their owner’s control when one of your Nihiloor dice leaves the Field Zone.”  My plan is to purchase him if my Opponent uses the Mister Sinister Global to wall up, preventing my Beast Army from getting through with enough damage for lethal.  Ideally, my bag should be fairly lean by then and he should come out with a Front Line die.  I Field Nihiloor and steal all of their Sidekicks (which will hopefully be a lot) and swing in for lethal.

It looks like an interesting machine that will work in one of a few ways:

  1.  I race with Beasts and swing with The Front Line before my Opponent can build up enough of a defense.
  2. My Opponent keeps pace with my Field and I use Nihiloor to bring more characters to my side.
  3. I lose because they use my own tools against me.

Let’s see how the Team plays and if Beast is a suitable tool in The Front Line Toolbox.

Game 1

Our travelling Edmontonian made it down for our game night and we were matched up first.  His was more of a mish-mash build of cards he had handy, but focused on using the Rare Cable from Dark Phoenix to double up the damage on his attackers.

I won the roll off and elected to go first (another repeating theme on the night).  Got the perfect start and bought a Beast and brought it into the Field with Clayface, and use that energy to Mister Sinister on my Opponent’s turn.  Turn 2, I was able to buy a Front Line with the Thor Global, a set up another Mister Sinister turn.  From there, it was rinse repeat with buying Beasts and using the Mister Sinister Global.  Once the bag was nice and thin, I ended up getting ⅘ Beasts into the Field.  With my already stacked lineup of Sidekicks, the Front Line rolled and he could not really deal with the blocking math due to Beast needing multiple characters to block him.

1-0

Game 1b

We finished up pretty quick and the other players were still playing, so we decided to have another game.  This time he went first, but the result was similar.  T1 Beast, T2 Front Line, T3… whatever.  Clayfaces and Mister Sinisters until I had my Field Built and The Front Line Rolled.  In this game, I had to fight the urge to swing in early when I was a little short on damage when I had the chance.  The plan was to alpha strike when the time was right, and I (probably stupidly) stuck to it.

2-0

Game 2

Some Rare Dark Phoenix shenanigans were on the table… but I was not exactly sure how when I first looked at the Team.  This is Son of L’s build, so I won’t spoil much here as I hope he decides to write it up.  I believe I got to go first again, but the rolls were not as ideal.  I still got the Beast, but failed on the Clayface.  Turn 2, I was still able to get The Front Line, but my Field was not set up exactly how I wanted.  It may have been better to build with Sinister, but I was honestly worried about my Opponent reaching for The Front Line before I did.  Eventually the ship started to right itself as I used Clayface and Mister Sinister to filter out Sidekicks where possible, while getting Beasts into the Field.  The character numbers eventually favoured me and the blocker math did not work out with Beast in the Field.

3-0

Game 2b

Again, we finished up before the other players and decided to have another go.  You know the set up by now… however, this time my Son of L switched up his strategy by purchasing Grey Hunter who, when KO’ed, would clear out all of my Sidekicks by dealing one damage across the board.  To make things even more difficult he purchased one of my Front Line dice.  This game slowed the pace of the previous sprints.  Build a Field, lose a Field, rebuild a Field until I could consistently get Beast dice into the Field to survive the damage from Grey Hunter.  Sneaking damage through was not a good idea in this one as the threat of The Front Line was on the other side of the table in this game.  It was going to be an alpha strike or nothing.  Thankfully, his KO’ing my Sidekicks with ease allowed me the opportunity to reach for Nihiloor.  He came out with The Front Line and both rolled.  His giant Field quickly shrunk to a couple characters as I took control of all of his Sidekicks.  Using his own characters gave me more than enough for lethal.  

4-0

Game 3

This fine gentleman (kksimons) is playing a Front Line Team in the current Two Team Takedown: All Out!  It is using many of the same tools as what I brought, so I knew this one was going to be a Front Line off regardless of what his Team was built for.  Sure enough, this is what the game was.  Both of us were building Fields and trying to out Front Line the other.  Neither of us had enough to get past the other.  He brought one other tool that proved to be a huge turning point for the game:  Villainous Pact.  He bought the action and I knew that if that hit with The Front Line, I was dead.  He managed to buy two and debated buying the third when he had the chance.  I told him if he doesn’t, I was going to buy it the next turn.  He made the smart play and loaded up.  Nihiloor was set up, but was going to be a turn too late as Villainous Pact and The Front Line rolled for him with plenty in the Field to hit me for lethal.

4-1

Post-Mortem:

This was one of the first aggro Front Line builds I have played, and very likely my last in my local scene.  The engine worked great, and didn’t have a lot of issues firing off.  When it worked, it worked fast.  This is definitely a sprinter’s Team, and tends to struggle in the long game.  Nihiloor was a great pivot to get out of some of those situations where the Opponent created a Sidekick wall that I needed to get through.  It is kind of nice using a character that has classically been used for its Global Ability for the actual character ability instead.

Beast was an absolute beast (sorry about that) in this build.  His ability meshes perfectly with what The Front Line is trying to do.  He was definitely one of those cards waiting for the right partner, and The Front Line was a great match for him.

The core engine of Global Abilities for Thor, Clayface, and Mister Sinister made the Team a well oiled machine.  I never felt like I could not get to that 5 cost action, and the Sidekick filtering offered by Mister Sinister just cannot be beat.  It is stupid good.

While I did not come up against any Static Field, and didn’t really need the Gladiator Global on the night, I would still keep it on the Team.  It is too useful if this Team does come up against a tool like that.  The Wolverine (don’t call him Atlas) Global was excellent on the Team as well.  When a bag correction was necessary, Logan was there to help out.  Definitely a keeper.

Gazer felt a little out of place tonight.  Not once did I ever consider reaching for him.  There just was not anything that prevented what I needed to do.  I guess the threat of something controlly is always there, and he is probably worth keeping on the Team for that reason.  Otherwise, I am not sure what I would swap Gazer out for.

Wallop was another one that I didn’t need on the night, and realized after the fact that I brought the counter to it with the Gladiator Global.  I for sure would swap this out for another card. I don’t really know what tool this Team needs in the second Basic Action slot, but I am open to ideas here.

Overall, this one definitely worked well.  Well enough that I am not touching The Front Line for a LONG time.  The games went how I thought they would.  If the Teams fired off fast, it would win fast.  If the game slowed, it would require more pieces to make work… but could still be successful.  If my Opponent played my same game, I had a chance of losing if they out paced my Field.  I am always a fan of these type of double edged sword type Teams, but I think this one is going into retirement as it was a little too good for a more casual scene.

How would you build for The Front Line?  Are you a fan or just rushing with Sidekicks?  Are you more of a fan of seeing how the Rare Phoenix plays with it?  What do you think of using Beast as the tool to make the blocker math more difficult?  Let us know in the comments below, or on our Socials (@dmNorthTV), or join the conversation on our Discord.

Finally, if you are in the Calgary area, feel free to join us every other Wednesday at Sentry Box, starting around 6:30 PM local time. If you want to join a great group, get in touch with us on the Calgary Dice Masters Facebook Group. Come join a welcoming community and play some Dice Masters live!

– jourdo

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