This week was the first time our local group played any Constructed format since the launch of the Dark Phoenix Saga set. So you’d think I would go for a Hope Summers build of some kind. Except I didn’t. Looking at my team, you may even think that…
Something’s Fishy Here
The Team: Don’t Touch My Goldfish!
Format: Casual Golden Age (Modern recommended)
The entire team was built around its ramp engine. Bishop is the key piece. The idea is that by using the Clayface global to bring him into my Reserve Pool from my Used Pile, I can spend the 2 energy from his dice to purchase 2 Sylgar dice…and immediately Prep them. In the early game, this can allow me to get very expensive dice very quickly.
To illustrate: going second, on Turn 1, I can purchase Bishop, use Clayface’s global, then buy and Prep 2 Sylgars. So on Turn 2, I roll 4 sidekicks and 2 Sylgars. If I use Clayface’s global again (spend one Mask to have the 2 Shields from Bishop’s die in Reserve), this can give me up to 9 (!) energy. On Turn 2.
If I get that much energy, I need something to use it on. Of course, the perfect, logical fit would be…
…But I don’t have him. So I figured I’d have a laugh instead and aim for an 8-cost beatstick: Thanos. He’s big, he does a lot of damage, and his doubled Overcrush damage is a pain to deal with. Neat!
Alright, with that said, I immediately thought: I’m going to have spare energy and my bag’s going to be a mess. How do I fix this? Also, how do I make sure I get my Thanos reliably without putting Becky in? (Because that would give my opponent the same level of ramp, which partly defeats the purpose of Bishop) I went for Xanathar (to take sidekicks out of my Used Pile) and Lilandra (to churn dice/reset my bag at key times, e.g. on T2 if I buy Thanos then).
Xanathar also has an important benefit: he triggers Sylgar’s ability and thus serves as a secondary win condition (though I should point out, I’m not the first one to have used this strategy). All of a sudden, if I don’t roll perfectly on T2, I can pivot to Xanathar and try to KO my Sylgars while he’s active to win that way. Unbeknownst to me when I was building the team, this would become my main win condition.
One thing became apparent to me: both of my win conditions are vulnerable to Static Field, and both require my opponent to block what I’m attacking with. So Gladiator and Booker T (both for the globals) are logical additions to support both win conditions. Now, Gladiator also serves as my only 4-cost character, hence why you’ll notice I put a lot of dice on him considering he’s essentially a blank text character (he has very good stats!). I also noted Booker T’s action as another fantastic way to enable both of my win conditions if I have the opportunity to purchase it in a game.
As for the last two cards, Mutation and Gazer, they both serve as removal. However, Mutation’s global is also very important, either to buff Thanos’ A or to spin Sylgar to level 2 so he can be on his burst face (which is necessary to trigger his damage-dealing ability). As for Gazer, he has the added bonus that I can Prep him if I pay for his purchase cost with Bishop. And since I expected Master Mold to make an appearance, token hate to slow him down is not a bad idea.
Now, it’s clear to me that my success depends on my T2 roll (or T3 if I’m going first). I need at least 6 energy to purchase my backup win condition, 7 energy if I’m going to use Lilandra to set it up for T3. And I need 9 energy (so all sidekicks on energy and both Sylgars on double shields, AND a mask to Clayface my Bishop die) if I want to set up a T3 Thanos. Not guaranteed by any stretch, so I’ll have to be careful not to get greedy if I get enough for my backup win condition. But still, even with my backup plan, this feels like an “all or nothing” gimmick team. We’ll see how that goes.
And with all of that said, on to the games!
My first match was, of course, against a Master Mold team. But she didn’t have a huge amount of ramp, so I had the advantage of speed. I missed going for the T2 Thanos, so instead I bought Xanathar, and let the fishies go to work. I wore my opponent down with Sylgars, and had 10 damage dealt before Master Mold even hit the field. While my opponent used interesting tricks with my own cards (forced Xanathar to block while attacking with Master Mold and a Sentinel token, so that Xanathar would not be active when Sylgar would get KO’d), I outpaced Master Mold simply because I got my damage going so darn quickly. On the last turn, I fielded a Gazer, Intimidated out her only blocker (a Sentinel token), and dealt just enough damage to win (thanks to her own Drax global – very handy with the amount of Shields I rolled!). So I won. Yes, really.
Next up, I went up against an X-men team running Hope/Cable and hoping to double the attack of unblockable Kitty Pryde dice. I managed to get Thanos T2, had him hit the field and did some big damage. But then my opponent’s R Moira hit the field and started getting some Loyalty Counters. This stalled out Thanos’ ability to do damage as my opponent built a board, so I pivoted back to Xanathar and started using Sylgar to beat down my opponent, 5 damage at a time. He had no response and wasn’t daring to attack to avoid triggering Sylgar. At one point, he did an attack where Xanathar was forced to block to try to stall my win condition, but that was not enough. I had both Xanathars purchased by that point, and I quickly had my Sylgars back in action and dealt the necessary damage to win.
My last game of the night was against a Hope/Colossus build (using Zatanna to spin up his characters), who liked using Joppa to counter Overcrushing characters like Thanos. For the fun of it, and because I had the energy, I went Thanos on T2 anyway to see if I could deal damage before Joppa could hit the field. It was reckless of me and didn’t really work, but with the amount of ramp pieces I could use (he brought Investigation plus the Dark Phoenix global), I pivoted very quickly to Xanathar. I let the fishies do their work, and my opponent missed Hope Summers at crucial times. When he was about to get both Hope and Colossus (and likely deal me 20 damage in one turn), I rolled the Booker T action and forced him to block 3 Sylgars for 15 damage. On top of more combat damage (including Thanos blocked by a sidekick; ouch!). That was overkill.
-I GREATLY underestimated that rare Bishop. Putting your strategy into overdrive with one-sided ramp like this is amazing; it really makes you the beatdown and puts the opponent on the back foot all game. One night is a small sample size, I know, but if he continues to be that useful, I may need to reconsider whether he should go on the Essentials List.
-One big weakness of that ramp engine is that it locks in a lot of cards (Bishop, Clayface, Sylgar, plus tools to fix your bag/empty your Used Pile), so your team building becomes very narrow, especially if you go for the Sylgar secondary win condition (where Xanathar, Mutation/Energy Field and Booker T become necessary). You don’t end up with a lot of “flex” spots to put in important tools like, say, control pieces. Seeing as this ramp engine very much makes you the “aggro”, you may want to focus on removal rather than control if you build around this.
-On game 1 against Master Mold: I don’t know if I would have won if we had equal ramp. I outpaced my opponent strictly because of the Bishop/Sylgar ramp engine.
-You buy a lot of dice when using this team, so it’s important to keep control of your Used Pile and bag. Lilandra and Xanathar’s globals were tremendously useful.
-Thanos is not a fantastic card for this build. It’s serviceable, I guess? But even though I had fun buying him T2, I would’ve won much faster with Master Mold. It’s telling that Sylgar/Xanathar did most of the work tonight.
So overall, this was a ton of fun, and it was more successful than it ever should’ve been. And I now ask you, dear readers: If you used that Bishop/Sylgar ramp engine, what would YOU try to ramp to?
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