Sorry it took me so long to write this one. But you should’ve expected it. After all, I won the last Two-Team Takedown, and it’s not every day that you have a chance to go…
Back! To! Back!
Format: Modern Two-Team Takedown (no bans)
Contrarily to last time, this tournament is an all-out Modern tournament to assess what works in the new Dark Phoenix Saga meta. And I had a couple of ideas in mind…
But before I talk about my teams, I need to address some “meta” reads that influenced my choices:
-I needed ways to deal with tokens. Between God Catcher and Master Mold, I expected a lot of them, and they’re hard to deal with if you’re not prepared since they can’t be spun to energy or rerolled.
-I needed ways to deal with sidekicks! R Sinister was a card I expected to see a lot of. Meaning that even if a strategy doesn’t rely on sidekicks, they may get fielded a fair bit. So I need a way to get them off the board and/or punish my opponent for fielding them.
One more note: in this event, we were allowed to swap one card per team after Round 2. So I will include both my initial team links and the ones post-change so I can walk you through my initial thoughts and what changed.
The Team (Start of event): A Colossal New Challenger.
Post-round 2: A Drax-tic Change; welcome Ivy!
My Team A was one that I immediately knew I wanted to do. I have been singing Hope/Colossus’ praises since I knew that combo was coming to Modern, so time to put my money where my mouth is. The core concept is pretty self-explanatory: I have Hope, I have Colossus, Hope copies Colossus and I hurt my opponent for each level 2 or 3 character I have active. The damage is deceptively quick if you never went up against it. But it’s even worse if you have both Hope and Colossus active at the same time – you can deal 4 damage per level 2 or 3 character active, which usually ends the game real quick.
To make it easier to have level 2 or 3 characters, I put in Mutation for its global. I know some prefer using Zatanna to spin characters up a level, but I preferred having that ability on a global to limit my purchases a bit (for reasons I detail below). Plus, the action is also tremendously useful as removal, or simply to set up your win condition faster.
As much as Hope/Colossus can hurt, I know that in the current meta, it won’t win a pure race for damage. I need to disrupt my opponent as much as possible, so let’s go for some heavy removal. First up, Storm. She’s a great backup target for Hope if Colossus gets blanked, and in some instances going for Storm instead of Colossus can be the right play, especially since Storm’s removal comes with damage too! Don’t forget that Hope remembers Storm’s text until she’s fielded again, so if you roll Hope on energy while she’s copying Storm, that Energize effect will trigger. She makes it very worthwhile to purchase multiple Hope dice.
But enough about Storm, here’s the team’s real star: Dani Moonstar. When she’s blocked, the blocker’s rerolled, and if it lands energy, 2 damage to the opponent. Of course, I used her alongside Booker T to force opposing characters to block. This combo is quite important in this meta, as it severely punishes the opponent for fielding sidekicks. And against anything else, it’s still a 50/50 chance to get that character off the board. Using a 2-cost character. Ouch!
Now, I also threw in several control pieces. Drax (originally) was going to stop big bruisers from being fielded, Kate Bishop serves to push said big bruisers back if they’re attacking (and to counter any force attack globals my opponents might use on Hope), and Big E allows me to double up on control and make it so that if my opponent shuts one control piece down, the other is still there and available.
Now, you’ll notice I didn’t put any ramp yet. That’s on purpose; with the amount of ramp in Modern, I fully expected my opponents to bring me ramp. But it helps that this team can stick with very limited, cheap purchases and still win. I did add one card to serve as bag fixing, namely Wolverine. But he wasn’t just there for the global. His Awaken ability (which I can trigger with Mutation – heck, Hope can even copy him if I want) gives Deadly to a sidekick. And using a Deadly sidekick to force opposing tokens to block is useful backup removal if I’m up against God Catchers or Master Molds. At least that’s the plan.
The change I did to this team after Round 2 was quite substantial. I took out Drax, as he simply wrecked this team’s pace with his terrible fielding costs. His replacement was obvious: Poison Ivy. Not only can she negate the damage from Becky and the like, but that Wolverine tech I mentioned above? She does the same but better (since I’d want her active anyway as a defensive piece). So she’s perfect as anti-token tech.
And that’s it for Team A. Too much control and not enough big attackers for you? You’ll probably like Team B better.
The Team (Start of event): Becky’s just there for the global, I swear.
Post-round 2: This time masks are useful.
Most experienced players will look at this team, notice these 3 cards, and probably give me a dirty look:
For perspective: in the last TTTD event we did, those three cards were all banned because pre-Dark Phoenix, they were the three dominant win conditions in the meta. And I have them in the same team. Why?
Well, I’m certainly not planning to win with all three. God Catcher is the one I want to work with here. The plan is to use Thor’s global to discount him, and Becky’s global to Prep my God Catcher dice right away. And then I can use my God Catcher action dice to field some 10/10 tokens faster than my opponent can call out that crazy garbage.
With that said, if I have a turn where I have a ton of energy available, Becky and Thor are both excellent backup win conditions that I can use to my advantage. Heck, depending on what globals my opponents bring, I can easily pivot to either of these win conditions if necessary. So even though this is a God Catcher team first and foremost, this team is built with an underlying Swiss-army knife mentality (which paid off in one particular match!).
Now let’s look at the rest of the team. I figured I would be the aggro 90% of the time, so everything else (other than one card) was put in with speed, removal and consistency in mind. Under Surveillance needs no introduction. You target a God Catcher token, and boom! Unblockable 10 damage. Do that twice and you win. Plus, it can be discounted and Prep’d by Thor and Becky just like God Catcher itself. Gladiator was included so that my opponents couldn’t target my characters with Static Field.
While the above is the obvious way to win, I also put in some global-based removal to win even quicker if possible. Specifically, a force-attack global (to force control characters off the board, e.g. Moira) was an obvious inclusion. I chose Vulcan, because I figured that on the off chance I’d get 6 energy, he’d be fun to have active.
I also put in Wand. Because I’m the aggro, I’m not afraid of paying a couple of life points to KO your sidekicks and deal you 10 damage with a God Catcher. (Remember, I anticipated lots of sidekicks due to R Sinister) Doing this in the early game can really skew the playing field in my favour and put my opponent on the back foot.
As for the rest of the team, I threw in Gazer for anti-token shenanigans, additional removal, and just to have a 2-cost that fits with the energy I need. Typhoid Mary serves as the lone pure control card on the team, perfect to disrupt opposing control to deal that lethal blow.
And my last card, of course, was Intellect Devourer, for its global that increases my team’s consistency (don’t forget that my ideal roll involves 3 very specific energy to come up: bolt for Thor’s global, shield for Becky’s global, and bolt for God Catcher itself). Not the first time I use it, and not the last for sure! It’s also a bit of a trap for my opponent – I want your sidekicks gone, after all, so please, get them off the board for me!
Now, a quick note on the change I did after round 2. It wasn’t a huge change, and was more than a little petty, I admit. I kept being annoyed at rolling masks when I had literally no use for them. So instead of masks being functionally blank energy, I replaced Vulcan with R Doctor Strange. I could probably have kept Vulcan and it would have made little to no difference in the end.
And that’s it for both teams. On to the games!
Keep in mind that since this is the Two-Team Takedown format, you must win with BOTH teams to win a round. Instead of linking to their teams, I will name each opponent, and you can see their team lists here. (This only shows lists post-round 2)
I started off against Mr Spin.
The first game was between my God Catcher team and his team based around spin-down removal. He was using C Moira as anti-God Catcher tech. I used my force attack global to get her off the board as soon as she arrived. This allowed my God Catchers to charge in unimpeded. Thanks to some lucky rolls, my team charged in and won before he could set anything up (on T4 or 5).
Our second game was his God Catcher team against my Hope/Colossus control. This was a weird one, because of some wonky early turns. My turn 2 roll was 2 fists and 2 sidekicks, to give you an idea (bleh!). His God Catcher showed up and did some early Overcrush damage. I then started to have enough characters purchased to set up my win condition and save up masks. He didn’t have global hate in this team at the time, so I could use the Kate Bishop global to hold his God Catchers back. There were a few scares where I had a hard time generating masks, but I managed to hold back his God Catchers and deal my Hope/Colossus damage, slowly but surely, and won.
Overall record: 1-0
Whippet_Good was my second opponent. And he gave me a really tough match.
The first game was my Hope/Colossus team vs his Hope/Rachel team. He went for Hope and Jubilee on his side, while I went Hope+Dani. He was trying to race me for damage first (by copying Jubilee with Hope), but after a few Dani triggers sent his stuff to Used, he switched to copying Rachel with Hope to counter Colossus and Dani. However, I used his tricks against him. By KO’ing an X-men on my side (with his Dark Phoenix global), I would trigger his Hope/Rachel’s board-wipe effect early, allowing me to field my other characters and cause shenanigans. Despite this, he was hurting me a fair bit with Jubilee, so this was a pretty even damage race between my Dani and Hope/Colossus vs his Jubilee triggers.
I need to bring up the last turn. He was at 4 life and had Jubilee and Hope active (with another Hope and sidekicks in Used). I rolled Hope and Dani, as well as Mutation, and I had a sidekick active. After obtaining a ruling confirming that even if I used Mutation on Jubilee (switching it for his other Hope), KO’ing one Hope/Rachel would trigger the board wipe, I switched gears. Before fielding anything, I bought a Dani, used Mutation to swap it with my sidekick, then KO’d said Dani with the Dark Phoenix global, triggering his board wipe. Only then did I field Hope and Dani, and leaving both in the field (using Mutation’s global for level shenanigans), I dealt just enough damage to win. Phew, that was a heck of a game 1.
The second game was my God Catcher vs his God Catcher. This one is simple: it was a pure race, and he went first. Plus, every global he could hope to use on his team was on my side of the table (Intellect Devourer, Wand, etc). He quickly outpaced my team and just beat me to the punch. He won game 2.
Game 3 was my God Catcher vs his Hope/Rachel. I went first and was aggressive early. He went Jubilee + Hope again. I used Vulcan, Gazer, etc. as my primary means of control. He had a hard time purchasing dice because he kept saving up for globals to stop me. He was on the back foot the entire game. I just went all-in on my actions (other than one Gazer), buying all 4 God Catchers and 2 Under Surveillance dice. By keeping up the pressure, eventually he couldn’t stop everything and I snuck in enough God Catcher tokens to win. But my goodness did he make me work for it. I won 2-1.
Overall record: 2-0
Next up, a match against Ronathanpxpx. This one isn’t on Youtube from what I can tell, but if that changes I’ll embed it here. (UPDATE: Ronathanpxpx has now uploaded the match to Youtube, and you can watch it below)
Game 1 was my God Catcher vs his Becky. I could see he had strong anti-God Catcher tech (Gazer), so immediately I thought I should use another win condition alongside God Catcher, to force him into bad choices. And then on turn 2 I had loads of energy. So I bought Thor. While he was going for his Becky shenanigans, I wasn’t giving him the opening for a big swing. Then on one turn he only had a 7/7 Becky on the board and was at 18 life. I rolled Thor (lvl 3), alongside God Catcher, 2 sidekicks and enough energy to field Thor (I also had a God Catcher action on the field). I fielded Thor, then God Catcher (2 damage to Becky), then 2 sidekicks (4 more damage to Becky), then spun one sidekick to energy and used Wand to deal the last point of damage to KO Becky. I then swung in with everything for 18 damage and the win. NOT how this team is supposed to win, but I’ll take it!
Game 2 was my Hope/Colossus team vs his Becky/Dani team. This was an odd one. I had the tools to slow him down (Ivy especially, but also Big E), so I was going control hard. But his Becky rerolled my control off the board more often than not. I made it interesting (copied Storm with Hope to dissuade him from using Mister Sinister), but he eventually dealt more damage than I could stop and he won game 2.
Game 3 was my Hope vs his Hope. He went for control early with his Typhoid Mary and Mystique, but I had both Hope and Dani; he couldn’t shut down both. Dani was left unblanked and I used her to reroll his characters consistently. A couple of lucky (for me) rerolls led to Typhoid being off the board just in time for Hope/Colossus’ damage to trigger, and that gave me the damage I needed to win. I won the round 2-1.
Overall record: 3-0
For this round, I was up against mbrewer, in a rematch of the last TTTD’s finals. The game was recorded (very poorly!), you can watch it here:
Quick summary (if you don’t want to deal with my horrible camera work):
-Game 1: My God Catcher vs his Stone of Golorr / Front Line team
Rough matchup for him. He gave me a second Thor global (which I made frequent use of), and my Wand global made it hard for him to set up sidekicks for his Front Line. So I had tech to stop him, he had no tech to stop me. I won.
-Game 2: My Hope/Colossus vs his Stone of Golorr/Front Line
Also a rough matchup for him. This team also punishes sidekick builds thanks to Dani. But that didn’t stop him from trying! He could not keep his sidekicks on the board, so he couldn’t build up that big attack he would’ve needed to win. So while he was ahead in the early game, he kept emptying his board with smaller attacks, which slowed the pace down. I wore him down with Dani and Colossus damage, and eventually took advantage of having a ton more characters than him by swinging in with everything for the win. Fascinating matchup. I won the round 2-0.
Overall record: 4-0
And for the grand finale, I went up against StuART. This was recorded for posterity (thanks jourdo). You can watch it here:
Game 1 was my God Catcher team vs his Hope/Jubilee team. To put it plainly, he could not set anything up to defend himself in time. He was rolling sidekicks, but my Wand global kept them off the field early on for my first God Catcher to hit. He made a smart call using Typhoid to blank Gladiator, but had no easy way to get God Catcher off the board. So I just kept attacking with God Catcher (forcing him to use Static Field on unblockable tokens while forcing him to block the other(s) with Typhoid and other dice), and one turn he simply missed Typhoid Mary. The next turn I emptied his field and swung in for the win.
Game 2 was my Hope/Colossus vs his Becky. Despite a bad turn 1, he Drax’d Hope early, so Dani started doing most of the work. Ivy was holding his Becky back while I kept a lean field to avoid opening myself up to giant Booker+Jerry fueled Becky. I did take 10 damage from an unblocked Becky fueled by Tag Out (!?), courtesy of the Kurt Angle global. I’ll admit I didn’t see that one coming. But subsequently, he missed Becky on a crucial turn where I had no Ivy active. Dani kept doing most of the damage while he used Spidey for removal until he was at 6 life, at which point a crazily lucky roll meant I had Hope (copying Colossus) and 2 Dani’s, all at level 2 or 3. I barely, barely won this game. And I won the round 2-0.
Overall record: 5-0 (!)
-My Team A worked like a charm, in no small part thanks to Dani + Booker. That engine did its job, 100%, both against sidekicks and opposing control.
-I often found myself with very little energy available, since I kept using Booker T’s global with Dani. As a result, I kept buying extra Dani Moonstar dice even though I didn’t need more than one active. They were useful as Hope/Colossus fuel, but I found myself wanting another 2-cost more than once.
-This lack of energy also contributed to me not using Big E much. I simply didn’t have the energy available to get him when he would’ve been useful. Had I relied on removal that didn’t tie up so much energy, I might have liked him better.
-In a team with limited ramp like my Team A, Drax is a huge liability. His fielding costs tie up too much energy and prevent me from getting to my win condition. I was much happier with Ivy as a 3-cost option.
-My Team B may have featured the “Big 3”, but the one card my opponents consistently called out was Wand. My first God Catcher hit often happened after removing a character or two with Wand. And when you’re one God Catcher away from victory, it really puts your opponent on the back foot.
-My Team B is a relatively narrow build with few spaces for customization. The one big “flex” spot is my force attack global. It came in handy a couple of times (notably against Moira in Round 1), but it was the one card I felt I could swap. Very few control pieces stop tokens or actions, so unless I’m up against Moira (at which point I could use Wand anyway), it’s…not quite a waste, but not worth using up a slot on this team.
-From a long-term standpoint: after rotation, assuming only 2018 product rotates out of Modern (unannounced as of the time of this article), Team B will not work as-is with Under Surveillance gone, we’d need to figure out a new way to make the strategy work (likely through Overcrush, but that doesn’t work as neatly). But Team A is mostly rotation-proof so long as Hope Summers and Dani stick around. Some support pieces would need to be switched around, but there should still be good options in Modern for those roles.
And there you have it. I managed to win the TTTD again, somehow. This new Modern is chaotic. The power level is through the roof, but there are enough strong strategies that the top of the meta is surprisingly unclear at this point. What would you say are the top teams in this new Dark Phoenix Saga meta?
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