I’m certainly not the first one to build around Hellfire Gala. Heck, I’m not even the first person from DM North to try it. And we had a whole Dice Social themed around it. But it wouldn’t be a gala if someone wasn’t…
Format: Casual Golden Age (Modern recommended)
Ok, if it wasn’t already clear enough, here is the centrepiece of this whole thing:
If you haven’t heard about this card, it’s a 6-cost BAC with three distinct effects (in order): Draw and roll 2 dice. Each player fields 3 sidekick dice from their used pile. If there are 16 or more dice in the Field Zone, win the game (!).
This is the only card in Dice Masters that can win without touching your opponent’s life total. So my plan is simple: win with my opponent’s life total remaining at 20. All I need is for 16 characters to be active between both players.
Let’s start by talking about the ramp engine, since it helps me get a lot of characters on the board. Yes, I’m finally using the Sinister/Clayface combo. Mister Sinister’s global is just like the old Atlantis/S.T.A.R. Labs, except you can use any energy to do it. And each trigger puts a sidekick on the field, and another in your Prep Area. And why does Clayface help, you ask? Because on your opponent’s turn, you can pay a mask, take a non-sidekick and put it on a double-energy face, and then trigger Sinister right away. That’s a lot of ramp, and a lot of sidekicks you get to field, both of which are helpful here.
But even with Sinister, I need some way to make Hellfire Gala easier to purchase. It costs 6 after all, and I don’t want to bring Dark Phoenix’s global – once a character hits the field, I want it to stay there if I can help it. So I brought Thor for the global. With the firm intention of never buying him all night (and I didn’t!).
To make this work, I need some defensive pieces to keep characters on the board. First up, Meteorite. Limiting how many opposing characters can attack is huge if I want to keep characters active. Next, Static Field for the global. This one is self-explanatory, of course. And last but not least, Mystique. This one is to hurt the little “ping” effects like Jubilee, Dreadnaught, etc. It doesn’t stop Thor, but if I’m up against Thor, well, I’m probably having a rough time anyway.
The rest of the team is made of even more defense and control. First up, Mastermind, there to stop those pesky Overcrush characters. Since he doesn’t have Deadly, or much attack at all, he also makes it easier for those characters to stay on the board. Then, there’s Typhoid Mary, there to blank my opponent’s biggest threat. And then, there’s Widow. I admit this one isn’t optimal, but I did want to use her removal in case of emergency. And heck, most of the time I can just use her to spin down my opponent’s bigger threats to a lower level, which is helpful in and of itself.
But the real reason for Widow is simple: in my limited testing, I ran out of sidekicks quickly. I needed cheap characters of a corresponding energy type so that I could load up my field enough to use Gala. I had quickly chosen to go for cheap mask characters to help with Clayface, hence why I used Mystique instead of the OP Widow. And to be honest, I couldn’t think of a better 2-cost mask control character for this build, so Widow it is.
So let me break this down. My strategy is to load up on mask and control characters early, buy Gala at first opportunity, load up my field, and slow the pace of the game down enough to hope I can get to 16 characters with Gala and win.
And with all of that said, on to the games!
I started off against a R Dark Phoenix team, loaded with the Booker and Jerry Lawler globals (to use on opposing characters and boost Dark Phoenix’s damage; ouch!). Thankfully, you’ll notice my characters have low attack, so her strategy didn’t exactly work as intended. But then again, neither did Gala. Sure, I got more than enough characters on the board, and Meteorite made sure they stuck around…but then Gala didn’t roll. And again. And again. My opponent was too busy laughing to realize she should’ve bought my Gala (she probably would’ve rolled it and won). She was pinging me bit by bit (seeing as I had a hard time saving energy for Static Field, was choosing to take the damage and keep up the ramp), but she couldn’t deal damage quick enough. I had to buy 2 Galas in the end, and roll the action a total of 10 times (!) before it would finally trigger, but I eventually won.
This team was a bit different. The basic strategy was to use Parasite to buff Overcrushing UC Spideys. Thankfully, that damage output was relatively slow and never really got going (you first have to build enough of a board to discount Spidey). I built a board quickly and got the Gala going. This time Gala actually rolled in a timely fashion, and the board had quickly ballooned to the requisite 16 characters, so I won…relatively quickly, to my surprise.
My last match was interesting. It was a U Deathbird/Dreadnaught build, where I would’ve been in trouble…were it not for Mystique. My opponent read this and was going to go for SR Lilandra instead to punish me for all those Sinister triggers…but she couldn’t get a shield out of 5 energy. So she bought a Gala instead. Uh-oh. So it was a race for both of us to build a board and set off Gala. She used Gala first, but the board was at 12 characters after all triggers, and she ended up with sidekicks in her Used. So on my turn, I fielded one character, then Gala fielded 3 of her sidekicks, and we were at exactly 16. Meaning I won via Gala again. Somehow.
I took the bye to facilitate matchups.
-If it’s not clear: tonight, people clearly went for more relaxed, janky strategies. This helped me tremendously. If my opponents’ teams were even a bit more efficient, I would’ve been in deep doo-doo.
-Getting to 16 characters on the board for Gala is much easier if you can buy a lot of cheap characters. Using 2 different 2-cost mask characters was not a waste, to put it lightly.
-The more you filter out sidekicks with Sinister, the less flexibility you have on energy types (especially when you don’t run a sidekick fixer). In a team like this, you must buy the more varied characters early on, so that later on you can pile on more cheap characters of energy your other character dice can easily produce.
-One unfortunate reality: in a competitive setting, you will not win quicker by getting 16 characters on the board than you would by just using characters to win. While it worked in a slightly more casual setting like this, Hellfire Gala strikes me as a card that will remain in the casual to semi-competitive scene for the time being.
-Now, with that said, I find that Gala’s second ability is the most helpful to get to 16 characters. My opponents wanted sidekicks in Used to trigger Sinister, so their Used loaded up a bit, and all of a sudden, so long as 13 characters are on the board, Gala would win the game. I never relied on having my own sidekicks available in Used; between Gala’s draw and roll effect and Sinister’s global, that never happened.
-I like the Clayface/Sinister ramp engine to a degree, but it has its limits. It’s terrific for aggressive strategies to get the ball rolling quickly, but it feels off to use it in a control build. I’d use it if my opponent brought it, but maybe I wouldn’t build around it.
So there you have it, I finally got Gala out of the way. Not a game-breaker, but definitely a fun card to play around. But how would you run Gala?
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