Right concept, wrong game. Hmmm…
[EDITOR’S NOTE: We have a guest columnist today! This is a firsthand account of Southeastern Michigan Meta player Roberto Ty and his run last week at the Michigan ROC State Championship! We’re hoping to feature Roberto semi-regularly on this site, so if you like what you see, let him know in the Comments below!]
Michigan ROC State Championship
November 9, 2019
By Roberto Ty
Warren, MI – Twenty-six players brought a wide range of teams for the ROC Michigan State Championship at Eternal Games. There was a lot of mystery in the days leading up to this event in part due to the new Pauper format where players are restricted to using game elements of a common or uncommon rarity level. Convention exclusives and OP figures are excluded and a Highlander rule is in effect. The most impactful rule, however, was not a restriction, but rather the inclusion of the WWE Universe figures. Released only two weeks earlier, the WWE characters brought their own multiverse abilities (such as Grand Entrance) and an even greater X-Factor–the WWE Ring–to the event that rivaled the latest Pauper meta contenders from the X-Men The Animated Series: Dark Phoenix Saga set like Juggernaut, Danger Room Constructs, Nimrod, and Onslaught.
It’s A Team Decision
A month before the event, I practiced several teams to gain insight both for my final build and to become familiar with character dials. The latter became moot as WizKids made a controversial decision: players were allowed to look at the back of an opponent’s card. This would go into effect on November 6, just three days before the event.
Juggernaut, The… Quite Stoppable One-Man Army
What looks good on paper (for Pauper)… maybe should just stay on paper. Nothing exemplified this more than XDPS-G007 Juggernaut. He dominated many pre-release and release events and was the one-man army that seemed likely to dominate the Pauper format…until you practiced with him. At 300-points, he may be unstoppable, but he certainly wasn’t unbeatable. And just like the comics, he is easily overwhelmed by a team… and that team didn’t even have to be the X-Men. I lost to a Star Trek team that won map roll and placed us on a map without blocking terrain. Juggernaut needs blocking terrain to win because of his two synchronous Traits:
CITY-WIDE RAMPAGE: If Juggernaut destroyed 3 or more pieces of blocking terrain during one of his actions, after resolutions remove an action token from him.
MY MUTANT BROTHERS AND SISTERS: Once per turn when an effect other than clearing removes an action token from Juggernaut, after resolutions heal him 1 click.
Juggernaut can’t win map–certainly not consistently. So I shelved him and formed a new plan.
Nimrod and My Dice
While map matters, so does a plan. The Juggernaut practice emphasized the importance of winning map and to win map I needed a Themed Team. I gravitated toward 175-point XDPS-G003 Nimrod and supported him with XDPS011b Magneto and XDPS-G002 Sentinel Squad One or XDPS011b Magneto, XDPS023b Sabretooth, and XDPS-G001 Sentinel. While Magneto and Sabretooth were hard to kill due to their Danger Room Construct Traits, they also didn’t have the offensive output I typically like on my builds.
DANGER ROOM CONSTRUCT TRAIT: When Magneto makes an attack, after resolutions give him an Error token for each  in the attack roll (maximum 3). // If Magneto has 2 or less Error tokens, characters take a maximum of 1 damage from Magneto’s attacks, Magneto takes a maximum of 1 damage from opponent’s attacks, and he can’t be healed or chosen for Mastermind. Protected: Pulse Wave.
Using Magneto as the pilot circumvented the damage restriction and allowed Sentinel Squad One to use the pilot’s offensive values (8 range, 12 attack, and 4 damage). Despite this, I didn’t feel the team was very strong: Nimrod didn’t have a move and attack, the team was only a +3 or a +4 (depending on the build) map roll, and there was no Outwit, Perplex, or Probability Control. Without these support powers, a lot was left to my dice rolls. Nimrod’s Running Comparative Evaluation Of Reference Data trait offered him additional protection when being attacked…but only if I could roll higher than my opponent. The trait reads:
RUNNING COMPARATIVE EVALUATION OF REFERENCE DATA: When Nimrod is attacked and would be hit, you may roll 2d6. If your roll is equal or higher than the attacker’s attack roll, Nimrod evades that attack and after resolutions deal the attacker damage equal to their printed damage value.
I didn’t roll higher than my opponent’s attack roll in my practice games. I couldn’t even roll a 1 to get Error Tokens on my Constructs either. Leaving it to chance was risky and I needed to come up with another plan.
Phoenix Rise and Fall
More lessons on paper. On paper, I didn’t like XDPS-G010 Phoenix because she had a short dial for 175 points, only had a move and attack on her top click, and a very hittable 17 defense up close (she has Energy Shield Deflection). Even with a STOP click, I wasn’t that impressed…until I played against my friend, who used her to great effect on a non-theme team. His team had a lot of options that centered on supporting her effectiveness and her incredible 10 range. Another practice friend use the XDPS Fast Forces X-Men, which also opened my eyes on their usefulness as main force characters and not just as Call-In options. I decided to go with Phoenix, XDPS03 Beast, FFXDPS005 Gambit, and XXS007 Moira McTaggert. This build offered the ability to Perplex by +4 (+2 from Beast, +1 Moira McTaggert, +1 Phoenix), +4 Named Theme Team Probability Control, X-Men Team Ability for healing, Leadership, and decent secondary attackers. Additionally, Gambit’s trait gave the entire team Probability Control against attacks from Great Size characters. His trait:
HUNTED AND ON THE RUN: Friendly characters that are adjacent or have the X-Men keyword can use Probability Control when attacked by characters with [Giant symbol] or [Colossal symbol].
The team proved quite effective and won a lot of the practice matches, but despite this I was hesitant after playing a 300-point modern game that was restricted to non-Marvel and non-DC characters. My build was: TREKRF028r Q, TREKOS044 Trelane, TREKBG016 Miles O’Brien, WWE012 Asuka, and WWE017 Eddie Guerrero. This team exposed me to the effectiveness of the WWE characters and it gnawed on me up to the week of the event.
The Return of Juggernaut in The Brotherhood of Mutants
I had a competitive Pauper event prior to the ROC that was essentially a practice run. My friend, who couldn’t attend the ROC, offered me his team, which was 100-point Juggernaut, Danger Room Constructs Magneto and Sabretooth, Blob, and Amelia Vought for a Brotherhood of Mutants named theme team.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Yup! This friend was indeed our own Ninwashui.]
This team build was a hard-to -kill and point-denial team. I went 1-1, losing the first game 0-0 in a roll off and winning the second game 13-0. These results didn’t offer me the certainty I needed. In fact, going into Saturday, I found myself returning back to the Phoenix team.
“I’m the Juggernaut, B****”
Game Time Decision
Be prepared. I brought my Phoenix and Brotherhood teams and it wasn’t until I filled out my build sheet that I decided to go with Juggernaut. I was seeing enough WWE characters that I was concerned that Phoenix wouldn’t be able to target them because of the WWE rules:
WWE Rules: This character can’t be the target of range attacks or Outwit if: they’re on click #1, they’re on a click with a blue click #, -or- they’ve already been targeted by a ranged attack this turn. Protected: Pulse Wave.
So, then this was my…
100 XDPSG007R Juggernaut
50 XDPS011B Magneto
45 XDPS023B Sabretooth
60 XDPS021 Blob
45 XDPS019 Amelia Voght
300 (Brotherhood of Mutants, +5 map initiative roll, +5 Theme Team Probability Control)
Maps: Star Trek Original Series Away Team Underground Caverns, Earth X Stark Tower Indoor Map, The Mighty Thor Jotunheim Lake
Having a plan. Based on the two games I played on Thursday, I would engage my opponent primarily with Magneto and Sabretooth, forcing the action. Blob would be a tie-up piece and a tertiary attacker. Juggernaut would break grouped formations with Quake and Amelia Vought would provide him support through her Mutant Messiah trait and her special defense power, Transmute Out of Danger.
MUTANT MESSIAH: At the beginning of the game, for all characters with this trait, choose a friendly character with the Acolytes or Brotherhood of Mutants or X-Men keyword. That character can use Mastermind, but only to choose characters with this trait.
TRANSMUTE OUT OF DANGER: Super Senses. Once per turn, when Amelia Voghtor an adjacent friendly character would take 3 or more damage, you may give that character two action tokens to take 1 unavoidable damage instead. If you do, after resolutions you may place that character in a square adjacent to her current square.
GAME 1—The matchup was with a friend and judge at a local venue I play at. I actually played him at the Thursday Pauper event and beat him 13-0. This was a nice first-round pairing since it would be a fun, low-stress, and friendly match that would allow me to ease into a potentially intense, strategic-thinking kind of day. He won map roll with his Avengers team—Voyager, Hulk, Medusa, Crystal, AIM White and Red, 2 Giant-Girls, several IDs, WWE Ring, and Iron Avenger Assemble (Stark Tower Location Bonus). We did a lot of positioning for the first few turns. I initially was going to engage him with one of my Constructs, but he left his Giant-Girl partly exposed and I took advantage with Magneto’s incredible range. Knocking her out. He then called in Kitty to generate Lockheed for an Energy Explosion, which missed. The game ended 13-0. Record:1-0.
GAME 2—Because of my low points, I was placed at one of the lower tables and was matched up against my brother-in-law, who ran a non-theme team that consisted of ABPI010 S.H.I.E.L.D. Diplomat, RE001 Deathstroke, EAX030 The Skull, AI004 Hawkeye, AIG001-20 Giant-Girl, and HQ029 Batman. It was an atypical build and I wasn’t sure initially what the main threat was, outside of Deathstroke. I didn’t worry about The Skull’s across the map Mind Control because I knew I would win map and put us on Underground Caverns. I positioned conservatively and managed to siphon his team in the middle of the map. The blocking terrain really hindered his team and I took advantage by targeting his Giant-Girl with Magneto. I then set to work on Deathstroke and took him out in a couple turns. His team really got locked down and he wasn’t able to really make a dent in my hard-to-damage team. Record: 2-0
GAME 3—My next opponent was someone I played before at the major events. He ran one of the teams that I didn’t want to see, an Onslaught team that included Danger Room Constructs Magneto and Sabretooth, TREKRF014 Ensign Crusher, HQ004 Big Tony, BTAS007 Leslie Thompkins, and XDPSG004p Proteus. What I feared about Onslaught was his trait:
PSYCHIC JUGGERNAUT: Onslaught has PROTECTED: Mind Control, Outwit, and Penetrating/Psychic Blast. // Once per turn, Onslaught can use Incapacitate as FREE -or- Mind Control as FREE -or- Telekinesis as FREE.
While Juggernaut could potentially charge right in on Onslaught, it was risky if he hit his Shape Change roll. If Onslaught failed his Shape Change roll, then Ensign Crusher’s special attack power allowed Onslaught the ability to reroll it once per turn. Crusher’s power:
I GOT IT, CAPTAIN!: Once per turn, when a friendly character that’s adjacent or has the Starfleet keyword rolls for Leadership, Shape Change, Super Senses, or Impervious they may re-roll that roll.
Onslaught could then attack and get Juggernaut off his top click and his special defense power:
SHIELDED BY MY HELMET: Colossal Stamina, Invincible. Juggernaut has PROTECTED: Incapacitate, Mind Control, Outwit, Pulse Wave.
This would have made Juggernaut susceptible to Onslaught’s Mind Control. With all this in mind, we both used the first few turns to position, until I made what could have been a fatal error. He blew out a piece of blocking terrain with Magneto that allowed him to hit Juggernaut with Onslaught. I forgot to Mastermind the damage to Amelia Voght. This forced me to retreat so I could heal by destroying blocking terrain and removing an action token from Juggernaut.
My Magneto then struck back on Onslaught, getting him off his top click, which was important so that he no longer had Shape Change. He was still formidable since he now had Super Senses, which Ensign Crusher allowed him to also reroll once per turn. I knew I had to take out his support out and I largely used Juggernaut to do this with:
MASS DESTRUCTION: Super Strength. When Juggernaut is given a MOVE action, after resolutions destroy all adjacent pieces of blocking terrain, then he can use Quake at no cost.
I won, killing Ensign Crusher, Big Tony, Leslie Thompkins, and Proteus. Record: 3-0.
GAME 4—The Mirror Match. I faced the brother of my friend who had built our Brotherhood teams.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Yup! This was our own HypeFox!]
He initially was playing a very good Onslaught team during the week and like me, decided to go Brotherhood. I won map roll and decided to change the map to Stark Tower because I wanted to limit the amount of healing either of us could do. I took out his Amelia Voght early and thought I had gained the advantage, but he quickly turned the game around thanks to me missing the first attack with Juggernaut. This was par for the course all day unfortunately. In each of my matches, Juggernaut missed his very first attack when it would have done the most damage. I battled, but he was able to make several Impervious rolls in a row and that cost me the win. Record: 3-1.
GAME 5—This was the 8-9 matchup. I was 8th due to my low point total and my opponent was 2-2 with a lot of points. He rocked a very cool Wakanda team: FFABPI003 Shuri, ABPI027 Everett K. Ross, ABPI007 Wakandan Scientist, ABPI029A Black Panther, 75 FFABPI006 Okoye, and 30 ABPI021 Ayo. He won map and chose Rebirth Metal Arena with no blocking terrain! Juggernaut would be severely handicapped and I would need to use him judiciously.
This type of team is built to take you by surprise and I was really surprised. First, Shuri’s trait:
SCIENTIST OF WAKANDA: UNIQUE MODIFIER-Friendly characters with the Wakanda keyword modify defense +1 if they are closer to your starting area than any other starting area.
We of course battled closer to his starting area. I positioned midway on the map while he placed Okoye next to the Dune Buggy for added protection. I had to be wary not to get within her full charge special power:
THE DORA MILAJE ARE FIRST TO FIGHT: Charge, but do not halve speed.
Magneto would use Ranged Combat Expert to modify his attack to a 14 so he could hit Okoye’s high defense, dealing his 1 maximum damage. He knew this would be a problem because I wasn’t going to move my team in to be swarmed. His team had a ton of Perplex on his team that could do serious damage to Juggernaut. With the ability to look at the back of the cards, I knew that Black Panther and Okoye had middle-dial Outwit, which would be dangerous if Juggernaut was knocked off his special defense power that gave him PROTECTED: Outwit.
I knew I would have to move my team around to force him to come chase me. He approached my team with Black Panther and Okoye—his main attackers—but they didn’t have the reach to get there in one turn. Next turn I moved my team away and tried to hit his support and KO them with Juggernaut, but I missed badly. Again.
He then came back with Black Panther, but made a positioning error that allowed me to pummel him with Juggernaut rolling a critical hit with a heavy object. I followed up with a range attack from Magneto. I was up 95-0 and won. Record: 4-1.
GAME 6—My opponent was another player I knew from a local venue. I was impressed by his performance. He was a new player and it was his first major event. Despite being new, he had gone undefeated for the day. His practice and diligence was paying off.
I knew this was going to be a difficult matchup. It was another Onslaught build, but this time it consisted of TREKRF014 Ensign Crusher, XDPS023A Sabretooth, RE024 Veronica Cale, ABPI027 Everett K. Ross, AIG005 Dune Buggy Special Terrain, and EAXLB-SC I Keep The Trains Running (Location Bonus).
I won map and chose Star Trek Original Series Away Team Underground Caverns Indoor Map. A good portion of this game was positioning, with neither of us willing to overextend our teams to get swarmed.
I had left my Blob exposed to Onslaught’s Mind Control, which he made. He used Blob to attack Sabretooth, but missed. Since Blob wasn’t friendly to my force, he was not Immobile from his trait and rolled for a breakaway that he was successful on.
NOTHING MOVES THE BLOB: Immobile, but only if it’s not your turn. // At the end of your turn, if the Blob was not moved or placed this turn, give him a Stability token. Blob modifies defense +1 for each Stability token. When he moves or is placed, remove his Stability tokens.
He was able to kill my Amelia Voght, which put me down on points. I had to get more aggressive and kill his support with Juggernaut’s move and quake. I moved and last action was called. I made my free Quake and was able to kill off a couple of support pieces for the win. It was a low-scoring affair that I won. Record: 5-1.
GAME 7—This matchup was against a well-known player and former World Champion. His team was Avengers: AIG001-10 Giant-Girl, FFAIG001P Giant-Girl, ABPI012 Crystal, ABPI017 Voyager, TMT106E Hulk, ABPI030 Medusa, TMT023 Eric Masterson, FFAI001E Iron Man, TMTS001 Bloodaxe, and 5 EAXLB-ST Iron Avengers, Assemble (Location Bonus).
My opponent won map and placed us on Earth X Stark Tower Indoor Map. As I mentioned earlier, I was worried about this match up because the build has so many options for dealing with different teams. It also has multiple ways to hurt you with free attacks either from Crystal’s free Quakes or through multiple attacks from Medusa’s Living Hair. If that weren’t enough then Hulk comes in with a 12 attack and 4 damage.
I tried to position strategically again, but in hindsight should have been more aggressive from the opening bell. I took out his Giant-Girls early, but failed to make critical attacks with Juggernaut when I needed to in order to change the outcome of the game. Once he was able to get Juggernaut off his top defense power, he quickly pressed his advantage and Outwitted his defense. Once he took out Juggernaut, it was pretty much an uphill battle for my Danger Room Constructs and Blob. I got 1 Error Token the entire game and was never ever able to deal enough damage to his team while in contrast he was whittling me down with all his free attacks. Final Record: 5-2, 4th Place Finish.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Ninwashui’s design finished the day at 10-3. Not a bad record for a Meta-rich environment!]
My 4th Place was not my highest finish in a major event, but it was my highest in constructed. While the Pauper format, did introduce a variety of interesting builds, there were still clear archetypes that were followed (Avengers, Nimrod, and Onslaught). It will be interesting to see what other winning builds will show up in other states. I wouldn’t be surprised if a WWE team winds up winning. They are that good, especially in this format.
Will Pauper catch on? I hope so, it can offer a more affordable game to newer players. I still think it could use more tweaking so that we see more creative and unique builds, but overall the format reinvigorated the game from my perspective. It really was fun to sit down across a team that wasn’t Cosmic with Colossal Retaliators and equipment.