(Herewith follows the last article I wrote for Upper Deck. As the school year wraps up and we head into another summer, it still tastes as sweet as ever.)
Rallying Cry: Celebrated Summer
This has been quite an eventful summer on many levels. World-class athletes from all over the world converged in China for the Beijing Olympics. Political candidates here in America battled intensely in the midst of a thrilling presidential election. Vs. System crowned a number of new champions, and one of them claimed ultimate victory with Squirrel Girl!
For me, personally, the summer of 2008 included a rather large change of venue. My career has come full circle. I began teaching art in 1983 at an elementary school in the inner city of Miami. After five years, I was recruited to pioneer a Media Arts program in a middle school. Eight years later, I transferred to an alternative high school for kids that had been excluded from their regular school for various reasons. I taught there for thirteen years until budget cuts and high-stakes standardized testing eliminated the Art department.
Now, I am back teaching at an elementary school, and I couldn’t be happier. Young children are full of the pure inventive energy that is often sorely lacking in older human beings. They explore new combinations, free of the doubtful cynicism that drags the creative spirit down into doldrums. They are so very much alive.
Returning to the freshness of the grammar-school perspective has also brought a shining, glorious glow to Vs. System. My classroom mantra for the year is “I feel great when I create!”. And I think it’s carried over into the Vs. System TCG, because this game has been flourishing when it comes to brilliant fan-based innovation and originality in competitive deckbuilding.
Obviously, I want to start with Squirrel Girl. The furry little wonder has been doing some major damage with her cardboard incarnation, including the domination of Gen Con Indianapolis. Thanks to Robert Rietze and his S.H.I.E.L.D. Simmer concoction, my favorite character in comics is a true champion.
Let’s learn about the deck from the mad genius that created it, shall we?
The concept is to cook your opponent slowly (hence the word “simmer”) while having reinforcement and disruption. In the late game you reinforce whenever possible, and when they swing their seven-drop you play Dangerous Liaison and say “Try again later on.” In fact, Dangerous Liaison is the meat of the deck, and probably my favorite card in Marvel Universe. If you read this then you deserve a cookie.
Dan Clark was running S.H.I.E.L.D. burn, and he always won on turn 5. His deck is probably a much better version… but I like jank, so here’s mine with comments.
2008 Gen Con Indianapolis Champion
10 S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Just ten… I know.
4 Speedball ◊ Penance, Painmonger He’s sexy, no?
1 Blizzard, Frosty Friend Because he wins games, ask anyone.
2 Life Model Decoy Great for dreaming with.
2 Wolverine, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Growl.
2 Squirrel Girl Free guys are good.
1 Hank Pym ◊ Yellowjacket, Initiative Instructor Why not? He’s a freaking Skrull, and I need at least one Skrull in a modern deck.
And that’s it for characters. 22 in total, which is all you need to simmer properly – since you have all the bouncing effects.
Mulligan condition = one S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and or Penance.
4 Origin Story …amazing card.
1 Collect Them All
2 Blinding Rage
4 Savage Beatdown
4 Secret War It bounces and sets up Dangerous Liaison and Thunderbolts Mountain.
3 Dangerous Liaison The greatest card ever made. It doesn’t target and keeps people from killing me. Just ask the great Michael Barnes.
3 Invasion Plans Drawing cards is good with the low character count, and the agents kinda don’t do much.
3 Death of the Dream Either draw a card and replace your crap or get rid of Total Anarchy.
ONE SUPERHUMAN REGISTRATION ACT! It wins games, but drawing multiples is bad… so just the one.
4 Birthing Chamber Obv.
3 Thunderbolts Mountain Draw a card, set up Penance, set up Blizzard on turn 3 to guarantee you don’t have to worry about big stuff.
3 S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier It would be four, but I only own three!
Wow. Just wow. After four and a half years of playing this game, I am still amazed at the crazed creativity and deep deviousness that can be captured in a single sixty-card construction. I have been over and over that strategy in my head, and it amazes me every time. Especially when I pinch myself and realize that Squirrel Girl actually swung for the win in the final match. Don’t believe me? I have proof.
Mad props go out to Shane “fatalsync” Wendell at www. vsrealms.com for the fabulous event coverage, especially the penultimate squirrelly smackdown that claimed the climactic crown. It was a match for the ages, as the wonder known as John Hall could be seen flinging the wicked monkey madness of Gorilla Grodd and Secret Society. John actually gained 30 endurance during the match, and recruited Doomsday on turn 7. How did Squirrel Girl triumph against that? Head over to the Realms and find out for yourself.
As you can see, the competitive environment has gone completely nuts over Squirrel Girl. Tree rodents are flying across the tournament halls like white-hot Ping-Pong balls of pure power. It’s a beautiful thing.
Vs. System has come to life, and the pulse of the creative spirit that pumps the blood can seen on a multitude of maniacal fan-based websites. Chris Miller’s Lost Hemisphere is perhaps the most vibrant, and the other day he gave a magnificent shout-out to thirteen of this game’s staunch suppliers of inventive genius. Included in that list is my personal favorite new source of Vs. System verbiage. It’s called “Vs. Is Not Dead,” and it is the brainchild of Brian “Trader2699” Herman in Williamsburg, Virginia. Recently, he too had a brush with the undeniable hotness of Squirrel Girl.
I love it when a plan comes together as much as the next person, especially when it comes to Vs. System. Crafting and planning an intricate decklist/strategy is half the fun, but it’s also incredible to put that strategy into action. Unfortunately for the Injustice Gang handflood/burn deck, my plans went completely awry. I did not like the fact that missing Lex Luthor meant losing the game, and the deck never felt like it was going to “pop.”
So I scrapped it entirely the day before the BYOT tournament, and started over. When I got home from work, there was an unexpectedly early package containing a singles order I had placed earlier in the week. 3 S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers, encased neatly in sleeves and a top loader. I was so pleased that I decided to throw caution to the wind and play an Army deck for BYOT. The deck went through a couple of iterations, both while in written development and when I finally broke out the little 1-cost burners. What I ended up with was this…
Brian’s decklist, tournament report, and ultimate triumph really got the blood pumping for this game that’s been going strong after all these years. I applaud his efforts and enthusiastically anticipate many more opportunities to live out future Vs. System glories vicariously on his blog. This summer has seen a blossoming, and the flowers get funkier every time.
The most heartwarming of these is found back on the continent of the Lost Hemisphere. It has been the Summer of Love, in more ways than one. I would like to take a moment to showcase a project that humbles my creative essence with its utter magnificence, while inspiring me to do greater things with my life and our game. This is our moment, and Chris Miller’s words call us toward cardboard paradise.
There comes a time each year, a special time, after the rebirth of spring, with its bouncing baby bunnies and fragrant blossoms, but before the cool touch of autumn, with its kaleidoscope of leafy color and the gentle promise of snuggling by a warm, cozy fire. Yes, I’m talking about the heady, lazy, crazy days of summer. When a boy’s head turns to thoughts of baseball in vacant lots, swimming holes, and thick slices of watermelon, while young girls slip on their poodle skirts and skip down to the malt shoppe to listen to the juke box… hang on, I’m totally out of era, aren’t I…
One way or another, welcome to…
Lost Hemisphere’s Summer Of Love!
The concept: 32 decks, each a randomly assigned team-up, battle their way through a bracket to determine Vs. System’s happiest couple.
We randomly paired up 64 teams, rolling the dice to see what sort of wild and wacky team combinations we’d end up with. Clearly, we could have just slapped together the decks… but what if it wasn’t us doing most of the deckbuilding? What if it was celebrated deckbuilders and community luminaries?
The invitations went out, the community responded, and the shenanigans are ready to commence!
Behold! A veritable who’s who of dudes who we suckered into making decks for us!
Clifford “Captain_Comet” Parmeter, the most huggable podcast host ever, brings you Mask of Steel (Superman/Doom) and Knights Errant (Gotham Knights/Doom Patrol).
Miguel “CarlosTheDwarf” Rodriquez, the original VS blogger, brings you HK KO (Hellfire/Kree) and Green ’rine (Green Lantern Corps/X-Men).
Sean “BALDMAN” Marinelli, owner of the world’s largest forehead, brings you Crisis Knights (Marvel Knights/Crisis) and Shake ’n Bake (Morlocks/Secret Six).
Adam “Flashback81” Kirkby, the most puzzling man this side of North Haverbrook, brings you Pate de FOES IG-ras (Injustice Gang/Future Foes) and Dark(seid) City (Darkseids Elite/Brotherhood).
Squire “HomerJ” Kershner, jankmaster extreme, brings you ”Hi Everybody!” “Hi, Dr Spectrum!” (Inhumans/Squadron Supreme) and Titans United (Teen Titans/United Front).
Jason “Jaxxin” Hager, who likes yelling at Hulk on foil cards, brings you Stranger Danger (JSA/Nextwave) and Box Full of Evil (BPRD/Legionnaires).
Steve “Kamiza” Garrett, the U.K.’s man with the sexiest eyes, who can also pull off a roundhouse kick, brings you The Claw Society (Secret Society/Weapon X) and Family of One (Fantastic Four/X-Statix).
Brian “Kansashoops” Foley, American Maid’s favorite dork, brings you Adamantium Skrullmate (Checkmate/Skrull) and Psychopathic Reservists (Avengers/Sinister Syndicate).
Patrick “Majestic” Yapjoco, the winningest Yapjoco ever, brings you Crime Watch (Underworld/Crime Lords) and Wolvie Smash! (Warbound/S.H.I.E.L.D.).
Aaron “Onyxweapon” Mead, living the VS Life in the frozen North, brings you Task Force: Revenge (JLI/RevSq) and The Revenge of Tony Danza from His Tap Dance extravaganza (Fearsome 5/Outsiders).
Josh ”Runaway” Trujillo, the bravest blogger ever, brings you New Birds (New Gods/Birds of Prey) and Villain Potpourri (Villains United/Masters of Evil).
Talulah “Soshi Kenpachi” McGillicutty, who didn’t give me his real name in his email, brings you /r/ moar cards (Infinity Watch/Negative Zone) and On Public Urination (JLA/Thunderbolts)
David “CaptainSpud” Tierney, with the power of 10,000 potatoes, brings you Prime Qwardian Real Estate (League of Assassins/Antimatter) and Looney Bin (Arkham Inmates/Alpha Flight).
Rian “Stubarnes” Fike, the most psychedelic player in VS history, brings you Green Weakness (Emerald Enemies/Sentinels) and Hitler’s Wristwatch (Kang Council/Thule Society).
Paul “TheDerangedBear” Sung, renaming days of the week just for fun, brings you Warp Factor 9 (Heralds/SpeedForce) and Wild & Sticky (Spidey/WildPack).
Oh, and Pablo (“Eponymous’) laid claim to The Horse Conjurer (Shadowpact/Horsemen), while I (“gdaybloke”) couldn’t resist the Rebellion in New Jersey (Manhunters/Defenders).
As a veteran of Vs. System history and histrionics, I must say that this tournament is unequalled in its sheer life-forced brilliance. It breathes new hope into team affiliations and crazy combinations. It gives us a bracket of beatdowns that will be extremely difficult to categorize, yet truly impossible to forget. It is the Summer of Love indeed, and it will be celebrated forever.
Rian Fike is also known as stubarnes, and he is mad busy teaching little kids how to paint now that the school year has begun. The celebrated summer lingers, while he marches forward into the future. You can send him some ideas about how to manage his time and recharge his batteries at firstname.lastname@example.org