If you have played the VS System
before you probably have enjoyed the ability to pit your favorite comic book heroes and villains against each other. However, in the end the VS system is still a card game and that means game balance has to be conserved. Unfortunately, this means that card rules and abilities don't always accurately represent our favorite heroes. One good example of this would be everyone's favorite Captain America. Cap is just one of the few Marvel super heroes getting special treatment in the new "Marvel Universe" set. He, like many others will have several new cards released surrounding his character and elevating him to the status of some other more prominently featured heroes like Spiderman. To get a sneak peek at which Marvel superheroes are now getting the "Legend" treatment, we are being sent exclusive previews leading up to the launch of this expansion.
If you mentally tick off the list of all the iconic Marvel heroes who have received the “legend” treatment to date, you'll notice some pretty obvious and significant omissions. Thor? Nope. Iron Man? Nope. Hulk? Nope. Captain America? Nope. I'm not sure about Thor, but I'm pretty certain that Marvel Universe is about to address the other three oversights rather dramatically. Iron Man is a huge figure in the Civil War storyline and will surely receive major attention; Ben Seck has already promised a week of Hulk-tastic preview cards; and this week is all about the Captain.
As I sit down to write this, we've seen three other Captain America cards. Captain America, Living Legend
is a 6 drop Avengers character who allows you to prevent another Avengers (or Invaders) character you control from being stunned, simply by exhausting Cap. This is a powerful effect, but the fact that he's a defensive 6 drop means that the rest of the deck needs to be focused on getting the game to turn 6 or beyond consistently.
Fortunately, Captain America's Shield
, a 0-cost equipment card, can help with that: “Return Captain America's Shield to its owner's hand -> Exhaust equipped character. Target player exhausts a ready character he controls. Use only during the combat phase.” This card is perfect for slowing the game down, ensuring that you can make it to the later turns. Off-init, it lets you exhaust one would-be attacker. (Remember, exhausting Cap is part of the effect, rather than the cost, so you can use the Shield even after you've exhausted Cap to reinforce an attack.) On-init, you can swing him into one character, then bounce the Shield to exhaust another. Next turn, play it again. It's a terrific card, doubly so if MUN gives us a way to search for it.
The one other Cap card revealed so far is Captain America, The Patriot <> Secret Avenger
. This is a 2 drop character that has Concealed and Reservist, and doesn't appear to fit into the same deck archetype as the other two cards. Of course, with 6 versions of Cap in the set, it makes sense that there would be more than one archetype featuring some version of him.
Getting back to the first two cards, it seems obvious than one of these archetypes is a full curve deck emphasizing defense and control. Most likely, one of the four Caps we haven't seen yet is a sturdy 3 or 4 drop designed to anchor that deck's defenses in the middle portion of the game, allowing it to get to its late game win condition. Clearly the Shield can play an important role in such a deck, but to get to a turn 7 or 8 consistently, the deck will need more exhaustion effects and/or some means of brickwalling attacks. That's where today's preview card comes in.
This card is not quite as big a defensive bomb as Force Field Projection or Indestructible—after all, there's no guarantee that your opponent won't throw down another pump and push through the attack—but it's unquestionably one of the most powerful defensive pumps in the game. Incredibly, there's no obvious drawback to playing it. Most other defensive pumps of this ilk (Acrobatic Dodge, Against All Odds, Stretch Out) make you sacrifice ATK for DEF. But there's no -4 ATK associated with this one, and that's huge. The main downside to using those other cards is that you essentially sacrifice the opportunity to stun back the attacker in exchange for an opportunity to brickwall. With Charging Star, you get to have your cake and eat it too. If they drop a Big Leagues to counter your pump, so be it. You're still stunning them back, most likely, and you made them burn an ATK pump that they probably wanted to use for something else.
One of the best things about this card is that it works on both offense and defense. Its most obvious use is as a defensive pump, but you can also play it when Cap is attacking to prevent him from being stunned back by the defender. Since it's very difficult to hold off a powerful aggressor when they have field advantage, there may actually be some match-ups where the card is even more valuable offensively than defensively. When facing a fast aggro deck with a bajillion pumps at its disposal, it's hard to win by brickwalling attacks. Half the time, you're just delaying the inevitable. But if you can create field advantage and maintain it for a couple of turns, your opponent will have great difficulty creating breakthrough and winning before his deck inevitably runs out of gas (especially if the Shield is exhausting one potential attacker per turn). Of the many ways of generating field advantage, attacking without stunning back is one of the best, since you take no damage in the process.
Although Charging Star's negation effect sounds like a huge added bonus at first, in practice it's probably more of a hidden gotcha. Effects are only effects while they are on the chain, so this card will negate only those targeting effects that were already on the chain when the card was played. It will not negate effects played earlier in the turn (an Only Human played by your opponent during the build phase, for example), nor will it negate any effects played after Charging Star goes on the chain. When you think of opposing effects targeting Cap that are likely to be on the chain when you would play this card, you come up with a pretty short list. If he's defending, it's possible that your opponent has just played SKREEEEEEE! to give him -2 DEF. In that case, Charging Star would negate the effect and give him +4 DEF instead. But a savvy player will usually play SKREEEEEEE! before declaring the attack, giving you nothing to negate. If Cap's attacking, there are a few cards like What Are Friends For? that your opponent could play that would target him, but you'll rarely see most of them.
Where the negation effect really comes into play is when one of your own
effects is on the chain. For example, you never ever want to play two of these in succession, without allowing the first one to resolve. If you play one copy of Charging Star, then chain with another, the second one will end up negating the first one. Gotcha! When attacking, if you plan on playing this card in combination with an ATK pump, be sure to play Charging Star first. If you play Savage Beatdown, then chain with Charging Star, you'll negate the Savage. Doh! When you have effects of your own on the chain, your best bet will usually be to let everything on the chain resolve, then
play Charging Star.
How good is this card? Well, if the effect weren't stamped to Captain America, I think we'd be looking at arguably the strongest defensive pump in the game--definitely the strongest since Cover Fire--and quite possibly the
money card of the entire set. In some decks, like Wild Vomit, Cover Fire could give you a ridiculously large DEF boost, but in most decks it was usually more like +4, and often less. This one's a guaranteed +4 DEF with no drawback. The fact that it is
stamped to Cap limits its usefulness, but not its power. It will surely be a staple in Captain America legend decks, and will most likely be a 4-of in Avengers curve decks. I expect we'll all be looking to put together playsets of this one.