Culling

During our draft event this weekend, a couple of people mentioned a mechanic they thought was missing from this game: culling. The first game I played with the effect was Dominion, where it’s called trashing, and it is a staple of deck building games. The precursor to Dice Masters, Quarriors, made use of it extensively. When a die scores a player has the option to permanently remove from the game (cull) any die in their used pile. If you haven’t played many deck builders, this may not make sense immediately. In the Dice Masters context, picture your bag with all 8 sidekicks and the Hulk you bought the turn before. Now picture it with 6. Now try 3. The less garbage you have, the more often you will draw your purchases. There have been many times when I’ve drawn 4 sidekicks and wished for a cull. But while there are hundreds of characters, globals and powers in the game, there is no culling.

I don’t think that’s likely to change, at least not any time soon. It’s not like the designers don’t know what culling is. A choice was made to keep it out of the game, and has been made again – 4 times since AVX. I think it likely that they wanted to really take the game away from its deck building origins; to make it more like Magic and less like Dominion. But of course I don’t know their reasons. Since it doesn’t exist I don’t know what effect it would have on the game – but I have some ideas.

One thing to keep in mind about culling: it’s a long term benefit. In the short term, this turn and probably the next one, it does nothing for you. You won’t gain anything from culling until your dice have gone back in your bag and you’re drawing a new set. Also, its pretty minimal on its own. If you only cull one die, you might never notice a difference in your draw. Only once you cull multiple dice do you start really seeing value from it. For those reasons, I don’t see culling as being particularly overpowered – or even necessarily all that useful – in Dice Masters. The game is too fast. You don’t refill your bag often enough for culling to shine, and by the time you’ve culled 4 sidekicks you’ll probably be dead, because your opponent was buying Gobbys.

That said, how valuable culling could be would depend largely on how difficult it is to cull. A 6 cost character that allowed you to cull a single die when fielded (or blocked or whatever) would be useless. A 1 cost global that allowed you to cull sidekicks from your used pile just might transform the game. But would it be a positive transformation? I tend to think so, but without testing its only a guess. A more reasonable global might cull sidekicks from the reserve pool instead of used – costing you two total energy instead of 1. Spending 2 energy for a long term benefit might not, ultimately, see very much play. But it might also introduce a whole new level of strategy to the game.

Any thoughts?

Spartak

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Team Action Dice Testing Part One

The first round of testing went better than I thought – Ian played a Gobby/Hulk/Tsarina deck with Rally for a change of pace, and won 2 out of 3. But in one of those losses Team Action Dice was absolutely abandoned by Polymorph and I’m going to chalk that loss up to luck. Limited Wish is, as expected, way too slow, but everything else seems to work respectably well. Prismatic Spray is a known thing, but I haven’t really used it before, so it was nice to see it work. Unfortunately Gobby + Rally don’t care very much – that combo works just fine without ramp, and even appreciates having dice in the used pile. I’m going to try to force Wish through a few more times before I abandon it, but it seems unlikely that will ever be able to keep pace.

I gotta say it’s a lot of fun to make that Beholder thing happen. Action mayhem! Good times.

Spartak

Team Action Dice

Since AVX, I’ve been disappointed in the basic actions, and I know I’m not alone. They almost always feel overpriced to me – it’s not that the effects are bad, just that they’re not good enough to justify spending 3 or 4 energy for a die that you’ll use once and then send to your used pile. No matter how bad a character’s stats are, at the very least they can be a chump blocker, and then rolled again the next turn. I played a bunch of games before I saw anyone actually buy any. But Wizkids has been steadily introducing actions, both basic and non-, with some real value – as well as cards that interact with them in interesting ways. When I build decks, though, most of them don’t quite make the cut.

So I’ve decided to construct an action themed deck. Every card will either be an action or directly affect them. And it’ll be good, dammit. Or at least decent. Well … hopefully not embarrassing. I want to limit myself – to force myself to play, and actually use, some cards that I’m not used to. It’s tempting to throw Tsarina into any deck; I mean, she’s awesome. But we already know that. This isn’t a tournament deck. I’m trying to learn some new things.

That said, I’m going to do my damndest to make it competitive, and I’ve already made it pretty tough for myself – no Professor X (only actions and things that DIRECTLY affect them). That’s going to make it difficult to buy the first card I thought of – Doctor Strange – Master of the Mystic Arts.73

But most of my opponents will be bringing a PXG as a matter of course, so he should probably stay in the mix. Since I don’t have PXG, though, I’m going to have to do two things: 1) find an alternative way to ramp and 2) find a way to turn not having the professor into an advantage. By playing the common Prismatic Spray we should take care of #2.

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If you play Prismatic Spray as your first action of the main step, your opponent can’t activate Professor X’s global at all on your turn, as long as you don’t have him. Which I don’t. Losing your ramp for even a single turn can – and should – be devastating. Prismatic Spray also doesn’t target, which could open a window to deal with a Lord of D. But it doesn’t answer #1. Enter Thousand Dragon – Noxious Nostril Gust. For his global, not his name.

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I decided to go with him over Red Dragon because his global isn’t limited to once a turn. And there you go – instant efficiency! That global makes some very expensive actions seem suddenly affordable. One of those is a no-brainer. Millennium Puzzle, by functioning as a global and sending dice to the used pile instead of prep, is one of the best control cards in the game. The perfect answer to an opposing Hulk. And now we can buy it for just three total energy

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Another expensive action I’m suddenly thinking of is Limited Wish – Lesser Spell. image2I have to say, when I first saw this one I was floored. 6 cost? For a 50% chance to get something? And now I’m putting it in a deck. This might be a reach, but Battle for Faerun has one very expensive character that I desperately want in this deck. Even with PXG, 7 cost characters are very difficult to come by. To spend that much energy in a turn almost always means sacrificing some (or all) of your ramp, and that trade off isn’t often worth it. Limited Wish bypasses that problem, at the expense of some reliability. It’s only going to work half the time – and how many chances are you going to have to roll that die, anyway? Well, maybe we can give ourselves some extra rolls.

image1Elf Wizard – Lesser Harper offers both a discount and some nice churn – and the ability to choose an action over drawing a random die should not be underestimated. I went with the common over the uncommon since I won’t have a Mr. Fantastic or Phoenix to force attacks. And while the discount is nice, it’s that churn that matters. In order to keep churning I’ll need to keep my wizards in the field and attacking. To keep them in the field even if my opponent chooses not to block them (and why wouldn’t he, when the Elf has a lvl 3 attack of 2?) I’ll need Distraction. I’m going to need it anyway, if I’m buying all these actions – actions can’t block. Survivability is my biggest concern right now.

I need another cheap character, and there aren’t a lot that fit my criteria. Angel – Soaring will do the job. We should be triggering his unblockability almost every turn, but I expect to use him primarily as a blocker. There won’t be anyone else to do it.

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So – Doctor Strange, Elf Wizard, Angel, Prismatic Spray, Millennium Puzzle, Thousand Dragon, and Limited Wish. The eighth card is Beholder – Master Aberration. As written, Beholder sets off Doctor Strange 4 times. That’s our plan A, right there. Get out Strange, Limited Wish a Beholder, and then Polymorph him in. When he declares his attack, he and Strange will combo to do 8 damage before we’ve even declared a second attacker. An Angel will very likely be enough to finish the job.3

That Polymorph is, obviously, our second BAC and that finishes the deck. Big credit to Ian for seeing the Doctor Strange/Beholder combo. We’ll be trying out the deck this week. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. Either way we’ll try out some new things and have some fun. Maybe we’ll tweak the deck and Batman will force his way in.

If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let us hear them.

Spartak

Blue Eyes White Dragon – My new BFF

It’s no secret but it doesn’t seem to have taken over the same way Professor X has. Maybe it’s the cost; some players cringe at the idea of knocking out their own characters (not me! knock those bastards out). Maybe it’s that it’s only cost reduction – energy IS more versatile, and therefore more valuable. Maybe it’s just taken players a little longer to wrap their heads around cards from Yu Gi Oh!. There are certainly ways PXG is better, and plenty of situations where the guy in the wheelchair trumps the dragon. But there are also times for the Blue Eyes White Dragon.74

Knocking your own guys out may not sound like the best idea, but it’s the reason the dragon is good. Say your turn 1 reroll leaves you stuck with a pawn (argh stupid sidekicks!). By activating BEWD you’ve evened out your roll this turn; you can still spend up to four energy. But you also sent your pawn to prep, buying an energy for next turn. That efficiency stacks up pretty well against PXG, which spends 1 energy this turn to buy 2 next turn. Blue Eyes White Dragon is, essentially, just adding 1 energy to next turn – it’s different, but comparable. The net gain is the same. The question is, are you replacing PXG – or supplementing it?

Let’s assume that you have Blue Eyes and your opponent has Prof X. After rerolls you have 1 mask 1 lightning 1 ? 1 pawn. After fielding the pawn and using the BEWD global you’ll have a mask and a ?. By spending the ? you can buy any 3 cost character, and still have a mask for PXG – giving you 7 dice to roll on your next turn: the 2 from PXG and the sidekick you knocked out. That introduces new possibilities, both on turn 1 and down the line. What Blue Eyes can’t do is get you to 7 dice turn 2 on it’s own. It’s also not as reliable. It’s harder to pair a lightning and a pawn than it is to roll a mask or a ?.

But is that a bad thing? Globals cut both ways – whenever you bring Prof X to the table your opponent can get as much out of it as you can. And everybody knows how to use PXG. If your game plan involves activating lots of globals – i.e. you want to magic missile the crap out of Nova – then PXG probably has more value to you. But if it doesn’t – if most of your spent energy will go to purchase & fielding costs – then BEWD is a viable option for your deck, not just as a supplement to PXG, but as a replacement. It doesn’t have the same capacity for ramp, but it does have considerable efficiency – efficiency your opponent may not be able to take full advantage of.

Ol’ Blue Eyes (I might start calling him Frank) offers the greatest advantage when you have characters with when fielded or when KO’d effects. Ever have your Gobby locked onto the field by distraction or chump blockers? Frank gives you control of when that Gobby gets knocked out, and for a bargain price. DC will introduce retaliation (when an affiliated character is KO’d, deal 1 damage to an opposing player). Honestly it makes me drool just a little bit. Check out Black Manta – Deep Sea Deviant. His retaliation deals 1 damage for each of your active villains. Now throw in Deathstroke – Weapons Master, who deals 1 damage for each of your villains when fielded. Then use Frank to KO Deathstroke the turn you field him. OUCH. Perhaps you’d like to use the discount to buy another Deathstroke? Or maybe you’d rather block with him – you can, and still use the global to knock him out. You just won’t be able to use the discount if you activate it on your opponent’s turn.

Now I don’t think Blue Eyes White Dragon will ever be as ubiquitous as Professor X. But if you’re playing unlimited, you’re going to get to know him.

Spartak

Dicemasters Cube

So if you’re anything like me you have a lot of sidekick dice lying around. With 16 per starter and every starter a must-buy for its action cards that’s a lot of dice lying around taking up space. Now maybe space isn’t an issue for you, but we of Team Distraction live in Brooklyn where every item you want to own must fight every other item you want to own to the death so the winner can lay claim to the last four square inches of shelf-space in your home. What I’m saying is if these sidekick dice didn’t start carrying their weight my fiancée was going to throw them away.

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Whilst trying to think of a use for all those sidekick dice I thought of all the MTG lands I’ve thrown out over the years and how I then needed to buy basic lands like a chump when I went to build my… Magic… cube… Wait, a cube! A dicemasters cube. That sounds sweet! What’s a cube? A cube is a collection of cards used to draft or play sealed without needing to open new booster packs each time. You take the cards you most enjoy playing with and make sure your drafts only include fun and interesting cards with no chaff to simply toss aside from the start. A Cube provides a bridge between limited and constructed formats with the variety of the former but the fun and complex interactions of the latter. It’s a fun discovery ground for new combos and ideas that can then graduate into your constructed decks. It’s also a great way to introduce new players to the game as it requires no investment on their part and hopefully not much investment on your part as you’re using cards you’re already excited to own. So polish off all those cards that are alllmmmooooossst good enough for constructed, it turns out you can get some fun out of them after all.

Building a dicemasters cube provided a few design challenges (I’m going to assume going forward that the reader is familiar with WizKids Rainbow Draft format). Firstly there’s how to handle Basic Actions and secondly there’s the question of how many dice to provide for each character. ‘m presuming most cube builders do not have duplicates of basic action cards so giving each participant a set to pick from is impractical. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed drafting Basic Actions to become an integral and fun part of the Cube experience that really helps it stand apart from other limited formats. I originally started by giving players two “packs” of 12 character cards and 2 Basic Action cards each but given the quality of the cards in a Cube players simply did not need so many to build their teams. Cube packs thus consist of 10 character cards and 2 Basic Action cards each.  An 8 player cube should thus have a minimum of 160 character cards and 32 Basic Action cards. If you want to use more than that go ahead but I like playing with the tightest pool of good cards I can get my hands on. As to the dice per character I paid a lot of attention to a few draft and constructed games at my local store, The Uncommons, and came up with 4 dice per 1 cost character, 3 dice per 2 drop character, and 2 dice for all characters of cost 3 and up. As with rainbow draft if you draft multiple variants of a character you may select which one to play and use the dice from both on it up to that character’s maximum permitted number. In most cases it turned out I already had this many dice for the character in my collection. Finally, a use for all the dice you open after the fourth for each character!

One other concern came up during design, Professor X’s global. Having just two copies in the cube with Recruiting Young Mutants and Trainer felt insufficient. For better or worse PXG is part of the game and really makes for more dynamic decisions and deck builds. Without access to PXG most of the fun 6 and 7 drops I was excited to finally see used would languish on the sidelines. So each player gets a PXG. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt to find 8 copies of Recruiting Young Mutants, but its worth it for the other cards it lets you play. Those 8 Professor X’s are kept set aside and given to each player at the start of drafting. You can decide whether to add it to your team, build one that doesn’t need it, or bust out Christian’s favorite move and just presume your opponent will bring it for you.

As to the other cards in the cube, pick the 160 you enjoy most, just pay a bit of attention to costs and energy types. You know every player is going to be wanting one to two 2 drop characters so make sure you have a decent distribution of these. I’ll write more about the reasons for each card’s selection later but for now here’s the first version of the Team Distraction dicemasters cube. There’s some Yugioh cards I would add if I had them and obviously lots from the DC set I don’t have yet and want, but that’s also a story for another day. If I missed anything you think should be in here, please say so!

1 Energy (4 dice each)

  • Morphing Jar: Canopic Jar
  • Kobold: Greater Humanoid

2 Energy (3 dice each)

  • Black Widow: Natural
  • Black Widow: Killer Instinct
  • Black Widow Tsarina
  • Beast: Mutate 666
  • Beast: Genetic Expert
  • Storm: Ro
  • Storm: Weather Witch
  • Kitty Pryde: Ariel
  • Ant-Man: Biophysicist
  • Halfling Thief: Minion Harper
  • Skeleton: Lesser Undead
  • Morphing Jar: All-Seeing Eye
  • Angel: Soaring
  • Ghost Rider: Johnny Blaze
  • Nick Fury: Mr Anger
  • Nick Fury: WWII Vet
  • Falcon: Samuel Wilson
  • Zombie: Lesser Undead
  • Psylocke: Kwannon the Assassin
  • Human Torch: Playing with Fire
  • Black Manta: David

3 Energy (2 dice each)

  • Angel: Inspiring
  • Angel: Air Transport
  • Zatanna: Zatanna Zatara
  • Zatanna: Actual Magic
  • Falcon: Recon
  • Mr Fantastic: Brilliant Scientist
  • Gambit: Ace in the Hole
  • Hawkman: World’s Fiercest Attacker
  • Gelatinous Cube: Master Ooze
  • Cheetah: Cursed Archeologist
  • Aquaman: Arthur Curry
  • Carrion Crawler: Lesser Aberration
  • Storm: African Priestess
  • Breaker the Magical Warrior: Mystical Magus
  • Injection Fairy Lily: Forced Injection
  • Hawkeye: Robin Hood
  • Halfling Thief: Apprentice Emerald Enclave
  • Elf Wizard: Lesser Harper
  • Stirge: Greater Beast
  • Cerebro: Supercomputer
  • Ant-man: Pym Particles
  • Ant-Man: The Insect World
  • Robin: Boy Wonder
  • Green Goblin: Goblin Lord
  • Green Goblin: Gobby
  • Katana: Outsider

4 Energy (2 dice each)

  • Blue Dragon: Apprentice Dragon
  • Captain America: Natural Leader
  • Wolverine: Formerly Weapon Ten
  • Wonder Woman: Warrior Princess
  • Wonder Woman: Champion of Themyscira
  • Storm: Goddess of the Plains
  • Robin: Acrobatic Adolescent
  • Stargirl: Courtney Whitmore
  • La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp: Mighty Genie
  • Green Goblin: Norman Osborne
  • Martian Manhunter: J’onn J’onnz
  • Lord of D: Dragon Protector
  • Pyro: Saint-John Allerdyce
  • Manticore: Greater Beast
  • Copper Dragon: Lesser Dragon
  • Punisher: McRook
  • Lantern Power Ring: Energy Projection
  • Captain Cold: Leonard Snart
  • Spider-Man: Wallcrawler
  • Breaker the Magical Warrior: Mana Break
  • Hawkeye: Longbow
  • Magik: Illyana Rasputina
  • Green Arrow: Oliver Queen
  • Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes
  • Human Paladin: Lesser Emerald Enclave
  • Scarlet Witch: Controls Probability
  • Kitty Pryde: Shadowcat
  • Time Wizard: Time Roulette
  • Booster Gold: Glory Seeking Showboat
  • Human Torch: Johnny Storm
  • Human Torch: Flame On
  • Ghost Rider: Brimstone Biker
  • Nick Fury: Patch
  • Iron Man: Playboy
  • Batman: The Dark Knight
  • Toad: Mortimer Toynbee
  • Cyborg: Exceptionally Gifted
  • Prismatic Spray: Lesser Spell
  • Iceman: Mister Friese

5 Energy (2 dice each)

  • Toad: Tongue Lashing
  • Spider-Man: Webslinger
  • Spider-Man: Hero for Hire
  • Green Arrow: The Emerald Archer
  • Darkseid:In Search of Anti-Life
  • War Machine: James Rhodes
  • Mystical Elf: Everlasting Support
  • Minsc and Boo: Go for the eyes Boo
  • Cyclops: Slim
  • Cyclops: Field Leader
  • Mister Sinister: Nasty Boy
  • Martian Manhunter: Green Martian
  • Martian Manhunter: John Jones
  • Professor X: Trainer
  • Deadman: Embracing Life
  • Umber-Hulk: Paragon Beast
  • Deathstroke: Weapons Master
  • Deathstroke: The Terminator
  • Doctor Doom: Reed Richards Rival
  • Captain America: Special Ops
  • Cerebro: Cybernetic Intelligence
  • Cable: Time Traveler
  • Iceman: Too Cool For Words
  • Mjolnir: Thor’s Hammer
  • Iron Man: Philanthropist
  • Gambit: Le Diable Blanc
  • Nova: Quasar
  • Nova: The Human Rocket
  • Storm: Wind Rider
  • Lantern Power Ring: Flight
  • Doomcaliber Knight: Fiendish Fighter
  • Loki: Gem Keeper
  • Mind Flayer:  Epic Humanoid
  • Batman: World’s Greatest Detective
  • Batman: Bruce Wayne

6 Energy (2 dice each)

  • Red-Eyes B Dragon: Inferno Fire Blast
  • Red-Eyes B Dragon: Plated Body
  • Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts
  • Vibranium Shield: Irreplaceable
  • Doctor Doom: Nemesis
  • Doctor Doom: Victor
  • Rogue: Can’t Touch This
  • Darkseid: Immortal
  • Magneto: Sonderkommando
  • Wolverine: Canucklehead
  • Thor: God of Thunder
  • Limited Wish: Lesser Spell
  • Umber-Hulk: Lesser Beast
  • Hulk: Green Goliath
  • Hulk: Jade Giant
  • Venom: Angelo Fortunato
  • Silver Surfer: Sentinel
  • Jinzo: Trap Destroyer
  • Shazam!: Wisdom of Solomon
  • Iron Man: Industrialist
  • Beholder: Apprentice Aberration
  • Superman: Kal-El

7 Energy (2 dice each)

  • Beholder: Master Aberration
  • Red Dragon: Lesser Dragon
  • Red Dragon: Greater Dragon
  • Colossus: Piotr Rasputin
  • Superman: Man of Steel
  • Purple Worm: Paragon Beast
  • Blue-Eyes White Dragon: Monstrous Dragon
  • Apocalypse: Earth 295
  • Dracolith: Greater Undead Dragon
  • Cyclops: If Looks Could Kill
  • Phoenix: Jeannie
  • Phoenix: Redd
  • Loki: Illusionist
  • Silver Surfer: Sky-Rider
  • Slifer the Sky Dragon: LightningI Blast

Basic Actions

  • Cone of Cold
  • Transfer Power
  • Ambush
  • Horn of the Unicorn
  • Change of Heart
  • Distraction
  • Feedback
  • Villainous Pact
  • Crush Card Virus
  • Anger Issues
  • Blessing
  • Swords of Revealing Light
  • Pick Your Battles
  • Dimension Door
  • Resurrection
  • Invulnerability
  • Deflection
  • Polymorph
  • Thrown Car
  • Magic Missile
  • Gearing Up
  • Finger of Death
  • Take Cover
  • Power Bolt
  • Teamwork
  • Imprisoned
  • Casualties
  • Takedown
  • Selective Shield
  • Rally
  • Relentless
  • Shockwave

Whilst this is the list I’ve come to you certainly shouldn’t feel restricted by it in any way. Want multiple copies of characters or actions in your cube? Go ahead. Do you hate Professor X’s global? Toss that old baldy. A cube should be a way to enjoy your collection outside of constructed so shape it to yourself and your play group. I’ll write another article in future about why I chose the cards I chose and I’d love to hear if anyone else tries a cube build!

-Ian Stickland