Around this time last year, after a peek at some spoilers, we got a bit hot & heavy over the Trouble in Waterdeep card ‘Gazer – Evil Familiar’. We were certain that this card was going to make a big splash as the removal of choice in the meta – we mentioned it all the time on the podcast, wrote about it (in this article here: “The Dice Masters Age of Intimidation“), and added it to team brews on our Wednesday Night Live game play sessions all the time.
The cheap access to the ‘Intimidate’ keyword seemed pretty great to us, but what we didn’t know then was that with the release of Infinity Gauntlet we were going to see removal go in a bit of a different direction in 2020 with the new “Spin down to an energy face” mechanic.
With the spoilers we’ve seen from the upcoming ‘Marvel Dice Masters Dark Phoenix Saga’ set it doesn’t look like this is going away, so in this post I’m going to share some headline thoughts about whether this year is going to become the “Dice Masters Age of Spin Down Removal”…
How Does it Work?
Just in case you haven’t seen the cards I’m about to refer to, here’s the long & the short of it to make sure we’re all on the same page: a number of cards in the Dice Masters Infinity Gauntlet set have a text that, upon a specified trigger, will spin an opposing character to an energy face, which effectively removes it from the field.
This is notable and interesting as a new twist on the act of spinning down in Dice Masters because the rule book states:
Unless specified, a character die cannot spin down from level 1 to a non-character face”
and we’ve only seen it specified otherwise for Sidekick dice in the past, it hasn’t been specified for other characters in the field.
The trigger of the effect varies from card to card. Some have it as a ‘When Fielded’ effect, some as a ‘When Attacks’, some have it attached to their ‘Energize’ keyword, and one even to more random trigger. Some also have conditions or costs attached in addition to the trigger, like the level of character you can target, or who chooses the energy face.
Here are some notable examples using this new approach…
Notable Cards with Spin Down Removal Effects
The reigning monarch of using spin down removal has to be this guy: Spider-Man Public Menace.
There is very little around right now that counters a ‘When Attacks’ ability, and it something that’s generally the less well prepared for in teams, outside of more generic control (Like Rare Drax or Rare Typhoid Mary).
He’s also super repeatable: you’re opponent is going to look to block him in the vast majority of instances with that 3/4/5 attack, especially mid-to-late game. OR you can use a ‘Static Field’ global for much rinse/repeat use.
A bargain at a 4 purchase cost.
Another popular spin down remover is Black Widow – Widow’s Hunt…
She triggers from the Energize keyword (when she rolls on a double energy face) and has been seen round and about mostly for her cheap cost, targeted removal, and good fit with useful Mask globals (for all that excess Mask energy).
She’s not a dead-cert, you’ve got to take the die down to level 1 if its not already on that level to remove them, and the Energize face is only 2 of the 6 faces, but she’s got a lot going for her. (unless, like me, you’ve got stubborn dice who roll character face EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.)
Here’s an example of a ‘When Fielded’ card with a spin down removal effect: Pip the Troll – Contagious Debauchery.
He’s pricey, but well worth the price with an effect that spins down not one, but two of your opponent’s dice. With his low defence numbers too he is pretty easy to get KO’d for repeat use and he’s got lovely low fielding costs to boot.
Remember I said above that its not a mechanic that’s going away anytime soon because there’s examples in the Dark Phoenix Saga set? Well here’s a notable example from the upcoming release that has caught a few eyes in the spoilers: Mystique – She Walks Among Us…
With a little bit of proxy testing its already becoming clear that she is a card full of potential with exceptional capacity to remove dice. Having her trigger attached to ‘Teamwatch’ (“When a character with Teamwatch is active and you field a character die with the same affiliation, use the Teamwatch ability”) along with two affiliations opens up a wide variety of options to combo up with her, especially the Villain affiliation which has a significant card pool. She’s nice and cheap to purchase too, meaning Mystique is an easy early buy to start running interference on your opponent.
That’s not all the cards that make use of the new twist on spinning down, there are a handful more, so go take a look at some of the other interesting options too.
Now onto some thoughts…
It’s Really Hardcore Removal
Most removal will get rid of something for a turn, but “Spin Down” removal doesn’t just clear a dice out in the moment, it gets rid of it for at least another turn. The act of spinning your opponent’s dice to energy means that it will be in your opponent’s Reserve Pool for the Clear and Draw Step at the start of their turn and so will get moved into the Used Pile – the hope being it gets lost in there for a while.
Compared to Intimidate or KO removal this is HUGE added value. Intimidate only parks a character in your turn and a KO’d dice has the chance of rolling back in the on your opponent’s go.
Not so with “Spin Down” removal, you’re getting rid of that naughty dice for even longer, especially if your opponent’s managing their bag like I do. (#badly)
This can have the potential to really slow your opponent’s strategy down or force them into difficult purchase positions. It certainly can wreak havoc upon teams that use larger field combos or rely on the ‘While Active’ abilities of key dice they intend to have camping out.
AND so much of it is easily repeatable – meaning it can come back and wreak havoc on your opponent’s plans over & over again. This can really frustrate many strategies a team is built around – not only does your opponent need to work on their own win condition but they need to find workarounds and mitigation to the ever present threat of key dice getting spun out when you pass turn.
It’s REALLY hardcore.
It’s Tough to Counter
The “Spin Down” removal mechanic is really difficult to plan for, and has little in the way of direct counters. There is the aforementioned more generic control cards, but I’m honestly willing to consider that a good trade in a number of instances if it means that Drax or Typhoid Mary leave my win condition alone to target my removal option.
There are currently no cards with a game text that protects them from spin down in the current Modern card pool (that I can think of – let me know in the comments below if I’ve missed someone) and there is only one card we’ve seen in the upcoming Dark Phoenix Saga spoilers that has a game text specifically preventing spin down: Bishop – Tortured Timeline…
Time will tell whether the use of spin down removal will becoming increasingly prevalent in the meta and warrant a card slot for such a specific counter on teams, but there’s no doubt its starting to look that way with the popularity of rare Black Widow and Spider-Man in last year’s online organised play events. (I’ve also got a bit of a “Rules Lawyer” wonder about whether the game text ‘Spider-Man – Public Menace’ would be considered a “Spin Down” – the language is funny…)
You’ll also need to be super ship-shape, tip-top at consistently managing your bag to mitigate the impact of the dice going to the Used Pile, so that the spun down die doesn’t disappear into a sea of other dice potentially never to be seen again. I can tell you from experience that its tremendously difficult to recover from a well-timed bit of spin down removal by your opponent if you aren’t very good at keeping that bag in shape.
One thing I have started to experiment with is running useful globals that I can at least get value from the energy my opponent has created for me with the spin down effect. It’s not a direct counter but may be a dis-incentive for my opponent to spin certain characters down, or, at the very least, give them some pause for thought. For example – using Mask characters in a team with ‘Static Field’.
It Works in Many Team Builds
Spin down removal is just generically useful enough that it can appear on a wide range of team builds. Many of the cards that use the mechanic have a single card efficiency that mean it can take a slot in your 8 available without detracting from your main win condition.
If you’re at a loose end with your build you can do a lot worse than chucking some spin down removal in an open slot as an option, especially if you can find a little synergy in the process. One of the reasons Black Widow – Widow’s Hunt saw a goodly amount of play last year (and will continue to do so) is because she works well as a removal option AND, as an Energize card, fits nicely in teams that are looking to use Mask globals or buy Mask characters. (Of which there are plenty of in the meta right now).
Even without the most direct of synergies though its not going to detract massively from your strategy if you need something to remove your opponent’s dice, and this makes the mechanic very versatile indeed.
Whether spin down removal is going to be a thing in sets beyond the Dark Phoenix Saga release is yet to be seen, but for now its going to be seeing some play. It’s cheap, easy to use, brutal for your opponent, and often requires just the one card to work. I’ve had my run ins with it in the last 6 months and found it extremely hard to work around at times – its just so goddamn efficient!
what are your thoughts on spin down removal? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Have you found yourself on the receiving end of it? Let us know in the comments below…