Top 4 interview: Sooner5

The next in my series of interviews with the top 4 players in the second season of the online league is with Nathan Stickney, aka Sooner5. He is Sploosh’s opponent for the semi final. We also spoke before their final of the first season, which you can read here.

Xavier Protocols: What was your thinking building your roster for the knockout stages?

Nathan: I wanted to build something that was competitive; I wanted to not just play exactly what u played in season 1 – I wanted to change it up. So I went with an Asgard-Wakanda pair. I think it pairs well at every threat value and I think it can comfortably handle all the crises: Wakanda is better in to some, and Asgard’s better in to others.

XP: Do you have a preference for which one you’d rather drop?

N: If I think it’s going to be a slow grindy game, I would rather drop Asgard. If I think it’s something like Infinity Formula or Gamma Waves that I can score a lot of points quickly on, then I think Wakanda is the answer there.

XP: When building an Asgard list, what is your core?

N: If you look at my roster, I only brought three Asgardians, which is kind of unpopular as I did not bring Loki – he’s a very popular character right now. My Asgard list is very specific, and I made it that way for a reason. I wanted to test it out in the league and I had a lot of success with it and I liked it, so I carried it over to the knockout stages. It relies on being very tanky: hard to kill. That where my Asgard went: Hela, Valkyrie and Thor and then whatever flavour I want to put in with it.

XP: What kind of things did you flavour it with?

N: M.O.D.O.K. Most of the time at 17 threat I ran M.O.D.O.K. I think we all know M.O.D.O.K. is probably the best character in the game: most people will agree about that. Asgard gives him some things that are very beneficial. One of them being he’s a tank. He is extremely hard to kill in Asgard. The other big thing is he is immune to stagger. As we all know, there are a million Thors out there. He is very good against Thor. In the Thor vs M.O.D.O.K. match up a big thing is can Thor consistently get that stagger off? If he does, then Thor can win that matchup, but if he’s not, he’s losing a horrible matchup. Against my M.O.D.O.K., it doesn’t matter if he gets that off.

XP: When you play Wakanda, what kind of a Wakanda team are you playing?

N: I’m still mostly playing my team from season one. I think Killmonger is very good still in Wakanda with Usurp the Throne – I do have that in my roster. I’m still playing mostly the four Wakandans, and then I like Vision. The other one is Valkyrie: i still play her. They are both excellent Wakandans.

XP: If you win priority, are you picking extracts or secures, and which are you aiming for in particular?

N: Honestly, it depends on who I’m playing. I generally will pick secures more often than I will pick extracts, but that is not in every case. If I want to make a slow grindy game, I will sometimes pick extracts and try to force Wakandan Herbs or sometimes I think that Cubes are very good with Asgard, so I might pick one of those two.

XP: What kind of roster opposite you would make you want a slow grindy game?

N: Wakanda. As a Wakadan player, I can tell you I would favour my Asgard list over Wakanda if we played Wakandan Herbs. I don’t think Wakanda has the attrition and they can’t score fast enough, so usually by rounds five to six I’m scoring a lot of points and dominating the game.

XP: Do you think that falls down if you discard Wakandan Herbs?

N: Yes. I think it’s a gamble. If you don’t get the Wakandan Herbs, I think Cosmic Cubes – though I don’t currently have it in my tournament roster, just because there wasn’t a whole lot of US players playing Wakanda when I looked at the top 16 so I took it out. I kind of wish it was in my roster now. If I had a choice, it would probably be in the roster now, along with Wakandan Herb and probably Hammers.

XP: What about on the secure side?

N: I feel very comfortable with all three secures that I have: Infinity Formula, Gamma Waves and Extremis. I think both Wakanda and Asgard are all good in those.

XP: It’s interesting that you are not playing Deadly Meteors: it sings Asgard to me. Do you have any thoughts on that?

N: There’s one reason: my one loss in the league was in Meteors. I forced it in the perfect situation and my rolls for the meteors were absolutely awful and I decided I don’t want a scenario where rolls affect it. I want to just out-play the opponent and make my positioning good. I got a really salty taste in my mouth from that Meteors…

XP: Which affiliations do you think do particularly well on Extremis?

N: I think both Wakanda and Asgard play well in to Extremis. I think it’s one of Shuri’s weakest secures, but I think the rest of the team plays very well in to it. Obviously, Black Panther is really good in to it and Killmonger is good because he can go up one flank; he can take over that side. If you dominate that side he can head to the back objective and take that. Vision is very good in to it. So I think Wakanda is very good in to it.

The Asgard team, again, I think is very good in to it as the team is mostly built for attrition, and what’s better than something you can heal a point of damage for?

XP: What would make you choose Wakanda over Asgard on Extremis?

N: Usually who I am playing against. If I look across the table and I see a team I can probably outscore quickly, I will pick Wakanda. If I see a team like Guardians that I feel I can just beat on attrition then I might pick Asgard.

XP: How hard was it to choose tactics cards in this dual affiliation roster?

N: Pretty easy because I’m boring: I’m taking almost the same tactics cards every game. I’m taking Field Dressing, Medpack, and Brace for Impact almost every time. Sometimes I’ll throw in a flavour of Patch Up, and then I’ll usually take the affiliation card – either Wakanda Forever or Odin’s Blessing.

XP: You did mention Usurp the Throne; that must be in there as well?

N: Yeah, I have Usurp the Throne and Drop Off and I’ll take those. If I’m playing Asgard I may take drop off with Thor; its very powerful. Usurp I have in there for Killmonger. It’s good and I will certainly take it. In future I’ll probably drop it. It came down to Usurp and AIM Lackeys, and if I’m playing M.O.D.O.K. a lot, I think that AIM Lackeys is probably just straight better.

XP: Do you go for ‘bold’ early extract grabbing plays with Asgard?

N: Nah, not really. I play more positioning. Coming in round one and round two, one of the keys to this game is the positioning. If you are in really bad position round one and round two you’ll struggle to win the game.

XP: Could you explain a bit about what you think good positioning is?

N: I think one thing people overlook – and this is a very common mistake in Marvel: Crisis Protocol – is they are not playing ahead. What I mean by that is they are not planning for the next turn. They see they can move and they can attack this character, and sometimes you don’t want to move and attack a character. Sometimes it is worth it, but sometimes you want to just move, move with your two actions to put him on the scenario and then be able to double attack next turn. I think a lot of that positioning – getting the best you can, because opponent’s play dictates this a lot – getting the best match ups you can on whichever side of the board. If its gamma waves, that’s a lot less positioning – its just however rolls the best dice in the middle of the game. But the other secures have a lot of little positioning quirks here and there.

XP: You’ve talked about a few teams, particularly at 17 threat. Would you say 17 threat is your prefered threat level?

N: I play Wakanda, so I’m obviously very good at 15! 17 I feel like thats where the majority of games go, so I’m very comfortable playing there. I certainly have good 18 and 19 threat teams. I have a really good Asgard and Wakanda team that I like at 18. At 19 I can just throw in Okoye. I feel very comfortable at any threat level – I think that’s one benefit of going dual affiliation. If you look, Valkyrie is a 3 threat character, Okoye is a 2 threat character: a lot of those characters that are in one affiliation easily work well in the other affiliation.

XP: What is your set up at 15 on Gamma Waves?

N: I love Shuri, Vision, Killmonger, and Black Panther. I think it’s really powerful. It’s still pretty good at keeping priority becuase it’s only four characters.It has a lot of pushes, a lot of throws and a lot of characters that are hard to kill, outside of Killmonger, but he’s in there just to hunt.

XP: So that’s more of a combined arms: you are doing some aggressive damage dealing and some control?

N: Exactly. It’s not the full Wakanda Wave control. It’s a combination of I can kill some stuff to control them, and stuff I can’t kill I’ll push away.

XP: You’ve mentioned nine of your ten characters in your roster (Black Panther, Shuri, Okoye, Killmonger, Thor, Hela, Valkyrie, M.O.D.O.K., Vision): you is your last?

N: Hawkeye. He was a very late inclusion. He used to be Rocket, but I added Hawkeye in for a few particular matchups. One is the vision matchup. He can stay far away from him and he can shoot him. He forces Vision to pay two power on every single attack to switch back and forth between phases. He’s a great vision counter. The other reason is he is very good at D formation secures. Most people on D secures, there’s not a whole lot of characters that can just sit on that back objective and do anything; it’s pretty much a waste. What most people will do is put a character like Black Widow back there. It’s not a bad play: she’ll just sit there and score the whole time. The problem is you are now fighting those other three scenario objectives 2 threat down, meaning that character is going to not do any interaction with the game other than just score those points. Whereas Hawkeye can sit on that back objective, Hook Arrow forward, shoot – possibly do some damage, possibly do a condition – and then just walk back to the objective, so you are actually getting scenario play out of him and getting that back objective. (See my article on this here – ed)

XP: Are there any plays you find yourself falling back on or relying on?

N: Whenever I play Asgard, I find myself relying on tactics cards. I think that’s just the nature of Asgard as an affiliation. Stuff like Wakanda: really I just need Wakanda Forever, and the rest is gravy.

XP: If we get a restricted tactics card list coming in, do you think that will affect the competitiveness of Asgard in particular?

N: No. Number one, I think it’ll be great for the game and I hope they do it, because I think that some cards are a little ahead of the curve. At the competitive level, everybody just takes those cards. I would love it. I think Asgard is fine without it. Obviously you will still be able to take Odin’s Blessing, which is the number one card that you need there. They’ll still be fine.

XP: Do you have any changes planned for your roster?

N: I’m going to completely change my roster next season. I love Sploosh to death and he is a fantastic player, but I cannot do what he does: play the same list over and over and over. I have to branch out. Next season you’ll probably see me with a completely new roster. All through the league, I didn’t play Wakanda that I had played all the way through the previous season. This season, I’ve played Avengers and Asgard. I defintiely will change it big time. The only problem I have is M.O.D.O.K. is so good. If you are trying to win a world championship it’s hard not to put him in your list. Which stinks, because I think that’s the only imbalance there is in the game.

XP: What have you found proves effective against your M.O.D.O.K.?

N: There are a lot of plays against him. You can control him. He has counter-plays. Season 1, a non-M.O.D.O.K. list won the league – I didn’t have him in there. He is just so, so reliable – you can’t beat his reliability. Of course, he’s very hard to kill. You can kill him if you have people like Killmonger, and other high damage characters, especially high physical damage, you can kill him. You need to get a little lucky not to roll wilds, but he can be killed – especially with throws. The other way to deal with him is control him. What I mean by that is push him and throw him away from Red Skull, or from a secure he’s on, where he has to use one of his actions to move back. It’s difficult to move him out of his range 4, it’s more moving him off the objective so he’s not scoring and you are. The counter-play for the M.O.D.O.K. player is M.O.D.O.K. just kills you, but at least he’s not scoring that point after he kills you.

XP: What do you think would give your roster and issue across the table?

N: I think it depends what I dropped. I have a balanced roster where I can go either way depending on the crises. We touched on it earlier, but as a Wakanda player, I don’t love Wakandan Herb or Alien Ship: some of these long drawn out battles. That’s why I have Asgard – they love those long drawn out battles.

XP: You said you;ve played some Avengers this league: what is your take on Avengers as a competitive affiliation?

N: I’m glad you asked that, I have some hot takes on that. I started playing Avengers: they were what I wanted to play all the way through. Unfortunately I think Avengers as an affiliation is below average. The reason why is very very simple: Captain America. I think that Captain America as a 4 threat character does not do enough. If you look at all the other leaders of the affiliations, I think they do a lot more than he does for their threat value. I would say 75-90% of the time when I play Avengers, if you said I could take a different 4 threat character besides Cap, I would. Like everything in this game, they are competitive: I don’t think there is one affilation that is not competitive, I think they are just a step below. Which stinks, because they have so many good character they can put in there, and those characters are so strong, that having to take sub-par 4 threat leader just hurts.

XP: IS there anything you wanted to add?

N: I will say this: from season one to season two I’m very impressed and I want to commend the US players. This season has been tough game after tough game and I think people are getting better and better out there. It’s been great to see, honestly.

Good luck to Sploosh: he’s a fantastic player. I have fun playing with him. It’ll be fun becuase I got no pressure on me after last season.

XP: Surely you;ve got all the pressure on you – the defending champ?

N: No. I already won last season. People don’t realise. They think that season one must have been easy, but i had to beat Sploosh and Morgan Reid to win last season: two of the top four from this year. It wasn’t any easier last season, I promise!

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