MetaX: Justice League Preview.

MetaX (pronounced Meta Cross) is the new crossover TCG from Panini and their first set, Justice League, centers around beloved DC characters. Now this will be Panini’s second, and only currently active TCG after their Dragonball Z one faced an untimely demise. Now, I feel that the DBZ TCG was only getting into its stride when it was cut down in its prime so I was looking forward to what they might do with more experience and creative freedom. Now, I’ve played a lot of TCGs, big and small, and have written about or conversationally described most of them. As most of you would know, you always end up comparing a new game to an already established game with elements of this or that. As I go to describe MetaX, I find myself attempting and unable to do the same because the game is quite unlike anything I’ve played.

I am not going to have a complete in depth run through of the rules here so you should have a look at TAK games’ great rule videos here. The game is played with character cards, battle cards and event cards. Character cards do battle and events cards act like powerful spells, as to be expected. The interesting element here is the battle cards, as one is required every time a character attacks or blocks. This makes MetaX a more thoughtful game than ones centered around playing powerful characters and keeping them on the board to attack each turn, since if you overextend your battle cards, even a weak character will simply walk in and mess you up as an undefended attack will net your opponent a victory point. The first person to reach 7 victory points win the game. The fact that VPs are represented by you taking a card off the top of the opponent’s deck and playing it in your VP area and the fact that your battle cards are attached to the opponent’s characters mean that packing up after a match will be more involved. It’s not as big a deal as some are making out to be however. Netrunner players have been doing the same for years and the game is still around. Just invest in some distinctive sleeves.

In fact, a big part of the MetaX design philosophy seems to be centered around rethinking the rush resource, play strong creatures, or removal and control game-play tropes that are common place in trading card games. A big example is how they handled resource management in the game. In MetaX there are no resource cards and no cards are played simply to generate resources. Instead, every card in the game of any type either generates or spends Meta Points or MP. It’s also a bit more nuanced than weak cards generating MP and strong cards spending them, though the system could be understood like that while you are learning. It would be more accurate to say the more subtle cards that further your deck’s agenda will be the one that produce MP and the obviously powerful bomb cards will be spending MP. Furthermore, MP is capped at 10 while the biggest singular MP cost currently seems to be 5. I am very intrigued by this system as it shuts out the traditional archetype of decks that accelerate resources and play defensively until they can pull off their powerful combos. MetaX’s MP system is a balancing act instead. You want to be alternating between generating and spending MP in the most efficient way, which means loading your deck up with a lot of MP producing cards and a few ‘finishers’ that spend MP will not be a valid strategy.

The battle card system and how it interacts with characters in battle is quite unique as well. Characters have any or all of 3 different stats; strength, intelligence & special. They can have a number ranging from 1 to 7 in any of those stats.  A character can only attack or defend with a battle card that shares a stat type with them of an equal or lower number than theirs. When two characters meet in battle the battle cards played will be attached to the opposing character as damage. When the number on the attached battle cards exceed their highest stat, a character is defeated. There is an alternative way to take down a character as well. If a character has the same number of damage cards attached as the number of different stats they have, they are also knocked out. For example, a character with strength and special stats only will be knocked out if you attached battle cards with any combination of any two different stats on it, regardless of what the numbers add up to. This makes sure the battle system is not just a game of simply having the highest numbers and gives smaller characters a different way to take down more powerful ones. This also makes sure that people can’t defend without worry with their big characters and ensure that characters won’t stay too long on the board. This, coupled with the fact that the amount of characters a player can have on board is capped at 3, makes sure juggling an effective formation of characters is central to the game play. If you just read all this and find yourself profoundly confused, I recommend watching some intro videos or playing a few games. It is quite intuitive when you have experienced a few battles though there is going to be a big gap between understanding the system and utilising it effectively.

In fact, this game will have quite a steep curve between learning and mastering. Between characters, their stats, different battle cards and managing MPs, there are a lot of factors that are entering into every play made. Don’t let this turn you off it though. I feel it makes it more rewarding as you improve. Deck-building in particular will be difficult with a lot of rules surrounding it. In the beginning you will be struggling to make a functional deck, let alone a great one. This is why the starter decks are great for all new players in this game. All the battle cards are blank without effects in the starter deck, which may disappoint collectors, but will go a long way toward easing players into the game. While it’s still a blind pack, meaning you don’t know which one of the 4 different decks you will be getting, the fact that every card in the starter decks are simply alt art versions of cards obtainable in the first set should go a long way towards placating collectors and players alike.

The best thing to see is that Panini seem to be learning from their past mistakes. Common complaints from the early days of DBZ TCG, such as the poor quality control, bad templating, and uneven art quality all seem to be gone. Furthermore, the fact that this is a crossover game means they are no longer beholden to the whims of the Intellectual Property (IP) holder, with the ability to simply move on to the next one. Speaking of IPs, the DC universe seems to be a great starting place for the game, with their art library probably contributing a lot to the gorgeous arts. Second set is announced to stay in the DC universe and will centre around the Green Lantern Corps. Here’s hoping it also finds space for the other lantern corps because I am ready to play a tiny rage kitten. Even more exciting is the quietly confirmed rumours of the third set being Attack on Titan. It makes me more confident in Panini’s reach and interest in grabbing more interesting IPs. I for one can’t wait to make Levi fight Superman (and win).

To be completely honest, when MetaX was first announced, I wasn’t too excited, perhaps too sour from Panini’s unceremonious cancelation of their DBZ card game. But with every new piece of information that came to light, I couldn’t help but get excited for the Brisbane release event on Friday 4th of August when it launches. For the rest of Australia, stay tuned for more release events and introduction sessions to be announced. Meanwhile, keep an eye on atgn.com.au for more news, reviews, and unboxing of this exciting new card game.

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