Guest Article – The Zatanna Special Deck Profile (MXOLT III 16th Place)

Alex TruellFebruary 19, 2019

Editors Note: Alex is a frequent contributor to MetaManiacs, and once again he’s got another behind-the-scenes on how he built his MXOLT III deck focused on Zatanna and Special battle cards. See his previous deck profile from MXOLT II at this link!

As the deadline for MXOLT III approached, I had a number of decks vying for a chance to compete.  I wasn’t interested in a repeat run with Superman/Wonder Woman, though I felt they could get better results with a few adjustments and the benefit of tournament experience.  I’d seen hand control decks on the rise, and wanted to be sure whatever I chose could keep up. In the eleventh hour, I threw caution to the wind and entered a newer build of mine that had been performing very well at home- but mostly, it was just fun, and a fun deck appealed to me.

Flash forward to the end of five rounds, and I had an underperforming 2-3 record, winning a total of 5 games through those rounds and placing 16th.  It won matches against decks looking to mill or control the hand (one was a Red/Black Lantern hybrid, the other a Villains/Black Lantern hybrid), and had close games against Unexpected Aggro and Special 7s.  At least two of my losses came down to the 7th VP for one of us. Ultimately, it wasn’t honed enough for consistent results, leading to many games that felt like a ‘bad draw’.

Here’s the deck list:

Deck Visual courtesy of MetaX DB (

Deck visual courtesy of MetaX DB

The Characters

As the title suggests, this deck was built around Zatanna.  Expert Illusionist is an incredible draw engine with an easy-to-support stat line.  Because she requires Special Battle Cards, my roster needed to follow her lead on green stats.  Zatanna is my primary Champion, but Special is not actually a great type for Champions as the battle cards do little to protect her (as opposed to the control effects often found on Strength and the many unblockables in Intelligence).  As such, my roster also needed to make Zatanna more effective.

Enter the Dark Knight. This reliable character should be in every back pocket.  Batman is all about tempo, generating 3MP and pushing an opponent.  The ideal turn 1 Zatanna, followed by turn 2 Batman, lets Zatanna swing at a pushed board.  He’s extra powerful with a Transfer of Power in hand.

Deadman has my lowest rank in Special, but his ability to pull back Battle Cards is essential for reloading Zatanna.  Filling a Striker role in this deck, I want Deadman to defend at the first opportunity, making way for other cards.

I gave my final 3-of slot to The Flash, anticipating a need to regain board presence and attack quickly. Between Flash, Deadman, and Batman, I had a low secondary Strength stat to work with- as Zatanna was going to be attacking wherever possible, this became a dedicated defense stat.

My feelings for Wonder Woman – Amazon Princess have been made clear numerous times, and as her statsfit what I’d assembled so far, I slotted 1 copy in.  She can make alternate use of an expansive hand, in case I end up bogged down in Characters. In a future take on this deck, I’d probably slot in a 2nd copy; 7s were reliably challenging for this deck to handle.

Doctor Fate began a subtheme of VP drain.  The goal was to get him into my discard pile and bounce him with 1 Strength/Intelligence (U86-BM) or 4 Special (C51-BM) when my board needed that slot freed anyway.

Zatanna – Magician was an unexpectedly synergistic choice, and introduced a strategy I want to explore further in the future.  Not only would she clear paths for my main Zatanna – Expert Illusionist, but she also opened board space herself. Early in the tournament I discovered another synergy: 2 Special (C39-JL) could shut off her power and let me keep her on board longer.

The Battle Cards

The Special collection is full of neat effects, but unfortunately they come at premium MP costs.  A lot of time was spent crafting a workable balance, and inconsistent performance in the tournament indicates I haven’t quite struck that balance yet.

Because I was unable to use any 7s or even double up on 6s with a second type, I made sure that 5s and 6s were maxed out.  5 Special (C54-BM) is an amazing card in a Hero deck, but 6 Special (U97-JL) was not perfect- the MP cost made it challenging to play, and being in the same deck as Special 5 made it look worse.

A few noteworthy card effects and interactions:

The Events

This deck doesn’t use many Events, but those it did use were oriented on reusing my Play effects.  Transfer of Power was a welcome sight anytime I drew it. Batman – Dark Knight remains a threat on board with that card in the wings.  Likewise, Teleportation on a Batman opens up an opponent’s board for a safe attack. Heroic Charge is never a bad choice for Hero decks.

Possible Improvements

As I mentioned above, the biggest problem with the deck was consistency.  If I could draw into Zatanna, Batman, and a couple green Battle Cards in the first few turns, I could get a reliable draw engine running that would carry me through the rest of the game.  But just as often, I’d have to lead with Deadman, have to attack with Strength 1, end up using 1 Special just to draw with Zatanna, and face an opponent who never KOed my characters. Possible improvement, therefore, are vast.

If I wanted to keep this deck as close to its current list as possible, I’d begin by examining my MP balance.  When I can’t clear my Strikers quickly, I burn through MP fast and miss multiple turns waiting for a Battle Card without cost.  While the effects are all excellent, the costs cannot be supported. Possible fixes: 6 Special (U97-JL) for another 6 without MP cost, a second Zatanna – Magician for keeping my board open, replace Teleportation with a less MP-dependent strategy.

But I also see some possibilities for taking the Zatanna core in a different direction.  A Zatanna/Zatanna/Green Lantern – Hal Jordan/Constantine/Wonder Woman (JL R) lineup is very appealing, making the most of my Champions’ lack of “When Played” effects. I’d like to specifically note Green Lantern here, who I’ve never seen the use for until this tournament, where I’d get stuck staring at a full board of useless characters, waiting to draw something good.  I’ve also been spending more time looking at Frustration lately, and Zatanna could do very well in that kind of deck; Heroes have a good lineup for the 5/6/7 requirement.

Are you running a similar deck?  Have suggestions for me? Leave a comment below, or on the Facebook link to this article!

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